SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

Air strikes and Defence Preparedness

THE air strikes by India across the Line of Control (LoC) have been accompanied by much chest-thumping by the prime minister, by government and ruling party spokespersons, and camp-follower TV and other media personalities. This despite India’s reluctance or inability to release convincing evidence such as imagery of damage caused to and inside the targeted structures in Jaba Top, or evidence of a Pakistani F-16 fighter brought down during the Pakistani counter-strike. Pakistan has gone to town claiming that only a single crow was killed, and only a few trees were destroyed.

Tech for Democracy in a Brave New Digital World

WITH the elections in the offing, different groups – the Free Software Movement of India, Association for Democratic Reforms, Common Cause, etc – have raised a key issue: how to stop the Indian elections from being distorted by big digital platforms and the enormous influence they exercise over us today. And as “influence” on these platforms can be bought, will Indian elections, already plagued by money power, suffer even further? Added to this, is the enormous ecosystem of fake news, which the BJP, the RSS and its “parivar” has built over the last few years.

The Discontents of the Data Universe

IN 2011, in Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) hailed the birth of a new “asset class” – data. Going into raptures, they proclaimed data as the new oil. The WEF love for data has only grown with time. In 2019 it has declared that data is not merely oil, it is “super oil”: unlike the universe of oil, which is bound to the physical world and therefore finite, super oil or the data universe, is unbounded and growing exponentially. As long as machines can produce and consume ever larger amounts of data, the immaterial world of money and data can expand infinitely.

The Strange Spectacle of WTO Negotiations being Launched in WEF, Davos

THE US, European Union (EU) and its allies are part of a 76-country “WTO initiative” on “trade related aspects of e-commerce”. Strangely enough, this initiative was launched in the World Economic Forum at Davos, and not in any WTO fora. This “initiative” was discussed a number of times in WTO including the last ministerial in Buenos Aires in 2017, where also it was rejected. The developing countries including India had argued that without any agreement on Doha development agenda, WTO could not take up other issues.

Remembering the Republic, Planning and Science in the Times of Unreason

INDIA became a republic on January 26, 1950, when the constitution, steered by Babasaheb Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly, came into effect. It is the constitution that guarantees that all sections of people – irrespective of race, religion or caste – have full rights to the nation, including the right to a decent standard of living. It is this vision of democracy and a secular republic that is under threat today.

Raksha Mantri on HAL & Rafale: Misdirection and Alternative Facts

RAKSHA Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman’s long and tortured statements in the Lok Sabha on January 4 and 7, 2019 during the debate on the Rafale scandal followed the by now well-established pattern of the government’s, and her own, responses to the storm of criticism and charges against the Modi government. These charges were made by a wide range of defence experts, other commentators, eminent concerned citizens and opposition political parties.

Science Will Survive the Modi Regime, Will Science Institutions?

THIS year also, the Indian Science Congress held in Jalandhar, covered itself with shame; as it has been doing for the last few years. Venkataramanan Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, had called it a circus for discussing in Mumbai session of the science congress the irrational: ancient India had aircrafts, genetic engineering, etc. This tradition of celebrating mumbo jumbo as science from the Dinanath Batra School of Nonsense continues, with more and more outrageous claims being paraded each year in the science congress.

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