30 September 2015

Time to relook RESERVATION

Leaders of different communities had so much confidence in the fairness of the country when it won freedom, that none of them wanted caste-based reservation system. The Muslim leaders rejected then home minister Sardar Patel's offer of a 15 per cent quota in government jobs and education institutions. Their argument was that reservation fostered a parochial thinking. The country had paid an enormous price in the shape of partition for the communal electorate introduced by the British.

Then law minister B R Ambedkar, himself a Dalit, said that his community did not want to walk with the help of crutches all their lives. After a lot of pressure, Ambedkar was persuaded to accept reservation for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes for 10 years. Little did he know then that reservation would become a permanent feature because of the vote bank it provided?

It is unfortunate that the caste system, even after hundreds of years, remains an integral part of the Hindu society. The Dalits are still at the lowest rung of the ladder. It is an open secret that rural areas have separate habitations for the Dalits, at a considerable distance from where the upper castes live. Now, a debate has begun on whether reservation needed a relook, but not on the discrimination which is still practiced against the Dalits, openly and unashamedly.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's suggestion has jolted the status quo so much that the BJP has distanced itself from the proposal of another look at reservations. The vested interests continue to be decisive. Many Dalits have embraced Islam to escape discrimination. But some have found, to their horror, that the tag of discrimination stays with them even in the casteless Islam once classification is acquired.

True, many pronouncements, some by the law courts, have pointed out that the "creamy layer" should, at least, be barred from reservation. But they are the most vocal and most influential. This explains why the RSS chief remains a lonely figure in the entire Sangh parivar.

His disappointment must have increased after Rajasthan, a BJP-run state, gave quota to the poor in the upper castes. This humanistic gesture reads well but it is against what the constitution makers had in mind. They gave reservations only to the Dalits because the Hindu society, for centuries, had denied them the basic dues. It was a sort of repentance translated into concessions.

There were poor among the upper castes even at that time. But both Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were able to persuade the Constituent Assembly that the upper caste must do the penance for the excesses committed. The state is violating the Supreme Court's directive that reservation should not exceed the limit of 50 per cent. Unfortunately, this malady is spreading. It is comical to see today that the Patels, a well-off, upper caste business community, is demanding reservation. The government in Gujarat, again run by the BJP, is dealing severely with the 22-year-old maverick leader Hardik Patel who is agitating for reservations for the Patels.

Other states are keenly watching whether Rajasthan and Gujarat will get away with the quota because they have the same thing in mind. The Narendra Modi government should have taken the BJP-run states, particularly Rajasthan, to task because the entire federal structure faces danger of a collapse. The Modi government has a strange kind of confidence that when the chips are down, all states, with a predominant Hindu majority population, will not go to the brink.

Probably, Modi will use the whip of discipline after the Assembly election in Bihar. Any kind of action at this time, when the state is only a few weeks away from polling, can boomerang and harm the BJP's fortunes. However, time has come when all political parties should sit together to ponder over reservation on the basis of caste and creed. A constitutional position for only 10 years has become permanent. All parties support the continuation whenever such a constitutional amendment comes before parliament.

Demolish caste barriers

A country which has the word 'secularism' in the preamble of its constitution should break the shackles of caste. Socialism requires the demolition of caste barriers. The ruling BJP should initiate a legislation to lay down the criteria on the basis of economic status. A poor Brahmin is no less deserving than a Dalit. What about the Muslims? The Sachar Committee pointed out that their condition has been worse than that of the Dalits. With the soft-Hindutva embracing the country, the future of minorities is becoming more and more questionable.

If there was a survey, it would underline the fact that unemployment among the Muslims is rising. Since they cannot afford good schools, they figure less in jobs through competitive examinations. They are not even a fraction of some 18 per cent of population in the country. Their backwardness should be a matter of concern. Idle hands take to desperate methods. What is more important than anything else is to foster social relations between Hindus and Muslims. The togetherness witnessed during Diwali or Eid is missing. Mixed localities have become fewer.

