24.5.19

The leader with largest popular mandate in the world


Narendra Modi now is the leader with the largest popular mandate in the world. In 2014, US President Obama, meeting Modi in Myanmar on the sidelines of the Asean summit, declared, “this man has the biggest electoral victory of all of us”. In 2019 that holds even more true.

Modi is the only world leader to win so convincingly in a hotly contested, democratic system, which carries a unique equity among the global elite. His friend Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently won a tough Israeli elections securing a record fifth term for himself, managed a 65-seat majority with the help of smaller religious parties. In Japan, PM Shinzo Abe is comfortably placed, but the numbers are more modest. The only other big number victory recently has been Joko Widodo in Indonesia, while Scott Morrison — who also called Modi to congratulate — pulled off a surprise win in Australia, but barely scraped through.

But other world leaders are precariously placed. In the UK, Theresa May’s government stands on the precipice over her Brexit deal. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are struggling. Recep Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, who see themselves as strongmen leaders of Turkey and Russia respectively, are not nearly as secure as they seem. Donald Trump is the US President with a slender margin. Despite the different system, Xi Jinping is the only other world leader with comparable support.

In the coming month, Modi will be at SCO, G20 and G7 summits, where issues of global governance will be at the forefront. In his previous term, Modi did not shy away from engagement in the forums — he believes India should become a “leading power” articulating India’s aspirations in the world, wanting to make India part of global solutions. So expect new global ideas to emerge from Modi in the coming weeks.

Mandate for India, Honesty, Growth: Modi


The massive mandate for the BJP-led NDA is a vindication of work done for national security and development, and an honest administration that worked for the welfare of all sections of society, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said.

In the next term, the government will work to fulfil promises for a New India by 2022 and take all along with humility, he emphasised.

“In the coming years, I will not do anything with a bad intent (badniyat ya badiraade se). Mistakes may happen while working, but no action will be done with a bad intention,” Modi said, addressing party workers at the BJP headquarters here.

Maintaining that he is a “fakir” (ascetic) who has been blessed with such a mandate, Modi promised to complete welfare projects, such as toilets, affordable housing and healthcare for all.

“This is not Modi’s victory, but a victory of those who stand for honesty, for toilets for the poor, for affordable healthcare to the sick, for farmers… This was a government that, though not having a Left tag, worked for the unorganised sector. The vote is for giving pucca houses to the poor,” he said, adding people were sure that the funds were going to the right beneficiaries.

The BJP had gone to the people with a mandate for New India, the Prime Minister pointed out.

Drawing an analogy from the Mahabharata, he said, “In Mahabharata, Sri Krishna was asked on which side he was. He said he was not on any side, but (on the side of) those working for the good of Hastinapur. In this election, people stood for Bharat.”

He also set 2022 — when India completes 75 years since Independence — as the deadline to complete several of his government’s welfare projects.

Underlining the need to maintain peace and decorum in the wake of such a grand victory, Modi asked party cadre to stay humble and dignified. “BJP’s speciality is that when it was reduced to just two seats (in 1984), it did not deviate from its ideals and principles or lose hope, and today when it has won a consecutive term we will not lose our dignity and humility.” Every BJP worker has worked for Bharat Mata’s triumph, he said.

Modi also took a dig at those raising the bogey of secularism to oppose the BJP.

“Some people used to hide behind the printout or tag of secularism. You must have seen, from 2014 to 2019 they stopped raising this issue. No political party could wear the veil of secularism and mislead the people,” he said.

While the 2014 mandate came at a time when people did not know him that well, the one in 2019 has come after they had become familiar with him and his work, the Prime Minister said.

Somewhere in Kashmir....


Zakir Rashid Bhat, alias Zakir Musa, the so-called chief of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Dadsara Village, in Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama District.

Following a tip-off about the presence of top terrorist commanders in the area, a joint cordon and search operation was launched by the Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police, 42 RR of Army and the Central Reserve Police Force.

While top police officials did not confirm the killing, special forces of the army rushed to the encounter spot to assist the forces. Additional forces were deployed in the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama to control possible law and order crisis.

The administration also ordered the closure of all schools and colleges across Kashmir on Friday.

Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan said the decision was taken as a precautionary measure. Mobile internet services were also suspended.

Soon after news started to circulate on social media that Musa was trapped in Tral, scores of youth took to the streets, clashing with security forces in downtown Srinagar, Tral and some other parts of the Valley. Protestors pelted stones and blocked roads.

Musa had threatened to behead separatist leaders of the Hurriyat for calling the Kashmir issue a political struggle instead of a religious one. He had called for a caliphate and enforcement of Sharia. Musa had also vowed to take jihad to every corner of the country. Last year his group received a major setback when six of its cadres were killed in an encounter in Tral.

Last year Al Qaeda formally announced the establishment of Ghazwat-ul-Hind, under the leadership of Musa. Since then, the former Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander was reportedly high on security agencies’

23.5.19

IAF gets its first ‘fully ops by day’ woman combat pilot


Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth can now go to battle in her MiG-21 ‘Bison’ supersonic jet. She is IAF’s first woman fighter pilot to become “fully ops (operational) by day”. Though Bhawana, who hails from Bihar’s Darbhanga, can be deployed for day-time missions, her gruelling training regime in handling the highly demanding and ageing MiG-21s, which have virtually the highest landing and takeoff speed in the world at 340 kmph, is not yet over.

She will have to now learn night flying during the “moon” and “dark phases” to become a fully operational fighter pilot.

