MAY 6, Monday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

Odisha struggles to put life back on track

 

Odisha struggles to put life back on track

Fani toll hits 34; heat adds to misery of lack of power, water

Satyasundar Barik

Battered: Debris still strewn all over a bus stand in Puri on Sunday, 48 hours after the cyclone slammed Odisha. AFPAFP

BHUBANESWAR

Two days after the extremely severe Cyclone Fani hit coastal Odisha, the administration on Sunday struggled to cope with the herculean task of restoring power and water supplies in the worst-affected cities of Bhubaneswar and Puri.

The Special Relief Commissioner’s Office has received confirmation of 34 deaths, while unofficial estimates put the figure at above 45. Around 1.07 crore people in 14 districts have been affected by the cyclone.

Relief trucks stranded

Several trucks carrying relief material were stranded outside Puri as roads had not been cleared with an overwhelmed administration struggling to deal with the situation. Cyclone victims, lacking food and water, queued up before offices of the Collector and others desperately seeking relief.

Utter chaos prevailed in the normally bustling tourist-pilgrim town of Puri as essential commodities, including candles, torches, biscuits and water bottles, vanished from the shelves. Desperate residents demanded restoration of electricity, but normalcy is unlikely for at least a week. A shortage of diesel required for running generators is adding to the crisis.

The situation was no different in the capital Bhubaneswar, where water supplies petered out in the absence of electricity. Hundreds of angry residents surrounded the offices of the water supply board and staged protests at the residences of MLAs and MPs.

Barring a few pockets where the government was able to ensure supplies, getting hold of a bottle of water turned into a major achievement in the city. The rising temperatures and extreme humidity after the cyclone aggravated the misery of the residents.

Packaged water bottles, pouches and cans were grabbed in bulk by thirsty families on Sunday. Neither big commercial establishments nor roadside kiosks were left with much stock.

Over 30 lakh consumers have been left in darkness with 19 132-KV towers, two 400-KV towers, 200 33-KV/11-KV high-tension poles, 10,000 distribution transformers and several high-tension lines suffering extensive damage, officials said.

Hospitals still in dark

Although the government claimed that power would be restored in some areas, including hospitals in Bhubaneswar, by Sunday evening, officials said restoration of connections to individual homes would take at least a week in the capital and a fortnight in Puri district.

Many families were seen shifting to hotels to tide over the crisis.

A committee, chaired by Union Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha, on Sunday reviewed the relief measures being undertaken in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

 

 

Hermit breaks 194-day fast for Ganga after government promise

 

Hermit breaks 194-day fast for Ganga after government promise

 

Jacob Koshy

Atmabodhanand The Hindu

NEW DELHI

A 27-year-old hermit in Haridwar, Swami Atmabodhanand, has broken his 194-day fast in protest against sand mining and the upcoming dams on key rivers that feed the Ganga. Atmabodhanand had begun fasting days after G.D. Agrawal, 86, a former professor and hermit, died of a heart attack on October 11 after a 111-day fast.

The ascetic, based at Matri Sadan in Haridwar, said he had decided to break his fast after “assurances” from Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director-General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, that laws banning sand mining on certain stretches of the Ganga would henceforth be enforced.

While the Namami Gange Mission works to prevent sewage and industrial waste from polluting the Ganga, several actvist groups have accused the government of not taking steps to ensure natural flows in the river.

Allowing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand, they say, blocks the natural water flow and renders sewage-cleaning projects ineffective. “After a meeting in April, we were assured that laws regarding sand mining would be strictly enforced and that the Uttarakhand government’s policy on hydropower projects would be reviewed,” Atmabodhanand, who hails from Kerala, told The Hindu over phone.

“We were also told that because of elections, many policy decisions couldn’t be enforced. However, if these assurances aren’t followed through, we will see what can be done next,” he said.

In his letter on May 4, Mr. Mishra wrote to Swami Shivanand, head of Matri Sadan, that “…a decision relating to hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand is expected to be taken shortly….a special team has carried out inspections [in the Raiwala-Bhogpur stretch of river Ganga in Haridwar, where sand mining is prohibited] and Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand, has been requested to ensure compliance.”

