The HINDU Notes – 05th February 2018 - VISION

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Monday, February 05, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 05th February 2018

📰 Alam Beg, martyr of Sepoy Mutiny, wants to return home

Skull of soldier, executed by the East India Company for rebellion in 1857, found its way to London pub; it’s now with historian Kim Wagner

•Headhunting is usually associated with primitive tribes and contemporary terrorists, but the colonial rulers of India also collected heads of Indian soldiers as war trophies.

•A 160-year-old skull of sepoy Alam Beg, now in the possession of a historian in London, is proof that colonial rulers who brought many modern practices to India were also at times inhuman.

•In 1857, Alam Beg, also known as Alum Bheg, was a soldier with the 46th Bengal Native Infantry, an arm of the East India Company.

•The Mutiny that year, after having covered the north Indian heartland, spread to Sialkot (now in Pakistan), where Alam Beg and his companions tried to follow their fellow soldiers and attacked the Europeans posted there. On July 9, 1857, they killed seven Europeans, including an entire Scottish family.

•Alam Beg, along with his comrades, left Sialkot and trekked all the way to the Tibetan frontier only to be turned away by the guards on the Tibetan side. He was reportedly arrested from Madhopur, a scenic town on the northern part of the Indian Punjab and taken back to Sialkot. A year later, he was tried for the brutal killing of the Scottish family and blown up from the mouth of a cannon. The Mutiny ended soon after. Alam Beg’s tragic story surfaced more than a century later thanks to an Irish captain Arthur Robert George Costello, who was present at his execution.

Present at execution

•The Irishman was a captain in the 7th Dragoon Guards, dispatched to India after the Mutiny had shaken the bonds between the East India Company and the native soldiers. Costello had not seen any episodes of the Mutiny but was present at the execution, said historian Kim Wagner, who possesses the skull now.

•Costello picked up the skull and returned to London with it. In 1963, the skull was discovered in a store room of The Lord Clyde pub of London, after it had changed hands. The new owners were less than happy to find this war ‘trophy’ from 1857, but treated it as a solemn object from a disturbing past of British history in the subcontinent. The owners of the pub learnt from a note left in an eye socket that it belonged to Alam Beg, who played a leading role in the mutiny of sepoys in Sialkot. They desired to repatriate the skull to the soldier’s family. For years, they tried but failed. It is not known how the skull of Alam Beg ended up in the Victorian-era pub. But it is possible that the Irish captain who witnessed the execution of the leader of the mutinous soldiers visited the pub or someone deposited it there, given the fact that it had links with the history of the Indian Mutiny. In fact the pub was named after Collin Thomson, also known as Lord Clyde, who was a military commander and played a role in crushing the mutiny in north and northwest India. So it is possible that soldiers after their Indian stint would visit the pub.

•In 2014, the owners of the pub contacted Kim Wagner who has been writing about South Asian history for years. They urged him to take the skull and return it to the descendants of Alam Beg. Mr. Wagner brought it home and the skull finally added to his research on South Asia which was published late last year as “The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857.” The historian believed that only by making people aware of the skull that Alam Beg can be returned to his motherland.

•His research showed that most of the soldiers of the 46th Bengal Native Infantry were from modern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and Havildar Alam Beg most probably hailed from Uttar Pradesh. Though he wanted to return him to a dignified family grave yard of Beg’s family, it was not possible as the East India Company left no records of the soldiers of the 46th Bengal Native Infantry.

•“There are no longer any records for sepoys of the Bengal Army – the best I could do was locate the area where the 46th regiment recruited from,” Mr. Wagner said.

•The Mutiny of 1857 was crushed mercilessly and many gruesome incidents of that era find mention in official records. In 2014, around the time when Mr. Wagner began writing his book on Alam Beg, Ajnala in Punjab’s Amritsar hit the headlines when authorities discovered skeletons of 282 soldiers who were executed after the Mutiny. They apparently had surrendered hoping for a fair trial, but the Deputy Commissioner of the district Frederick Henry Cooper ordered execution of the rebels. They were buried with medals and even money of the East India Company that many of them had in their pockets. The grisly discovery is yet to receive a closure as the family members of those soldiers remain untraced.

•Similar is the condition of Alam Beg as his journey back home remains incomplete but Mr. Wagner believed that his only physical remain should find a proper peaceful burial. Mr. Wagner is aware that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been vocal about honouring the fallen soldiers of India in various colonial era battles. He says that something similar can be done in case of Alam Beg as well.

•“After all these years, it is high time for Alum Bheg to return home...he was probably born in what is today India, he was executed in what is now Pakistan,” Mr. Wagner wrote in his book proposing that a burial for Alam Beg near the India-Pakistan border would be the most suitable tribute to his sacrifice.

•The historian said that in the absence of the descendants of such soldiers, it is the Indian government that should bring back Alam Beg to his motherland.

•Headhunting by colonial rulers from Europe was a rampant practice in the 19th century and activists worldwide have been vocal in demanding human remains from Western museums and collectors should be returned to their countries of origin. Such a movement is yet to begin in India whose soldiers from the colonial past in many instances continue to remain anonymous and abroad.

📰 Pre-Christian era artefacts unearthed in Odisha

Pottery pieces, tools made of stones, bones found

•The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered pottery pieces, and tools made of stones and bones believed to be of the pre-Christian era from a mound in Jalalpur village of Cuttack district.

•“Discoveries of ancient artefacts indicated that a rural settlement might have thrived in that period. What is important in these latest discoveries is that we have found continuity in the progress of rural culture from a pre-historic era,” said D. B Garnayak, superintending archaeologist of ASI’s excavation branch in Bhubaneswar.

•Excavation carried out in 12 acres of land in the Jalalpur village has unearthed remnants of axe, adze, celts and thumbnail scrappers chiselled from stones, harpoons, point and stylus made of bones and potteries with marks of paintings.

12 trenches

•The ASI teams have also come across a couple of circular wattle and daub structures, which were predominantly used by people to take shelter during the pre-Christian era, in 12 trenches being dug simultaneously.

•“We will send carbon samples to the Inter-University Accelerator Centre (IUAC), New Delhi, and the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, to ascertain their exact age. Once we get the exact age, it will be easier for us to analyse the rural settlement and its activities,” said Dr. Garnayak.

•The ASI researcher, however, said the people here could not have lived in isolation and they could have had cultural and trade ties with other settlements in the Prachi Valley that had come up around the Prachi river, which gradually disappeared.

Subsistence economy

•Rich materials found from excavation sites indicate that the people had a subsistence economy and they largely relied on agriculture, fishing and hunting.

