The menace of orbital debris


Dr. Suman Kasturi | Updated On: 11 April 2019 11:16 PM

In a test meant for boosting its fortifications in space, recently, India used a home-grown ballistic missile interceptor to destroy one of India’s own satellites located at a height of 300 km. Reacting to this event, the Pentagon on March 04, held that it stood by its assessment that debris from an Indian anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test would eventually burn up in the atmosphere. However, NASA’s administrator presaged of the danger the debris posed, according to whom more than 400 pieces of orbital debris from the test had been identified. Such orbital debris includes those particles travelling above the International Space Station.

From the time when the first satellite was launched on October 4, 1957 (Sputnik by erstwhile USSR), the number of satellites that have been placed in the space have been burgeoned — at this time, there are more than thirteen thousand satellites and other large objects in orbit around the earth. In order to understand the threat imposed by the orbital debris, it is imperative to understand what exactly orbital debris mean. Orbital debris is nothing but the scrap produced due to spacecraft explosions and by collisions between satellites that are moving around the earth.

Simply put—space debris is a man-made object that is not in active use. Sizes of space debris range from a large scale of uncountable smaller pieces to obsolete spacecraft and rocket bodies that stand taller than a big infrastructure on the earth. According to an estimation, a piece of debris falls back to earth about once a day. Eventually, these microparticles either land or incinerate in the air.

Due to the major share of water on the earth, most objects that return to earth end up in water. Nonetheless, many of the objects sent into space are still in their respective orbits around the earth. Traditionally, it has been the standard practice that a satellite after placing into its orbit, used to be left in the orbit only. However, for the reason that the debris is travelling at the same orbital speeds, it poses a significant threat to the space shuttle, space station, and other satellites placed in earth orbit. For this reason, a heavy threat is imposed even due to a small splatter speck in space. With a collision, it can even crack a space shuttle body and create remarkable problems back on earth.

It should be understood that space debris travels at a speed 10 times faster than a bullet — as such an average bullet’s speed itself is 1,700mph. Thus, the collisions caused by orbital debris result in catastrophic mission failure. Object breakup has been a major contributor to orbital debris. Despite the fact that the reason for many of the object breakups is not known, sometimes they are caused by explosions and collisions owing to the residual propellant, overheated batteries, and due to the deliberate destruction of satellites.

In order to determine the volume of orbital debris, scientists study the space shuttle when it returns from the space orbit. Utmost care is taken in the design of the space station to make it the most heavily shielded spacecraft ever. Beyond doubt, a space station can survive impact with smaller pieces of orbital debris and safeguard the astronauts. Specially designed spacesuits are vibrant in protecting the space crew. Materials used in bulletproof vests are used in the design of the spacesuits. There has been a heavy increase in the volume of space debris due to the launch of many satellites. Thus, the threat caused due to the space debris is multiplied in leaps and bounds.

Consequently, there arises a dire need to address this problem. Many international space agencies have been striving hard to reduce the problem caused due to orbital debris. For example, the upper stages of launch vehicles, and some satellites are being placed in lower orbits. This is to ensure that the orbital debris re-enters the atmosphere and burn up more readily. In order to prevent old satellites, other space objects, and the orbital debris that they engender from making low-earth-orbit (LEO) unusable, a provision must be made for removing the used satellites and spent rockets from orbit.

There are various methods for removing the used satellites. One method of removing a satellite from orbit is carrying extra propellant so that the satellite can bring itself down out of the orbit. However, this method has its own limitations as it burdens carrying of heavy propellant — thus making the rocket carrying a satellite, bulkier. Recent studies have shown that satellites left in a higher orbit will slowly break apart as micrometeorites and will eventually endanger operational satellites. Moreover, once the old satellites split into smaller particles, it will be nearly impossible to clean up the debris.

Consequently, it will be much more cost effective in the long run to deal with the problem. Currently, there is no law requiring that old satellites be removed from orbit. However, NASA has recently effected a guideline for its own satellites. In the same lines, it is imperative for all other space organisations run by various nations to formulate their own guidelines. Major space organisations like ISRO and NASA should join hands to congregate the nations to formulate an international law to address the problem of orbital debris. (The author is an Air Veteran, a mass communicator and an author of more than 10 mass media books)

Freebies and Indian democracy


Dr. Suman Kasturi  |  Updated On:  4 April 2019 11:20 PM

The high school students of 1990s in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh have been au fait with an academic question about elucidating ‘India as a rich country with poor people’. Honestly, at that point of time, those tender minds might have not understood what it exactly means. Nonetheless, over a long period of time, the condition of India remains unalterable — India is still a rich country with poor people. Even after these many years of India’s independence, the country is still placed under the category of ‘yet to be developed nations’. Sheesh, India’s progress!

One of the key issues that make India still a developing country is the freebies being offered by the government to numerous sets of people under the name of welfare schemes. It is due to these freebies, the very concept of democracy has undergone a lot of change. People’s participation is a key element of democracy. Even so, it has drastically undergone unsolicited changes. The interaction of the people with the government has become very nominal.

