Barak -8: Galvanizing India’s defence capabilities

Adding yet another feather to its cap, the Defence Research and Development Organisation on September 21 successfully test fired its new surface-to-air Barak-8 missile from a defence base off the Odisha coast.

This long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile will go a long way in galvanising India’s air defence capabilities. A product of the joint venture between India and Israel, one of the biggest highlights of the Barak-8 missile is a system that allows detecting, tracking and guiding of the missile. This technology is known as the Multi-Functional Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF STAR) system

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With target radii of 70-90 km, the missile is designed to counter any air-borne threat, in addition to intercepting supersonic aircraft and missiles. The radar system also allows for 360-degree coverage and can bring down an incoming missile within a close range of 500 meters away from a ship.

Apart from this, it incorporates state-of-the-art phased array multi-mission radar, an adaptable command and controlling system, which enables users to simultaneously engage multiple targets during saturation attacks and two-way data link.

Even though the current design is based on the original model of Barak-1 missile, the latest edition has a better targeting system.

In terms of the physical specifications, the missile is 4.5 metres in length, weighs around 2.7 tonnes and can carry a payload of 70 kgs.

Besides other private companies, many Indian companies like L&T, BEL, TATA  group and BDL helped in the development of various sub-systems which have been put to use in the missile.

This, however, was not the first test trial of the missile. Three consecutive test firing of the medium-range missile was carried out earlier this year in June and July from the DRDO base in Chandipur. The test was successful as the missile had hit the last minute maneuvering target.

The Indian Navy, too, had test fired the long-range missile in December 2015. It was undertaken by the Western Seaboard of INS Kolkata.

Once the trials are over, the missile would be inducted into all three services- Army, Navy and Air force.

According to a report in the Economic Times, the multi-purpose missile is likely to bring orders worth billions of dollars. Following the three successful test launches, armies around the world have already made deals with the Israel Aerospace Industries to procure the missiles. The potential operators include Chile, Germany and Poland.

An upgraded version- Barak-8 ER (Extended Range), is also on the process of being developed. This model will see missiles with maximum range increased to 150 km coupled with modifications in the control and software systems.

 

All you need to know about the Embraer deal controversy

After Augusta Westland chopper scandal, the UPA-II regime has found itself at the centre of yet another potential defence scam. This time, it is the $208 million deal made with Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer that has come under the scanner of Brazil and US authorities.

With the deal making news, here is all you need to know about the Embraer controversy:

What is the Embraer deal?

The $208 million deal was inked in 2008 between aircraft manufacturer Embraer and the Defence Research and Development Organisation for three EMB-145 planes. The deal was made as a part of the project that aimed at developing a new range of aircrafts equipped with indigenous radars for Early Warning and Control Systems. The manufacturer delivered one plane in 2011 and the other two were delivered in 2013.

What is wrong with the deal?

On September 8, a Brazilian newspaper named Folha de Sao Paulo reported that the US government had initiated an investigation into the alleged kickbacks paid by the manufacturer to secure deals with Saudi Arabia and India. As per the reports, an Indian middleman based in UK helped Embraer to sign the deal with the Indian government, a practice banned by Indian military procurement laws.

The aircraft manufacturing company has been under the scanner of the US Department of Justice since 2010. The company’s contract with Dominican Republic had captured the attention of the US authorities, but the scope of the probe has now been expanded to include deals with eight more countries.

How did Embraer react to the news?

The company is co-operating with the on-going investigation and as reported by the Brazilian newspaper, it is expecting to reach a deal with the American authorities soon. It has also set aside $200 million for paying any fine it may be slapped with. However, the company has not released further details about the status of the investigations.

How did the alleged irregularities come to light?

It all started in May, 2016 when a former Embraer employee tipped off a Brazilian prosecutor about a conversation between former sales director at the company and American authorities regarding the foul play involved in the Saudi deal. Allegedly, the director had revealed that kickbacks had been paid ahead of the delivery of 170 executive jets to state-owned oil company Aramco.

How did the Indian authorities react?

The defence ministry led by Manohar Parrikar has said that the DRDO would seek explanation from Embraer regarding the deal. The ministry has also asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the corruption allegations.  The CBI on Saturday filed a preliminary report against unidentified defence officials and others in a step to initiate probe.

What about the Congress?

Reacting to the news, former defence minister AK Antony said that it was up to the NDA government to verify the graft allegations. Other party spokespersons have also rejected the claims of any wrong doing.

From Reshma Qureshi to Priyanka Chopra, Indian beauties take NY Fashion Week by storm

The New York Fashion Week, considered as one of the biggest international fashion extravaganzas, took the fashion world by storm by providing a platform for a slew of designers to showcase their hottest and innovative design ideas.