Take, for instance, the debate over Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose files. It unnecessarily became an emotional issue. For days, the entire nation was engrossed in discussing whether the files should be made public or not. The nation suddenly became oblivious to the basic issue of development. It must keep uppermost in its mind that one-third of Indians go to bed with just one meal in 24 hours.

The Modi government has ruled the country for more than one and a half years. Its promise to give livelihood to all remains as distant as it was on the day Modi took the oath to assume power. Except for the usual rhetoric, there is nothing on the ground to indicate that his promise of "sab ka saath, sab ka vikas" is near implementation. The nation is still waiting.

What is the Indian Financial Code

The revised draft of Indian Financial Code, released on 23 July 2015, has already made to the headlines, as it proposes to dilute the RBI Governor's power; he may no longer have the power to veto policy rates.
The major change as of now is that there will be four members appointed by the central government and three from RBI, earlier the ratio was other way around.
The IFC bill is expected to table in the Winter session of the parliament. The Parliament will finalise the code, which will eventually find its way to the Union Cabinet for approval.  
What is the Indian Financial Code? How does it work? 
The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) was set up on March 24, 2011, for re-writing the Code to regulate the financial sector and introduce principles for financial regulation and the constitution, objectives, powers and interaction of financial agencies. Its aim was also to bring about coherence and efficacy in the financial regulatory framework.
In 2013, the commission, headed by Justice BN Srikrishna, submitted its report in two volumes, which included 'Analysis and Recommedation' and 'Draft Law'. The revised draft in twenty parts will strive to regulate financial agencies.
Under this Act, the Financial Sector Appellate Tribunal was established to exercise the jurisdiction, powers and authority conferred upon it.
According to the Act, the general direction and management of the financial agencies will be vested in the respective boards -- the Financial Authority Board for the Financial Authority, the Reserve Bank Board for the Reserve Bank, the Redress Agency Board, with respect to the Redress Agency, the Corporation Board for the Corporation; the Council Board for the Council and the Debt Agency Board, with respect to the Debt Agency.
The Code deals with the establishment of financial agencies, establishment and structure of the tribunal, allocation and regulation of financial services.
A part of it discusses the functioning of financial agencies, such as boards of financial agencies, strength and composition of boards; decision making, advisory councils, accountability mechanisms and funding for financial agencies.
It also mentions the disposal of applications, information and inspections, investigations and offences as executive functions of financial agencies. These financial agencies also have quasi-judicial functions -- administrative law, show cause notices and orders, enforcement actions, procedure for enforcement actions and penalties. 
Moreover, the Code also clarifies financial consumer protection, prudential regulation, contracts, trading and market abuse, capital controls, resolution of financial service providers, financial stability and development council,  development (provisions for review), public debt management  agency, offences, functions, powers and duties of tribunal, miscellaneous, and schedules. 

The finance ministry has put out a revised draft in public domain and invited comments from stakeholders.

The commission proposes a financial regulatory architecture featuring six agencies:
(a) Financial Authority;
(b) Reserve Bank of India;
(c) Financial Redress Agency;
(d) Resolution Corporation;
(e) Financial Stability and Development Council; and
(f) Public Debt Management Agency

The 10 big changes the revised draft of the Indian Financial Code proposes could change the functioning of the Indian financial sector


Now: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and within the central bank it is the governor who enjoys absolute power in deciding interest rate

Proposed: The committee approach to decide interest rate where government will appoint four members, while three will be from RBI

Impact: RBI loses its power to decide interest rate. If autonomy of RBI is compromised in the eye of investors, it could have serious implications


Now: The central bank - investment banker for the government - manages its debt

Proposed: An independent debt management agency to manage government's borrowing

Impact: Conflict of interest issues are overblown on either side. There will be some conflict whether RBI or government manages it. But an independent debt management agency, with external professionals from the beginning could turn out to be risky, as they will not have experience of managing government debt


Now: The Financial Stability & Development Council (FSDC), was set up in December 2010 to strengthen and institutionalise the mechanism for maintaining financial stability, and enhancing inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development. The chairman of FSDC is the finance minister, with all the sectoral regulators as members. FSDC also focuses on financial literacy and financial inclusion