The fasting activists had demanded that all hydroelectric projects along the Alaknanda, Dhauli Ganga, Mandakini and Pindar rivers be stopped and legislation to protect the Ganga be enacted.

 

 

* Nation

A helping hand in the time of natural calamities





A helping hand in the time of natural calamities

GDRF volunteers don a variety of roles, including search and rescue, first aid and evacuation

Staff Reporter

Damaged trees in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani in Puri district of Odisha. Reuters

BERHAMPUR

The Ganjam District Disaster Response Forum (GDRF), a joint front of 47 NGOs, continues to be a major relief force during natural calamities, like the recent Cyclone Fani, in this district of Odisha.

The GDRF now has a reach in all the 22 blocks of Ganjam district. Their volunteers have direct contact with the people living in remote and vulnerable areas. They help the administration in evacuation of people to safe places before any cyclone. “We coordinate between people and the administration to ensure basic amenities at cyclone shelters,” said GDRF convener Mangaraj Panda.

Since 2015, the forum has trained over 400 volunteers in 27 villages that are prone to cyclones and floods. According one of the trained volunteers, Rabindra Das of Badapalli village, they know the basic skills of search and rescue as well as first aid for immediate attention in case of need.

Loss estimation

These volunteers are also trained to report about losses to the local revenue officials. In most cyclone-prone coastal villages, the literacy rate is low and inhabitants find it hard to report their losses to the administration.

GDRF members also reach vulnerable villages near the coast to urge fishermen and their families to leave their dwellings and shift to the cyclone shelters. “Volunteers of GDRF look after the well being of the people at cyclone shelters,” said Loknath Mishra, co-convener of GDRF.

Members of GDRF also monitor cyclone preparedness in the slums of Berhampur city. The forum has its own dry food stock and is ready to reach out to the affected people if any major devastation occurres in any part of Ganjam.



Hampi Express delay hits NEET aspirants





Hampi Express delay hits NEET aspirants

Karnataka CM appeals to Centre for re-exam; 95% attendance in Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Staff Reporter

Full of hope: A girl sharing a lighter moment with the security staff at a NEET centre in Kozhikode on Sunday. S. RAMESH KURUP

Bengaluru

Hundreds of medical and dental seat aspirants from several parts of north Karnataka, including Ballari and Koppal, were unable to appear for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) here on Sunday as the train by which they were travelling reached the city almost seven hours late.

While the exact number of candidates affected is not known, one student organisation claimed it could be as high as 600.

The 16591 Hampi Express, which runs from Hampi to Bengaluru via Mysuru reached Yeshwantpur station only at 2.36 p.m. By then, the test at centres across the city had already begun.

The test was scheduled to be conducted from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

With the careers of so many students at stake, Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar to intervene and ensure that students who missed the opportunity to write the test on Sunday got another chance.

The South Western Railway, in a statement, said the train, scheduled to depart at 6.20 p.m. on Saturday, left two hours late. Officials claimed passengers had been informed through SMS about the diversion and the rescheduling of the train.

No complaints in Kerala

In Kerala, around 1 lakh aspirants appeared for the NEET. In contrast to the previous years, the three-hour examination was conducted smoothly with no major complaints being reported, despite a strict dress code being imposed for candidates to prevent malpractices.

The examination, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), was held in 282 examination centres in 12 district centres in Kerala.

The NTA permitted the entry of candidates who were clad in customary clothing, including ‘hijab’, provided they reported for the examination within 12.30 p.m. to ensure sufficient time for frisking. The gates of the examination centres were closed at 1.30 p.m. Large crowds were seen outside the examination centres since guardians were not permitted on campuses.

1.2 lakhs appear

Braving the scorching sun, 1.2 lakh students in Telugu-speaking States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana wrote the test on Sunday. Authorities said 95% of attendance was recorded.