In a democratic country, in making the decisions that affect them, each and every eligible citizen has the right to participate — either directly or indirectly. However, in democratic India, the voters just limit their role to vote to a political party that offers freebies. In its true form, democracy is the most effectual system of government. The people of a democratic country have sanctioned rights of adult suffrage that allows them to actively participate in the elections and a plebiscite for the selection of the ruling government. This, for sure, implies that the sovereign power lies with the people in a democratic nation. Thus, the people are the decision makers — the success and failure of a democratic nation purely depend upon the acumen, mindfulness and attentiveness of the voters.

In Indian setting, offerings of freebies in elections by parties, for the most part, have outdone the centrestage in all election campaigns. Such freebies can take on many forms that primarily have an appeal to the voters, but with an obligatory exercise. For this reason, there is an increasing trend on the offer of freebies to voters during election campaigns. This has resulted in recouping of votes and thereby making the naive masses easily overhang all balloting practice in the country.

It is rightly said that the success of a welfare measure is to be evaluated by the number of people that leave the welfare scheme but not by how many are added further. Such a status quo would be in the cards only when people become self-dependent. A democratic government which is “by the people, of the people, and for the people” should perceptibly provide ideal governance for the people. But in reality, it is extremely at a distance. In real fact, Indian citizens/body of voters are not making any rational or truly cognizant choices. This ultimately makes Indian democracy engrossed on the short term aspects. As a result, freebies vitiate the sacrosanctity of elections and leads to daubing campaigns by candidates — it has, irrefutably, a large bearing on the voter’s persona and picks.

In the past, a challenge was made in the honourable court under section 123 of the Representation of the People Act stating that any gift or the promise offered by the contenders or his representative to persuade a voting member to franchise the vote in his favour would amount to bribery. However, the honourable court held that the promises to dole out election freebies in an election manifesto cannot be read into the language of Section 123 of the RP Act, for affirming it to be corrupt practice under the prevalent law in force. In this case, even if the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the State of Tamil Nadu, it admitted that in actuality distribution of free gifts by political parties does influence the voters.

At present, many freebies are offered to the voters in the guise of the ‘welfare society’ by almost every political party. However, it should be well understood that this is a type of exploitation of the people as it amounts only to treating the cause of ennui but not deracinating it from society.

As far as an offering of the freebies is concerned, the political parties alone are not blameworthy. The electorates have an equal share too. But there is a reason behind the electorates looking for these freebies. It is only due to many unresolved problems like the high rate of unemployment and increased corruption in society. Till the time there is no end to such long rooted problems, the voters would compromise on the situation and accept the freebies.

However, justly, every citizen of India wishes to settle their lives in a decent manner. They aspire to live in a developed nation — a sovereign state with high industrial and Human Development Index (HDI) as compared to other countries. Thus, instead of focusing on short term measures, the government needs to focus on a technologically advanced infrastructure to make India an industrialised country — a developed country. It is very much possible if the new guidelines added to the Model Code of Conduct are followed meticulously in India.

The voting public should understand the fact that they lose their right of questioning once they accept the freebies for the reason that freebies are the hamartia of Indian democracy. The need of the hour is to choose the right candidates — the capable leaders who can, by all means, strive hard to make India a developed nation. The elected leaders should fight righteously against corrupt practices. If not realised even now, time shall come to amputate the existence of democratic election process for it will have no meaning in conducting elections, per se!

J & K imbroglio : Can backchannel diplomacy be effective enough?


Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi  |  Updated On:  28 March 2019 11:09 PM

In a significant diplomatic rebuff, over an invitation to Kashmiri separatist group Hurriyat, the Indian government has, on the record, boycotted the Pakistan national day reception in New Delhi on March 22. It is worth mentioning here that in the past four years, union ministers V K Singh, M J Akbar, G S Shekhawat and Prakash Javadekar have represented the government of India at the Pakistan day reception.

Despite the fact that the Indian government has officially boycotted the event, according to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, he received the following message from PM Modi: “I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan.

It is time that people of sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.” Considering the various developments that took place after the Pulwama terrorist attack that occurred on February 14 and the above message which was apparently sent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it becomes clearly evident that India is looking only for the peaceful development of the region by averting conflict with the neighbouring country.

However, the situation at the border of the two nations in Jammu and Kashmir is still overwrought. At this juncture, surely, traditional diplomacy as a means of conflict resolution cannot play a key role. Traditional diplomacy has, for many years, involved bilateral talks in closed chambers between the governments of the two nations — but to no avail.

Such negotiations may be proven better in resolving only such issues as water sharing and power sharing between nations but not in getting a perpetual solution to a complex issue as Jammu and Kashmir problem. In this milieu, there arises a need for the backchannel diplomacy (also referred to as Track 2 Diplomacy), which is often communicated through an informal intermediary or through a third party. Once traditional channels of negotiation, mediation and conflict management become unproductive and need to be supplemented, backchannel diplomacy plays an instrumental role.

As far as Jammu and Kashmir issue is concerned, it is essential to have mechanisms that intend to transform the constraints of existing discourse. This can be done by impelling public opinion on the need to look at creative alternatives, thereby expelling the rotted opinions based on conventional wisdom. A flamboyant issue here is — backchannel diplomacy between India and Pakistan evokes interest not only for these two countries but also internationally.

