1. Small Satellite Launch Vehicle-D2 will lift off from Sriharikota today
It will inject three satellites — ISRO’s EOS-07, U.S.-based Antaris’s Janus-1 and Chennai-based Space Kidz’s AzaadiSAT-2 — into a 450-km orbit
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will undertake the second development flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) on Friday from Sriharikota. The SSLV-D2 will lift off at 9.18 a.m. from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre-SHAR, Sriharikota.
The vehicle is intended to inject the ISRO’s EOS-07, the U.S.-based firm Antaris’s Janus-1 and the Chennai-based space start-up Space Kidz’s AzaadiSAT-2 satellites into a 450-km circular orbit in its 15-minute flight.
The EOS-07 is a 156.3-kg satellite designed, developed and realised by the ISRO. Its mission objective is to design and develop payload instruments compatible with micro satellite bus and technologies that are required for future operational satellites. It would design and develop a micro satellite accommodating new technology payloads in a quick turnaround time. New experiments include mm-Wave humidity sounder and spectrum monitoring payload.
Weighing around 10.2 kg, Janus-1 is a technology demonstrator, smart satellite mission based on the Antaris software platform.
A 8.7-kg satellite, AzaadiSAT-2 is a combined effort of about 750 girl students across India guided by Space Kidz India, Chennai.
According to details provided by ISRO, SSLV caters to the launch of satellites weighing up to 500 kg to low earth orbits on a ‘launch-on-demand’ basis. It provides low-cost access to space, offers low turnaround time and flexibility in accommodating multiple satellites, and demands minimal launch infrastructure.
It is configured with three solid propulsion stages and a velocity terminal module. It is a 34-m-tall, 2- m-diameter vehicle with a lift-off mass of 120 tonnes.
2. For Brus, feeling rootedness in the vote
New haven: Bru people at Tripura’s Haduklao Natunbasti, the first settlement of people who fled ethnic violence in Mizoram in 1997.
Over 14,000 of the tribe displaced from Mizoram have been registered to vote in Tripura since their rehabilitation process began in April 2021, but they are divided on which party should get the credit — the BJP, which facilitated their relocation, or Tipra Motha, which has been pushing their case
Dharmendra Reang is a first-time voter at 29, an aberration in politically conscious Tripura.
He did try to enrol after turning 18, but was a person without a State. Among 40,000 Bru tribespeople, he was caught between Mizoram and Tripura until a quadripartite accord in January 2020 removed the uncertainty from his electoral identity. Tripura will go to the polls on February 16.
“To be able to vote is a great feeling, especially after several failed attempts to be registered as a voter in Mizoram,” said Mr. Dharmendra Reang, a cook in a Thiruvananthapuram hotel, displaying his elector photo identity card.
His five-member family is one of the 440 Bru refugee families now settled permanently at Haduklao Natunbasti, about 3 km off National Highway 8, which snakes through Dhalai district in Tripura.
The new settlement, one of 11 so far, has plots allotted for 60 more families.
From refugee to voter
Haduklao Natunbasti is about 75 km from Tripura’s capital Agartala and “six hours by public transport” from the village in Mizoram’s Mamit district where Mr. Reang was born. He has no memory of the place he was forced to leave following a wave of ethnic violence in 1997, driving his family to a relief camp in Tripura.
“I would hardly spend 30 days on leave from Kerala when we were at the Naisingpara relief camp. I have now spent almost thrice the time to get my voter ID and vote on February 16,” he said.
Naisingpara was one of six relief camps in the Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisions of North Tripura district adjoining Mizoram.
The first batches of refugees from these camps were resettled near Haduklao and Duklai villages in Dhalai district in April 2021.
“A total of 16 places in four districts of Tripura were selected for resettlement after the accord was signed among the Centre, the governments of Mizoram and Tripura and five of our organisations. Many niggles in the rehabilitation process remain, but our people are now assured of some future,” Bruno Msha of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum said.
Prior to the resettlement process, the Tripura government notified more than 32,000 Bru refugees as its permanent citizens.
Eager to vote
Tripura’s Chief Electoral Officer Kirankumar Dinkarrao Gitte said that 14,054 people from 5,645 Bru families were among some 80,000 new voters in the State.
One of the first Brus to get enrolled was Podoram Reang, who voted thrice at a special polling booth set up for the refugees at Kanhmun on the Mizoram-Tripura boundary during elections.