Proposed: FSDC to identify and monitor systemic risk. To take all required action to eliminate or mitigate systemic risk

Impact: In the US and UK, macro prudential regulation and supervision are a mandate of the central bank. Limiting the universe of systemic risk tools to three could be an area of concern, as more such risks could be evolving. The central bank, being the monetary policy authority and the only lender of last resort, is the natural choice for being the systemic regulator


Now: RBI is the regulator for the banking system, as well as non-banking finance companies and primary dealers

Proposed: RBI continues to be the banking regulator and for systematically important payment systems but non-bank credit institutions will be regulated by the Financial Authority. The Financial Authority will also regulate all financial products

Impact: Could lead to fragmentation of regulation and give rise to regulatory arbitrage. There is a view that RBI should oversee non-bank financial entities like insurance and mutual fund companies due to their interconnectedness with the banking system


Now: RBI is the regulator of prepaid payment instruments and has laid regulatory norms for payments banks

Proposed: Only systematically important payments systems will be regulated by RBI

Impact: Many new players are emerging with rapid product innovations. The full impact of all these on financial stability and monetary policy are not clear. RBI, which is the regulator of the payment and settlement systems of the country, could lose some power to oversee this function


Now: While RBI has an ombudsman and insists on banks treating their customers fairly, banks routinely flout norms and mis-sell products. The penalties levied by RBI on banks for violating norms related to mis-selling of financial products to consumers are the bare minimum

Proposed: A separate consumer agency is proposed to protect and promote the interests of consumers and promote public awareness of matters relating to financial products and services

Impact: A welcome step to protect consumer interest, as the regulator is unable to both regulate and solve disputes in a time-bound manner


Now: The present law under FEMA vests the power of capital account regulation with RBI. In practice, the government and RBI consult before initiating a policy measure. While the government takes decisions on various issues, like foreign direct investment, the notification is issued by the central bank

Proposed: The government will "consult" RBI to make rules on capital controls (section 241). This consultation will cover the problem to be addressed, the goal sought to be achieved and the alternatives available to address problems and achieve goals. RBI will work as an administrator to implement rules. The draft code empowers the government to prescribe rules to seek its nod for capital account transactions which affect national security

Impact: The present practice of both the government and RBI being involved in deciding capital control has served the country well, particularly during the global financial crisis and the Asian crisis. The conduct of monetary policy will be weakened if capital control regulation is taken out from the central bank. Interestingly, the code is silent on the issue of financial stability


Now: RBI regulates all these markets

Proposed: Separating regulation of such markets from RBI

Impact: In India, the exchange rate and interest rate are not fully market-determined. Due to the high fiscal deficit of the government, statutory liquidity ratio of banks are not going to come down in the near future. Since volatile capital flows impact such markets, the central bank should have a role in regulating these markets


Now: Current regulatory decision-making process lacks transparency

Proposed: The annual reports of RBI and the central government must give a complete disclosure and analysis of the performance of functions by the central government and RBI. They must include the total number of approvals granted, the applications rejected and the time taken for disposal of each application. The FSDC must also publish in its annual report all significant trends identified in the financial system and an assessment of the stability and resilience of the financial system

Impact: These disclosures will bring about much-needed transparency and will reduce information asymmetry that currently plagues the system


Now: There is no Resolution Corporation. The regulator has complete power over resolution of institutions

Proposed: The new code proposes to establish a Resolution Corporation to carry out resolution of certain types of financial institutions in distress. The corporation can take over the entity if it is classified in the category of critical risk. It can also inspect an entity independently, if it opines that the regulator's assessment of risk to viability of a covered service is incorrect

Impact: This is likely to speed up the process of resolution. Currently, this process is time-consuming, as was seen in the case of the Madhavpura Merchantile Cooperative Bank. This proposal is in line with similar institutions in other countries

