THE seizure of a box with hand grenades in Gurdaspur, dropped by a drone launched from across the border, is a stark reminder of the newest logistical and technological challenge posed by Pakistan’s narco-terror enterprise.
From trafficking drugs and small arms using flying objects, it is now relying on upgraded versions that can ferry larger and heavier payloads.
The winter months with fog could see more such activity in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
Five days prior to the latest midnight drop a drone module with international linkages was busted in Amritsar.
Drones were being procured, assembled, sold and repaired right in the middle of the NATIONAL CAPITAL without any government authorisation.
The threat posed by Chinese armed drones being exported to Pakistan, too, is not lost on the security establishment.
Military Modernisation | ToI
Russia has backed its impending supply of S-400 surface-to-air missile system to India despite the threat of US sanctions.
In fact, India has taken a similar position on the S-400 in the past, saying that it only recognised UN sanctions, not those unilaterally declared by specific countries.
This is a position that New Delhi and Moscow should remain firm on.
The US wants India in its camp and perhaps thinks that Russian arms sales are detrimental to this objective.
India needs this system to shore up its defence capabilities
Hopefully, the incoming Joe Biden administration in the US will take a more strategic view of the matter.
Five years since Paris
12 December – 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement
Climate Ambition Summit 2020 - celebrate and recognise our resolve in working towards a safer, more resilient world with net-zero emissions.
During the past five years, the determination of the global community has certainly been tested and, in the past few months, we have all been hit by a virus with a potentially long-lasting impact on our society and economies.
The science is irrefutable: for future prosperity, we must invest in greening the global economy. We cannot afford not to do so.
Post-COVID-19 recovery needs to be a green recovery.
To reach climate neutrality by 2050, on December 11, EU leaders unanimously agreed on the 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels.
The cost of solar photovoltaics has already declined by 82% between 2010 and 2019. .
Achieving the 55% target will even help us to save €100 billion in the next decade and up to €3 trillion by 2050.
India is a key player in this global endeavour.
The rapid development of solar and wind energy in India in the last few years is a good example of the action needed worldwide.
International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the Leadership Group for Industry Transition.
India and Team Europe are engaged to make a success of the forthcoming international gatherings: COP 26 in Glasgow on climate change and COP 15 in Kunming on biodiversity.
Together with the delivery of the $100 billion of climate financing to countries most in need, these will be deliverables for the climate negotiations when they resume at COP 26 in Glasgow next November.
Team Europe will continue to work closely with India on green investments and the sharing of best practices and technologies.
Good public policies are indispensable but not sufficient.
We will also need to foster small individual actions to attain a big collective impact.
This is the snowball effect we need starting from the Paris Agreement.
With climate neutrality as our goal, the world should mobilise its best scientists, business people, policymakers, academics, civil society actors and citizens to protect together something we all share beyond borders and species: our planet.
Consumer is king | Ind Exp
On Monday, the central government notified The Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020 that are aimed at making power distribution companies more accountable to the end consumer.
Power distribution companies, whether public or private entities, are essentially geographical monopolies.
This leaves the end consumer with no alternative to shift even if they are unhappy with the services being offered to them — unlike the telecom sector where consumers can easily migrate to other service providers.
Thus, in the absence of real competition, consumers have little or no power to hold discoms accountable for the quality of electricity supplied or the service provided.
The new rules attempt to address this issue by putting in place a structure to make discoms more accountable to the end consumer, placing him at the centre of the regulations.
The rules cover 11 key areas, encompassing the obligation of the distribution licencees, metering arrangements, release of new connections, and a grievance redressal and compensation mechanism, among others.
Discoms will now have to compensate consumers for long power cuts, delays in granting electricity connections, and other such lapses in service.
For instance, as per the new rules, new connections should be provided by discoms within seven days of receiving the request in metros, 15 days in other municipal areas, and 30 days in rural areas — failure to comply with these timelines will result in penalties.