•ASI researchers assumed that the bones found on the site belonged to deer species and bovidae. Discovery of tortoise shell, dolphin and shark teeth and fish bones indicated that the settlement could have been closer to the sea coast. Some rice grains have also been detected.

•Further excavation is expected to throw light on whether there was cultural link with other settlements, what happened to settlements established around the Prachi river, and how it declined, they said.

📰 Mixing work with study

A large-scale vocational education system would help raise the productivity of individuals and the economy

•Basic education has slipped in priority in the national policy matrix over the decades. The Census and several other data sets have pointed to various dimensions of the problem. Recently, the Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2017, published by a non-governmental organisation and containing data from 26 districts in 24 States, has some national-level findings that should cause concern.

•Focussing on the 14-18 years age group, the ‘Beyond Basics’ study has tried to assess, inter alia, whether this cohort of young people is enrolled in any educational institution, whether they are both enrolled and pursuing work, how well they have been prepared in previous schooling, their access to technology, and what occupies their time. This is an important segment of the population, on the threshold of adulthood, and, importantly, political participation.

•The insights from the study are based on a sample of 28,323 youth who are at different levels of development. A national-level finding is that as a group, 14.4% of youth aged 14 to 18 years are not enrolled in school or college. Yet, this figure conceals variations by age: while it is 5.3% for 14-year-olds, it rises to 30.2% at age 18. The imperative clearly is to look at factors that prevent them from being part of formal higher secondary education, of which availability and affordability of schools would be important.

•Evidently, a large-scale vocational education system on the lines of the “dual” German model — classroom instruction plus apprentice training — would help raise the productivity of both individuals and the economy. ASER’s statistics indicate that overall, only 5.3% of the age group is enrolled in a vocational course, while 60.2% of out-of-school youth are engaged in some form of work. These trends underscore the need to scale up substantive skill-building programmes, making them free or highly subsidised.

•It is in this context that the role of agriculture as a provider of jobs and prosperity must be viewed. Among those who are already working in the 14-18 age group, 79% are engaged in farming, and that too in their family farms. By contrast, agriculture as work ranked very low as an aspiration among the youth. What this appears to show is that for a significant number of youth, a useful education in agriculture, coupled with access to the formal economy for finance and marketing, could raise the quality of life. In fact, the ability of farmers to adopt technology, avail benefits offered by the government and demand stronger institutions would be enhanced, if elementary education is improved. It would also produce the additional benefit of promoting health-seeking behaviour among these youth.

•At the moment, though, the education tests administered to them seem to show that they can read text, but feel challenged when it comes to solving a simple mathematical problem. They will do better if the teaching-learning process becomes engaging and effective.

📰 ‘Mega health plan may cost ₹1 lakh cr. a year’

Centre’s burden would be 60%: paper

•The healthcare plan for the poor announced in the Budget will cost about ₹one lakh crore annually and curtail States’ autonomy in designing their own policies in the sector, said a research paper authored by Assistant Professor Mita Choudhury of economic think tank NIPFP.

•“Not only would such a scheme impose a heavy burden on both the Union and the States’ exchequers, it will also curtail States’ autonomy to design their own policies in a sector that is constitutionally mandated to be in their domain,” said the paper. The paper said that even if a “conservative 2% rate of premium on the insured sum” was assumed, the scheme would cost would be “about ₹one lakh crore annually.”

•It further said: “Assuming that 60% of this burden would be borne by the Union Government and the rest passed on to the States, the Union Government would still need to fork out an additional ₹60,000 annually.”

📰 Crisis in Male

Fresh elections, with the opposition free to contest, are the best option for the Maldives

•Matters are coming to a head in the Maldives, with President Abdulla Yameen’s government pitted against the judiciary, polity and sections of the bureaucracy. Mr. Yameen has ruled since 2013 when he won power in an election, the result of which is still contested. He defeated Mohammad Nasheed, who had been deposed in 2012 and who, in 2015, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of terrorism. Mr. Nasheed is now in exile. In an order on February 1, the Supreme Court cancelled his imprisonment term and that of eight other political leaders, reinstated 12 parliamentarians who had been disqualified last year, and ordered Mr. Yameen to allow the Maldivian parliament, or Majlis, to convene. Mr. Yameen has thus far failed to comply with any of these orders, despite an official statement on February 2 about his government’s “commitment to uphold and abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court”. The most egregious failure is the government’s refusal to cancel the imprisonment of the nine leaders, amongst whom is Mr. Yameen’s former vice president and his former defence minister, members of parliament and leaders of major opposition parties, apart from Mr. Nasheed himself. The President has also refused to allow the Majlis to meet, which has led to the resignation of its Secretary General. In fact, the government sent in the army to stop lawmakers from entering the premises, besides arresting two parliamentarians at the airport. Meanwhile, several officials, including two police chiefs and the prison chief have resigned or been sacked, reportedly for seeking to implement the Supreme Court’s orders. The Attorney General has now announced that only the Constitution matters, not “illegal orders” from the court. In short, the Maldives is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Calling fresh elections, which are in any case due later this year, may be the best way out.

•Amidst the turmoil, India has joined the U.S., the European Union and several other countries in calling for Mr. Yameen to carry out the Supreme Court’s order. New Delhi said in a statement that it is monitoring the situation in Male “closely”. But currently, Delhi’s leverage in the Maldives is less than it has ever been. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to cancel his visit to Male three years ago, has singled Maldives out as the only country in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Region that he hasn’t visited. Given that the Maldives has pulled out of the Commonwealth, and there is little semblance of a SAARC process at present, India’s influence in Male is further limited. It will require concerted action from the international community to persuade Mr. Yameen to steer the Maldives out of this crisis, without taking recourse to coercive means.

📰 If that door should shut now

India cannot be so opaque to history as to say no refugees will hereafter be allowed to enter its territory

•Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has made an important statement before the Supreme Court (“India can’t be refugee capital: govt.”, The Hindu, February 1, 2018). Whether he intended it to or not, it contains a vision, a vision of India. Mr. Mehta presented that vision in terms of what India should not be.

•Responding to a plea by Rohingya refugees in India, Mr. Mehta said in the Supreme Court last week: “We do not want India to become the refugee capital of the world.” He went on to say to the Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India that if the Rohingya were given refuge, “People from every other country will flood our country.” And, he added: “This is not a matter in which we can show any leniency.”

•Four positions can be distilled from those observations: “We” speak for India; that India does not want refugees; people from ‘every other’ country are likely to flood India; we will not let India become the world’s refugee capital.