29 September 2015

Wages for the parliamentarians

The idea of creating an Emoluments Commission to recommend salaries and allowances for Members of Parliament has not come a day too soon. The pay and reimbursements drawn by lawmakers may not be unusually high in India by global standards, but two points have been agitating the people in recent times: the power enjoyed by legislators to fix their own salaries and the loss suffered by the exchequer as day after day is lost to parliamentary logjam, resulting in MPs drawing daily allowances through whole sessions during which no business is transacted. In this backdrop, the proposal of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to establish an independent, three-member commission to fix the pay and allowances of parliamentarians is a sign that the government and the elected members themselves are sensitive to growing concern about the public expenditure incurred in their name. The proposal is on the agenda of the All-India Whips’ Conference to be held in Visakhapatnam, and may form the basis for future legislation to de-link members of the legislature from the process of fixing their emoluments. Members of Parliament currently draw a monthly salary of Rs. 50,000, a constituency allowance of Rs. 45,000 and a sumptuary allowance of Rs. 15,000. They may also hire secretarial assistance for Rs. 30,000. They are entitled to daily allowances and travel concessions besides other perquisites. The present levels of pay and allowances, however, have not been revised since 2010.
If an independent body is created for the purpose, India will be following the example of the United Kingdom, where an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been created by law to oversee and regulate ‘business costs’ or the expenditure incurred by lawmakers in their parliamentary functions, and fix their pay and pension. Such a mechanism may help put an end to criticism, and sometimes public outcry, over legislators rewarding themselves with pay hikes and additional allowances from time to time. In a country where public life is associated in the popular imagination with unbridled greed, and parliamentary representation is seen as a means to amass wealth, it will be tempting to wonder why lawmakers need a salary at all, or, looking at legislative work often coming to a standstill, to question the present pay structure or the need for regular revision. However, payment for legislative work is an important element in attracting public-spirited citizens to participative democracy. As a general principle, pay ought not to be the primary attraction for elective office, nor the privileges and perquisites that come with it. At the same time, it cannot be so low as to be a disincentive to the public for entering the legislature. An independent pay panel for parliamentarians is surely a welcome proposal.

The Indian Navy is all set to welcome INS Kochi

The Indian Navy is all set to welcome INS Kochi, a second ship of the Kolkata-class Guided Missile Destroyer, in its contingent on September 30.
Here are the top features of The indigenously-designed ship.
1INS Kochi weighs over 7500 tonnes, spanning over 164 meters in length and 17 meters at the bean. It is propelled by four gas turbines and designed to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots.
2The ship is loaded with long-range BrahMos surface-to- surface missile.
3It has 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) and AK 630 Close In Weapon System (CIWS) designed to take on air and surface targets.
4INS Kochi's anti-submarine arsenal consists of Indigenous Rocket Launchers (IRL), Indigenous Twin-tube Torpedo Launchers (ITTL) and bow-mounted new generation HUMSA Sonar Dome.
5It is equipped to operate two Sea King or Chetak helicopters.

28 September 2015

Centre forms expert committee to review civil services exam pattern

An expert committee has been formed by the government to examine various issues related to age relaxation, eligibility, syllabus and pattern of the civil services examination to select IAS and IPS officers.
“The committee will look into all aspects of civil services examination,” Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Sunday.
Based on the report of the committee, further changes in the civil services exam pattern would be considered with the primary objective of providing a level playing field to aspirants from diverse streams like mathematics, engineering, medicine and humanities, he said. Till such time as the recommendations of the committee were received and the government subsequently took a decision, the General Studies Paper-II (also known as CSAT) in the preliminary examination would remain a qualifying paper, with the minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33 per cent.
Meanwhile, the government’s decision taken last year to exclude the English portion, accounting for 22 marks in the General Studies Paper-II, from tabulation continued to remain in force, he told PTI here.
The panel has been formed as a follow-up to a decision taken by the government in May this year, said Mr. Singh, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
The panel would be headed by the former Chhattisgarh cadre IAS officer B.S. Baswan and consist of leading academicians, technocrats and senior bureaucrats, officials said.
Mr. Singh recalled that soon after the Narendra Modi government took over on May 26, 2014, it was confronted with the demands from across the country for revisiting the pattern and syllabus of the civil services examination.
It was being alleged that the present syllabus and pattern tended to benefit students from mathematics and engineering backgrounds, he said.
The decision to revise the civil services exam pattern was path-breaking and was aimed at achieving the basic objective of ensuring that the best and the most deserving got the opportunity to become a part of the administrative set up of rapidly developing 21st century India.
The civil services examination is conducted annually in three stages — preliminary, main and interview. — PTI