“I used to feel sad because Kanhmun was nearer to K. Salaripara, the village in Mizoram we left behind, than from the relief camps in Tripura. Voting for the first time in Tripura will perhaps help erase the sadness of having been uprooted,” Mr. Podoram Reang said.
Koina Reang, who also lives in Natunbasti, said that her parents used to endure a tortuous 40-km journey from their relief camp to Kanhmun out of the fear that they would lose their right to land if they did not cast their votes. “There is no such fear now and the 2-km walk to the polling booth should be fun,” the 22-year-old first-time voter said.
At the ballot box
Natunbasti’s settlers are now caught in a dilemma: who to vote for?
“Our rehabilitation was possible because of the BJP government in Tripura. At the same time, we cannot but acknowledge Bubagra for pushing our case,” Uttam K. Reang, a leader of the Bru Tribal Development Society, said.
Bubagra, meaning king in the local language, is the term Tripura’s tribal people use for Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma, the chief of the Tipra Motha.
The party has shaped up as a major challenger to the ruling BJP as well as to the Left Front-Congress combine in 42 of the State’s 60 Assembly seats.
3. Ediorial-1: Sage stance
Price stability is a must for a durable economic recovery
The Reserve Bank of India’s decision to raise its benchmark policy rate yet again, albeit by a smaller quarter percentage point, reflects a welcome resolve in staying committed to ensuring durable price stability. Given that the Monetary Policy Committee’s primary mandate is to steer retail inflation towards a 4% target, and that core price gains have stayed stuck above or almost at 6% for 20 months, the rate setting panel voted by a 4-2 majority to continue tightening policy. Governor Shaktikanta Das emphasised the significance of the MPC’s unwavering focus on inflation when he noted that medium-term growth prospects would be best strengthened by ‘keeping inflation expectations anchored and breaking the persistence of core inflation’. That inflation remains the key risk to the growth outlook, notwithstanding the easing in the headline print for retail price gains over November and December, was stressed by the MPC. The panel pointed to the deflation in vegetable prices in end 2022 and cautioned that this trend could likely dissipate as summer approaches and prices harden. Commodity prices are also expected to see upward pressure globally, given the lifting of most COVID-related restrictions, particularly in China. Specifically, the recent uptrend in Brent futures and the intensifying Ukraine conflict forebodes the possibility that oil costs may well upset the RBI’s assumption of an average price of $95 per barrel for India’s crude basket.
The MPC’s decision to raise rates by a marginally smaller 25 basis points (bps) this time following its December decision to temper the tightening to 35 bps after three straight half percentage point increases, shows it is cognisant of the growth-retarding challenges that rising credit costs could pose to the ongoing post-pandemic recovery. Still, the fact that the Indian economy has proved more resilient, underpinned by a rebound in domestic demand especially for contact-intensive services and discretionary spending, has provided a degree of comfort to monetary policymakers. This was manifest in their upgrades to the GDP growth forecasts for the first two quarters of the coming fiscal year. While the RBI raised its growth outlook for Q1 FY24 to 7.8%, a sizeable 70 bps up from its projection in December, it lifted its Q2 projection by 30 bps to 6.2%. Mr. Das’s unequivocal assertion that monetary policy must be “tailored to ensuring a durable disinflation” rightly echoes a recent blogpost by three IMF economists who warned that central banks need to stay resolute as any ‘premature loosening’ of policy risks a sharp resurgence in price gains that could leave countries susceptible to further shocks. Ultimately, price stability is and must remain the bedrock for a durable economic recovery.
4. Editorial-2: Exploring the blue in the India-France partnership
The celebration by India and France of 25 years of their strategic partnership (January 26) presents an important opportunity for both to introspect on their relations. Signed in 1998, the time-tested strategic partnership has continued to gain momentum over shared values and aspirations of peace, stability and, most importantly, their desire for strategic autonomy. There are no real substantive disagreements between the two nations. France has emerged as a key trading partner of India with annual trade of $12.42 billion in 2021-22. It is the 11th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of $10.31 billion from April 2000 to June 2022, which represents 1.70% of the total foreign direct investment inflows into India.
