All posts by akanksha262001


Latest GDP numbers reflect a faltering recovery even as Ukraine crisis heightens risks

The latest national income estimates for 2021-22 released by the NSO have pared growth hopes from 9.2% to 8.9% , compared to the 6.6% contraction in 2020-21 . GDP growth ( October -December 2021 quarter ) WE is pegged at 5.4% , compared to the 0.7% recorded in the same quarter of 2020, when the economy returned to the growth zone after two quarters of sharp contraction. The headline Q3 growth number was expected to moderate from the 20.3% and 8.5% recorded in the firsts two,but not as much as it has . GVA , projected to rise 8.3% for the full year , compared to the 4.8% contraction in 2020-21 recorded only 4.7% growth in Q3 . The overall trajectory is a tad disheartening, with little comfort to glean even when the numbers are spliced . Construction sector GVA actually contracted 2.8% in Q3 , when infrastructure spending push was expected to be reviving it’s fortunes . Manufacturing recorded a mere 0.2% increase in a quarter that included India’s annual festive boom , possibly indicating that smaller firms remain hobbled. The largely contact-intensive segment of trade , hospitality, transport, communication and services related to broadcasting also continued to languish well below pre-pandemic levels .

That sectors critical for jobs are still in trouble is also reflected in private consumption staying below pre pandemic levels . The resurgence of retail inflation past 6% in January, with the overhang of a sharp retail fuel price spike after the assembly polls , could cripple consumption further. Core sectors’ output growth in in January and persistent manufacturing job losses in February (indicated by the PMI) , suggest these pieces of the recovery puzzle will not be fixed in a hurry . It also means that the 4.8% growth assumption for Q4 , built into the 8.9% growth calculations for this year, may be too optimistic. These portents are far from comforting , even in a business-as-usual scenario for an economy that had recorded several quarters of moderating growth before the COVID-19 pandemic tipped it over. India may have coped better with the Omicron variant, but external risk factors have risen dramatically. Large Central banks moves to tighten liquidity faster than expected, in the face of soaring inflation driven by runaway oil prices , have roiled financial markets .

The uncharted implications arising from the Ukraine crisis only add to the challenge . Apart from gearing up to preempt imported inflation spikes ,the government needs to extend greater policy support , preferably going beyond credit guarantee offers, to sector still in the doldrums . It also needs to exert greater energy to ensure its grand infrastructure spending plans get off the ground faster to have a salutary effect on the economy. The multi -layered uncertainties ahead necessitate that policy makers cut no slack, either in action or reaction.


A cautionary tale

India must heed the warning of the IPCC report and shore up adaptation measures

Amidst global turmoil , the intergovernmental Panel on Climate change — the largest international consortium of scientists analysing and reviewing the evidence on the present and future man made impacts of climate change –has a message that is predictably fire . The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C ; even temporarily exceeding this warming level would mean additional severe impacts , some of which will be irreversible. The report points out that the rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt . Alluding to the conference of the parties (CoP 26) in Glasgow ,in November 2021, the report notes that most of the targets that countries have set for themselves are too far in the future to have an impact on the short term at meaningfully reducing the climate impact.

India will achieve net zero emissions latest by 2070 , that is , there will be no net carbon emissions , Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared at the COP26 summit. By 2030, India would also ensure 50% of its energy willbe from renewable energy sources. However, none of this can help the 1.5°C mark from being breached. A major point of emphasis of the report , particularly for South Asia , is the trend in the ‘wet bulb’ temperature —-an index of the impact of heat and humidity combined .

By the middle of the century, around 35 million of its people could face annual coastal flooding, with 45 million -50 million at risk by the end of the century if emissions are high. Experience has shown that partisan economic calculations Trump climate considerations, but India must shore up its adaptation measures and urgently move to secure futures of its many vulnerable who have the most to lose.


The farmers ‘ movement has strengthened the bonds between muslims and jats in western Uttar Pradesh.

