On 27th December 2020 K. Sivan Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said that the organization was developing towards a ‘green propulsion’ technology, which is believed to be less harmful to the environment. This is mainly being designed for the human spaceflight missions. Delivering his speech in the 16th annual convocation of the SRM Institute of Science and Technology (SRMIST), that was held virtually, he said that there is a possibility in future where all propulsion stages adopt green propulsion.
ISRO had recently said that India’s first human spaceflight mission, ‘Gaganyaan’ was experiencing delays due to the pandemic. Mr Sivan also mentioned about the technology transfer done by ISRO of its space-grade lithium-ion batteries to the industry. This would help in mass adoption for electric vehicles without being dependent on foreign technology. He also highlighted that the Central government’s space sector reforms would enable greater participation from the non-governmental agencies in space activities. The next PSLV launch of the ISRO would have satellites that come from the startups. The Centre’s Digital India initiative was a key area to leverage. ISRO has already initiated reforms to form digital assets available quickly to the industry and startups for creating innovative navigation applications, earth observation even as disaster management.
PSLV Rocket Launch
ISRO announced on 17th December 2020 that its PSLV- C50 rocket had successfully placed communication satellite CMS-01 into orbit. Mr Sivan told that the satellite was functioning very well and placed in a specified slot within the next four days. Despite the Covid- 19 pandemic situation, the team worked well. The communication satellite was envisaged for providing services in Extended-C Band of the frequency spectrum covering India, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands. It is the 42nd communication satellite of the space agency.
PSLV-C50 is that the 22nd flight of PSLV in ‘XL’ configuration (equipped with six strap-on motors), and it had been the 77th launch vehicle mission from Sriharikota which is about 120 km from Chennai. It follows the successful launch of PSLV-C49 (EOS-01) earth observation satellite and other nine customer spacecraft on 7th November which was ISRO’s first mission of the year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
India’ Space Policy
As India gets ready for a replacement space policy, private players involve regulatory changes including single-window clearance and a time cap on deciding, moves they feel will grow their confidence within the space sector. Experts say that the new space policy can usher in many leading-edge technologies to the segment and can also pave the way for joint ventures, benefitting initiatives like Make in India, and Digital India, even as bringing more significant investment into startups and growing the involvement of larger corporates within the sector.
Narayan Prasad, the chief operations officer at Satsearch, a marketplace for the space industry, said that if the policy changes are carefully architected, they will help build the confidence of the private sector and encourage more investments from their side. This, in turn, will provide an end-to-end solution to both upstream and downstream of the space industry value chain. He also added that these policy changes would bring in more significant investments into startups, bringing in the involvement of big corporates like Tatas and Mahindra etc., into space and will eventually increase job creation. It will also help in plugging the Indian space industry into a worldwide one. ISRO has already begun with several new draft policies like Satcom, remote sensing, technology transfer etc. To date, there had been no clarity on the space policy within the country. Taking the satellite industry, every satellite company must have a frequency allocation license from a national body that coordinates the frequency allocation at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). For the US it’s the FCC that does it. But in India, there was no clarity till now on how a personal satellite operator would set about doing that, whether it’s the Department of Telecommunications that must allocate the frequencies, the Department of Space, or another department.
Private players have felt that the new Satcom policy is undoubtedly a step within the right direction given India’s massive market size for Satcom connectivity. Experts say that clear time caps on the permissions and authorizations and a transparent timeline on behalf of the autonomous body INSpace should offer domestic ventures an opportunity against global competition. as an example, One Web (in which Bharti Airtel owns an outsized stake) as an example, already faces severe competition from SpaceX’s Starlink which is already rolling out user terminals. “Private industry can help India mature leading-edge technologies in space communication. GSAT 29 was the primary Indian satellite by ISRO to possess an optical payload. the subsequent step would be inter-satellite laser links given the increasing congestion in radio bands communication with several constellations with many satellites lined up. Private participation, facilitated by the new Satcom policy via larger private investments, can help development during this direction,” said Rachana Reddy, satellite engineer based out of Germany.
Startups collaboration with ISRO
With a significant boost for the private enterprises working in the space sector, India’s national space agency has signed multiple partnerships with Tech startups to mentor and support them. The department of Space (DoS), on 3rd December 2020, signed a non-disclosure agreement with IIT Madras startup Agnikul Cosmos, a maker of launch vehicles. Agnikul became the first company to sign a pact with the ISRO under that newly proposed Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre, a body set up to enable private players and undertake space activities in India. “We encourage new players such as Agnikul to explore disruptive technologies and break away from the conventional methods of the manufacturing launch vehicle,” said Mr Sivan.
