Pune Airport will soon go solar: Airport Authority of India


Lohegaon Airport in Pune would now be a solar-powered airport. Authority Authority of India- Pune recently approved a tender of 1.21 crores to institute a 300kWp (kilowatts peak) solar plant to provide for the electricity supply of the airport. A tweet from the official handle of Pune airport mentioned that the project which is expected to be completed by March 31 current year.

Ahmadabad based company Varchasva Industries would be installing the plant which is expected to be established in the hangar area of the airport, Hindustan Times reported. On an average the airport requires 600-700 kWp of power a day and with installation of a solar powered plant, the burden would be reduced to half.

Officials from the electronic department of the airport told Hindustan Times that, “While the solar power would be used at the primary source of electricity at the airport, regular electrical power supply will also be kept as an alternative. It will be used in the case of any unforeseen hindrance.”

After Cochin, Pune would be the second airport to adopt solar energy.

Pakistan bans Jamaa-ud-Dawaa and 26 other terror organisations ahead of FATF meeting

Ahead of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris from February 18, Government of Pakistan has passed an ordinance to ban terror-funding organisations like Lashkar-e-taiba, Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawaa, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, amongst 27 others, sanctioned by the United Nations. The order was signed by their President Mamnoon Hussain on February 9, as reported by the Hindustan Times.

FATF is a global organisation that tracks down funding of terrorist activities, and it is learnt that one of the agenda of their plenary meeting was to gre-list Pakistan, The Indian Express reported.

Sources from the ministry in Pakistan have mentioned that the ministries of Interior, Finance and Foreign Affairs, as well as NACTA’s Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) wing, are working together on the matter, The Quint reports.

This change in Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997 means that the government would freeze the accounts of all 27 terror outfits and formulate a task force to take action. Security Exchange Board of Pakistan has already disallowed transfer of donations in the accounts of such organisations and people associated with them.

Sources: The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, The Quint

Long term capital gain tax: Not a gain to the middle classes

In 2004, when UPA government was in power, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scrapped LTCG (Long term capital gain) Tax. The idea was to open attractive investment avenues for the middle-class. In 2018, NDA government has decided to reintroduce LTCG into the tax structure.

LTGC is a tax levied on investors who invest in long term assets like equity, mutual funds, etc. The move to scrap out the tax was to make investment in capital assets more viable and attractive. This was because from a long time Fixed Deposit was a sole form of investments for middle classes. For them, a low rate of interest was a safer choice than taking risks.

According to a report by The Indian Express, this policy brought asset growth of mutual funds from Rs. 3.26 crore in 2007 to Rs. 21.27 crore in 2017. This means that a substantial number of people invested in mutual funds.

Now with the change in stance by the Finance Ministry, a tax of 10 per cent would be levied on capital gains (LTCG) which would accrue gains amounting to Rs 1 lakh or more for the investor, starting April 1, 2018.

Taxpayers around the country are expressing their displeasure with the financial policies in this Budget 2018. Vikram Waman Karve, an Ex-Naval officer and a vocal blogger, mentioned in a tweet that, “LTCG Tax has created tremendous negative sentiment in Stock Market and also a perception that Budget 2018 is an Anti-MiddleClass Budget. There is a feeling that BJP hasn’t handled the Economy well.”

This negative sentiment towards the budget amongst the middle classes has also to do with other policy changes in terms of standard deductions, health insurance and the likes.

Another affectee Nitin Shrotri mentioned in a tweet about the immediate impacts of the new tax. Expressing his disappointment, the auto professional tweeted, “Looking at the fall in sensex I have no courage to check my MF portfolio, @arunjaitley, Please do rethink seriously on LTCG tax.”

The tax is likely to bring down the capital market in its pursuit for increase central government’s revenue.

“I think the government wants to find more avenues to generate more revenues. Definitely, the move is disappointing. This is slightly regressive in my view, especially when investments in equity are picking up, and they should not have done it at this point in time, ” Jitendra Gohil, head of equity research with Credit Suisse Wealth Management India mentioned in an interview to Livemint.

Considering the immediate impact of the Finance Ministry’s decision, there has been slight ups and downs in the stock exchange. For the middle classes, the move may make equity a less likeable option for investments.