In an advisory issued on Saturday, the NTA had asked candidates to report at the exam centres by 12 noon. But the candidates, who came to the centre much in advance, could go inside only at 12.30 p.m. after the Group-II candidates vacated the place.

Sources said a few students at P.B. Siddhartha College of Arts and Science were not allowed entry as they were late by a few minutes.

Adhering to the list of dos and don’ts in the NTA advisory, girls were seen removing their ornaments like rings, earrings, chains, pendants and even nose-pins and handing them to family members outside exam centres. The advisory also suggested that the candidates use light clothes (preferably half sleeves) and slippers or sandals with low heel and not shoes.



India, U.K. in talks to build a naval supercarrier: report





India, U.K. in talks to build a naval supercarrier: report

Press Trust of India
London

The United Kingdom is in talks with the Indian government on building a new state-of-the-art aircraft carrier along the lines of Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the ongoing ‘Make in India’ negotiations, according to a media report.

The talks are under way for the Indian Navy to buy detailed plans for the 65,000-ton British warship to build a so-called “copycat supercarrier” to be named INS Vishal in 2022.

“An Indian delegation has already visited Rosyth dockyard in Scotland where HMS Queen Elizabeth was assembled and where a second supercarrier, HMS Prince of Wales, is now being built,” the Sunday Mirror reported.

“If a deal can be agreed, the new warship would be built in India but UK companies could supply many of the parts,” the media outlet claimed.

Third carrier

The report noted that the new naval carrier would serve alongside India’s 45,000-ton carrier INS Vikramaditya — bought from Russia in 2004 — and the currently under-construction 40,000-ton INS Vikrant, and could give India a larger carrier fleet than Britain.

“We have regular discussions with India on a range of equipment and capability issues. It would be inappropriate to comment further,” U.K. Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said.

The design for U.K. aircraft carriers is owned by the British and French aerospace giants BAE and Thales. “Discussions have begun with India. The design can be modified to meet Indian Navy and local industry requirements,” a BAE spokesperson said.



SC denies judges met Bobde





SC denies judges met Bobde

Media report said that Justices Nariman and Chandrachud had met him

Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Sunday denied a media report that two of its judges — Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and D.Y. Chandrachud — met Justice S.A. Bobde, who is chairing an in-house committee inquiring into allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

A statement issued by the court’s Secretary-General said the report was “wholly incorrect” that the two judges met Justice Bobde on the evening of May 3 (Friday). The statement categorically said the Justice Bobde panel was examining the allegations without any input from any other judge of the Supreme Court.

The Indian Express newspaper had published that the two judges had met Justice Bobde and discussed their concerns. The report said Justice Chandrachud had also written to the panel, which comprises Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee as members. It said Justice Chandrachud had asked the panel not to proceed ex parte without the participation of the complainant woman and to either provide her with a lawyer or appoint an amicus curiae.

The court statement does not specifically deny the letter reportedly written by Justice Chandrachud on May 2. It only carefully denies that Justices Chandrachud and Nariman had together met Justice Bobde.

Without aides

On the third day of the committee hearing on April 30, the complainant had refused to further participate in the “informal” proceedings. She had issued a press statement citing that one of the reasons for her withdrawal was that the panel allegedly refused her request to have a lawyer or a support person accompany her during the hearings. “I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings today (April 30) because the committee seemed not to appreciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI,” she had stated in a press release.

A highly placed source in the Supreme Court had explained that, “She (the complainant) declined to participate following which the committee conveyed to her that the consequences of her decision would be that the committee would have to continue the hearings ex parte. She agreed.”

The CJI had also participated in the committee proceedings.



Bombing mastermind transited Tamil Nadu





Bombing mastermind transited Tamil Nadu

Even as investigators zoom out to understand the suicide bombers’ regional footprint and apparent links with the Islamic State, they are zooming in on Batticaloa on the eastern coast and Colombo on the West coast.

Most of the activities of the suicide bombers were traced to these two cities.