In fact, backchannel diplomacy between India and Pakistan is not any new tender — already it has been in vogue. In the 1990s, it clutched open responsiveness when the international focus of attention on Jammu and Kashmir enlarged. The very first attempt of backchannel diplomacy to address problems in Jammu and Kashmir was undertaken by a US-based Kashmir Study Group. It was headed by Farookh Kathwari, an American national lived in Srinagar. Later, backchannel diplomacy played its part after the Kargil conflict and the tensions that followed the attack on the Indian Parliament, on December 13, 2001. Based on an unequivocal pledge from President Musharraf that he would not allow territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorism against India, there was an agreement to resume the “Composite Dialogue Process” between India and Pakistan — the agreement to this effect was made on January 6, 2004.

At the first instance, the aforesaid development may seem as if it was the role played by traditional diplomacy. Nonetheless, the assurance from the Pakistan President Musharraf was only due to the aftereffects of terrorist strikes on September 9, 2001, in New York and Washington. There was a heavy pressure by the US to ban groups like the Lashkar e Taiba and the Jaish- e – Mohammed. In the same backdrop, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, the U.N. Security Council has banned and declared these groups as international terrorist organisations. This way, the U.N. Security Council acted as an intermediary in the process of Track 2 Diplomacy between India and Pakistan.

Again in December 2004, a Track 2 meeting was held in Kathmandu. One significant issue about this meeting was — for the first time ever, politicians, journalists and representatives of civil society from either side of the Line of Control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir were brought together in this meeting. The only virtuous outcome as promulgated by the Pugwash Report issued after the December 2004 meeting was — all participants admitted that the human dimension of the conflict should take priority over geo-strategic considerations. However, the report noted that there was no consensus in recognising the starting point for evolving mechanisms of conflict resolution.

It is a matter of fact that backchannel diplomacy may play a crucial role in relaxing the vital issues. On many occasions, when Governments intend to duck publicity, before entering into the realm of official and formal talks, they utilise informal channels of diplomacy (backchannel diplomacy), using reliable and steadfast individuals and institutions for preparation of their negotiating approaches. In some serious issues like Jammu and Kashmir, the foundations of the conflict are so deep-rooted that after so many pointless attempts there won’t be any official room politically to seek resolution or phasing down of the untoward situation.

In such circumstances, the backchannel diplomacy process can primarily seek avenues to bridge differences, initiate a dialogue between the countries to share concerns, influence public opinion and keep communication channels open. (The author is an Air Veteran, a mass communicator and an author of more than 10 mass media books)

Cronyism and present-day politics


Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi  |  Updated On:  1 April 2019 12:50 PM

At a time when the society and Indian politics as a whole are going through a rapid change, it becomes indispensable to have a close look at the arrangement that is governing the Indian politics. Without any second thought, the present-day political system has been revolving around the cronyism — crony capitalism and crony journalism. In a sense, cronyism can be understood as a combination of nepotism associated with concrete preferential treatment.

The most widely accepted definition of cronyism is — it is the practice of partiality in conferring jobs and other compensations to friends and relatives, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organisations.

In the political arena, the term cronyism is often used derogatorily — to denote exchange of favours. Cronyism exists when the beneficiary and benefactor are in contact in some or other way like business dealings. When both the beneficiary and the benefactor are in need to support each other, cronyism plays its part.

In the Indian setting, various political parties do contest in the elections. Though it is not openly admitted by any political party, the utilisation of cash in the whole election process enormously exceeds the actual limit imposed by the Election Commission of India. The amount being seized by various agencies soon after the announcement of election schedule for General Elections-2019 is the clear evidence to prove this argument. In order to survive in this game of superiority, every political party needs to be funded adequately with cash in leaps and bounds.

This, in a nutshell, means that the political parties need funds to patronage the contenders to fight elections. Palpably, the contenders of the elections and the business tycoons looking for return favours would fund the political parties. This could be viewed as a cyclic process wherein business conglomerates need political support to get contracts, and political parties need funds for contesting elections. Here it should be understood that the money being funded by the businessmen is obviously the public’s own money. Also, no businessmen ever fund any political organisation just like that, without seeking return favour.

The aforesaid discussion clearly indicates that the stronger the relationship between the businessmen and the political parties, the stronger will be the levels of mutual cooperation. Thus, crony capitalism can be better understood as a system in which business profitability hinges considerably on the ability to maintain strong relationships with bureaucrats and politicians wherein the money greases the relationship between the stakeholders.

On the other hand, if we take the ownership details of any media in India, most of the organisations are owned by the business conglomerates that are into various other businesses or who are into politics as such. Strikingly, almost all television channels or even the newspapers have taken a lean towards one or other political party. This means each and every political party has its own mouthpiece. In such a state wherein each media organisation has taken some or other side, where do the true journalistic ethics exist? For this reason, journalism has to be obviously tainted. This apparently becomes the base for crony journalism. Due to this crony journalism, the media organisations would not only lose the credibility of the organisation but also would result in loss of media objectivity due to such an absurdity.