Livemint, Indian Express



Representation of Indian Culture in the 69th Republic Day

Ministry of Defence awarded the state of Maharashtra with the award of best tableau in the Republic Day Parade 2018. Out of the tableaus of fourteen states, Maharashtrian tableau depicting the rajyabhishek (coronation) of Chhatrapati Shivaji on June 6,1674 at the Rajgarh Fort. Assam won the second prize while Chattisgarh won the third.

State Chief Minister Devendra congratulated the state for the win. He also congratulated the team from Nagpur which won in the Cultural dance category and the inter state dance competition team, both of which also won the first prize.

The idea behind the floater was conceptualised by  Prof. Narendra Vichare, who is an expert the field of  art and design.  Maharashtra has won this award six times in past while Vichare has been awarded with the award 3 times in the years 1993, 1994 and 1994. Responding on this achievement to Mumbai Mirror, Vichare said, “It’s a great feeling to win again. I worked on the concept sketch for three months starting July. Many meetings were held and changes were suggested. I am happy with the result.”

With art production completed by Art Director Nitin Desai, the team decided to use horses instead of conventional use of elephants in the floater. The grandiose nature of coronation has been depicted by use of fortified Maratha architecture as base and majestic orchestra of tutari being played by the artists around the entire floater. In the front end of the floater, there is a massive depiction of Shivaji while towards the end there are artists are enacting the ceremony. These 10 artists are from Bhairi Bhavani theatre group in Mumbai.

Other key tableaus from the parade include one from Assam which depicted the traditional mask making tradition of Majuli Island of Assam. The floater depicts one of the scenes from Ramayana with monkey-god Hanuman, many-headed demon god Ravana present in the scene.

Even Chattisgarh and Manipur showcased the ancient art forms of the states.

Depicting the traditional handicraft industry of India, 2 states i.e. Jammu and Kashmir and Tripura showcased their woolen, pashmina industry and bamboo industry respectively.

From the state of Kerala, the floater showcased the Keddukazacha festival celebrated in Adoor. In this festival, village communities around the region compete with each other by creating the most beautiful Edupa Kala or decorated structures.

Punjab depicted the concept of ‘sangat and pangat’ i.e. symbiosis of spirituality and social service; Himachal Pradesh talked showcased Buddhism in the Spiti region of the state; and Gujarat marked the century of Gandhi Ashram.

Other than the states, Union Ministries and the Armed services also showcased their tableaus. In the category of Ministries, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports won for depicting Khel India; while tableaus of Punjab Regiment and Indo Tibetan Border Police won in their categories respectively.


When power gags the Press: A reflection on the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case

Gagging was a term prominent during the times when British ruled India. Then came Congress leader Indira Gandhi’s time who also gagged the press. Last year in November, this term came to the surface yet again with the CBI Court disallowing the press to report a case.

This is the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. On November 29, 2017; following an application by advocate Wahab Khan, a ban was put on media (print, electronic and social) to report this case, though they could attend the proceeding.

Courts generally allow such in-camera i.e. private proceedings only if there is a rape case or a case concerning national security. But in this case according to  the order by Special Judge S.J. Sharma, “The publication may create security problem for the accused persons, prosecution witnesses, the defence team and the prosecutor as well.”

Principles generally followed by court have been compromised, in this case.

Following the gagging, nine journalists filed a petition against the order. Journalists from reputed media organisations like The Wire, Dailyo, Scroll, The Free Press Journal, etc. stood before the SC in solidarity.

But the damage has already been done.

In August last year when Inspector General of Gujarat DG Vanzara and IPS officer Dinesh MN were absolved from the charges. While from December, 19 of the eyewitnesses have either retracted their statements or denied stating anything, according to a report by The Indian Express.

The case has been witnessing a fall since the BJP came to power. First there were changes in the judges, then Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabbudin Sheikh withdraw the petition challenging discharge of Amit Shah, and then the recent developments from 2017.

The case is complicated because of many reasons. One, because it concerns encounter killing of an alleged terrorist and extortionist mafia Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Sheikh’s close aide Tulsiram Prajapati. Two, Sohrabuddin according to the Gujarat and Rajasthan Police wanted to kill the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi. Three, one of the accused in the case is the then, Minister of Home for Gujarat and now, ruling party chairman Amit Shah.

The lopsided and strange episodes in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case has raised a question about not just media freedom but also about the meaning of justice in our country.