Based on information gathered so far, top security officials said they have reason to believe Zahran Hashim travelled to Bengaluru, Kashmir and parts of Kerala in late 2018. They think Hashim possibly went to those places to network with fellow radicals and jihadists, build links in the region and possibly with actors outside, according Lt. Gen. Senanayake. “We don’t know what exactly they did there, but surely, they didn’t go on a pilgrimage,” he told The Hindu.

When The Hindu earlier contacted Indian officials, they would not confirm Hashim’s movements in India, but nevertheless pointed to evidence of virtual links he maintained with a group of youth, they believed, were Indian.

Sri Lankan authorities have so far identified nine suicide bombers linked to the April 21 serial bombings. Following the carnage, security officials drew up a list of 139 persons allegedly linked to the attacks. Most have been arrested, according to officials. “Many are still in custody. The CID and police are interrogating them,” Lt. Gen. Senanayake said.

While closing in on suspects from the local Islamist radical outfits National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) and the Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) over the last two weeks, authorities have found that eight of them, including two women, had pledged allegiance to the IS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Investigations so far have also revealed that Hashim, in different conversations prior to the attacks, repeatedly mentioned having received messages from “Sham”, referring to Syria. “It seems that he was flaunting the connection to command more respect and authority among local radicals whom he was trying to recruit for the assignment,” the commander said.

Locally-made bombs

The material used in the explosions has been identified as “TATP”, or triacetone triperoxide. “They were not very sophisticated bombs; in fact a couple of them had washing machine timers. The suicide bombers may have watched online tutorials and made the bombs locally,” Lt. Gen. Senanayake said. While both international and local dimensions continue to emerge in the probe, which several international agencies including the FBI are assisting, investigators are trying to piece together the full plot.

Meanwhile, troops remain on high alert to ensure “maximum security”, the army commander said. “With Ramzan [Islamic holy month] and Vesak [Buddhist festival] this month, we want to take every possible measure to ensure that the country is safe and peaceful,” Lt Gen. Senanyake said.


* Editorial 1

The difference between a job and work





The difference between a job and work

Work satisfies a deeper urge than livelihood which, if denied, takes a significant political and social toll

Getty Images/iStockphotobluebay2014/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Among the words that have infiltrated the vocabulary of common sense during the recent past, none is as egregious as ‘aspiration’. Its rampant use in the economic and political spheres has dented public awareness of reality. In the sphere of economics, in terms of both policies and propaganda, the use of ‘aspiration’ in various combinations and contexts has pushed aside common sense knowledge about life’s necessities. Things have come to a point where something as important as the need to work in order to make a living is referred to as aspiration. As political coinage, ‘aspirational India’ connotes revolutionary change. The users of this phrase ignore the long and tiring struggle of countless youth to find work. The vast majority spends years waiting, or in ‘time pass’ as an economist has called it. Those who portray India as ‘aspirational’ look at other basic needs in a similar vein. The security that a house gives and the basic amenities of life one needs in a house are deemed to be part of an aspirational package. We are not far from the day when the desire to avail one’s constitutional rights will be treated as a sign of aspiration.

In an ethos where words and meanings are mutating fast, we must ask whether a right — any right — can be described as an aspiration. The debate whether the right to work is fundamental or not will hopefully be settled one day; for now, let us talk about one’s need to have some income, preferably by working. Someone who has no income can only survive as a dependent. That is how children and the elderly often do. The family provides the cover that the state does not explicitly acknowledge. In our society, the family provides a financial cover to the young for remarkably long periods. No wonder, university and college teachers routinely refer to their adult students as children. No matter how much you quarrel with this usage, its hold in academic institutions persists. One reason for this is that the family continues to support a student well past the official age of childhood. Parents go to remarkable lengths to support their progeny through expensive higher professional education for howsoever many years it takes.