The big picture
More importantly, it has emerged as a key defence partner for India, becoming the second largest defence supplier in 2017- 2021. France has emerged as a major strategic partner for India with crucial defence deals and increased military to military engagement. A key example of this is the inducting of the French Scorpene conventional submarines, being built in India under technology transfer agreement of 2005, and the Indian Air Force having received 36 Rafale fighter jets. The Tata group has also tied up with Airbus to manufacture C-295 tactical transport aircraft in Vadodara, Gujarat. This line is expected to be expanded into other civilian and military aircraft manufacturing in a joint venture with France. These relations are further fortified with the robust network of military dialogues and regularly held joint exercises — Varuna (navy), Garuda (air force), and Shakti (army). The importance of the defence partnership was further underscored in the recent statement by the French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain — that France is a willing partner for India as it builds its national industrial base for the defence industry and for critical strategic defence projects. As the complexities in the international geopolitical order have emerged, both countries have worked towards a deepening and broadening of their cooperation. France was among the first countries with which India signed a civil nuclear deal. Paris also played a critical role in limiting India’s isolation in the non-proliferation order after the 1998 nuclear tests. In a sign of expanding cooperation, France supports India’s bid for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. An area of importance for both is climate change, where India has supported France in the Paris Agreement expressing its strong commitment towards mitigating climate change impact. New Delhi and Paris, as part of their joint efforts on climate change, launched the International Solar Alliance in 2015.
The deepening of the strategic partnership is also visible in their maritime cooperation. India and France are resident powers of the Indian Ocean and in the Indo-Pacific. The importance of the Indian Ocean Region was visible during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to New Delhi in 2018 when the leadership of both countries welcomed the “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region” which presented a blueprint for a strengthening of ties. In operational terms, Franco-Indian joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean signals New Delhi’s intent to engage with like-minded partners in expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean.
Maritime security has further gained momentum as both countries have articulated their common vision for a free, fair and open Indo-Pacific. As both countries share a comprehensive strategy for the Indo-Pacific (it seeks to provide comprehensive solutions for maritime security, regional cooperation, climate change adaptation), India and France in September 2022 agreed to set up an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund that will support sustainable innovative solutions for countries in the region. The two partners have formed a trilateral grouping with the United Arab Emirates to ensure maritime domain awareness and security from the east coast of Africa to the far Pacific.
While there are divergences over the Ukraine crisis, there is a broad understanding of each other’s position and both countries are working together to coordinate on playing a constructive role in the crisis. It also needs to be noted that Mr. Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are among the few world leaders who have maintained open communication channels with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Both countries share concerns over the rise of China and its aggressive behaviour, regionally and globally, and have committed to working together to ensure that there is no imbalance in the Indo-Pacific.
India’s partnership with France is built on common values and goals. Both have underlined the ‘importance of maintaining strategic autonomy with a shared understanding of global risks in many domains. There is a high-level India-France political dialogue that is ongoing in defence, maritime, counterterrorism and the Indo-Pacific. They are now forging ahead with cooperation in issues such as digitisation, cyber, green energy, a blue economy, ocean sciences, and space’.
India and France understand each other’s interests and dependencies, be it in relation to China or Russia. In the marking of a long strategic partnership, a common interest in enhancing strategic autonomy and improving resilience, there is much ground ahead for further collaboration.
Their established ties rest on a foundation of common values and goals
5. Editorial-3: India must avoid growing into a dystopia
Enthusiastic cheerleaders of the rosy predictions of the growth of the Indian economy need to be reminded about addressing the core issues of unemployment and ecological security.
The Budget that was presented recently, has received almost universal praise in the English language media. Clearly, those who praise it are happy with their own economic situation or at least view their economic future as bright. How representative this cohort is is moot. Anyhow, they see the Budget as pro-growth, and their prognosis is plausible. Data presented in this newspaper (January 13, 2023) show private investment plans during the first nine months of this year to be over 50% greater than what they were a year ago. India it seems is on a roll as far as economic growth is concerned. But is income all we should be concerned with when valuing an economy?