However, apart from all the glitz and glamour, the Indian fashion enthusiasts had an additional reason to rejoice-Indian designers and models stood out from the rest of the crowd with their immense talent and confidence. Even when they were descending down the ramp in fancy clothes or attending various shows, they made sure that all eyes were hooked on to them.

Here is the full list of Indian stars who stole the show at the New York Fashion Week:

Reshma Qureshi

Reshma Qureshi, an acid attack victim from Mumbai, tried to re-define the pop-culture meaning of beauty by walking the ramp at the New York Fashion Week.

In 2014, when Qureshi was attacked by her brother-in-law and his group of friends, she thought life had ended for her. But this 19-year-old took the accident in her stride and became the face of the #EndAcidSale campaign run by the NGO named ‘Make Love Not Scars’ and many other such initiatives. Ever since, she has not looked back in life and the queen-like strides she took at the Fashion Week was just a sheer reflection of this fact.

Wearing clothes designed by Indian designer Archana Kochhar, she promoted FTL Moda’s #TakeBeautyBack campaign in New York. When the show ended, she had not only won a million hearts but she also gave millions of people a reason to hope against all logic.

Sunny Leone

By opening the show for Archana Kochhar, Sunny Leone became the first Bollywood actor to walk at the New York Fashion Week. After scorching the ramp with her extreme good looks and style, she thanked Kochhar for giving her an ‘unforgettable’ experience through a tweet.

Archana Kochhar

Archana Kochhar, who has made a name for herself with the Ahimsa silk range of garments, unveiled her collection named ‘A Tale of Two Travels’ during her second appearance at the New York Fashion Week. Inspired by the breathtaking Taj Mahal, combined with the rich colours of village of Banjara tribals, her collection included cropped tops, jumpsuits, bellbottom trousers and capes.

Vaishali Shadangule

Fashion designer Vaishali Shadangule made her debut at the New York Fashion Week by showcasing the handwoven collection from her label- Vaishali Shadangule. The spring-summer collection was titled ‘And Quiet Flows the Thread’ and it mirrored the perfect balance between modernity, commercial viability and art.

Amruta Fadnavis

Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, donned the role of showstopper for Chasa IDT’s show. The Pune-based Chasa Institute of Design and Technology presented 15 designs on the runway, with a special focus on women’s education and the importance of handloom in India. The models who walked the ramp for Chasa IDT held placards highlighting the same.

Jacqueline Fernandez

Jacqueline Fernandez made a splash at the fashion gala even without walking the runway. She attended the Fashion Week in her capacity as the brand ambassador of TRESemme, India. The hair care line is the official backstage partner of the Fashion Week. Jacqueline reportedlyattended the shows by fashion giants like Carolina Herrera, Hugo Boss and Oscar de la Renta.

Priyanka Chopra

Sporting a floral long Thakoon dress, Priyanka Chopra looked like a Greek goddess at Thai-American fashion designer Thakoon Panichgul’s show. She was seated in the front row, along with actress Taylor Schilling and was photographed with various other models present at the Fashion Week.

The Quantico actor could not contain her excitement and took to Instagram to talk about the fun time she had during the event. She was also seen spending time with Sunny Leone in New York.

Sri Lanka wins the war against malaria

In a breakthrough achievement, the World Health Organisation on Monday declared Sri Lanka as malaria-free, thus, making it the second country in the region to eradicate malaria after Maldives.

From being termed as the worst-affected country by malaria 60 years ago to now being declared as a malaria-free nation, Sri Lanka has definitely come a long way in terms of tackling the menace of mosquito-borne diseases, and the WHO has rightly called it a “remarkable public health achievement.”

However, the road to eliminating malaria was not easy for Sri Lanka. It was achieved through sustained efforts from the side of the government as well as the communities concerned, coupled with well-calibrated policies.

How did Sri Lanka eradicate malaria?

Sri Lanka’s strong public health system is definitely one of the key reasons for this breakthrough. Health workers were properly trained to deal with malaria-related cases and the early diagnosis and swift treatment by these health workers with special focus on high-risk areas helped in decreasing the number of malaria-related deaths significantly. Additionally, an efficient sanitation system along with other methods that lowered mosquito breeding supplemented the strong health care system that was in place.

Talking about the various unconventional steps that were taken under the Anti-malaria Campaign designed by the health ministry, the web-based surveillance system was one of the most effective strategies. All fever cases were tested for malaria and each case was reported under the AMC. The officials kept a close watch on tourists, immigrants, pilgrims, armed forces on peace keeping missions etc.