It is a matter of fact that most of the Indian political parties have also started their own newspapers, trying to propagate their political viewpoints among the masses. Besides, these political parties, especially the regional parties, also own television news channels. They not only broadcast their views but also promote propaganda. In the best interests of society, cronyism is good for nothing. It ultimately breeds corruption in society. As well, it results in the empowerment of a few people to have control over the country’s economy. Such a state is effectively identified as ‘Oligarchy’ — defined as a political and economic structure that is characterised by a small group of people exercising great power and control over a country’s economy. Such a situation is not just hypothetical — there are many previous instances. For example, soon after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there was an upsurge of a group of very rich people who were labelled as oligarchs or kleptocrats. Their accumulated huge sums of money were attributed to the sale of government-owned assets at throwaway prices to the companies owned/controlled by this group of people.

In concluding words, it can be rightly said, that of the four pillars of democracy, the media serves as the fourth pillar while judiciary, executive, legislature are the remaining three pillars. Beyond doubt, the ethical media which is free from crony journalism would, for sure, has the capability to change the entire system in India — it is possible only with the practice of journalistic ethics in true letter and spirit. (The author is an Air Veteran, a mass communicator and an author of more than 10 mass media books)

Consumer rights and responsibilities in the age of e-commerce


Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi  |  Updated On:  14 March 2019 11:14 PM

Around the world, every year March 15 is celebrated as the World Consumer Rights Day — an annual international occasion that connotes celebration and camaraderie in the international consumer movement. The very purpose of this day is respecting consumer rights while safeguarding them, as preferred by the consumers. The consumer movement was first marked in 1983 on this date. The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2019 is — ‘Trusted Smart Products’.

The contemporary world has been transforming sharply at the same pace as that of the transformation of the technology itself. Beyond doubt, the emergence of smart technology has given a vast number of openings for consumers such as access to new services, with several options and greater expediency. Also Read – Renamed fake accounts spreading political bias on FB Advertise With Us In fact, it was in 1999 that the concept and implementation of e-commerce came into force when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) adopted the first International Instrument for Consumer Protection in the framework of e-commerce. Subsequently, following the review of existing policies, recommendations were made to embrace the idea of e-commerce.

Bygone are the days when people used to plan and do shopping, to meet their needs. The advent of the Internet and its various applications have facilitated everything at the doorsteps of the consumers. Incontrovertibly, online e-commerce offers a responsive and smart environment for the customers and eases the business options by making them available round the clock. However, the development of e-commerce poses a number of legal and consumer challenges too.

It should be recognised that e-commerce is pretty much extensive than consuming network-based technologies to conduct online businesses. There arises a need for a complete transformation of business operating measures that go beyond traditional practices. For this to happen, a comprehensive reengineering of the existing systems is solicited.

The heart of e-commerce lies in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that brought industrial revolution in the contemporary aeon. More specifically, it is the Internet, the eighth wonder of the world, which made the globalisation and glocalisation possible. A business associated with the Internet is straightaway global in reach with no extra asking time and price. Presently, one-third of all the business transactions conducted electronically is undertaken through Internet-based e-commerce — an intensely pro-consumer application. Electronic commerce, which is more commonly expressed as e-commerce, is nothing but a business or commercial transaction that encompasses the transmission of wide-ranging information across the Internet.

As its major characteristic, e-commerce allows consumers to electronically exchange goods and services without any barriers of time or distance. Basically, e-commerce is of three types: B2B (business to business); B2C (business to consumer); and C2C (consumer to consumer). For the reason that the exchange of goods and services involves the use of the Internet, there arise a few major consumer concerns that include such matters as security, privacy, fraud, access, dispute resolution, terms and conditions, fees and charges, and another most important problem — jurisdiction issue.

Globalisation and glocalisation have turned the businesses into enormously large cybernetic markets. In addition, consumers have unlimited choices. However, in unison, the e-commerce transactions are equally associated with complexities and greater risks. For example, when a business goes online, it is subject to the jurisdiction and schemes of law pertaining to a particular country in the world. It is not reasonable, per se! The seller may belong to one nation while the buyer may be a resident of another nation. Thus, the seller’s connection with the jurisdiction of the purchaser may be isolated and tenuous. Laws associated with businesses are fairly and persistently in flux. They also vary significantly from country to country — and even within a country. Then again, when consumers go online, they may lose the benefit of domestic consumer protection laws. Even this is not fair.

The idea of e-commerce has taken its form as the technology is leaping with unmatched speed. Ease of doing business through e-commerce has reached the apex, globally. Nonetheless, the consumer protection laws in India need to go a long way before they comprehensively address the rights of the consumers of e-commerce. Due to the discrepancies and loopholes in consumer protection laws, the consumers who participate in e-commerce, for sure, experience some sort of problems.

In addition to the laws that are in force for the protection of consumer rights, the responsibility of a consumer also becomes vital. Such responsibility plays a very important role in assessing the genuineness of the product being offered in the online market and thereby restricting unnecessary consumption. A self-imposed responsibility by the consumer is always better — such responsibility is based merely on ethics and rationale, for there are no perfectly defined set of consumer responsibilities as such.

The Internet has become a source of many frauds. In spite of various preventive measures, the consumers are being trapped on the platforms of e-commerce. The modus operandi for such frauds is vigorously captivating a number of techniques. Therefore, a consumer needs to be very agile while doing any online transaction. (The author is an Air Veteran, a mass communicator and an author of more than 10 mass media books)

Cross-border conflict and manic media


Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi  |  Updated On:  8 March 2019 12:00 AM GMT

Cross-border conflict and manic media

There is a sense of victory and jubilations in the air on Indian soil as well as in certain political flight path in the country as the nation’s valiant soldier – IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman – returned to his motherland with his intriguing smile of a true-blue squaddie who showed the whole world the life-force of Indian armed forces.