After Bengaluru-based satellite imaging startup Pixxel joined hands with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) for launching its satellite, Indian space agency ISRO announced that Pixxel’s first satellite Anand is going to be launched in its PSLV-C51 (polar satellite launch vehicle) mission in early 2021. Taking to Twitter, the space agency said that the upcoming PSLV mission is unique because it’ll be launching Anand from its Firefly fleet of earth observation satellites. Pixel, which was a part of YourStory Tech30 this year, was founded in 2019 by Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal for building a constellation of about 30 Earth-imaging small satellites to be deployed within the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to watch the earth 24×7 and supply data to enable organizations across the planet to detect, monitor, and predict global phenomena in real-time.
To encourage and support the private players and startups, IN-Space, an authorization and regulatory body was established under the Department of Space (DOS), to enable private players to undertake space activities in India. Apart from this, two more satellites including ‘SATISH SAT’ by ‘Space Kids India’, and ‘UNIT-SAT’ by a consortium of universities also will be launched as a neighbourhood of the PSLV-C51 mission. Consistent with an IANS report, aside from the three satellites by Indian private players, the first payload of PSLV-C51 will be a Brazilian earth observation satellite named Amazonia.
Future Space Reforms
Sivan said more room policy reforms would enable a fair and equitable playing field for personal players. He added that although IN-Space will be operational only in 3-6 months, private companies can apply to be used of ISRO facilities and knowledge transfer beginning immediately through the Department of Space website. Many startups have already approached ISRO, and their requests are being processed, he said.
An additional reform that was announced was the recalibration of the role of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the new arm of ISRO that was found out last year with the target of enabling industry participation in space, primarily in launch vehicle construction. It will now function on a “demand-driven model” rather than a “supply-driven model”, said Sivan, echoing Singh within the Cabinet on Wednesday. Sivan explained that NSIL will now take over the functioning of operational launch vehicles, satellites, commercial applications, and more while executing its duties through “industrial consortiums.” NSIL also will undertake technology transfer activities, he added. Mr Sivan also said that the new structural reforms won’t reduce the activities of ISRO, which can still engage in advanced R&D, planetary missions, human spaceflight, and capacity-building. ISRO will fully support the private sector, he said, saying that more details on the way forward will be announced during a week after an industry promotion meets with stakeholders. Opening up ISRO’s facilities and knowledge to the private sector will enable the country to transition to a replacement space era, spurring innovation from the youth, said Sivan. It’ll end in the accelerated growth of the space sector and its benefits and enable the industry to be a crucial player in global space economics.
With these announcements, India now stands on the cusp of building an area ecosystem with ISRO being the guiding body, large enterprise and conglomerates diversifying into the world, pulling up the worth chain- the SMEs to supply sub-assemblies. With startups and technology innovators, India can now evolve as an area startup hub for the planet. Industry estimates over 40+ startups are working in India with funding, teams and structure on space and satellite projects complementing the govt, ISRO, VSSC et al. This number is probably going to extend this is often where technology will play an enormous role.
All You Need To Know About National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021
On July 26, 2021, Lok Sabha passed a bill under the ministry of Food Processing Industry. The bill is titled as National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021. The main motive of this bill is to address issues with the Food Processing Industry, Entrepreneurship and one Institution for National Importance. With the passing of this bill, the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) and National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) is now merged as Institutions of National Importance, and it aims at providing various research and advancement in learning about the Food Industry and its associated branches. The bill was first introduced in the house in February 2019 but was pending due to protest by the opposition.
Significance of Institutions of National Importance (INI)
With the passing of this bill, the institutions enjoy greater autonomy through which they can carry out various courses, research attracting skilled faculties and students from all over the country and overseas. Good standards in education will be adopted to improve the present and future of education in this branch and sector, overcoming the technological gap in the country. This law aims to improve and introduce new changes in food, bio-nanotechnology, cold chain technology etc. The desired efforts will be taken in terms of human resources and infrastructure developments, labs for research etc. Liberty to open centres anywhere in India is also granted to INI and include courses regarding food technology certification and improving the workforce of the country.
