We should pay more attention to our place in the global strategies of both USA and Russia.
Headline: “Russian, Chinese top diplomats to discuss strategic partnership in conditions of pandemic,”
Russia’s neutrality in the Sino-Indian border dispute and its simultaneous support for China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.
Moscow will include India in clinical trials of Russia’s anti-Covid vaccine.
India’s main arms seller - Rajnath Singh visited - S-400 missile system
Russia + China » jointly challenge America’s global primacy
China’s participation in Russia’s Caucasian military drills - Chinese troops will be drawn from a unit involved in border clashes with India.
China’s need for gas and oil from neighbouring Russia.
An alliance entails binding pledges. What commitment do the hopefuls want the US to make, or think Washington will make?
In fact, none of India’s three partners in the Quad – the US, Australia and Japan – has a land dispute with China.
Both Australia and Japan wish to maintain their robust trade ties with China.
Most importantly, India’s economic resources will decide its long-term aims and how much military gear it can buy.
Russia and the US will be steered by their world interests.
Facingpolitical, economic and militaryexigencies, India is not the highest priority of either.
On India falls the onerous task of defendingitssovereignty.
New Delhi must display the competence that will put India on the rails to progress and success in military and global competition against China.
Only then will India define its place in and secure its national interests in a dynamic, unreliable world.
Embarrassment and adverse publicity –Supreme Court-Prashant Bhushan contempt case
Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the Madras High Court seems to believe that anyone criticising judges should be dealt with by the threat of contempt.
Tamil actor Suriya for an innocuous (अहानिकर) comment on recent judicial orders declining to interfere with the conduct of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical courses.
The actor, responding with anguish to recent suicides by MBBS aspirants out of fear of failure, had remarked that “a court that dispenses justice through video-conferencing out of fear of the coronavirus is ordering students to write an exam without fear”.
The judge claims that the actor had questioned the integrity and devotion of judges and that such a remark, if unpunished, would undermine public trust in the judiciary.
Six former judges of the High Court in a letter to the Chief Justice asking him not to act on Justice Subramaniam’s letter.
Venus in focus
Venus - the hottest planet in the solar system
Earth’s “sister planet”
European Space Agency’s mission - Venus Express - found signs of ozone, made of three oxygen atoms and considered a biomarker, in the upper atmosphere of Venus, in 2011.
But the recent discovery of traces of phosphine, another biomarker, in its atmosphere has just given the search for extraterrestrial life a shot in the arm.
Phosphine is given out by some microbes during biochemical processes.
Prof. Greaves first identified phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere in 2017, using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.
Further study and precise observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array facility in Chile confirmed the suspicions of the researchers in 2019.
Apart from the high surface temperature and dense atmosphere, the presence of sulphuric acid in the atmosphere of Venus makes it a highly corrosive environment.
Perhaps flying at a height and sending down drones or balloons would be more feasible than a landing.
Missions to Venus have been planned by NASA and ISRO.
While NASA’s mission is slated for launch next year, ISRO is looking at 2023 right now.
As is not uncommon in spacemissions, a spate of collaborations may well improve chances of efficiently probing the dense atmosphere of the planetary neighbour.
Parliament and its panels
The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees have a so-called tenure of one year.
There was speculation in the media that the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M. Venkaiah Naidu, is keen on amending the rules to give them a fixed tenure of two years.
However, since these are joint committees of the two Houses of Parliament, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha also has to concur.
According to sub-rule (4) of Rule 331D of the Lok Sabha Rules and sub-rule (3) of Rule 269 of the Rajya Sabha Rules, the term of office of the “members” of the committees shall not exceed one year.
Thus, it is the term of office of the members and not that of the committees per se that is one year.
This tenurial issue has to be looked at against the backdrop of the fact that the Rajya Sabha itself undergoes partial biennial renewal, since one-third of its members retire every two years by virtue of clause (1) of Article 83 of the Constitution.
As far as the Lok Sabha is concerned, it has a fixed tenure of five years, unless sooner dissolved.
Against this backdrop, there is definitely a need to rethink the tenurial prescription for reconstitution of Department-related Standing Committees.
As far as the Lok Sabha is concerned, most of its committees listed in the Lok Sabha Rules have a tenure of one year, except a few for which no tenure has been prescribed.
It would appear that committees concerned with deliberations of a serious nature were given a term coterminous with that of the House, while others were prescribed annual renewal.
The Standing Committees are permanent.
Hence, there should be no difficulty if the terms of the members of the two Houses on these committees are different, in consonance with the tenure of the Houses themselves.
The Rules could also provide that casual vacancies may be filled in by the Presiding Officers, who may also be empowered to reconstitute the membership of their respective Houses in the committees, if they so desire.
Call is on hold
There was a time in India’s vaunted telecom sector when the number of unique service providers in lucrative geographical locations such as Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were in excess of a dozen.
What 13 operators could produce for competition and market outcomes could be generated by less than half the number, said scholars working on competition issues in the telecom sector.
Three or four effective rivals could produce outcomes in favour of the consumer, they argued.
Consolidation has occurred, mergers have materialised and exits have taken place.
The threat of monopolisation is real and palpable as incumbent private operators, Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi), struggle to keep pace.
So what if another exit takes place and the market is effectively left as a duopoly with Jio and Airtel.
The theory of contestable markets suggests that as long as there is a real threat of entry, even monopolies will be compelled to behave as if they are operating in a competitive market place.
It is far-fetched to expect a new entrant to come in and demolish a potential monopoly.
From a policy perspective, strengthening existing competition will be key to realising India’s digital ambitions.
The DoT recognised the debilitating consequences of the monetary demand being placed on operators, and jointly, with the Indian Banks Association (IBA), pleaded before the SC that telcos be given 20 years to pay off dues of nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
With reports of network quality deteriorating by almost 20 per cent, the need of the hour is to augment network capacity immediately and be future ready when 5G comes along.
A nominaladministrative fee could be charged instead to administer licences as is the practice in other countries.
The National Digital Communications Policy of 2018 had recommended rationalisation of these charges.
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