As in many other instances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led the focus on the size of India’s economy. In 2019, upon re-election, he proposed a target of $5 trillion within five years (2024-25) for India’s economy. As the date approaches, it is clear that the goal is unlikely to be met. This has not held back the enthusiastic cheerleaders, however. News that was sprung some months ago of India having overtaken the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest economy seems only to have buoyed their spirit. Next, as 2022 drew to a close, the London-based consultancy Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicted that by 2035, India’s economy would reach $10 trillion and become the world’s third largest by 2037. Even as this is sounded from the West, home-grown soothsayers have not been left behind. A few days ago, a leading Indian financial daily calculated the average annual growth needed to take India to the number one spot globally by 2047, and indicated that this is not a pipe dream. It is an altogether different matter that its calculation was of nominal GDP, which implies that the target can be reached with a little help from inflation.
The West’s self-interest in India
India’s rise on the global stage attracts attention in the West. First, there is an element of awe that a country once a byword for famine has finally sloughed off the deadweight of colonial exploitation that lasted two centuries. Second, India is not only a relatively rare democracy in the east but also the largest one in terms of population. As all the countries in the West are democracies, western elites see a possible alliance of interests.
India has warmed to this, and it makes strategic sense. The economics is not far behind, though. India’s growing economic size has made it attractive in a way that it was not before. This is not as a market for goods though as the West’s manufactures are no longer alluring to Indians. But its fast growth is an investment opportunity for the surplus savings of the West. As a fast growing economy, investing your money in India is likely to fetch you the highest returns globally. So, the continuous hum from the West about India’s growth reflects a deep-seated self interest. But how should we in India view the rosy predictions of the growth of its economy? There are two aspects to this. First, can we assume that current growth rates will continue? And, second, can we afford to be sanguine about the consequences of our growing economic size?
Jobs and the ecology
Let us simply assume that India will grow into a $10 trillion economy in 15 years. This would be over three times its current size. Will size bring along the attributes that we would like to see in an economy? Or will it, in a worst-case scenario, lead us to a dystopia induced by their absence? In particular, will the economic growth lead to employment opportunities for a growing population of youth and generate the social and physical infrastructure necessary for a good life? Or will it magnify the rising economic inequality and ecological insecurity? None of these outcomes is inevitable but a creative economic management of the growth process would be necessary to bring about the positive ones and to avert those that are negative. I shall confine myself to employment and ecological security, respectively.
Unemployment was barely mentioned in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech. Government data show that in mid-2022, unemployment among urban males was much higher than it was a decade ago. Taking another approach to the problem, data from the private sector, namely Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd., show that the number of people employed in December 2022 was less than it was in 2016. Clearly, the growth of the national economy has not generated an equal growth in employment. For the mass of the unemployed, concentrated in agriculture, employment opportunities will arise only when there is demand for goods in the production of which they can participate. Growth of the IT sector or of exportable manufactures will not be of much use here as this is a cohort with low education and skills. Increased demand for goods of mass consumption alone will lead to an expansion in the demand for these workers. For an expansion of this demand, arresting the price of food would be essential, as only then will low-income households have enough to demand more manufactured goods. Instead, we have today a persisting inflation driven by the price of food.
Our experience of the past decade suggests that India could well grow fast over the next decade-and-a-half without generating sufficient employment for the legion of unemployed youth, especially in rural areas. Fast growth would be cold comfort for them if employment opportunities do not arise. Only a concerted policy focus can create the conditions for employment generation in India. Currently, we do not have an employment policy, either at the Centre or in the States. Welfarism, defined by the free or subsidised distribution of private goods, is no substitute.
On the infrastructure push
In the continuing unemployment, we have seen that growth does not guarantee the things we would aspire to in the economy. On the other hand, we can see that unbridled growth will almost certainly result in outcomes we would like to avoid, such as ecological insecurity. I shall point to one such outcome associated with a public investment thrust now focused on physical infrastructure. The frenetic building of new elevated national highways, implemented by riding rough-shod over local communities, often cuts a swathe through the countryside, destroying agricultural land and jeopardising livelihoods. State governments have not been far behind when it comes to encouraging disastrous geo-engineering projects. Plans for infrastructure aimed at religious tourism have, surprisingly, found favour with formations as diverse as the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttarakhand and the CPI(M) in Kerala. These are States that have only recently witnessed landslides and flooding, causing great suffering to their people. Across India, political parties seem to be pursuing growth with a view to enhancing their electoral prospects, without concern for a possible negative fallout.
India needs growth as it has a backlog of poverty. But the growth that one often sees does not do enough for improving the lives of the poorest, such as by generating employment, and is ecologically harmful. Size is valuable only when it enhances the well being of the population.