Some other important features of this act are the Institution has been authorized with the Board of Government, Senate and other acting Authorities. The Council of Board will include 16 members from different branches from the same field. The Head will be Chairperson, who will be a skilled person from the Food Industry, the Director, Dean and Registrar. Members appointed from Centre and State Governments, Members from FSSAI and Council of Agriculture Research, as mentioned in the bill. The 16 members of the board will carry out work of taking administrative decisions, creating annual budgets and paths for institution progress as an organization, establishing departments, their appointment terms of services, faculties etc. The Board of Council also holds power to grant Honorary Degrees and Diplomas. The Senate shall be the principal academic body of the Institute, consisting of the people such as Director as the Chairperson; Registrar; Full-time skilled level Professor; and Three academically skilled Individuals nominated by the board from the field.
The Union Minister of Food Processing Industry, Mr Pashupati Kumar Paras, expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for this landmark step in this industry from his Twitter handle, indicating new opportunities in Food Technology Industries. Therefore, this Act looks promising on paper with new opportunities and in Educational Development. Amidst the Pegasus Spyware and repeal of the farm laws, this looks positive from the Modi Government.
लोकसभा में आज, राष्ट्रीय खाद्य प्रौद्योगिकी, उद्यमिता और प्रबंध संस्थान विधेयक, 2021 (निफ्टेम विधेयक, 2021) को पारित किया गया।
इस विधेयक के पारित होने पर इससे जुड़े हर व्यक्ति को बधाई देता हूँ और साथ ही खाद्य प्रसंस्करण से जुड़े छात्रों को भी बधाई देता हूँ। @MOFPI_GOI
— Pashupati Kumar Paras (@PashupatiParas) July 26, 2021
Curious Case Of Pegasus: Explained
Pegasus is a spyware that can hack the victims’ mobile phones and read their SMS messages and emails. The Pegasus spyware is owned by an Israeli software company named NSO Group. According to the various reports, this company has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers at the Global level, of which 300 are in India for surveillance.
The news broke out after the 17 media partners investigated. This investigation brought into the picture information about a leaked database of mobile telephone numbers of Indian Ministers, Opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, business people, government officials, scientists, activists and many influential personalities of the nation.
Pegasus Spyware and India
According to the report by the agency, the Israeli company which sells Pegasus around the world says that its clients are confined to ‘vetted governments”, believed to number 36. The NSO Group also says that ‘the target list in India is not ours, never was.’ Their refusal of the leaked database has created a loophole in understanding this case.
This whole case has violated the integrity of democratic institutions. According to the report by the agencies, after the mobile phones of the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and various other leaders were hacked under the Pegasus spyware surveillance. Multiple tweets were made against the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in India. This whole case has become one of the major threats in the political arena and the Indian Democracy.
Though at the start, it was used for national security purposes. The explosive expansion of surveillance technology vendors has become a vast human rights and a global security issue. If such surveillance technologies increase, it might cause a lot of problems to countries around the globe. Hence, as a precaution, all these countries need to work on regulating this technology.
According to the reports by the agency, one of the targeted phones by the Pegasus spyware was of the former election commissioner of India, Ashok Lavasa. Various such people and such opposition leaders were somehow against the BJP government having their phones hacked with the NSO-owned spyware. All these instances and the names in the leaked list have pointed figures towards the Modi Government.
The Modi government’s stand on this case was put forward in Lok Sabha by two serving ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel. These two leaders were also featured in the leaked database. The recent Information Technology Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw defended the BJP government in the parliament by saying, “the expose was an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions.” She even said, ‘any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions.’
This case has adjourned the parliament proceedings due to the protests inside and outside the house of parliament by the opposition party.
Pegasus Spyware and World.
In the statement given to the agency, Access Now, an organisation defending the digital rights of global users, said it was outraged that products sold by NSO were allegedly “used to hack and invade the private communications” of thousands of people across the globe.
At a global level, France’s Emmanuel Macron was targeted in the Pegasus spyware case. As the phone of French President Emmanuel Macron was hacked, the investigation was carried out and later on was published which was directed by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden. After this case came in front of the whole world, the Pegasus spyware surveillance came into the picture.
If this continues for some more time, it will ruin India’s Democratic values at a global level. As well as this might become a huge technological threat between the different nations around the globe.