The revival of grassroots secularism in western Uttar Pradesh, which is lifting the veil of fear for Muslims , is among the most rewarding benefits of the farmer’s movement in North India . The movement strengthened the social and cultural bonds between Jats and Muslims whose communal harmony of many decades took a beauting during the violence in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. Whether this grassroots secularism will have ripple effects in other parts of U.P. or in the rest of India is a legitimate question. Nonetheless, this in itself is an impressive accomplishment.

The damage caused in 2013

The history of communal harmony of this region is unique because this area remained untouched by the violence following both partition and the Ayodhya movement. Yet the violence that was unleashed in 2013 tore the secular social fabric like never before — mainly owing to a religious polarisation campaign by the forces of Hindutva , who, according to elderly Jats, were able to brainwash their younger generations to support Hindutva’s ideological cause.

Secularism has been debated by scholars of various disciplines in India . Some have argued that it is a Western idea and thus inherently incompatible with Indian society, where religion is entrenched . For others , secularism is an Indian idea.In my view ,the grassroots secularism reflected in the social bonding of the Jats and Muslims in western U.P presents evidence of the latter variety .

According to Naresh Tikait , elder son of the late farm leader Mahendra Singh Tikait , the old days of bonhomie between the Jats and Muslims have returned , and the massive electoral benefits that the BJP accrued in 2014, 2017 and 2019 are not going to be seen this time in the region. It is worth recalling that Naresh Tikait pleaded with Muslims not to leave Sisauli, his village , during the 2013 violence by taking off his headgear and placing it on the ground. The Bharatiya Kisan Union, which the senior Tikait formed and led, had both Muslim and Hindu leaders and followers , but the 2013 violence caused a split in the organisation. In Mr. Tikait’s house even today , a lamp is lit every day as a tribute to the farmer’s movement as well as the organisation ‘s secular ethos since 1987, the year which saw the birth of the iconic slogan , ” Har Har Mahadev Allahu Akbar ” .

A vast majority of Muslims of this region always trusted leaders Charan Singh , Mahendra Singh Tikait, and Mulayam singh . While they seem to be throwing their weight behind the Akhilesh Yadav -led alliance this time , they appear concerned and fearful. Many victims of the 2013 riots continue to live in colonies set up by disparate organisations or families such as the Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind (of Arshad Madani) , the CPI(M) and the family of Tabassum Hasan , the first Muslim MP from U.P. since 2014. In these colonies , victims struggle for basic amenities and livelihood. Many have sold their ancestral properties to Hindu villagers with whom they grew up and lived until the riots . Though Muslims fled the affected villages , there are still abondoned mosques and madrasas in these places . For communal harmony to return , these issues need to be addressed , says social worker Subodh Tyagi , who led a large peace march in Budhana during the riots.


Overlap of sports and politics is unavoidable as the suspension of Russian teams shows

World football’s governing body FIFA ejecting all Russian teams , national representatives or club sides , from its competitions until further notice is the most severe of sporting sanctions imposed in the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine crisis . The announcement was coordinated with European football’s controlling organisation UEFA, making the ban applicable at the continental level too. The immediate casualties will be Russia’s Qatar 2022 World Cup playoff match against Poland this month, and a prospective qualifier against Sweden or the Czech Republic, and Spartak Moscow’s Europa League Contest against Germany’s RB Leipzig . UEFA went further and ended a lucrative sponsorship deal (around$ 50 million a year, reportedly) with Russian gas giant Gazprom . Last week , UEFA had shifted the venue for this summer’s Champion league final from St. Petersburg to Paris . Russian teams – not Russian athletes -were already serving a two year ban from global competitions ( to end on December 16, 2022) for the doping scandal first reported at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi . FIFA’ s initial measures, announced on Sunday ,were similar; of of Russia playing without its flag and national anthem, at neutral venues and behind closed doors . A total ban came close on the heels of the international Olympic committee (IOC) , on Monday ,recommending to sports federation not to allow Russian athletes in order to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions”.