B.S. Baswan (IAS)
Shri B.S. Baswan (IAS)
Director, IIPA. Former Secretary, Sec & Hr Edu, MHRD
Currently Director, Indian Institute of Planning & Administration and Former Secretary, Department of Secondary and Higher Education, MHRD, Govt. of India.

Educated in various prestigious institutions in Indian and Abroad - Eaton House Preparatory School, London. The Doon School, Dehradun St. Stephen's College, Delhi Elphinstone College, Bombay Victoria University, Manchester (UK) Banff School of Advanced Management, Canada and Fellow in the Victoria University, Manchester (UK) 1976-77 for a post graduate programme on Public Administration Training Methodology

After training in the National Academy of Administration (Mussoorie) he served for Govt. of M.P. and Govt. of India under various capacities/positions.
Assistant Collector (Under Trg.) Bilaspur (M.P.) - 1967 to 1969; Sub-Divisional Officer & Sub-Divisional Magistrate at Korba, Mungeli and Jashpur, Addl. Excise Commissioner (MP), Gwalior; Addl. Excise Commissioner (MP), Gwalior, Collector & District Magistrate, Rajgarh.

Some of the key positions in the Govt.: Director, Lalbahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie; Commissioner, Higher Education, Govt. of M.P., Director, Institute of Secretariat Training and Management, Govt of India; Joint Secretary(Training), Ministry of Personnel, Govt. of India, DFID/World Bank Consultant for Forest Policy – 1999; Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, Govt of India; Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (Ministry of Chemicals and Petrochemicals), Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice& Empowerment, Govt of India; and finally he retired as Education Secretary, Government of India

After post retirement he also served as Fellow, Singapore Institute of Arbitrators / Academic work, and  as Senior Consultant, Planning Commission, Govt. of India.

The challenge of skills and jobs

The scale of the skilling challenge that India faces, and the urgency involved, have been palpable for some time, but new official data put into cold numbers the extent of the problem. Fewer than one in 10 adult Indians has had any form ofvocational training, and even among those who have, the type of training is not the sort of formal skilling that employers seek – the majority had either acquired a hereditary skill or learned on the job. Just 2.2 per cent in all had received formal vocational training. In comparison, 75 per cent of the workforce in Germany and 80 per cent in Japan has received formal skills training. Even among the BRICS countries, India lags behind – nearly half the Chinese workforce, for example, is skilled. Very few Indians get a technical education in medicine, engineering or agriculture; fewer than one in ten Indians is a graduate, and among those who are graduates, the majority get undergraduate degrees in arts, science or commerce. The problem is more acute in rural areas and for women. Without access to affordable and appropriate skills training, young people, particularly those leaving rural areas and small towns for big cities, will be stuck in low-wage, insecure jobs that will leave them in want or poverty.
The Narendra Modi government has made skills and jobs one of its focus areas from the beginning of its term. In July, the Prime Minister launched an ambitious mission to impart skills training to 40 crore people by 2022, and the new government has a dedicated Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The problem is that the previous government talked the same talk on skills but was able to achieve precious little; the proportion of young adults who had received vocational training was virtually unchanged between 2004-05 and 2011-12. There isn’t any clear evidence yet that the new government is charting out a radically new path on skills. There remain multiple decision-making authorities on skills and little clarity about who exactly will do the work. Promises of corporate and foreign partnerships on skilling are pouring in, but how these mass skilling programmes will take off is unclear. Employers complain that job-seekers do not have the skills they look for; there is little evidence yet that curricula with these objectives in mind have been designed, or that new and affordable training institutes have been set up on a mass scale. Job creation has not kept pace with India’s demographic momentum, and that will in the coming days pose a problem for a skilled workforce. But let’s not put the cart before the horse – a poorly trained young workforce can neither bring workers out of poverty nor help a country grow quickly.