The ‘we’

•This article is not on the Rohingya’s case upon which we must trust the Supreme Court to pronounce as the great Sanskrit dictum suggests, ‘dirgham pasyatu ma hrasvam’ (look far ahead, be not short-sighted). It is on the Additional Solicitor General’s observation on India which is so important as to merit — demand — analysis.

•To start with the important opening word in his remark, “We”. Does he intend to use “we” in the Constitution’s sense of “We the people…”? I doubt it, for only Parliament would feel mandated to use that expression. And even if the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha were to pass a resolution, they would in all likelihood use “this House”, rather than “we”.

•A law officer, when he uses “we”, has to mean those who have the power, the prerogative and the privilege to instruct him in the matter before the court. But in the statement in question being about India’s very personality, the “we” has to go beyond the knot of individuals who have conferred on a particular brief. It has to convey the thinking of the government as a whole.

A departure

•That brings us to the second position taken by him, namely, that refugees will hereafter be unwelcome in India. If that is indeed the government’s thinking, then we have been given a major modification in the vision of ‘bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya’, where vouchsafing the good of the many and the happiness of the many is a ruler’s dharma, with lokanukampaya — compassion for the human being — governing state action. It reverses the ancient tradition of the janapada being not just the home for its jana but a sanctuary for all in need of ashraya, refuge — sarva lokashrayaya. It is perhaps this ethos that helped persecuted Zoroastrian migrants from Central Asia settle in and around Surat around the 16th-17th centuries to maintain their religious tradition.

•Old texts, tenets and traditions apart, the Additional Solicitor General’s statement marks a departure from modern India’s experience in the matter. By the new yardstick, independent India’s giving ashraya in 1947 to over seven million refugees, mostly Hindu and Sikh, from the newly created state of Pakistan was wrong. And, by the same token, Pakistan should have sent back another seven million and more refugees, mostly Muslim, who left India for Pakistan. By that logic, the Dalai Lama should never have been given refuge in India nor the nearly 150,000 Tibetans who have come to India during the last 50 years. And, by the same logic, India should have used force, in 1971, to drive back the estimated 10 million men, women and children seeking shelter in India from genocide in East Pakistan. Tamils fleeing Sinhala intolerance, now said to number 100,000, should have been driven back over the Palk Strait to Sri Lanka, not offered even temporary tanjam. Afghan refugees, now numbering 10,000, should, by that principle, never have been given space in India, nor should Baloch political dissidents be given panah today. Individuals like U Nu when he exited from Ne Win’s regime, Sheikh Hasina when she came to India in self-exile, and several political figures from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan should, by that principle, have been bolted out, Taslima Nasreen never allowed to step foot in India.

•Were Nehru, Shastri, Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee all naive or worse in not closing India’s doors to shelter-seekers? Were they un-patriotic? And were the people of India, in understanding the ethos of ashraya, equally mistaken?

•The Additional Solicitor General’s remarks have amounted to saying “we” now have a new vision, a new perspective, a new philosophy of India that does not, will not, open its doors to the refugee. In fact, it has closed its doors to refugees and to refugee-hood itself.

•Now, this is not just a passing opinion on a transient matter but a rock-hard position concerning India and the human condition of nobody-ness, of homelessness, of statelessness that seeks refuge. In terms of the statement of the Additional Solicitor General, sanctuary or ashraya (Sanskrit), panah (Urdu), sharan (Hindi), tanjam (Tamil) are no longer to be India’s attributes. ‘Back you go!’, ‘Out!’, are to be our answers to any refugee at our door.

Seeking refuge

•The third proposition, namely, that India is in danger of being flooded with refugees “from every other country” must cause astonished disbelief. Is the world pining for refuge in India? There is as much risk of India becoming the world’s refugee capital as there is hope of India becoming the world’s tourist capital. Common sense — a strong Indian trait — would tell us that only those in India’s neighbourhood facing the dire prospect of victimisation or death want India’s sanctuary. The same common sense has, for a cousin, another sense, an uncommon Indian sense, of seeing the urgency, the sheer panic, that is caused by victimisation and ethnic hate. And that enables us to see the heartlessness and the hollowness of the fourth proposition, namely, that we will not let refugees into India.

•If a neighbouring country, out of political spite, “or on account of race, religion, political opinion”, were to force Hindus out of its borders and into India, we would be right in giving them ashraya. And we would be right to demand world condemnation of the outrage.

•Keeping our land and sea frontiers open for massive numbers of people to cross over is hugely problematic. And terrorists sneaking in as refugees with sinister designs constitute a grim reality. But when has India been spared of troubles that come ‘not as single spies but in battalions’? We, as a nation, cannot be so amnesiac, so altogether aphasiac, so opaque to history as to say no refugees, none at all, will hereafter be allowed to enter our territory.

•Non-refoulement and international law are neither my expertise nor my theme here. The human condition is. And its most tragic experience — fear of persecution, of the furious chase, the flying bullet. William Blake wrote about two centuries ago: “Each outcry of the hunted Hare/A fiber from the Brain does tear.”

•India has not let the hunted hare die at its door. And if that door should shut now, a fibre from our collective brain must and will tear.

📰 Indian, U.S. air forces to deepen cooperation in Indo-Pacific region: U.S. Air Force chief

“We have common interests in preserving the rules-based order,” says Chief of U.S. Air Force General David L Goldfein.

•Chief of U.S. Air Force General David L. Goldfein has said Indian and U.S. air forces will significantly ramp up operational cooperation to complement the strategic interests of the two countries in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been expanding its military influence.

•Calling India a “central strategic partner” of the U.S. in pursuing common interests in the region, he said two of the world’s largest air forces were going to jointly shift the focus on the Indo-Pacific region and asserted that the rules-based order must be preserved in the critical sea lanes.

•Gen. Goldfein, who held extensive talks with Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa and the top brass of the defence set-up during his three-day India visit that ended on February 3, said the “Quadrilateral” coalition among the U.S., India, Japan and Australia would provide for deeper cooperation between the Indian and American air forces.

•Asked if cooperation between the two forces would deepen in the wake of the four countries joining hands with an aim at containing China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region, he replied, “I do [think so] and that is a big part of my visit and in my discussions here.”

•In June last year, two Lancer heavy strategic bombers of the U.S. Air Force had conducted flights over the South China Sea, sending a clear message to China against its military build-up in the disputed area. Three U.S. aircraft carriers — the USS Nimitz, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt — have also been operating in the Indo-Pacific region.

•“We have common interests in preserving the rules-based order. So while we look for opportunities for partnerships, it is actually appropriate also for us to be critical for those who are trying to change that in ways that may not benefit the region,” he told PTI in an interview in New Delhi.