Modi Cabinet 2.0: Young and Dynamic Leadership or Otherwise
On the 7th of July, the union government announced the biggest cabinet expansion in the 7 years of NDA rule. The recent expansion increased the size of the Council of Ministers from 53 to 77. About 43 new ministers were sworn in, 15 of which were Cabinet Ministers and 28 Ministers of State (MoS). This is the first cabinet overhaul in the second term of NDA governance.
Experts however claim that the new cabinet expansion is a pre-emptive measure to balance electoral formulae in different states ahead of the 2022 State Assembly elections. It is also conjectured that the reshuffle comes as rectification of prolonged criticism about BJP’s governance in the past 2 years, including the Healthcare management during the Pandemic.
The Performance Paradox
This recent cabinet expansion is a report card of the BJP government’s performance in the last 2 years. Major ministerial changes, such as the resignation and replacement of Dr. Harshvardhan as the Health Minister indicate a confession of their mismanagement of the pandemic.
He has been replaced by Mansukh Mandaviya, a 2 time Rajya Sabha MP who has also been awarded by the UN for initiatives in Women’s healthcare in the past. His appointment as the Health Minister is one of hope for BJP, to change and streamline (a.) the COVID-19 Pandemic response and (b.) BJP’s image in the name of healthcare management.
On the contrary, Anurag Thakur’s promotion from MoS Finance to a Cabinet Minister defies all logical explanations for awarding performance. Not only has India’s economic condition worsened under his management, his controversial statements like “Desh ke Gadaaro ko…” do not present a strong case for him. His appointment is a political investment by BJP in Himachal Pradesh’s state elections next year which happens to be Thakur’s home state.
Similarly, Sitharaman’s finance ministry has remained untouched, after historical mismanagement of our Finance capabilities. All of this reflects a selective approach adopted by BJP, which is one of political hesitation and hyperopic ignorance.
BJP’s Political Calculator
Apart from the ‘punishment’ narrative, the new cabinet expansion has also given an insight into BJP’s political planning. This expansion has incorporated key leaders from several states that go to elections next year. Moreover, it has also been carefully planned to cover the losses BJP has incurred in the past two years.
As a reward for dismantling the elected Madhya Pradesh government and tipping scales in BJP’s favor, Jyotiraditya Scindia was appointed as the Cabinet Minister for Civil Aviation (a post held by his father as well in ’91) almost after 3 years.
On the contrary, Pashupati Kumar Paras got an early reward for breaking down Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) representation in Lok Sabha. He was appointed as the Union Minister for Food Processing, after the attempted coup on Chirag Paswan’s leadership.
Sarbananda Sonowal, who was replaced by Himanta Biswa Sharma as the Chief Minister of Assam after the fresh elections, was also awarded a berth in the Cabinet. It is conjectured that this development was in talks ever since Himanta Biswa Sharma was chosen as the CM.
As the Uttar Pradesh elections near, BJP also made sure to improve representation from the state. Major appointments such as Niranjan Jyoti (MoS Food Processing), Anupriya Patel (Mos Commerce and Industry), and Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma (MoS MSME) were made majorly because of their heavy support base in UP.
Following the same lead, Ajay Bhatt from Uttarakhand was appointed as MoS Defence and Tourism. As seen earlier, BJP has made major organizational changes in Uttarakhand which goes to elections next year.
In the mirage of calculated placements and image reconstruction, BJP has hit a few rights with this organizational change. The new cabinet includes a maximum number of women to have ever served in a Union Cabinet, a first in a nation with largely patriarchal tendencies.
The cabinet has also tried to focus on bringing people with commendable background experience and education on board. Ashwini Vaishnav, former IAS and an alumnus of Wharton School have been given major ministries such as Railways, Communications, and IT. Similarly, Anupriya Patel who has been given the Commerce and Industry as an MoS has also served as an educator at Amity University.
Moreover, the diffused reliance on regional strength has become the overarching theme in this cabinet reshuffle. Even though the ruling party intends to balance the voter dynamics, this regional unity has become something to watch out for.
Yet, the big story remains the ouster of major politicians who have served loyally and faithfully to this government. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Jaavedkar, and Dr. Harshvardhan are major losers in this dynamic reshuffle. While the current government has tried to modernize the leaders of this nation, it has set a new precedent that loyalty is not the most critical virtue anymore; Election Commission’s schedule is.
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