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Showing posts from December 17, 2016

Our failed education policy needs urgent reform(livemint )

We end the year with the Narendra Modi government just completing the first half of its tenure. A good time for a midterm review. But any such review will inevitably be dominated by the consequences of the demonetization shock (see my previous column, Mint, 18 November). Moving beyond these short-term preoccupations, what is the single most important policy reform the government should address during the remaining half of its tenure? I would submit that it is the need to reform our failed education policy. The rest of this article explains why that is so.

Two overarching challenges face the Indian economy over the long term. One is the challenge of a rapidly deteriorating environment, including the scarcity of fresh water, which I leave aside in this article. The other is the spectre of unemployment or, more accurately, underemployment. There are multiple factors that account for the slow growth of productive jobs, ranging from poor infrastructure to poor governance to the anti-emplo…

Collateral damage of demonetisation(livemint)

Indians prefer using cash for good reason. Cash keeps the economy moving even when there is a power cut and bank branches are shut, or when automated teller machines are not working. Cash doesn’t rely on how far a bank branch is from where you live or work; cash doesn’t require you to remember complicated passwords, and cash works even when telecom networks are shut down because of unspecified terror threats, and even where cellphone network is spotty. The woman who sells vegetables at your doorstep wants only cash. The man delivering milk won’t accept a cheque. Some shops don’t accept cards. Cash is the language of transactions, with which you, and millions of others, are used to conducting business daily. Cash is trusted, understood, legal; keeping it is legal; it is yours.

But only just. The government has taken a series of measures that have undermined the value of cash. You do technically have money in your account, but the choice of how much you can take out or spend is being tak…

Nasa study says dwarf planet Ceres is flush with ice(livemint)

San Francisco: The dwarf planet Ceres, an enigmatic rocky body inhabiting the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is rich with ice just beneath its dark surface, scientists said in research that may shed light on the early history of the solar system.

The discovery, reported in a pair of studies published in the journals Science and Nature Astronomy, could bolster fledgling commercial endeavours to mine asteroids for water and other resources for robotic and eventual human expeditions beyond the moon.

Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres, the largest of thousands of rocky bodies located in the main asteroid belt, since March 2015 following 14-month study of Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt.

The studies show that Ceres is about 10% water, now frozen into ice, according to physicist Thomas Prettyman of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, one of the researchers.

Examining the makeup of solar system objects like Ceres provides insight in…

Why the 1971 war failed to bring peace{livemint)

On this day, 45 years ago, Lt General A.A.K. Niazi of the Pakistan Eastern Command signed an instrument of surrender accepting defeat at the hands of Indian forces. A photograph capturing the historical moment was gifted by Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s visit to Dhaka in June last year. The gesture was widely resented in Pakistan. It is not surprising that past wars continue to divide the imagination of nation states to the present day. For instance, ritual offerings by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead invariably invite rebukes from both China and South Korea—the two countries see the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

However, if the formerly warring nations have transformed their relationship, the symbols of war need not be shunned indefinitely. They can indeed be embraced to bring about a closure. It was in such a spirit that US President Barack Obama…

Pakistan not to accept any modifications, changes in Indus Waters Treaty{livemint)

Islamabad: Pakistan has said it would not accept any modifications or changes in the Indus Waters Treaty after India strongly pitched for bilateral redressal of differences with it while implementing the 56-year-old accord.

“Pakistan will not accept any modifications or changes to the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). Our position is based on the principles enshrined in the treaty. And the treaty must be honoured in...letter and spirit,” Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Dawn News.

His remarks came after India strongly pitched for bilateral redressal of differences with Pakistan while implementing the Indus Waters Treaty.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said on Thursday that given the will, there is no reason why the technical design parameters on which Pakistan has raised objections cannot be sorted out by experts from both sides on projects like Kishenganga. India believes that these consultations should be given adeq…

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat named new army chief; Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa to head IAF(livemint)

New Delhi: Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat, the vice chief of the Indian Army, will be the next army chief, succeeding General Dalbir Singh Suhag. Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa will be the next Indian Air Force (IAF) chief after Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha relinquishes office on 31 December, the defence ministry announced on Saturday. Although the ministry makes the announcement 60 days before the officer relieves office, the government put an end to speculations that had earlier been doing the rounds about probable successors to the post. However, Lt Gen Rawat has 13 days to acquaint himself with the office of the Army chief, before General Suhag steps aside. Likewise, Air Marshal Dhanoa has just the same amount of time before his predecessor Air Marshal Arup Raha retires. Lt Gen Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, from Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’. Following that, he gai…

How do you measure success?(livemint)

Last week was an excruciatingly tough one. The onus for which lies at the doors of Kavi Arasu, my friend and colleague at Founding Fuel.
Now, Kavi is a professionally certified coach. He insisted that all of us on the team take three days out for a quarterly review to reflect, align and plan.
The only caveats he had was that no matter what our obligations be, we complete some pre-work he had circulated, our phones be kept away, all prejudices be kept out at the door and we stay engaged with everybody else in the room. As is his wont, what his intent was remained mysterious.
I work in an extremely interesting environment. For lack of a better phrase, allow me to call it a “coalition of the willing”. The in-house team is tight and lean. All of us come from different backgrounds. And the various layers to the business are built on the back of collaborations. It rests on one pillar—trust.
On a more pragmatic note, Kavi had one more pressing reason to insist on the retreat. Data suggested…