'Quadrilateral coalition'

•In November, India, the U.S., Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending “Quad” to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of Chinese influence.

•Referring to the “Quad” or “quadrilateral coalition”, the U.S. Air Force Chief said there was a natural convergence among the four countries to work towards preserving the rules-based order, adding cooperation between Indian and U.S. air forces would increase at several levels.

•“India is absolutely a central strategic partner in moving forward in our common interests, and where we take this in the future is the purpose of my visit,” he said.

•Gen. Goldfein, who has 4,200 flying hours under his belt and flew in the Gulf war and in Afghanistan, also talked about India’s place as mentioned in the recently unveiled national defence strategy of the U.S..

•“It will be at a number of levels. It is on interoperability, how do we look beyond new platforms and sensors and look more broadly in the longer term,” he said about cooperation between the U.S. and the Indian air forces.

Freedom of navigation

•The visit assumes significance as he was accompanied by Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Force.

•Gen. Goldfein did not give a direct reply when asked if the U.S. would increase its military presence in South China Sea.

•“We want to be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable. I am not going to share with our adversaries what our intentions are. If in fact we are to increase our presence or decrease our presence, that is something we will do at our time and place of our choosing,” he said.

•India, U.S. and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. The U.S. has been periodically sending naval ships and planes to assert freedom of navigation, much to the chagrin of China.

•The U.S. Air Force Chief said connecting capabilities of the two forces will be one of the priority areas to enhance interoperability.

•Elaborating, he said the focus of the cooperation will be to “make decision faster than our adversaries and then act in ways that may bring multiple dilemmas at a pace the adversary could never keep up with.”

•“I believe that’s going to help us to find deterrence in the 21st century. Being able to produce multiple dilemmas means being able to operate simultaneously from all domains. So as we look at our partnership with IAF, the question for me is not perhaps what individual platforms and sensors we can bring but how do we bring increasing connectivity, how do we actually connect our capabilities in ways that allow us to act, to observe or decide and act faster than our adversaries. That is the big idea going forward,” he said.

Kargil and Kosovo

•Gen. Goldfein also talked about his and IAF chief Dhanoa’s roles in “combat campaign” in Kosovo and Kargil in 1999.

•“He was leading in the Kargil campaign and I was involved in the Kosovo campaign. He was developing night tactics as a squadron commander and I was also developing night tactics as a squadron commander... Who would have thought that the two squadron commanders engaged in combats, building similar tactics, grow up to be the chiefs of two of the largest and most professional air forces on the planet,” he said.

•“Where do we take that. Again we have these relationships built at all levels, I am excited. There is plenty of opportunities,” he added.

•U.S. President Donald Trump, in his first prime-time televised address to the nation as commander-in-chief last year, had laid out his South Asia policy saying a “critical part” of it was to further develop the U.S.’s strategic partnership with India.

•In June 2016, the U.S. had designated India a “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

📰 Male government remains defiant amid political crisis

Attorney-General tells police not to obey top court ruling

•The Maldives government remained defiant on Sunday, with the Attorney-General instructing law enforcement agencies not to obey a recent Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of nine Opposition leaders, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

•Security forces in the capital also shut the country’s Parliament and People’s Majlis and arrested two Opposition legislators on Sunday. Four days since the court ruling, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration appears firm amid an apparent political and constitutional crisis.

•A statement issued by the President’s office said Attorney-General Mohamed Anil had advised law enforcement agencies “to uphold the Constitution and disregard all illegal orders”, alluding to Thursday’s surprise ruling on the release of Opposition leaders. The court had also ordered that 12 legislators, earlier expelled from Parliament for defection, be reinstated.

•The statement from the A-G also said that security forces had received information that sometime on Sunday, the Supreme Court may impeach President Yameen, justifying the government’s order to the police and troops to resist such a move. According to local media, chiefs of the military and police said they would take orders only from the Attorney-General, implying they will not implement the SC ruling. The Hindu’s attempts to reach Mr. Anil over telephone were unsuccessful.

•Terming the A-G’s statement “tantamount to a coup” Mr. Nasheed, in a tweet, called for President Yameen’s immediate resignation.

•In an interview to a private television channel from Sri Lanka on Sunday, Mr. Nasheed called for protests and urged rank-and-file members of the troops to arrest the A-G and the chiefs of the army and police.

•Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of Parliament, who had earlier announced he would reinstate the 12 MPs as per the order, also resigned on Sunday. He did not give any reason.

•In a statement, the joint opposition alliance said, “President Yameen is now ruling the Maldives illegally.”

•Breaking his silence on Saturday, President Yameen said he had not expected such an order from the Supreme Court. He appealed to Maldivians to put forward “patience and national interest”, adding that he was prepared to hold early elections.

•Responding on Twitter, Mr. Nasheed said: “Pledging to hold an early election in a fixed term presidential system as in the Maldives is ludicrous.”

•Since Thursday, the Maldives has been on the boil, with a few local media outlets and Twitter serving as the key channels of information other than official statements. On Sunday, senior members from President Yameen’s ruling party accused the television channel ‘Raajje TV’ of spreading discord, and demanded that it be shut down, provoking strong reactions.

•Expressing dismay, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Atul Keshap tweeted: “I remember not long ago when #Maldives had several vibrant, independent channels and newspapers and a vibrant #FreePress. Almost all have fallen silent due to recent punitive legal restrictions on #FreedomofSpeech.”

•Following Thursday’s development, domestic and international actors, including the UN and countries such as India and the U.S., have urged Mr. Yameen to respect the ruling.

📰 Limited succour: Budget 2018 and senior citizens

Budget 2018 does well to focus on senior citizens, but action must be broad based

•Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stressed in his Budget speech last week that “to care for those who cared for us is one of the highest honours”, underscoring the importance the Centre attaches to providing economic support for India’s growing population of senior citizens. He then announced several tax and related incentives to ease the financial burden on people aged 60 and above, all of which are very welcome given that the elderly face steeply escalating health-care costs on declining real interest and pension incomes. From affording a five-fold increase in the exemption limit on interest income from savings, fixed and recurring deposits held with banks and post offices to ₹50,000, and doing away with the requirement for tax to be deducted at source on such income, the Budget offers much-needed relief. This it does by leaving a little more money in the hands of elderly savers who are heavily dependent on interest income to meet their living expenses. Another useful tax change is the proposal to raise the annual income tax deduction limit for health insurance premium and/or medical reimbursement to ₹50,000 for all seniors. And a crucially allied step is the move to set the ceiling for deduction in lieu of expenses incurred on certain critical illnesses to ₹1 lakh, irrespective of the age of the senior citizen.