While the Commander was tied, paraded blindfolded and made a butt of ridicule by the Pakistani locals and some of its soldiers, the bleeding hero was cool, calm and collected, showing the spirited stature of Indian military.

While the border was boiling and the whole nation was eagerly waiting for the wounded soldier’s triumphant return, Indian visual media has been overworking to grab the maximum eyeballs and to increase their TRP rates. Anchors were shrieking, panel members were showing their verbosity to the maximum and reporters were making all sorts of claims and counter claims.

It is true that in its efforts to emerge as the truthful watchdog, a congregation of journalists from the entire world generally gets animated while reporting any armed intervention or military conflict. Based on the situation in the field, the media is expected to analyse the steadiness of armed forces and report sensibly. It is a general notion that the armed forces and governments ensure that the general public know how a military operation unfolds.

However, while taking into account the entire episode of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, which does not require any introduction per se, a need is felt to evaluate the role played by both mainstream media and the social media. At this juncture, there arises a need that the media and armed forces must rub their shoulders — in order to produce revised criterions to standardise rules of reporting a conflict.

Of course, as accustomed as they may be, already there are a set of surfacing standards and codes on war reporting. Nevertheless, the recent episode highlights the overenthusiastic reporting of the cross-border clashes by the media. It had a great impact not only on the interactions between the media and the armed forces but also on the relationships between the media and the public, and between the public and the armed forces.

One of the unique features of Indian media is — there are innumerable news channels that work round-the-clock to get noticed in the world of cut-throat competition. If the news channels in the vernacular languages are also taken into account, the number of news channels in India are much higher than any other country. It is rightly said by Donald Rumsfeld that the battle does not take place only on the battlefield; it can only be won or lost in the court of public opinion.

It is important to understand how the information passed on by the mainstream media and the social media would benefit the other side of the battlefield. History gives the answer to the question, “What happens if the media does not bother the consequences of what they are reporting?” For example, the role of the media in the Vietnam War is a subject of on-going controversy — some accept that the media played a large role in the US defeat while others have a different perception.

Considering the recent episode of Wing Commander Abhinandan, it is evident that the mainstream media and the social media have sprinted together in passing the unwanted confidential information to the opponent, though unintentionally. While the ‘air warrior’ himself refused politely to inform the Pakistani authorities of the vital information that includes his basic personal info such as his native place, the Indian media disclosed his entire bio-data within no time.

It might have been the strategy of the Pakistan Military to extract information from other sources. TRPs and the popularity alone are not the criteria while reporting a conflict or allied issues — the nation’s interests are to be kept far ahead of the personal/organisational interests.

In some of the news analyses, they visually projected the locations of vital air bases along with such information as the number of aircraft and their types and capacity. All such information is very confidential in the best interests of national security. The enemy is ever ready to fabricate a cloth out of small pieces of rags. It should be very well understood by media agencies while undertaking such analyses.

Yes, it is true that the online citizen journalism is sometimes given too much credibility by other media networks fervent for a sensation. In the race of who informs first, without verifying the facts, some of the mainstream media rely on material that they cannot verify. It leads to great exertion, especially while reporting a conflict. On the other hand, the netizens hold government authorities and armed forces accountable for their engagements.

In such circumstances, the audience who are exposed to the media, for sure, would be in a Catch-22 situation. Because of the lack of exact information, nobody really knows what is happening. The best way to discern the truth is to interact with the responsible people hailing from the hot spots of the country.

But it may not be always possible as during emergency situations like an international conflict, the authorities cannot divulge details for the reasons best known for them.For this very reason, the mainstream media do not like the participation of citizen journalists. In the past, some journalists have raised concerns about the role of citizen journalists in reporting vital news.

However, as a rule, they cannot be controlled from reporting as their status in terms of international humanitarian law (IHL) is legitimately strong. They are safeguarded as civilians as long as they do not take part in conflicts — IHL differentiates between only two categories of people – civilians and combatants. It means irrespective of a journalist whether he publishes in mainstream media or social media, he is entitled to the protection granted by IHL.

Beyond doubt, propaganda has played an important part in the politics of the war. Social media has been used as the tool for propaganda as it has played a major role with global mainstream networks repeatedly rebroadcast video footages of various versions of the conflict posted by netizens.

Due to the changes in the nature of the conflict, the nature of war reporting has also changed. As far as war reporting is concerned, holding a pen is as daring as holding a gun. So, the media people should understand their responsibilities and appreciate that the line between activism and journalism is at times thin.

(The author is an Air Veteran, a mass communicator and an author of more than 10 mass media books)

Can’t accidents during air shows be prevented?


Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi  |  Updated On:  1 March 2019 5:30 AM

Even before the inauguration of the Aero India-2019 in Bangalore, an in-flight collision of two Hawk trainer jets occurred during the practice session of the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) of the Indian Air Force on February 19. This accident has resulted in the death of one of the four Surya Kiran pilots.