ASTROSAT, India’s unique space observatory

Till date, Indian astronomers had to rely on international resources for X-ray and ultraviolet data. But that is all set to change.

The launch of Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) ASTROSAT telescope today (September 28) will be a shot in the arm for astronomers, particularly those in India. This is the first time India is launching a space observatory.
But that is not the only reason why the ASTROSAT telescope is so special. Unlike most other telescopes, the five instruments (payloads) of ASTROSAT can observe a wider variety of wavelengths — from visible light to the ultraviolet and X-ray bands. Even in the X-ray band, it can study both low and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Most other satellites are capable of observing only a narrow range of wavelength band.
“The capability to cover the full spectrum of wavelength simultaneously is the unique feature of ASTROSAT,” said Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai, Director of ISRO Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.
“ASTROSAT is not the first of its kind but is the best so far. It is the best all rounder in the world. It is a one-stop shop for studying astronomical sources,” said Dr. Varun Bhalerao, Post Doctoral Fellow at the Pune-based Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA).
“Astronomical sources change in all time scales. So if I were to take data in optical light one day and X-ray the next day from different telescopes, each day I will be seeing something different. So can’t put the picture together. To understand all of that I must see the object in all different bands of light at the same time. The ASTROSAT telescope will allow me to do this. That is its uniqueness,” said Dr. Bhalerao.
India does have ground-based telescopes (including the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope near Pune and the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Ladakh). But like all other ground-based telescopes, these can only detect radio waves and infrared radiation as they penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. However, in the case of higher frequency radiations, the atmosphere tends to block most ultraviolet light and all X-rays and gamma-rays.
“The atmosphere blocks most UV light and all X-ray from the Sun. But for other stars which are very far away, the intensity of UV light and X-ray is not much and the atmosphere completely blocks all UV light and X-ray,” Dr. Bhalerao said.
Hence, a space-based observatory like ASTROSAT will be of immense value to researchers based in India. “Ground-based telescopes and the space observatory will complement each other,” Dr. Bhalerao said.
Till date, Indian astronomers had to rely on international resources for X-ray and ultraviolet data. “Without a space telescope of their own, Indian scientists have had to rely on ones operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study such radiation bands, which carry information about exotic neutron stars, newly born or exploding stars and the spiralling hot gases around black holes,” notes Nature.
But that is all set to change. “For the first time, we will be getting data from our own Indian X-ray and ultraviolet telescope. That makes a lot of difference,” Dr. Bhalerao said. “We need not have to go to NASA and other agencies. But we will continue to collaborate.”
It is for the first time that a majority of instruments (payloads) of the ASTROSAT had come from outside ISRO. “The combined mass of the payloads is more than the mass of the satellite,” said Dr. Annadurai. “At 850 kg, the payload mass is more than 60 per cent of the mass of the satellite.”
Generally, the payload mass is less than 10 per cent of the mass of the satellite, like in the case of Chandrayaan-1. It was less in the case of Mars Orbiter Mission Mangalyaan. “Because of the lower orbit, ASTROSAT can afford to have heavier payloads,” Dr. Annadurai explained. Though designed to orbit at 650 km above the Earth for five years, there is great likelihood that like most other telescopes, ASTROSAT too would last much longer.
Scientific objectives
The scientific objectives of ASTROSAT mission are to (1) understand high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, (2) estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars, (3) study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond our galaxy, (4) detect new briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky and (5) perform a limited deep field survey of the Universe in the ultraviolet region.
Explaining how the magnetic field of neutron stars will be measured, Dr. Bhalerao said: “The frequency with which electrons spiral around a magnetic field depends on the strength of the magnetic field. Whatever frequency they are spiralling they scatter light at that frequency. So in the case of neutron stars, the frequency of electron spiralling matches high-energy X-ray light.”
Dr. Bhalerao has been studying neutron stars using high-energy X-ray wavelengths with NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Array (NuSTAR) satellite at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He was part of the team that built the NuSTAR satellite. “To understand what is happening on neutron star, must study in both low- and high-energy X-ray,” Dr. Bhalerao said. “With NuSTAR, you need to pair up with other satellites that study lower energy X-ray. Each satellite has its own time allotment issue. Though the same process of time allotment will happen with ASTROSAT, we will get data from all energies from a single satellite.”
According to ISRO, to fulfil these objectives the ASTROSAT carries the following five payloads.
(1) The Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT, capable of observing the sky in the Visible, Near Ultraviolet and Far Ultraviolet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
(2) Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter (LAXPC, is designed for study the variations in the emission of X-rays from sources like X-ray binaries, Active Galactic Nuclei and other cosmic sources.
(3) Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT) is designed for studying how the X-ray spectrum of 0.3-8 keV range coming from distant celestial bodies varies with time.
(4) Cadmium Zinc Telluride Imager (CZTI), functioning in the X-ray region, extends the capability of the satellite to sense X-rays of high energy in 10-100 keV range.
(5) Scanning Sky Monitor (SSM) is intended to scan the sky for long term monitoring of bright X-ray sources in binary stars, and for the detection and location of sources that become bright in X-rays for a short duration of time. According to Dr. Bhalerao, LAXPC is the best X-ray timing instrument so far. “Astronomical objects cannot be controlled. If you want to study something in a star, must catch it in its act. So it is important to monitor the sky,” he said about the Scanning Sky Monitor.
“For some researchers, the satellite’s X-ray detection capability will fill the gap left when NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellite died in 2012, after 16 years of operations,” notes Nature.“ASTROSAT’s X-ray detectors can also cope with very bright objects that would saturate those on other satellites such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory or ESA’s X-ray Multi-Mirror (XXM-Newton) mission.”