•Separately, Mr. Jaitley also proposed extending the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana by two years, up to March 2020, and doubled the cap on investment in the scheme to ₹15 lakh. This annuity-cum-insurance scheme entitles the senior citizen policyholder to a guaranteed pension that equates to an annual return of 8% on investment. This pension plan, unlike the entirely government-funded Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme for the elderly who live below the poverty line, is contributory and is run by the Life Insurance Corporation of India. While all these Budget measures are laudable insofar as they recognise that the right to a life with dignity doesn’t retire with the crossing of a chronological threshold, much more needs to be done to address the needs of this rapidly growing demographic cohort. With more than 70% of the 104 million elderly living in the rural hinterland, any serious initiative to improve the lot of senior citizens must incorporate adequate budgetary support for social welfare spending on the relevant programmes. While the Budget provisions ₹6,565 crore for the pension scheme for the elderly poor, its outlay for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s assistance to voluntary organisations for programmes relating to the ‘aged’ at ₹60 crore is starkly inadequate. With the number of the elderly in India set to surge by 2050 to almost 300 million, or about a fifth of the population, governments need to make more comprehensive efforts to address the nation’s greying demographic.

📰 Easier norms may help Indian firms go global

The proposed Outward Direct Investment policy could, however, tighten provisions to prevent round-tripping

•The proposed Outward Direct Investment (ODI) policy may contain provisions to make it easy for many Indian firms, envisioning ambitious plans to transform themselves into multi-national companies (MNC), to go global and expand.

•Approval requirements and other norms would be simplified in a manner that would encourage ‘internationalisation’ of Indian companies. However, sources, privy to the developments, also said the ODI policy was expected to tighten regulations to prevent round-tripping structures, where funds are routed by India-based companies into a newly formed or existing overseas subsidiary and then brought back to India to circumvent regulations here. They said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Finance Ministry (tax department) were concerned about such structures.

•In his 2018-19 Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The government will review existing guidelines and processes and bring out a coherent and integrated ODI policy.” According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), “Indian firms invest in foreign shores primarily through mergers and acquisition (M&A) transactions. With rising M&A activity, companies will get direct access to newer and more extensive markets, and better technologies, which would enable them to increase their customer base and achieve a global reach.” Currently, the jurisdiction over ODI is mainly with the RBI, and the concerned law here is the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

•Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank), in a July 2017 research brief, had said: “... policy measures by way of removing hindrances and providing broad support (such as financial and technological), especially to firms with small foreign investment intensities (small overseas investment positions) can help improve firms’ competitiveness, export earnings and sales.” It added, “This support can also be targeted towards export firms particularly if they are planning for technology-seeking ODI.” The research brief also said the EXIM Bank’s Overseas Investment Finance programme offers financial support measures to further Indian firms’ overseas investments, particularly those of outward-oriented small and medium enterprises.

‘Some irritants’

•“There are some irritants in the current (ODI) norms,” said Akash Gupt, partner and national leader (regulatory services), PwC India. “For instance, if a holding company is used to make an investment, it may qualify as a core investment company/ non-banking financial company, and therefore, not allowed to invest in non-financial services outside India.” Also, if the overseas business goes bankrupt, approvals are required for depletion in value of more than 25%, said Mr. Gupt.

•As per Finance Ministry data, India’s ODI rose 56.1% year-on-year from $6.8 billion in 2014-15 to $10.6 billion in 2015-16, and further up by 39.37% to $14.8 billion in 2016-17. Top ten ODI destination countries in FY’15, FY’16 and FY’17 included Mauritius, Singapore, the U.S., the UAE, the Netherlands, the U.K, Switzerland, Russia, Jersey and British Virgin Islands. Cumulatively, these nations were the beneficiaries of 84% or more of India’s ODI during each of those financial years.

•The IBEF said ODI is being channelled into Mauritius, Singapore, British Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands mainly because these countries provide higher tax benefits. Interestingly, this composition of ODI destination countries more or less mirrored the top sources of foreign direct investment inflows into India in the same period including, Mauritius, Singapore, Japan, the U.S., U.K., the UAE, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus and France.

📰 ‘Time is ripe for CEZs to propel growth’

Essar Ports eyes $ 500 million in investments as prospects for ports seem bright, says its MD and CEO

•Now is the time for Coastal Economic Zones to take India’s growth story forward, according to Rajiv Agarwal, MD and CEO, Essar Ports Ltd. In an interview, he said as the future prospects for the port sector seem promising, the privately held Essar Ports has chalked out a plan to invest $500 million to expand capacity. Excerpts:

The government is keen on more transport through the sea route. What is the outlook for the port sector?

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision is to replicate the success of his ports-led development seen in Gujarat, in the past, at a national level. Exploiting India’s long coastline to develop more ports will certainly see many other industries coming in and that is the genesis of government’s ambitious ‘Sagarmala Project’.

•Developing inland waterways for transport and connecting them to coastal ports is the other major initiative of the government. This will lead to a holistic development of coastal economic zones located around ports.

•Ports-led development will enable more movement of cargo, reduction in transportation cost and will benefit exporters and importers. Secondly, we will see multidimensional activities in the adjoining coastal areas such as development in terms of real estate, quality of life, setting up of new industrial units and will trigger a whole lot of other economic and social developments.

•We are talking about development of coastal economic zones which are set up, not due to government incentives, like tax incentives, but come up due to the major benefits accruing from movement and transport of goods through the coastal route.

The centre has cleared six new major ports including three in Maharashtra. Is it feasible to have so many ports? Is corporatisation of major ports the way to go?

•There are ample growth opportunities for more ports to come up. Maharashtra has not been able to exploit its coastline to the extent that Gujarat has done. So, there is scope, as very barren and not very exciting regions in Gujarat have got developed because major ports were set up there. There is no reason why Maharashtra should not exploit its coastline’s economic potential. Infrastructure has to come first and then industry will follow.

•India’s 12 major ports have created noteworthy assets and tremendous value. Instead of divesting its stake to private sector players, the government can create a corporate holding structure and go for an initial public issue by selling 25% stake to the public and retaining the remaining 75%.

•This would bring in required funds, unlocking higher valuations and bringing in a more professional approach to managing these ports on the lines of other listed PSUs.

•As Minister Nitin Gadkari said recently, these ports are making good profits and their potential market capitalisation, looking at their current valuations, could be close to ₹2-3 lakh crore.

What do you have to say about socio-economic development of coastal areas?