Following this accident, another ill-fated episode has taken place at the same display ground — a fire accident occurred on February 23, in which many cars were gutted in the fire at the parking lot. The prima facie reports held that the nearby piled up desiccated grass caught fire, which spread in no time. Also Read – Renamed fake accounts spreading political bias on FB A

Coincidentally, on the same date in the year 2015 i.e. on February 19, 2015, during Aero India show only, two planes belonging to Flying Bulls stunt team made mid-air clash, resulting in the damage of one plane.

Nonetheless, both planes landed safely, in spite of the damage of a wing of one of the aircraft. In another catastrophic air show, while performing at the opening ceremony of the India Aviation Show at Hyderabad on March 3, 2010, a HAL Kiran aircraft belonging to the Sagar Pawan aerobatic team of the Indian Navy crashed. It caused the death of two Indian Navy pilots. It is worth mentioning here that Sagar Pawan is one of the only two naval aerobatic teams in the world which are into aerobatics — Blue Angels of the US Navy turns out to be another naval aerobatic team. Going back in time, in one more fatal air show, two Indian Navy Ilyushin Il-38 (IN302 and IN304) aircraft hit mid-air while flying in formation on October 2, 2002, at Dabolim Naval Air Base in Goa. This happened during the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the base and resulted in the death of all twelve occupants.

Irrefutably, there is a veiled danger associated with an air show. This fact could be better understood by considering the number of air crashes that took place around the world during this 21st century — so far, 126 air crashes occurred during the air shows since 2000. The first ever public international air show was held in Reims from August 22, 1909, to August 29, 1909. Starting with this, the air shows have been transformed into a variety of aerobatic demonstrations.

In general, an air show, which is also referred to as air fair or air tattoo, is a public event wherein aircraft are displayed. They often take account of aerobatic demonstrations. Of course, there are a number of air shows that take place only with aircraft parked on the ground, which is free from all sorts of aerobatic demonstrations — called static air shows. There are numerous purposes behind conducting the air shows. They differ in their objectives — from a business venture to activity in support of local, national or military contributions.

As far as military organisations are concerned, they often organise air shows at military air bases. They are held merely as an exercise of public relations, intended to show gratitude to the local community, apart from promoting military careers and raising the standards of the military. Air shows, in general, are restricted by a number of factors that include weather conditions and visibility factors.

As a matter of safety, most aviation authorities have set standard rules. Also, the guidelines on the minimum display heights and criteria for differing conditions have been formulated. Of course, the pilots and organisers have additionally been imposed restrictions on local airspace.

Even after taking adequate precautions, air shows may present some risk to spectators and aviators. The 1988 disaster that happened at Ramstein Air Base in Germany has led to 70 deaths while the 2002 air show crash at Sknyliv in Ukraine has resulted in 77 deaths. These are the accidents of high intensity with a large loss of life that ever happened in the history of international air shows. Bowing to many accidents that are taking place during air shows, all aviation authorities around the world have set many rules and guidelines for those running and participating in air displays. For example, it is mandatory to uphold an adequate distance between display and spectators. Such rules govern the distance from the crowds that aircraft must fly.

Despite many display rules and guidelines that are in force, accidents have continued to happen. Unlike normal flying, the air shows involve flying with a precision. Timing is the crucial factor that governs the success of an air show — and for this to happen, so much of practice is required. Due to the increase in the number of accidents during air shows, organisations like the International Council of Air Shows must intensify deliberations to arrive at a concrete measure to prevent such accidents.

(The author is an Air Veteran, a mass communicator and an author of more than 10 mass media books)

The need for perpetual policy on counterterrorism


Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi  |  Updated On:  22 Feb 2019 5:30 AM

At this moment, there is no doubt that the blood of every true Indian is boiling after the recent terrorist attack. On February 14, a convoy of vehicles carrying CRPF personnel was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber at Lethpora in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on the National Highway. As many as 46 CRPF personnel were killed in this attack. Besides, many people sustained severe injuries. Beginning with the 2016 terrorist attack on Pathankot Air Base, which took place on January 02, 2016, India has lost as many as 169 soldiers in the terrorist attacks alone.

Whenever an untoward terrorist attack takes place, right from the political parties to the media agencies, everyone expresses a great matter of concern. However, it is a matter of jiffy affair. A number of military, police, and intelligence organisations within the country contribute to the exertions of counterterrorism in India. Such organisations include special security forces, police forces of respective states, and paramilitary forces.

The armed forces usually play a part in counterterrorism operations as the last resort. However, in Jammu and Kashmir, the Army has been involved in an unswerving role. Dating back to India’s independence and separation of Pakistan from India in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir, the northern tip of India’s territory, has been the hub of a territorial dispute. The history reveals the fact that the disagreement between India and Pakistan has resulted in a number of military confrontations. Palpably, beginning from the late 1980s, the region has been the home to a number of militant groups looking for the liberation for the region.

Taking the statistics of the last fifteen years or so into account, this unending fight has given rise to two-thirds of entire deaths from the terrorist attacks in India. According to many defence analysts, the government’s reaction to terrorist attacks has been episodic. It has been the case that the government seems to take temporary measures soon after a terroristic attack and forgets the issue, soon after.