FM rings bell, formalises Sebi-FMC merger

In the first ever merger of two regulators, over 60-year-old commodities regulatory body today merged with the capital watchdog with Finance Minister ringing the customary stock market bell to formalise the amalgamation.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) Chairman said that the commodities market entities would get a timeframe of up to one year to adjust to the new regulations as they would have to follow the same norms that are applicable to their peers in the segment.

"In order to ensure that nothing is disrupted, there is no discontinuity... We are giving some timeframe so that they can adjust with the new regulations," Sinha said.

The Sebi chief also said that the entire process has "all been very well thought out" and the regulator has also brought out a handbook for the benefit of all entities by making them aware about various rules and regulations.

Sebi's whole-time member Rajeev Kumar Agarwal would oversee the commodities market regulation in the merged entity under the overall guidance of the Sebi Chairman.

At the event, Department of Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das said, "Unleashing the process of reforms is a continuous process. We don't wait for the Budget."

Sebi was set up in 1988 as a non-statutory body for regulating the securities markets, while it became an autonomous body in 1992 with fully independent powers.

FMC, on the other hand, has been regulating commodities markets since 1953, but lack of powers has led to wild fluctuations and alleged irregularities remaining untamed in this market segment.

The commodities market has been known to be more prone to speculative activities compared to the better-regulated stock market, while illegal activities like 'dabba trading' have also been more frequent in this segment.

Besides, the high-profile NSEL scam has rocked this market in the recent past and the subsequent regulatory and government interventions in this case eventually led to the government announcing FMC's merger with Sebi.

The announcement for the merger was made by the Finance Minister in his Budget speech earlier this year and he rung the customary bell today to formalise the merger.

This is the first major case of two regulators being merged, as against the relatively more frequent practice worldwide of creating new regulatory authorities, including by carving out new bodies from the existing entities.

At present, there are three national and six regional bourses for commodity futures in the country.

Together, all the exchanges clocked a turnover of nearly Rs 60 lakh crore in 2014-15, from over Rs 101 lakh crore in the previous fiscal.