“She is the first woman fighter pilot to qualify to undertake missions by day on a fighter aircraft. Bhawana joined her fighter squadron in November 2017 after initial flying on Pilatus turbo-props and Kiran trainers as well as Hawk advanced jet trainers. She flew her first solo on a MiG-21 Bison in March 2018,” said IAF spokesperson Group Captain Anupam Banerjee.

Bhawana had earlier said it was her “dream to fly like a free bird” when she was growing up in the refinery township of Begusarai, where her father was an engineer in IOCL. Before being commissioned into fighter stream after basic training in June 2016, Bhawana completed her BE (Medical Electronics) from BMS College of Engineering at Bengaluru and is into adventure sports like trekking, rappelling and rafting.

The IAF has so far inducted six women into its fighter flying stream on “an experimental basis” for five years. With it taking around Rs 15 crore to train a single fighter pilot, IAF had for long resisted inducting women because it felt it would disrupt “tight fighter-flying schedules” if they got married and had children.

But women like Bhawana, who learnt tactical flying and manoeuvres after consolidating her general handling of MiG-21s in multiple solo sorties, and the others have shattered the glass ceiling. The IAF didn’t show favouritism to Avani and Bhawana, who were posted to MiG-21squadrons rather than the easier-to-handle modern fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs or Mirage-2000s. This will ensure they undertake “air defence missions” over Indian territory in the event of war (MiG-21s are meant to intercept incoming enemy aircraft), and not go strike deep into enemy territory.

SC reaches full strength of 31

For the first time since 2008 when Parliament increased the Supreme Court’s strength to 31 judges, the apex court will function at its full strength as President Ram Nath Kovind appointed four new judges — Justices Aniruddha Bose, A S Bopanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

Parliament had increased SC’s sanctioned strength from 26 to 31 in 2008. The collegium headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi on May 8 reiterated its April 12 recommendation for appointment of Jharkhand HC Chief Justice Bose and Gauhati HC CJ Bopanna as SC judges, brushing aside the Centre’s objections on the ground of seniority and equal representation to states.

On May 8, the collegium of CJI Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, Arun Mishra and R F Nariman had also recommended the names of Bombay HC’s Justice Gavai and Himachal Pradesh CJ Kant for appointment as SC judges. With this, the CJI Gogoi-headed collegium has succeeded in appointing 10 SC judges in seven months. The other six are Justices Hemant Gupta, R Subhash Reddy, M R Shah and Ajay Rastogi on November 2 and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna on January 18.

In the recent past, no collegium headed by CJIs R M Lodha, H L Dattu, T S Thakur, J S Khehar and Dipak Misra succeeded in getting so many SC judges appointed. The collegium’s recommendations also have been cleared expeditiously by the Centre, exemplified by 48 hours taken by the Centre to clear the appointment of Justices Gupta, Reddy, Shah and Rastogi.

Among the four new SC judges likely to take oath in the next two days, Justice Gavai will become CJI for a little over six months in 2025.In him, the SC will get a judge from the Scheduled Caste community after nearly a decade. Justice Kant will succeed Justice Gavai as CJI on November 23, 2025, and remain in office till February 9, 2027.

Since Justice Gogoi took oath as CJI on October 3 last year, appointments to the three-tier justice delivery system have picked up pace.

Domestic air traffic falls


Domestic air travel contracted for the first time in nearly five years after the collapse of Jet Airways and drop in capacity, which have led to a sharp hike in air fares. This April saw 1.09 crore domestic flyers — down 4.5% from 1.15 crore in the same month last year. Before suspending operations on April 17, Jet had been barely operating a few flights during the month, which had also seen 13 of SpiceJet Boeing 737 Max planes being grounded due to regulatory orders.

India had seen double-digit growth in domestic air travel for 52 straight months — from September 2014 (over the same month in 2013) to December 2018 (from the same month in 2017). This ranged from a peak of 29.3% growth in July 2015 to 11% in November 2018 (over the year-ago periods).

Grounding of Jet, B737 Max, an overall economic slowdown and sharp rise in fares even as capacity fell saw this dream run waking up to a rude reality. The growth in January and February 2019 fell to single digits and, by March, this was down to 0.14%.

Industry captains, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the negative trend would not last too long as Jet’s slots are being given to other Indian carriers. However, they added that the next government must focus on the aviation sector.

BrahMos successfully test-fired from Sukhoi


The supersonic BrahMos cruise missile, with a strike range of 290-km, was tested from a front-line Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, in yet another step towards the country acquiring formidable precision strike capability from long or “standoff ” distances.

This was the second test firing of the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile, which flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8, after the first was conducted over the Bay of Bengal in November 2017.

The BrahMos missile, whose range is now being extended, in conjunction with the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, which has a cruising range of 3,200-km or a combat radius of about 1,500-km without mid-air refuelling, constitutes a deadly weapons package. It can be used to take out terror camps, underground nuclear bunkers, aircraft carriers on the high seas and other military targets from “stand-off” distances by day or night in all weather conditions.

“The launch of the missile, which weighs 2.5 tonne, from the aircraft was smooth. The missile followed the desired trajectory before directly hitting the land target,” said IAF spokesperson Group Captain Anupam Banerjee.

“The integration of BrahMos on the Sukhoi-30MKI was a complex process involving multiple modifications on the aircraft. The capability of the missile coupled with the superlative performance of the Sukhoi-30MKI aircraft gives the IAF the desired strategic reach,” he added.

The Army is now inducting the 4th BrahMos Regiment, which will be the missile’s Block-III version that has steep dive, trajectory manoeuver and top-attack capabilities, while the Navy has deployed the BrahMos missiles on over 10 frontline warships. The IAF, in turn, has inducted two squadrons of the land-launch missiles, even as the force waits for the air launched version.