•With 72 coastal districts hosting 18% population of India, the development of these communities has become an integral aspect of the overall socio-economic development of the country. Skilling of coastal communities, livelihood enhancement, and employment-creation opportunities are at the core of the government’s agenda.

•I think corporatisation is essential for the government and this holding company structure can be used to even create a sovereign wealth fund.

•We are struggling to raise funds and have to ask various small countries and multilateral agencies to invest in our infrastructure projects. We should have our own sovereign fund like Singapore and Middle-Eastern countries which are much smaller than India. Our sovereign wealth fund can be 100 times bigger.

Major developments have taken place with regard to Essar Oil, Essar Steel and Essar Projects. What is the role of the port business within the group now?

•The group has taken a conscious decision to reduce its debt. The year 2017 and the first half of 2018 would be a transformation period for the group whereby debt will again come to a level from where further growth plans can be initiated.

•The group has monetised some major assets. Also, major debt reduction programmes have been undertaken. I think, going forward Essar Group’s different businesses like ports will get steady cash flows and funds to grow their businesses.

•Essar Ports is already one of the largest players in India’s private sector. The port business is not easy for new entrants as it takes 8-10 years for a new port to come up. From the time you identify the location, there are a lot of issues in terms of environment, relocation of people, land acquisition and [it can take a while] by the time the whole project is completed.

•So, we have that head start as we have a large presence; we are the second-largest port operator in the private sector, we have captive and third-party cargoes and we have positive cash flows which can be reinvested in the business.

•We also have reasonable liquidity and are well poised for further growth. We have capacity to grow in existing locations, we can also get into new locations, and we can also look at inorganic growth. In all respects, new cargoes included, I think Essar Ports is very well poised to grow in the port sector.

After the sale of your biggest port to Rosneft for $2 billion in the Essar Oil deal, what is your current capacity and where are you headed?

•Our current cargo handling capacity is about 82 MMTPA and we are heading towards 110 MMTPA. Further, in Mozambique we will be setting up a 20 MMTPA project for a coal terminal, where we are looking at providing credible end-to-end solutions for miners. We are planning to start work by Q1 of FY19 or thereafter.

•This is Essar Ports’ first overseas investment. It will take two years to develop the port. We are also looking at diversifying and increasing our presence, especially at Salaya and Hazira in Gujarat.

•We could also look at some other terminals like LNG. So, there are various plans we are looking at in the coming few years and these will definitely give a big push to our future growth.

When did you plan to get into the LNG business? What is the investment plan?

•We are doing [LNG] in a different way; we are doing it separately.

Financially, how viable you are? What are your profit and the topline?

•In the infrastructure sector, debt is very high. EBITDA too is high at 10-11 times. EBITDA takes a long time to come in the infrastructure sector, because of many issues such as contracts, disputes and some policy issues.

•But, debt has come on the books and has to be serviced. Almost all our projects are about to be completed or are already completed; so, things will certainly improve. Our real results will be seen in the next year.

How much has the group invested in ports so far and how much more is being planned?

•Essar Group has invested $2 billion, of which around $400 million in book value terms has been sold. Now, we are investing about $500 million more for new projects.

How will you mobilise funds for this?

•Equity will come from the group and debt will be raised in the international markets. After the Vadinar Oil Terminal deal [the terminal, with a book value of $400 million, was sold to Rosneft for $2 billion], we have reduced debt by 50% or more and the debt to equity ratio is now 1:1.

📰 Agriculture needs a cure more than quick fixes

Policy should address credit, crop insurance, drip irrigation

•The government’s efforts to focus on the welfare of farmers in the Union Budget is admirable. However, in a zero-sum situation such as budget allocation, the government often finds itself trying to choose between short-term results and long-term benefits. Short term results might come with loan waivers and increase of Minimum Support Price (MSP), but care should be taken to address the sector’s competitiveness in a global scenario.

•By taking a quick fix path, the government might be squandering its budget on suppressing symptoms instead of administering a cure. I believe the long-term cure will be in the form of policies that provide a boost to credit growth, crop insurance, drip irrigation, warehousing, mechanisation and availability of skilled farm labour. This will help the farmer more than double his income in the long run. Yet, there certainly are a few hits and a few misses:

•The target for agricultural credit has been increased to ₹11 lakh crore from ₹10 lakh crore last year. This will empower farmers with much-needed funds to procure agricultural inputs in a timely manner. The Finance Minister has announced ₹2,000 crore for development of agricultural market infrastructure to link 22,000 local rural markets to the electronic national agriculture market platform. This will definitely help prevent undue volatility that creates stress for farmers.

•Labour, a basic component of agriculture is becoming difficult. Last year, the Union Budget had an allocation of ₹48,000 crore for MNREGA. It is said that this year’s budget may increase it to ₹60,000 crore. This scheme would provide long-term benefit if the labour force is tied up to assist farmers overcome scarcity in farm labour, the absence of which is forcing many to give up on agriculture altogether.

Dangers around MSP

•The Budget announced that the minimum support price (MSP) is to be fixed at 1.5 times of all input costs to protect the farmer. Care should be taken not to give too drastic an increase, which will render the commodity uncompetitive in global markets and unaffordable to mill owners. This might affect the farmer adversely if prices have to be corrected in the future

•The Finance Minister has launched ‘Operation Green’, and allocated ₹500 Crore to promote farmer producer organisations and agri-logistics associations. While it is a good measure, the amount allocated is quite meagre for a country of our size.

•Enhancement of mechanisation, drip irrigation and crop insurance should be encouraged given that climate change and global warming will effect output negatively. But surprisingly, there has been no mention of it in the 2018 Budget.

•It is heartening to hear that 100% deduction will be allowed to farmer producer registered companies having ₹100 crore as turnover irrespective of profit. This, along with new policies that will be announced to address procurement, demand and forecast, will give the much-needed impetus to improve farmers’ incomes.

•The agriculture sector gives employment to 50% of the total workforce and contributes 17-18% of the country’s GDP. On announcement of the Union Budget 2018, agriculture sector stocks surged with the slew of initiatives for the rural sector, including liberalising exports of agri commodities.

•However, based on the line of thinking that long-term competitiveness is better than short-term relief, this Budget is definitely a mixed bag. While the impetus given to agricultural credit and rural infrastructure is laudable, I think the Budget could have been truly progressive had it not put so much focus on the regressive policy of MSP.

•In future Budgets, I hope the government shifts even more towards forward-looking policies that boost the competitiveness of the agro-industry, and secure long-term growth in farmers’ income and quality of life.

📰 Deciphering LTCG tax on equity

What is LTCG?