Isro's PSLV carrying Astrosat launched successfully

Isro's PSLV carrying Astrosat launched successfully
Launch puts India in a select group of countries that have their own space observatory satellite

5 things to know about space observatory satellite Astrosat

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) today successfully launched the satellite. Through this launch, India has joined select group of countries that have their own space observatory satellite. Here are five things you need to know about Astrosat:

* This is India’s first attempt at setting up an observatory in space, a place from where it can study cosmological phenomena.

* Mission is aimed at obtaining data that will help in a better understanding of the universe. Mission is to study astronomical phenomena. Astrosat is carrying five payloads, including an ultraviolet imaging telescope (UVIT).

* Astrosat is generally described as India’s version of the Hubble telescope that NASA had put in space in 1990. But experts say it is not right to call Astrosat India's Hubble as the NASA version is 10 times heavier than Astrosat and is said to cost $2.5 billion, while India's satellite costs around Rs 180 crore.

* Astrosat will put in a very exclusive club of nations that have space-based observatories. Only the United States, European Space Agency, Japan and Russia have such observatories in space. 

* For the third time an Indian rocket will be launching seven satellites in a single mission. In 2008, Isro had launched 10 satellites in one go, including India's Cartosate-2A satellite. 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) today successfully launched the Astrosat satellite, marking India's entry into a select group of countries that have their own space observatory satellite. 

will help India study distant celestial objects and enhance our knowledge about the universe, said officials.

At 10 am, Isro's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’s XL variant (PSLV-XL) took off from the first launch pad at Sriharikotta Space Station, around 90 km from Chennai, with seven satellites having a cumulative weigh of 1,631 kg.
Just over 22 minutes into the flight, the rocket launched Astrosat into orbit at an altitude of 650 km above the earth. Soon after, six other satellites were put into orbit. The entire mission was over in just over 25 minutes.

The unique feature of Astrostat is that it will provide simultaneous multi-wavelength observation of various astronomical objects from a single satellite. 
The Rs 180-crore Astrosat will observe the universe through optical, ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray components of the electromagnetic spectrum, whereas most other scientific satellites are capable of observing them through a narrow wavelength band. 

"What happened so far is, our scientific community needed to get data from satellites launched by others, now they can get it from Astrostat, which is our indigenous satellite," said A S Kiran Kumar, chairman, Isro.

S Unnikrishnan Nair, project director, Isro said that Astrostat is a gift to the world in the area of astronomy.

The life span of Astrosat is estimated to be around five years. 

"The satellite is doing fine after separation and the satellite centre has confirmed that intended auto operation that has to happen after separation like solar panel deployment and others went well. In coming days payloads will start commissioning one by one, starting from the eight day," said K Suryanarayana Sharma, project director, Astrosat.

With the successful launch of Astrosat, India has joined US, Japan, Russia and Europe, which have their own space observatory satellites.

Other satellites

The rocket also carried six other foreign satellites - four from the US and one each from Indonesia and Canada. This is the first time an Indian rocket is carrying US satellites. 

Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Isro, signed a deal to put into orbit nine American nano/micro satellites by the end of 2016. While four US satellites have been put into orbit on Monday, the remaining five would be launcged on a bigger satellite later.

The Indonesian 76 kg LAPAN-A2 is a micro-satellite from the Institute of Aeronautics and Space, meant for providing maritime surveillance using automatic identification system (AIS), supporting Indonesian radio amateur communities for disaster mitigation and carrying out earth surveillance using video and digital camera. 

The 14 kg NLS-14 (Ev9) of Space Flight Laboratory, University of Toronto Institute for Advanced Studies, is also a maritime monitoring Canadian nano satellite using the next generation AIS.

The remaining four LEMUR nano satellites from Spire Global Inc, San Francisco, US, are non-visual remote sensing satellites, focusing primarily on global maritime intelligence through vessel tracking via AIS and high-fidelity weather forecasting using GPS radio occultation technology, Isro said.

Isro officials said the next commercial launch would be for Singapore. 

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