Degrees and jobs

When they don’t find employment, what do students do? Many enrol in another course, aiming to qualify for one more degree or diploma. They keep gathering qualifications, hoping that more qualifications will get them higher-level employment one day. Things seldom work out that way. More qualifications don’t necessarily lead to better employment prospects. When a potential job slot does appear, you are told you are over-qualified. British sociologist Ronald Dore studied this phenomenon and presented his analysis in what soon became a classic title, The Diploma Disease. This book tells us that the tendency among youth to gather qualifications leads to devaluation of degrees. Dore was interested in the comparative study of industrial economics. He noticed that in Sri Lanka, only half the graduates in any given year ended up finding a job. That was in the 1970s; things are now worse. Although Dore did not study India, his observations were equally applicable here. Bureaucratisation had led to strong linkages between paper qualifications and selection for employment. When Rajiv Gandhi spoke about the need to de-link degrees from jobs, he was referring to the problem Dore had spotted.

Today, when people say that educational standards are declining, they are in fact responding to devaluation of degrees. They feel that a certificate or degree does not mean what it did some time back, both in terms of knowledge and its value in the job market. People’s memories are often subjective, but the phenomenon they are talking about is real. Quite often, the reason for devaluation of degrees is that institutions cannot cope with the increased number of candidates without letting norms become lax. Stagnant financial resources are often an additional reason why institutions cannot cope with swollen enrolment.

To say that the increasing clientele of higher and professional education is a sign of greater aspiration in society is to derive a misleading conclusion from the proliferation of degree-holders and degree-vendors. No doubt the market of degrees is wider today, but that has little to do with aspirations. Young people want to work and have an income; when they find neither, they occupy themselves by enrolling in yet another educational venture, without necessarily wanting to do so. When a relative or well-wisher asks, ‘What are you doing these days?’, it hardly feels nice to reply, ‘Nothing.’ To name a course you are pursuing now feels better. As economist and planner Santosh Mehrotra has pointed out (The Hindu, Editorial page, “The shape of the jobs crisis”, February 13, 2019), the number of young people who are ‘not in education, employment or training’ — ‘NEET’ — has been steadily increasing. According to his estimate, there are more than 115 million young people in this category, representing what he calls a ‘potential lumpen fodder’ available for political misuse. This analysis does not imply that if we cannot employ our youth, let us keep them enrolled in one course or another. Prolonging student life will not solve the problem posed by disappearance of work.

Job versus work

The term ‘job’ is now more common than ‘work’, indicating a shift in perspective. It also signifies the emergence of a new ideology that reinforces the traditional denial of dignity to work. ‘Job’ and ‘work’ differ in that a job is what someone gives you whereas work is what you do. For some kinds of work, the two meanings may be close or similar, but this is not true for many other kinds. If the political economy is eating up work opportunities, it can still keep on creating jobs artificially, to avoid social instability. Short-term jobs are often used to cite the success of an economic policy which, in reality, is decimating work and de-skilling people. This is often done in the name of modernisation. Driverless trains and automated manufacturing are presented as symbols of progress. An automation-obsessed economy thrives by maintaining millions in replaceable, short-term positions involving low-skill tasks. Such jobs make it impossible for lower-income participants in the work force to gain experience and a self-identity associated with a specialised skill.

Those who justify all-round automation as a legitimate means of economic progress define the term ‘skill’ in a sense quite different from how it was understood so far. In its conventional sense, skill implies a specialised expertise that grows with experience and imparts a personal identity. Jobs that vanish after a brief period, forcing the work force to leave and look for re-training for a new short-term stint, offer no genuine opportunities for developing a skill.

An ideological trap

To treat such job-culture as a symbol of progress is to fall into an ideological trap. Supporters of reckless automation say that it represents a natural course of technological progress. They also suggest that there is no alternative to automation, so we have no choice in the matter now. This approach echoes a theory of destiny. It assumes that the human desire to find meaning in work and cultivate a personal identity through skill will soon surrender to economic pressure and acceptance of vulnerable jobs as a permanent fact of life. This is a rather limited and myopic view. The history of work shows that work is more than a means of livelihood. It satisfies deeper an urge which, if ignored or denied, takes significant political and social tolls.