It remains unclear if the IOC indirectly forced FIFA’s hand, but it has resurrected the debate whether athletes should pay the price for the machinations of their political leadership. The IOC , unlike a few individual sporting bodies , has often sought to shield clean sportspersons from becoming collateral damage, a position it took in the doping scandal too. It based the recent ban recommendation on the need to ensure a level playing field , a sacrosanct Olympic playing ideal. The works of geo politics and sports have long overlapped . But they have not seemed this entangled in recent memory.

A testing vote

India had good reasons to abstain , but might have to revisit it’s stance if the conflict worsens

Thwarted at the UN Security Council in their resolution to condemn Russian aggression on Ukraine , the U.S. and European allies now plan to ensure a censure of Moscow’s actions at the UN General Assembly, where they already have the support of more than 80 countries . The Russian veto of resolution 8979 was a predetermined outcome : as a permanent UNSC member, Russia has vetoed UNSC resolutions earlier that were critical of its decision to send to send troops into Georgia (2008) , and Crimea (2014) , and could hardly have done otherwise . What was perhaps more disappointing for the western coalition was that it was unable to move India from its consistent position of abstention . China shifted from its support for Russia in the previous vote to abstention after the U.S. and Albania , the two “penholders ” of the resolution, agreed to drop the reference to chapter VII ( the authorisation of the use of force against Russian troops ). The coalition against Russia is making a political statement at the UN, but not setting much store on the global body’s effectiveness . Instead, the U.S. and the EU have adopted unilateral sanctions which they hope will cripple Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ability to sustain a longer assualt on Ukraine , and also excised the Russian economy from the international SWIFT transaction system. In addition, the U.S., Germany and other countries have announced weapon supplies for Ukrainian forces . However, in the absence of direct air power assistance and foreign troops , it is unlikely that Ukraine will be able to change the balance of power in the equation with Russia easily.

India’s abstention from the UNSC resolution too was perhaps a foregone conclusion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to take a call from Mr. Putin before the vote indicated that India would not take any stand against Russia . Apart from the India-Russia defence and strategic partnership , Russia is India’s most trusted P-5 ally when it comes to blocking intusive resolutions on Kashmir. In contrast, Mr. Modi only accepted the call from the Ukrainian president after the vote, and rather than offering the support , requested assistance for the safe exit of Indian students . While India’s hesitation to take a stand against Russia is understood, New Delhi must now consider whether it’s aspirations to be a “leading power” can be achieved without having a clear position on a conflict that threatens global security,even as the Modi government focuses solely on the well being of Indians amidst the peril faced by others . This will be especially true if the Russian military operation in Ukraine is prolonged, and the Government’s ambivalence is read as active support for aggressive transgressions by a more powerful neighbour over a weaker one , something India has protested in its own neighborhood.

Having enemies makes you stronger,finds a study of flies

Because of selection,both fruit fly(host) and bacterium (pathogen) evolve having the maximum fitness

The natural world is rife with pairs of antagonists . Plants and viruses ,insects and pathogens , bacteria and their phages , and so on. In these systems it is an interesting question to study how the resistance to a pathogen, in the case of the host , and virulence towards the host,in the case of a pathogen, evolve. Towards understanding this better , Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali researchers have taken up the system of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and a bacterial pathogen that affects the fruit fly, sometimes even causing death – Pseudomonas entomophilia – have been co- evolved to study the pathway of evolution taken by the system of antagonists . In this case , they find that being surrounded by enemies actualy makes the organism stronger , or fitter , to combat the enemy .

Co – evolving systems

How does one set up a co evolving system experimentally ? A population of flies are infected by the pathogen and the infection is allowed to take its course . Among the infected flies ,only those that survive the infection, namely the ones that have the best immune systems to combat the pathogen , are taken to breed the next generation. Similarly, bacteria are collected from the flies that die due to the infection. These are the bacteria that have the virulence sufficiently strong to cause death in the present population. These bacteria are taken to breed the and also infect the flies in the next generation. Thus , both the host (fruit fly) and the pathogen (bacteria) are selected for having the maximum fitness .