•LTCG or long-term capital gains refer to the gains made on any class of asset held for a particular period of time. In case of equity shares, it refers to the gains made on stocks held for more than one year. In other words, if the shares are bought and held for more than a year before selling, then the gains, if any, on the said sale are referred to as long term capital gains or LTCG.

Why is LTCG tax in the news?

•It is in the news as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley re-introduced LTCG tax on equity shares. Investors have to pay 10% LTCG tax on gains exceeding ₹one lakh on the sale of shares or equity mutual funds held for more than one year. Previously, short-term capital gains (STCG) tax of 15% was levied.

•The Centre said if the gains exceeded ₹one lakh in a year, then 10% LTCG tax had to be paid without the benefit of indexation (adjusting the profit against inflation to compute the real taxable gains).

Was the tax levied on stock market trades earlier?

•Such a tax existed until October 2004 when it was replaced by the securities transaction tax (STT) which was levied on all trades made on the stock exchanges.

•STT is charged at 0.1% of the trade value in cash market trades. In the derivatives segment, 0.05% STT is charged on the options premium while it is pegged at 0.01% on futures. Incidentally, there was always a section of market participants that favoured LTCG tax over STT.

•The issue of tax evasion through stock exchanges by paying a small STT component instead of LTCG had been raised regularly. Further, a study in 2016 stated that between 2005-06 and 2011-12, the Centre lost about ₹3.5 lakh crore by replacing LTCG tax with STT.

How will LTCG tax be computed?

•Typically, when such a levy is introduced, it is structured in a manner so that prior investments get some kind of relief. In technical parlance, it is called the grandfathering benefit.

•The government, while reintroducing the LTCG tax, said all gains made prior to January 31 would be grandfathered.

•Here is how it works: for example, assume an entity bought shares in January 2017 at ₹100, which touched a high of ₹200 on January 31, 2018. Now, if he or she sells the shares at ₹300 in, say, May 2018, then his taxable gains would be ₹100. (₹300-₹200).

Will all investors be subject to LTCG tax?

•All investors who trade on stock exchanges would be required to pay LTCG tax. Incidentally, the Centre has brought in LTCG tax while retaining STT as well. So, investors will have to pay both the taxes. However, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), who invest in India from places like Mauritius and Singapore, would not be subject to LTCG tax, courtesy tax avoidance treaties.

•This benefit, however, would be available only till the time the treaty benefit exists as the Centre is reworking all such so-called double tax avoidance agreements (DTAA).

•For instance, the Singapore and Mauritius treaties also have a grandfathering clause plus a tax of only 5% on the computed gains. This, in effect, makes it more attractive for foreign investors to trade through the Mauritius or Singapore route.

How did the stock markets react to the introduction of the tax?

•On Friday, a day after the Budget, benchmark equity indices — Sensex and Nifty — lost more than 2% each. The Sensex lost more than 900 points during intraday trading as it ended with its worst single-day fall in almost 15 months.

•The introduction of LTCG tax can only increase the cost of trading stocks at a time when various market participants have been highlighting the ‘export of capital’ to other countries due to lower transaction costs in those nations. Incidentally, there are already reports that the government might look at the possibility of at least allowing the benefit of indexation while computing LTCG that would be a partial relief to investors.

📰 Odisha ready to welcome olive ridleys

Forest department has decided to streamline and regulate tourist flow to the nesting coast

•Fencing along the sea coast to protect the olive ridley turtles during their mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery in Odisha is being increased by two more kilometres this year.

•According to wildlife experts, mass nesting of olive ridleys is expected to start in a week or ten days at this major nesting site. Thousands of mother olive ridleys are now waiting at sea within two kilometres from the coastline between Gokharkuda and Podampeta villages of Ganjam district, Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer Ashis Behera said.

•The mating season of the endangered marine turtles in the sea near the Rushikulya rookery coast that started in November is now over. Most male olive ridleys have returned to their original habitat thousands of kilometres away, while the females have stayed back to nest at the sandy coast. The pregnant olive ridleys are coming closer by the day to their nesting coast at the Ruhsikulya rookery. All arrangements are in the final stages for protection of these endangered turtles during their nesting time as well as for protection of their eggs in the nests during the 45-day-long gestation period.

•Every year, a 3.5-kilometre-long stretch of the beach from Gokharkuda to Podampeta used to be fenced to stop predators from harming the olive ridleys during nesting and the eggs in their nests. This temporary fencing also checks olive ridleys and their hatchlings from straying towards land. This year the forest department has decided to extend the fencing for another two kilometres towards the north from Podampeta to Bateswar temple on the coast.

•“Last year a large number of olive ridleys had preferred to nest in this region which had remained unfenced, so this year we decided to extend the fencing,” said the DFO.

•The forest department has established four camps at Purunabandh, Gokharkuda, Podampeta and Bateswar. These camps will monitor the nesting process round-the-clock. Patrolling at sea is continuing to check the entry of fishing trawlers to the olive ridley congregation zone.

•The forest department has decided to streamline and regulate tourist flow to the nesting coast during the nesting season. Tourists will be allowed to reach only demarcated regions of the coast through Podampeta and Gokharkuda villages so that human intervention does not affect the nesting process in any way.

📰 ISRO needs 4 years to catch up with satellite demand: Dr. Sivan

Our aim is to meet the immediate requirement with a target of 18 launches per year ; The Chandrayaan-2 mission will also be launched this year

•It has been a meteoric journey from a small farming village, Sarakal Vilai, in Kanniyakumari for K. Sivan, who has taken charge as the Secretary, Department of Space, and Chairman of the Space Commission and the Indian Space Research Organisation. From early education in a Tamil medium school, through a distinguished education and career in aerospace engineering, Dr Sivan has played a significant role in ISRO's success with its two satellite launch vehicles — the PSLV and the GSLV — especially in taming the elusive GSLV, which he called `the naughty boy' of Indian space. Just days after taking on new responsibilities, Dr. Sivan shares his plans for ISRO’s stepped up launch schedule and steps towards manned space flight.

You have just taken charge as Secretary, Department of Space, and Chairman, ISRO and the Space Commission. In the country’s space programme which area do you think needs immediate attention?

•We now have 43 satellites in space — for communication, earth observation and navigation. To meet the present national requirement, we need an equal number of satellites in addition. The frequency of launches must definitely increase. With the present launch capability, it will take us four years to make the required satellites and launch them. By then we would need to replace a few [older] satellites. It is like trying to catch up with a moving bus! This gap can be met only by increasing the launch frequency. Our aim is to meet the immediate requirement and for that, we have set 18 launches per year as the target.