There is no second opinion that India lacks a comprehensible strategic response to terrorism — there is a need to have an all-inclusive code to counterterrorism for the reason that most of our reactions are imprudent. For example, Operation Parakram, which was carried out in the wake of December 13, 2001, Parliament attack was concluded on October 16, 2002, without any major achievements.

Yes, it is high time that India should have a perpetual policy to overcome the terrorist attacks. If we clearly look into the matter, India does not have any antiterrorism legislation similar to that of the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001” (USA Patriot Act 2001). This act even takes into account potential money laundering and financing of terrorism — and seems to be all-inclusive in nature. India, in 2002, passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which replaced the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) of 2001, and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). This Act extended the government’s powers in combating terrorism.

However, within a short term, certain measures such as the power to detain terror suspects in custody without bringing them to trial, met with oppositions, resulting in the repealing of the Act. This point clearly indicates the political influences in the vital decision-making process in India. Attack after attack is being taken place in India, resulting in the fatalities of many soldiers.

The nation as a whole condemns such monstrous attacks. However, in actuality, the loss is experienced all the way through only by the families of martyrs. There will be no meaning to the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families if we don’t win over the terrorism. It looks as if the authorities are simply icing an injury without taking any serious action to curb terrorism, permanently. There is a great need that the sovereign authorities should grasp the hostile effect of the recent rise in terrorism. Due to terrorism, in addition to the direct losses, there will also be many indirect losses to the nation. For all these reasons, India needs to have a perpetual policy to curb terrorism, instead of considering the kneejerk actions — the impact of which is not seen over a period of time. For this to happen, keeping aside all the political interests, each and every political party has to join hands.

The nation as a whole is pacific and makes everybody enjoy their own lives. The diligent efforts put in by the Indian Armed Forces and Paramilitary Forces are the basis for such a wonderful life being enjoyed by the entire nation. They strive round the clock to safeguard our boundaries, our skies, and our oceans to ensure a peaceful life for all of us. Yes, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be a soldier! Nonetheless, we can all come together to support the families of the soldiers who laid down their lives for the sake of the nation. Jai Hind!!

The marvellous scientific bestowals of Galileo


Shattering many unsubstantiated beliefs into pieces, the 16th and 17th centuries have unparalleled the scientific way of learning, which was associated with many inventions and discoveries that led to the Scientific Revolution Shattering many unsubstantiated beliefs into pieces, the 16th and 17th centuries have unparalleled the scientific way of learning, which was associated with many inventions and discoveries that led to the Scientific Revolution.

It is accepted all over the world that the Scientific Revolution had begun with the Copernican Revolution and concluded with the grand synthesis of Isaac Newton’s Principia. No doubt that the world saw many pioneers during this period — of which — Galileo Galilei was one of the forerunners. Also Read – Renamed fake accounts spreading political bias on FB Advertise With Us Galileo was born on February 15, 1564, at Pisa in Italy. He turned into a gifted lutenist. As a youngster, he took up the priesthood.

Even though Galileo solemnly considered the priesthood, he had obliged his father’s request and got enrolled for a medical degree in 1580 at the University of Pisa. By chance, in 1581, Galileo noticed a swinging chandelier. He experienced that the air fluxes shifted about to swing in larger and smaller arcs, in accordance with the swinging chandelier. This resulted in him, comparing the oscillations of a chandelier with the heartbeats.

Galileo observed that the chandelier took the same time to swing hither and thither, irrespective of the distance it was swinging. This observation ignited him to work on pendulums. Nearly a century later, his experiments, further undertaken by Christiaan Huygens, yielded the results to create an accurate clock that used the tautochrone nature of oscillations of a pendulum.

Accidentally, Galileo once happened to attend a lecture on geometry. This made him convince his disinclined father to allow him to study mathematics and natural philosophy in preference to medicine. During this period only, he created a thermoscope — a forerunner of the thermometer. Of course, using the expansion and contraction of air in a bulb to move water in an attached tube, Galileo fabricated a thermometer, somewhere around 1593. Additionally, Galileo studied disegno, a subject related to fine arts. In 1588, Galileo achieved the position of an instructor in the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence. Far along, he assumed various positions in numerous universities of that time. Of many original scientific contributions of Galileo, his contributions to the science of motion through an innovative combination of experiment and mathematics are commendable.

Galileo was ever ready to change his views in accordance with his observations. Thus, he was one of the first modern thinkers to evidently state that the laws of nature are mathematical. His mathematical analyses manifested a step ahead towards the ultimate separation of science from both philosophy and religion — this was rather a major development in human thought. Another significant contribution made by Galileo was — he exhibited a contemporary appreciation for the appropriate link between mathematics and both theoretical and experimental physics. In order to perform his experiments, standards of length and time were established by Galileo. This was intended to compare measurements made on different days and in different laboratories in a reproducible manner — reliability could thus be achieved in this way.

It is often believed that Galileo invented the telescope. However, it is not true. The most primitive works on telescope were evidently undertaken by German-Dutch lens maker Hans Lippershey. Though the original inventor is unknown, it is a historical fact that Hans Lippershey applied for the first patent. Nonetheless, Galileo was one of the pioneers to use the telescope for his astronomical observations. In 1609, Galileo made a telescope with approximately three times magnification. His further experiments resulted in the fabrication of improved versions of telescopes with about thirty times magnification.