Four types

The methodology of the experiment is like this : Four types of populations were bred in the lab . One in which , as described above , the host and pathogen both co-evolved . The second was a population in which only the host was selected from the flies that did not die due to the infection. Every generation, infection was done from a stock of ancestral bacteria which was not evolving. The third and fourth were two types of control populations. This methodology allowed the researchers to compare the evolution process in hosts that were co-evolved against their pathogen and the hosts that were adapted against a static , non evolving pathogen. They found that the former category evolved higher survivorship against the co-evolved pathogen than the hosts that was adapted against a non -evolving , static pathogen . Further they also found that the co-evolved hosts showed higher survivorship with respect to ancestral , unevolved pathogens than their counterparts who have been pitted against static pathogens .


Russia’s pulling back some troops suggests it sees potential in Macron , Scholz proposals

Photo by Artem Podrez on

Russia’s announcement that it is pulling back some troops from Ukraine’s borders is the strongest signal of de-escalation from Moscow. Russia has always maintained that it had no plans to attack Ukraine . But the massive troop mobilisation on the three flanks of Ukraine , which included combat aircraft , warships and S400 missile defence systems , had raised fears of war. Besides , the U.S’s warning that a Russian invasion could come “any day” and its decision to shut the American embassy in Kiev added to the frenzy . The Russian approach appeared to have been rooted in building military pressure around Ukraine to gain diplomatic leverage in talks with the west. In the last few weeks , European leaders , Hungary’s Viktor Orban , France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz , have visited Moscow. Of these, the diplomatic interventions by Mr. Macron , who called for respecting Russian security concerns and sought to revive the Minsk agreement on Ukraine’s civil strife , and Mr. Scholz , who said in Kiev that Ukraine’s entry into NATO was “not on the agenda right now”, were significant . Their talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin opened a diplomatic path towards de-escalation.

It is too early to say that the crisis is over. The complex issue is rooted in Russia’s security concerns & NATO’s expansionary open door policy with no quick solutions . But the suggestions from the talks Russia and the west have had point to a formula for peace . Russia’s three concerns are: one, it does not want neighbours Georgia and Ukraine to be members of NATO. Two, it wants NATO to roll back its military presence and drills from Eastern Europe and the Black sea. Three, it wants the Ukraine crisis—the civil conflict between Kiev and the Russia -backed separatists in Donbas -to be resolved through the Minsk process.

In conclusion the only thing is that The West and Russia should take that road aimed at finding a lasting solution to Europe’s most dangerous security crisis .

ISRO puts 3 satellites into orbit, first launch of 2022

The first launch of the year under the new Chairman S. Somanath went off without a glitch.

Thick orange fumes from the PSLV C-52 briefly lit up the pre-dawn dark sky and Pulicat Lake as the workhorse of the Indian Space Research Organisation soared into the skies from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre , Sriharikota, on Monday, the booming noise of the launch vehicle carrying three satellites breaking the morning silence.

Photo by Pixabay on

The ISRO’s maiden launch of 2022 and the first under its new chairman , S. Somanath, went off without a glitch , placing all the three satellites into orbit with precision. The PSLV C-52 was the 54th flight of the rocket and the 23rd in its XL configuration. The success of the launch was crucial for ISRO that had a very muted 2020 with just two launches , one of which -the GSLV-F10–failed after launch. The PSLV C-52 carrying the Earth Observation Satellite , EOS -04 , the INS-2TD, a technology demonstrator from ISRO , and the INSPIRE-sat-1, a student satellite, lifted off at 5:59 a.m.

Around 18 minutes later , the three satellites were separated and placed into their orbits . “The primary satellite, the EOS-04 has been put in a precise orbit . The co passenger satellites have been placed into the right orbit,” Mr. Somanath said adding ISRO will be” back with the next launch of PSLV very soon”.

With a mission life of 10 years , the EOS-4, a radar imaging satellite is designed to provide high quality images in all weather conditions for applications such as agriculture, forestry, plantation , flood mapping, soil moisture and hydrology. The satellite will collect earth observation data in C-band and will complement and supplement the data from Resourcesat, Cartosat series and RISAT-2Bseries, ISRO said.