Sources: The Indian Express, Scroll, The Wire


Section 377: Plea referred by Supreme Court to Bench

The Supreme Court has referred Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to a larger bench on Monday. This decision comes after 5 petitioners from the LGBT community filed a petition against the law stating that they live under constant fear of police, as reported to The Indian Express.

The apex court stated that an individual must have control over the choices they make, despite their sexual orientation. The court also observed that, “A section of people or individuals who exercise their choice should never remain in a state of fear.”

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who appeared on behalf of the petitioners stated the importance of Article 21 for an individual. He further added that the petition may be referred immediately because the specific section directly impacts the life and fundamental rights of his clients. Datar reiterated that the, “Right to choose my partner is part of my fundamental right to privacy,” according to The Hindu.

With the Supreme Court passing the Right to Privacy Judgement in August this year, there is still a hope for the section to be quashed in near future. Also because the bench stated in its judgment said that, “Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy.”

The colonial era legislation criminalizes sexual relationship between members of LGBT community since the relationship according to the law is ‘unnatural.’ With a new hearing, the earlier petition between Naz Foundation and Suresh Kumar Kaushal filed in 2014 will be revisited before a bench.

INS Kalvari and the Birth of Indian Submarines

On December 8 this year, President Ram Nath Kovind awarded President’s color, the highest honour to a military unit, to the Submarine Arm of the Indian Naval Services. But it was back in 1956 that the origin of submarine arm began.

Eight years post independence Pakistan was building its military might. United States announced to transfer naval support to Pakistan by supplying One Cruise, Four Destroyers and some Submarines. Looking at the growing closeness of Pakistan with the US and China, Indian Navy recognised the need to develop anti-submarine equipments and a strong warfare resilience against the neighbouring powers Pakistan and China.

Indian Navy established Torpedo and Anti-submarine School and Tactical School focussed more on theoretical knowledge, but lacked practical training. INS planned to setup a submarine trained cadre of 38 Officers and 65 Sailors. In 1961, the first batch of this cadre was thus sent to Britain for practical training under the Royal Navy.

In 1965, Russia offered to supply India with four submarines, one submarine depot, two lady ship tanks and five patrol boats. From 1967, the four submarines, INS Kalvari, Karanj, Khanderi and Kursura, started arriving at the Indian shore. INS Kalvari, the first one, was commissioned in December 1967. Till 1990, India had a total of 17 submarines.

By November 2017, the count of submarines with Indian Navy has dipped down to 14 – nine Sindhughosh class (diesel electric powered), four Shishumar class (diesel electric powered) and one Arihant class (nuclear powered) submarine. With the commissioning and reincarnation of INS Kalvari on December 14 this year, we now have a strength of 15 submarines, short of 2 submarines by 1990 count.

Project 75 and Project 75I of the Indian Navy is aimed to improve the naval strength of the country by commissioning 12 more submarines. Six submarines made under Project 75 would be made in collaboration with a French company. While the next six submarines under Project 75I would be made indigenously.

INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class submarine for the country, is the first submarines under Project 75. These are being made by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilder Limited in partnership with French company M/S Naval Group.

The submarine is one step forward for the country’s armed forces. One, because it comes with state-of-the-art Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System that allows it to remain undetected underwater for 21 days. This makes it even more efficient than nuclear-powered submarines. Two, it comes with Exocet anti-ship missile, manufactured by M/s Naval Group, which is the best technology available to the world. This missile is an advantage because it remains undetected till it reaches the target.

This anti submarine warfare is also a way ahead for Make in India programme since it is being produced in India with aide of an Indian company. And also because of technological support of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).

DRDO has developed Varunastra, a torpedo with range of 40 kms, for Kalvari to enable launch attack. Alongwith this DRDO has also developed an Advanced Indigenous Distress SONAR System for Submarines (AIDSSS). The organisation is also developing indigenous AIP system for the country.

Project 75 is not a mere horse trade for Indian Navy. But it is an attempt at strengthening the naval warfare of the country. Raveen Janu, Associate Fellow at Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) calls submarines the ultimate stealth weapons. “Despite advances in sonar technology over the decades, detecting, tracking and targeting submarines remains extremely difficult, particularly in the Indian Ocean where the salinity of the seas and the presence of thermal zones of variable water temperature, make submarine detection extremely difficult,” he shares on the official website of CLAWS. Technological novice is a priority today.

INS Sindhushastra being the last submarine inducted by the Indian Navy in 2000, the development of anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare has become a requisite for India.