Rationing of medicines was another step that was taken in the direction of providing affordable health care facilities to patients affected by malaria. All the malaria-related medicines were kept with AMC, forcing the private sector hospitals to notify all such cases with the health ministry.

Further, the government ran a 24*7 hotline for patients in isolation to stop the possibility of further transmission. Through the hotline, the patients were tracked and treated, which helped in bringing down malaria cases to a great extent.

Apart from all the above mentioned efforts, one of the major reasons for this feat was the fact that the AMC, in early 1990s, moved from a mosquito-control strategy to parasite-control strategy. Ever since, the malaria cases in the country saw a steady decline.

The relentless grass roots level community engagement cannot be ignored while talking about the Sri Lankan success story. No public health policy can work without the constant engagement of the citizens concerned. And in the case of Sri Lanka, due to better awareness and successful health education, citizens did not wait until it was too late and also played a role in the fruitful implementation of the health policies.

What can India learn from its neighbour?

Sri Lanka’s achievement comes at a time when different states of India are grappling with an upsurge of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

Various aspects of the AMC can be adopted in the Indian context to develop a proper surveillance system for the deadly disease. The private hospitals in the country should be asked to record all malaria-related cases with the health ministry, which can then devise a target-based approach to fight the infection.

Further, the central government and the respective state governments should also focus on providing more social, financial and technical support for facilitating the eradication process.

For a country that receives four times as much rainfall than India, the process of eliminating malaria was an uphill task. Yet, the island nation rose to the challenge, giving various other countries a much-needed reality check and inspiration. With more than thousand people dying due to Malaria every year, the Sri Lankan story can teach India a lesson or two in terms of combating the mosquito menace.

Sources: TOI ,  The Guardian

All you need to know about RBI’s Governor in waiting, Urjit Patel

When RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan announced his decision of going back to academics, instead of seeking a second term in office, the BJP government at the centre found itself in a tight spot as it had to fill the huge vacuum that would be created by his exit.  Rajan had set the bar really high in terms of his performance as the chief of the central bank and was widely accepted by fellow economists and policy makers. This made it even more difficult for the government as it had to appoint someone who could match up to Rajan’s credentials. However, after months of discussions, the government chose Urjit Patel, a deputy governor of the RBI for the past three years, as Rajan’s successor.

The government’s decision of appointing Urjit Patel was a clear indication of its keenness to continue with the current monetary policy and other macroeconomic policies.

It was a committee headed by Patel that decided to follow an inflation-targeting approach for setting interest rates, keeping consumer inflation as its base. The committee also recommended that the call on the monetary policy should be that of the committee and not the governor.

In terms of degrees, Patel is no less than Rajan. After graduating from the London School of Economics, he received his M.Phil degree from the Oxford University in 1986 and obtained his doctorate in economics from Yale University in 1990.

Between 1990 and 1995, he covered the US, India, Myanmar and Bahamas desks while working for the International Monetary Fund. Interestingly, he joined IMF as a Kenyan citizen as he was born in Kenya on October 28, 1963.

Talking about his technical publications and papers, he has dealt with subjects like public finance, Indian macroeconomic policies, international trade, public finance, the economics of climate change and financial intermediation in his works.

Prior to his stint as the deputy governor of RBI, he was an advisor to the Boston Consulting group and was also a non-resident fellow at The Brookings Institution. Apart from this, he has worked with Reliance Industries Ltd, IDFC Ltd and is also on the board of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd. Patel’s exposure to the infrastructure sector, especially power and energy, could prove to be extremely beneficial for the RBI in dealing with loan defaults, NPAs and other held up projects.

Starting from the Narasimha Rao government, which undertook the great economic reforms of 1991, to the present government, Patel has played an important role in the country’s policy-making. He is credited with developing debt market, facilitating banking-insurance reforms and also for the transformations in the foreign exchange market in India.

The market and investors were not very enthusiastic about Patel’s elevation as RBI Governor for he is considered as an inflation hawk. However, they are optimistic about him being a little more flexible than Rajan in terms of lowering interest rates and other economic policies.

Kerala’s canine trouble

Ever since a 65-year-old woman was killed by a pack of 50 stray dogs in Thiruvananthapuram a few days ago, Kerala has been fuming over the increased stray dog attacks in the state and the government inaction towards curbing this menace.