PM’s Message

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated India’s space scientists on Monday on the successful launch of the PSLV C52 mission.

Mr. Modi tweeted ,” Congratulations to our space scientists on the successful launch of PSLV C-52 mission . EOS-04 satellite will provide high resolution images under all weather conditions for agriculture, forestry and plantations, soil moisture and hydrology as well as flood mapping.”

JWST spots its first star , in Ursa Major

NASA’S new space telescope has captured its first starlight and even taken a selfie of its giant , gold mirror .

All 18 segments of the primary mirror on the James Webb space Telescope seem to be working properly a month and half into the mission , officials said on Friday.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on

The telescope’s FIRST TARGET WAS a bright star 258 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. ” That was just a real wow moment ,” said Marshall PERRIN of the space telescope science institute in Baltimore.

Over the next few months , the hexagonal mirror segments will be aligned and focused as one ,allowing science observations to begin by the end of June . The $10 billion infrared observatory – considered the successor to the ageing Hubble Space Telescope – will seek light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe nearly 14 billion years ago. It will also examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for for any possible signs of life.

NASA did not detect the crippling flaw in Hubble’s mirror until after its 1990 launch; more than three years passed before space walking astronauts were able to correct the telescope’s blurry vision .

While everything is looking good so far with Webb , engineers should be able to rule out any major mirror flaws by next month, Feinberg said.

Largest mirror

Webb’s 6.5 metre , gold-plated mirror is the largest ever launched into space. After 20 years with the project ,” it is just unbelievably satisfying ” to see everything working so well so far, said the University of Arizona’s Marcia Rieke, principal scientist for the infrared camera. Webb blasted off from South America in December and reached its designated perch 1.6 million Kilometres away last month.

The School closure in India

In the last two years , India has achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the country with the second longest COVID-19 pandemic-linked school closure in the world–next only to Uganda. According to a United Nations report ,it is an estimated 82 weeks , with some intermittent classes in between . Much has been said ,written and published about the impact of school closure on learning loss. However,there has been very limited discourse on why—inspite of scientific evidence to support re-opening —Indian states continued to remain reluctant to reopen schools . Analysing the root causes of school closure in India is an urgent need to derive lessons and to guide future policy interventions .

Photo by Pixabay on

The Bane of misinformation

To start with, one of the biggest reasons for continued school closure has been widespread misinformation. Unsubstantiated statements such as ‘the third wave would affect children ‘ and ‘let’s wait for vaccination of kids before reopening schools ‘ were made by influential individuals and amplified on social media . These scared parents and ( incorrectly) linked school reopening with COVID-19 vaccination of children. Occasional reports of children being hospitalised in different parts of the world were on loop on television channels , sensationalising the matter ; while it boosted their target rating point (TRP) ,it harmed hapless children.

Two, the opinion of a small section of privileged parents and self proclaimed representatives of their association — often not fully understanding the complexity of issues — dominated and prevailed in the mainstream discourse. Though surveys had indicated that poor and middle class parents – no matter which part of the country they were from — wanted schools to be open ,they were largely ignored in decision making , which was also influenced by ‘sensational ‘ newspaper reports and high pitched TV debates. Many experts-on-everything appeared on television channels with the argument ‘ let’s err on the side of caution ‘ , as if epidemiological and scientific evidence were of no value .

Every time privileged parents or an ‘expert on everything’ spoke, they deprived children from poor and marginalised backgrounds of their opportunity of and right to education. It needs no reiteration that, in the last two years, already wide educational inequities have only widened further.

Three, the Government’s response, at all levels, to the misinformation was delayed and arguably insufficient. Though science communication increased over a period of time, it did not match the pace of misinformation. Politicians in most States played to the gallery and used the opposition (by a small group of the mostly privileged) to re-open schools as an excuse to delay school reopening.

  • The learnings during the novel coronavirus pandemic have been (wrongly) equated with completion of the syllabus.
  • Continued school closure and a hesitation in reopening academic institutions are the symptoms of a deeper malady in India’s education system.