For over a decade now, ISRO has been facing a serious shortage of satellite transponders because of an unforeseen demand from various users and leasing some capacity on foreign satellites. How will you tackle the gap?

•Yes, we are really short of around 100 transponders. But we are going to manage that with the new satellites that we will launch. We hope to bridge the gap very soon. One major satellite that we plan to launch in a couple of months is GSAT-11. It is around six tonnes [6,000 kg]. Once it is launched and starts working, most of our problems should be solved. It is getting ready and a launch date is not fixed.

•We will launch it from Kourou [in French Guiana, South America].

Do you see a need to change or re-focus activities related to development of launch vehicles, satellites and infrastructure?

•There is really no need to change anything. In ISRO we define our priorities and requirements very clearly and well ahead. We have a clear plan up to 2025 for launch vehicles and spacecraft. Beyond that, too, there is an outline as to which way we should go. We have a three-year action plan.

Which missions are coming up this year?

•As a part of the three-year short-term action plan, immediate missions that we plan to do this year are the GSLV-F08 that will launch the GSAT-6A communication satellite [around February]. Then we will have a PSLV mission with navigation satellite IRNSS-1I. Then comes the second developmental flight D2 of GSLV-MkIII. It will launch the high throughput satellite GSAT-29. Later, GSAT-11, which will be our heaviest satellite as of now, will be launched from Kourou. The Chandrayaan-2 mission will be launched this year on another GSLV.

At what stage are some of ISRO’s ambitious projects — the semi-cryogenic launch vehicle and the human space flight ?

•For the semi-cryogenic launch vehicle, the engine development is going on. Some critical [sub-systems] are getting fabricated or tested. Our target is to test fly it sometime in 2019.

•The human space flight is really not in our approved programmes for now. Before it is taken up, a human mission requires many technologies. We should develop them and be ready to execute it in a shorter period. For example, the crew module shaping, certain thermal systems and the CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment) that was tested in a partial flight of the GSLV-MkIII in 2014.

•In the case of any disaster, there should be an emergency plan to rescue the crew from the capsule. One such experiment called ‘pad abort’ will be taken up this year. Studies related to life support systems, space suits, cabin pressure, oxygen levels, crew hygiene etc. should be completed.

•Last year, a plan was initiated to entrust the entire production of PSLV launchers to industry. A similar plan is under way to produce satellites. What is their status and how will this plan help?

•The process is on to give the major chunk of PSLV production to industry. Internal committees are looking at how to make work packages [i.e. distribute tasks.] The selection process is on. The first PSLV from industry should roll out in 2020. If this happens, it will take care of half our job. More people in ISRO will be available for doing R&D.

•Of the target of 18 launches per year, we would like to do 12 to 13 PSLVs, of which a major chunk would be through industry; three GSLVs and two GSLV-Mark IIIs.

•Except for defining the modalities, which will take time, I would say that it should not be an issue for us. Major industries such as HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd,) L&T, Godrej and MTAR have been already contributing to our programme in big ways. A similar thing is happening in the satellite area also, although industry has already built one satellite under ISRO's guidance.

•Beyond these, we are developing a new launch vehicle to put small satellites to space.

•We want to hand over its technology and production to industry right from the beginning after doing one or two technology demonstration flights. We will do this through [ISRO's business entity] Antrix Corporation.

When will public services based on the Indian regional navigation constellation NaVIC begin?

•This is an area of priority for me — to make micro and miniaturised NaVIC receivers and see that they get into our mobile phones. I am very clear about it — that any mobile without NaVIC receivers will not be allowed to be sold. How we can cajole industry to do this will take time.

•How is NaVIC itself faring? All three atomic clocks on one of its satellites, IRNSS-1A, are said to have failed. Its replacement satellite IRNSS-1H was lost at launch last August.

•For NaVIC’s functions, four satellites are enough to get data.

•Beyond four, the accuracy of giving location on ground beyond 20 metres will increase. We did want to put the replacement satellite but the loss of 1H is in no way affecting NaVIC’s performance.

Which are some of the new areas of focus for ISRO?

•We should aim for reducing the total mission cost. The satellite cost should be less, so also the cost of the launch vehicle. This will be possible when both are smaller than now. A promising technology in this area is the EPS or electric propulsion system on satellites. By bringing this in, the satellite's size will automatically come down. A four-tonne spacecraft, for example, can do the work of a six-tonne satellite [as less fuel will be carried to space.] The launcher can also be smaller and automatically the mission cost can come down.

•But we don't get anything without a price. In EPS we lose something: we have to wait for 6-12 months for the spacecraft to slowly reach its destination because the thrust level is low. The vehicle injects the satellite in a GTO [a temporary geostationary transfer orbit.] For the satellite to move from there to the final orbit, the increase in the orbit size will be very, very slow. Because the thrust level will be a maximum of about 300 milli Newtons. The satellite’s service life is cut short.

•See the difference with chemical propulsion that we now use —it gives us a 440-Newton thrust. The satellite can move from there to the final home within a few days.

•But there are ways to beat this. The Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre is trying to improve the thrust or muscle power that we get from the EPS. We are also developing the technologies for a future reusable launch vehicle.

•We should also think of innovative applications. We are trying to synergise the inputs of all 43 satellites.

•We are pushing hard in the applications area. Recently we validated a new mobile app to help fishermen. It tells them where they can find large fish shoals in the sea. It has become very popular and we have to now ensure that our industry produces them in good numbers.

•The draft Space law will be taken up further. We hope to have it this year.

In last year's Budget, the Department of Space was allocated ₹9,903 crore. What kind of resources would be needed for future missions?

•[Smiles] We never had any problem with budgetary outlays! The problem is more in executing [using] it. But definitely [we can do with] more. More satellites are required to be put in orbit and they need more launch vehicles. We also need more facilities to make them. So it means that much more money is needed on the launch vehicle side, spacecraft side and on the infrastructure side. A bigger vehicle needs more hardware, which comes to nearly 85% of the cost. We also have to bring the production of launch vehicles to industry — and it needs extra money.

•Of course, all this is projected to the government.

Would you look at a third launch pad at your Sriharikota launch centre to increase the pace of launches?

•No, we are not talking of a third launch pad now. Instead we are augmenting the FLP [or LP1, the first launch pad, built in the 1990s] with a separate structure. Once you integrate a launch vehicle in one facility or launch pad, that facility will get locked for 45-60 days. The system is destroyed after every launch and it has to be refurbished each time. In this situation, even if we do continuous launches, we can do only six a year. But with multiple systems, we can be always ready to put launch vehicles together.

•The capacity of the propellant plant should also be increased.

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