Krishna Kumar is a former director of

the NCERT



Talking fair trade in Delhi





Talking fair trade in Delhi

At the WTO mini-ministerial meet, developing countries must make a case for stable and transparent multilateral trade

Getty Images/iStockphotobluebay2014/Getty Images/iStockphoto

India will host the second mini-ministerial meet of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on May 13-14, 2019. To discuss the interests of developing and least developed countries in global trade, this informal meet will also focus on the accusation by the U.S. that these economies benefit from exemptions meant for the poorer nations.

Overall, it could be a preparatory meeting to set a common agenda at the 12th Ministerial Conference, scheduled for June 2020 at Astana, Kazakhstan. The 11th Ministerial Conference (Buenos Aires, December 2017) collapsed despite efforts by 164 WTO members to evolve a consensus on several issues. The U.S. has refused a reduction in subsidies and also pulled back on its commitment to find a perennial solution to public stockholding — an issue central to developing and less developed countries. In fact, the deadlock left many trade analysts wondering whether this was the beginning of the end for the WTO.

Despite the earlier outcomes of the ministerial meetings, the Delhi meet has created some hope of it being a platform to resuscitate the WTO. The issues under discussion will relate to protectionist measures, digital trade, fisheries, subsidies, environmental goods, standardisation and implementation of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and other matters ripe for negotiation and agreement, mainly investment facilitation. From a plurilateral approach toward multilateralism, members may also ensure the sanctity and ‘drivability’ of the WTO. It is, therefore, indispensable to bring mutual accord, mainly on the timelines, to implement policies as an outcome of talks.

Bridging the gaps

It may be useful to recollect that the WTO replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) as an international organisation mainly to overcome tussles over trade interests. The economies of the developing and less developed world (with little bargaining power) were unable to gain market access in most of the developed economies (which were influential in negotiations), especially when it came to agricultural commodities. The deadlock on the issue of agricultural trade negotiations, first in the late 1980s and then in 2017, was no surprise. The disagreements between developed countries (the European Union and the U.S.) and developing countries (Malaysia, Brazil and India) to discipline the farm regime in their favour continue, thereby threatening the WTO’s comprehensive development agenda.

The expectations of developing countries from trade also get belied due to sizeable support by the developed nations to their farmers in a situation of market failure and other uncertainties. The support through subsidies tends to bring distortions in commodity prices. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates the quantum of subsidies by developed nations to vary from $300 to $325 billion annually, which is much higher than that estimated for developing countries. This has become a bone of contention in trade talks as farm lobbies in the U.S., Europe and Japan have steadily exercised political clout to influence officials and lawmakers to continue giving subsidies to farmers.

Another point of concern is that developed countries design and implement stringent non-tariff measures (NTMs) which exacerbate the problems faced by poor countries that are willing to export. NTMs significantly add to the cost of trading. However, the costs of acquiescence with many NTMs are asymmetrical across exporters because compliance depends on production facilities, technical know-how and infrastructure — factors that are usually inadequate in developing economies. These countries are, therefore, unable to compete in international markets and hardly gain from sectors with comparative advantage such as agriculture, textiles and apparels.

Developing countries are willing to break the deadlock on these issues and are preparing a common ground to jolt the mandate of the global trade body. India, in particular, seeks amendment of laws on unilateral action by members on trade issues and a resolution of the WTO’s dispute settlement system. The expectation is that the meeting may lead to policy guidance on issues such as global norms to protect traditional knowledge from patenting by corporates, protection through subsidies, e-commerce, food security and continuation of special and differential treatment to poor economies.

Breaking the deadlock

Importantly, if the interests of developing and less developed countries are not addressed, ceteris paribus, jargon, convoluted negotiations and dictums will become trivial now and in the future. For example, the 10th Ministerial Conference (Nairobi, December 2015) laid emphasis on agriculture trade. But it was a setback to most agrarian economies, including India and in Africa, when developed countries directly challenged their models of food security designed for the poor. The outcome eloquently showed the constraints of a ‘multilateral negotiation system where the need for agreement and not compromise prevails and allows any member, no matter how small, to block any progress on all issues. In what has become an increasingly politicised environment, members with wide and divergent interests have simply halted the process and refused to negotiate in good faith across a spectrum of issues’.