Stray dog attacks are not unfamiliar to people of Kerala. Over the years, the state has been witnessing a steep rise in number of stray canine attacks and the demand for culling of dogs has been getting louder and louder by each passing year. Statistics from Kerala’s health department show that more than 1 lakh cases of dog bites have been reported in the state from 2014. However, due to proper awareness and access to health care facilities, the death toll in past two years has been contained at less than 15.

With people taking to streets to express their anger, the newly formed LDF government in the state has come out strongly on the issue. Local administration minister KT Jaleel said that strong measures would be taken to control stray canine attacks and said that there was no legal bar on killing violent dogs. The statement, however, did not go down well with animal lovers and animal rights activists in the state as well as the country. The minister’s comment drew a lot of flak from Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for Women and Child Development. Ms Gandhi, who is also an animal right activist, said that killing of dogs is unlawful and unscientific. “I am totally with the people of Kerala but killing dogs is not the solution and the law would be broken,” she said. Adding to this, she blamed the stray dog menace on the rapid urbanisation and poor waste management in the state.

Noted Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan also wrote to the Kerala government saying that he would go to the court against the government’s decision of culling stray dogs. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, however, was prompt in replying. Clearing the air, the CM said that the government was only planning to carry out mass sterilisation camps for the stray dogs and that Mr Bhushan got carried away by misleading reports in the media. Further, in his reply letter, the CM also ensured Mr Bhushan that sterilisation would be done only by qualified veterinary doctors and that the dogs undergoing surgery will be given all necessary health care facilities.

This is not the first time that Kerala is at the receiving end of backlash from animal lovers across the country. In July 2015, amidst reports of increased stray dog attacks, former chief minister Oommen Chandy passed an order asking local administrators to carry out euthanasia on aggressive and rabid dogs. Several petitions were filed against the government and protest marches were held across the country asking people to boycott Kerala and its tourism.

Coming back to the current crisis in the state, the government is now facing a dilemma with respect to formulating a perfect solution to the stray dog menace.

In a recent announcement, the local self-government department has ordered the setting up of a stray dog rehabilitation zoo in every district Panchayat. The order has also called for a pet policy, which will make licensing mandatory for pet owners. A slew of other measures have also been proposed by a cross-section of society.

Even though the state government is bombarded with solutions to deal with the stray dog issue, the final call rests with the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition seeking legal clearance for culling of stray dogs.

Kerala to be declared India’s first open-defecation free state on November 1

Adding another feather to its cap, Kerala will declare itself as India’s first open-defecation free state on November 1, coinciding with the date on which the state was officially formed. This would be one among the many milestones Kerala has achieved in terms of social indicators of development.

It is no surprise that the newly formed LDF government in the state, led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a grand ceremony to celebrate the achievement as the toilets were constructed under the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, a brain child of PM Modi.

A total of more than 1.90 lakh toilets are being constructed across 941 gram panchayats in the state. Suchitwa Mission, a nodal agency for sanitation in Kerala, is spear-heading the campaign and is undertaking all the necessary efforts to complete its target by November 1. With a total budget of Rs 308 crore, the agency has been building toilets for individual houses along with government institutions and community toilets.

After the state government declaration on November 1, a central team will later visit the state and endorse the declaration after due inspection.

The first step towards achieving the status of an open-defecation free state started with the Muhamma Panchayat in Alappuzha district declaring itself as Kerala’s first open-defecation free panchayat on 2 June, 2016. The local administration had built around 281 toilets for houses that lacked sanitation facilities.

In terms of the funding, after carrying out a proper inspection, the Panchayat provided a total of Rs 13,500 for each house that constructed a toilet. Of the total amount, Rs 10,000 was funded by the Suchitwa Mission and Rs 3500 came from the Panchayat.

However, replicating the Muhamma model in every Gram Panchayat of Kerala was not an easy task for Suchitwa Mission, considering the state’s geographic conditions. Talking about the challenges that came in the way of execution of the scheme, K Vasuki, Executive Director of Suchitwa Mission said that the team experienced technical difficulties at various stages of construction work in areas that were affected by water-logging and water scarcity and also hilly regions. However, the agency overcame these problems by adopting right construction strategies and region-friendly toilet designs after taking into consideration the advice of technical experts.

Adding to this, she said that the agency is also planning to carry out awareness campaigns across the state about the importance of following good sanitation practices and other related matters. This is an extremely important element of the ODF programme as mere construction of toilets does not put an end to the practice of open defecation. Many sections of the society refrain from using toilets due to variety of socio-cultural reasons.

Hence, this aspect of ODF programme has to be given special importance, especially in areas like Attappadi, which is dominated by tribal population.Having constructed toilets, the state government should now focus on ensuring that these toilets are used by people, failing which it will remain as a mere construction bonanza.