The new rules attempt to fix this by paving the way for an automatic compensation mechanism.
But, the real challenge will lie in their effective implementation.
The next step for Quad | HT
T-12, Tech-10, Democracy-10 are some proposed multilateral mechanisms to enable international cooperation in technology governance.
The European Union (EU) prefers a regulation-heavy approach centred on protecting users’ data; the United States (US) prefers a less-restrictive approach allowing technology companies to gain scale; and India is considering data localisation measures.
Such divergent outlooks run the risk of derailing collaboration.
From an Indian perspective, a more useful way of structuring these collaborations is to extend an existing politico-military arrangement such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) to the technology sphere, starting with securing the semiconductor supply chain first.
Negotiations are more likely to bear fruit since Quad countries have a clear political end goal — to resist China’s not-so-peaceful rise.
The semiconductor industry underlies all critical technologies.
It is perhaps the most globalised high-value supply chain and no country can become entirely self-resilient
All four countries have complementary strengths in the semiconductor supply chain
The US is a dominant force in chip design.
Four of the world’s top 10 fabless chip makers are American.
Further, chips designing requires electronic design automation (EDA) tools, the market for which is quite concentrated because of high R&D requirements.
Here again, all three major EDA players are located in the US.
The next primary stage in the process, semiconductor manufacturing, requires a high degree of precision and capital investment.
Australia does not have a significant semiconductor industry but it is set to play a vital role in the high-tech electronics industry of the future.
It is the world’s largest producer of lithium, an element used for making rechargeable batteries present in electric vehicles, phones, and laptops.
Australia is also one of the world’s leading suppliers of Neodymium, used in powerful electromagnets that are critical for electric vehicles.
And India is one of the major global hubs for chip design. Annually, 3,000 chips are designed in India.
Most top foreign semiconductor companies have established their design and R&D centres due to the availability of a large talent pool.
India also has proven excellence with electronics end-product assembly.
None of these countries can build a self-resilient semiconductor supply chain, but as a collective, the Quad is a force to reckon with.
The missing ingredient is a foundry that can manufacture advanced chips below the 5-nanometer process node.
Building such a foundry requires significant risk capital, between $12bn-$20bn.
Here too, Quad countries can form a consortium to fund a semiconductor foundry in one of the four countries, de-risking the considerable upfront investment.
Realising the potential of the Quad also needs agreement on some trade issues.
Encouraging movement of skilled professionals, building confidence in each other’s judicial settlement mechanisms, developing common standards, and allowing knowledge transfer on sophisticated technology issues are crucial for success.
The report of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs calling for a comprehensive Public Health Act, as a response to the extreme stresses caused by COVID-19, is a welcome call to reform a fragmented health system.
When the pandemic arrived, National Health Profile 2019 data showed that there were an estimated 0.55 government hospital beds for 1,000 people.
Prolonged underinvestment in public health infrastructure thus left millions seeking help from a highly commercialised private sector with little regulatory oversight.
Acknowledging these distortions, and the inadequacy of existing legal frameworks, the panel has called for an omnibus law that will curb profiteering during such crises and provide robust cashless health insurance.
India has committed itself to covenants such as the Sustainable Development Goals, but continues to evade making the right to health a full legal and justiciable right under the National Health Policy.
Among the committee’s observations is the absence of insurance cover for many and oversight on hospitals to ensure that patients are not turned away in a crisis such as COVID-19.
While the panel is right to view this as a breach of trust, one of the pandemic’s impacts has been a staggering rise in premiums, especially for senior citizens, of even up to 25% of the insured value.
What is more, the insurance regulator, IRDAI, set 65 as the maximum age of entry for a standard policy earlier this year, affecting older uninsured citizens.
Legal reform must provide for a time-bound transition to universal state-provided health services under a rights-based, non-exclusionary framework, with States implementing it.
Private arrangements can be an option.
COVID-19 has exposed the dangers of excessive reliance on private tertiary care.
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