The observer, using a Galilean telescope, could see magnified and straight images on the Earth. Apart from physics, Galileo made a number of contributions to various fields of engineering. He invented a geometric and the military compass — a very appropriate and useful device for gunners and surveyors. He also discovered something new and very significant concept — satellites of a satellite. This is about the celestial bodies orbiting a body orbiting another. According to this concept, the Earth is a satellite of the Sun; and the Moon is the Satellite of the Earth. In other words, here, the Moon is the satellite of a satellite.

Some other important contributions of Galileo to observational astronomy include the phases of Venus, the four largest satellites of Jupiter, the observation of Saturn and the analysis of sunspots — the interpretations made through a telescopic observation. Despite the fact that Galileo made many scientific contributions, he had also been controversial at that time over heliocentrism.

By 1615, it was proclaimed that Galileo and his followers were endeavouring to reinterpret the Bible. Galileo, the pioneer who is aptly known as the father of observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of the scientific method, and the father of modern science, categorically deserves a commemoration on his birth anniversary for all his marvellous scientific bestowals.

Urgent need to replace ageing aircraft


By Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi | THE HANS INDIA |    Feb 07,2019 , 11:52 PM IST      


Urgent need to replace ageing aircraft

Urgent need to replace ageing aircraftNo sooner the Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft crashed on February 01, 2019 the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has started facing the bank of accountability cloud. The two pilots, Squadron Leader Samir Abrol and Squadron Leader Siddhartha Negi, who were part of Indian Air Force’s Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), were killed in an air crash on that fateful day. 
Over a period of time, the aircraft crash rate has surmounted in India. According to a report on air crashes in India, which took the statistics from 2011 to 2017 into account, the Armed Forces of India have recorded approximately 70 aircraft accidents that resulted in more than 80 causalities. All most all the Court of Inquiry reports identified two major reasons behind these crashes — technical defects and human error.
Soon after the recent fatal air crash, many reactions have inundated from eminent defence personalities. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has been blamed mostly for the abrupt fatal crash of Mirage-2000 fighter jet. Palpably, all the fingers have been pointing towards the HAL. Thus, the eminent Defence PSU (DPSU) has been fully enclosed by the accountability cloud. There is no doubt that based on the previous statistics the crash was likely a technical issue. Nonetheless, without having a comprehensive Court of Inquiry (CoI) report in hand, HAL cannot be blamed just like that.
If we look into the history and growth of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the company can be considered one and the same as the progression of Aeronautical industry in India. Hindustan Aircraft Limited was established on December 23, 1940, and has been into force for more than 78 years in the service of the nation. 
After India’s independence, Aeronautics India Limited (AIL) was established in August 1963 as a fully owned company of the Government of India. Its main aim was to undertake the manufacture of the MIG-21 aircraft under licence. Even before AIL was incorporated, there was an Aircraft Manufacturing Depot (AMD) which was set up in 1960. The purpose of this Air Force unit was to produce the Airframe for the HS-748 transport aircraft. This Air Force unit was transferred to AIL in June 1964. 
Subsequently, the Indian Government had decided to integrate Hindustan Aircraft Limited, with AIL with an idea to conserve resources in the field of aviation. The consolidation of the two companies i.e. Hindustan Aircraft Limited and Aeronautics India Limited was taken place on Oct 01, 1964, by an Amalgamation order issued by the Government of India. 
The resulting organisation was named Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This historical merger supported the activities of all the aircraft manufacturing units to be planned and coordinated in the most efficient and economical manner.
Based on the aforesaid facts, HAL should be considered as an organisation of great stature. Most of the employees who work on aircraft at HAL are the ex-employees of Indian Air Force. So, for obvious reasons, the technicians working at HAL are ultra skilled with a vast experience of hand on the job. 
However, at a time when the aircraft crash rate is transcending, there arises an ill-omened need to analyse the two major reasons behind the crashes — technical defects and human error.
It is said rightly that nothing is eternal in this world. So, it should be very well agreed that every aircraft has to be out-dated when it cannot give its best. Normally, an airframe life for a fighter aircraft lies between 2500 to 8000 hours of flying. The airframe life varies between the cited values, depending upon the dissimilar design objectives and life expectancy objectives of each aircraft. 
Though the airframe life is fixed to a certain value, some aircraft would have to be obsolete even before their airframe life is touched. This could be due to the substantial and optimal use of the aircraft. If not taken seriously, failures may result in structural damage, which is beyond economical repair. 
Under certain circumstances, when the aircraft reaches its life expectancy, making the fretful aircraft obsolete and inducting a new aircraft in place of the obsolete aircraft is the one and the only option a country has. However, many countries opt to keep the obsolete aircraft in force through a life extension programme. Extending the life of an aircraft beyond the life expectancy should be the last option as evidently it results in air crashes. Many numbers of MIG-21 crashes has already proven the aforesaid fact.

In concluding words, it could be rightly said that the accident prevention programmes are giving additional thrust to find risk-prone areas specific to the aircraft fleets and operational environment to ensure safe practices and procedures. However, the lack of an intensive modernisation drive to replace ageing aircraft still remains a major problem.
(Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi – An Air Veteran & A Mass Communicator — Author of More than 10 Mass Media Books)