There was a similar outcome at Buenos Aires in 2017. Developed nations created alliances to prepare the ground to push nascent issues such as investment facilitation, rules for e-commerce, gender equality and subsidy on fisheries, while most developing nations were unable to fulfil or implement rudimentary dictums. For instance, e-commerce has been a key agenda following the second ministerial conference, in Geneva in 1998. It was agreed to ‘establish a work programme to examine global e-commerce, with a focus on the relationship between e-commerce and existing agreements. It generated a sizeable debate on the fringes of the conference as many accredited NGOs opposed it and raised concerns that it was a push by dominant global players. The underlying fear was it might allow unfettered access to data, which could then be processed and exploited for profit’ by developed nations, mainly the U.S.

The Delhi meeting can be a breakthrough if members negotiate these issues in a convergent manner. The time is opportune for developing countries to voice their concerns and push for a stable and transparent environment for multilateral trade. India must do its homework to focus on the unresolved issues and address the newer ones which are of interest to developed nations, mainly investment facilitation. The WTO needs to be sustained as countries need an international platform to formulate trade rules and bring convergence on divergent matters.

Seema Bathla and Abhishek Jha are Professor and research scholar, respectively, at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi



Surviving Fani





Surviving Fani

The Odisha government has shown by example how to manage a natural disaster

Cyclone Fani has left a trail of destruction across a large part of coastal Odisha, but its management has emerged as a global example of how timely weather alerts, preparedness and informed public participation can dramatically reduce loss of life. The toll from the extremely severe cyclonic storm on May 3 stood, at last count, at 34 deaths. In terms of material losses, several districts were battered, houses flattened and electricity and telecommunications infrastructure destroyed, but the relatively low mortality shows a dramatic transformation from the loss of over 10,000 lives in 1999 when super cyclone 05B struck. Odisha then worked to upgrade its preparedness, which was tested when very severe cyclonic storm Phailin struck in 2013. It was able to bring down the number of deaths to 44 then, in spite of a wide arc of destruction: 13 million people were hit and half a million houses destroyed. The Odisha government and the Centre now have the task of rebuilding infrastructure. They should use the opportunity to upgrade technology, achieve cost efficiencies and build resilience to extreme weather, all of which can minimise future losses. Given the vulnerability of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to cyclones, the frequency and intensity of which may be influenced by a changing climate, the Centre should press for global environmental funding under the UN framework to help in the rebuilding. Both States have received funding from the World Bank in cyclone risk mitigation efforts since 2011.

The priority in Odisha is to restore electricity and telecommunications, which will require massive manpower. This should be treated as a national mission. Public health interventions are paramount to avoid disease outbreaks. The State government has been able to restore some physical movement by opening up highways and district roads; the Centre has relieved tension among students by postponing the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test in Odisha. Overall, there is a sense of relief that in the midst of a national election the toll was effectively contained. Looking ahead, India must prepare for many more intense and frequent cyclones along the coastal States. Preparedness has to focus on building resilience and strengthening adaptation. This can be achieved through better-designed houses and cyclone shelters, good early warning systems, periodic drills and financial risk reduction through insurance. Early weather warnings hold the key to better management, and during the Fani episode the India Meteorological Department played a crucial role. Its commendable performance has been recognised by the UN as well. Odisha’s experience, which coincides with similar devastation along east Africa this year, will be keenly followed at the UN Disaster Risk Reduction conference convening on May 13 in Geneva.



Endless crisis





Endless crisis

The Maduro-Guaidó stand-off is deepening Venezuela’s economic distress

Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has been trying to oust President Nicolas Maduro for months. Last week, in his most daunting effort yet, he called for a military uprising. Hours later, the U.S., which has recognised him as Venezuela’s President, supported his bid. A few soldiers broke ranks with the military and joined him, along with tens of thousands of protesters who battled for two days with police and government supporters. Still, Mr. Guaidó failed to topple the Maduro regime. This was the third major attempt by Mr. Guaidó to seize the government. In January he declared himself President, saying Mr. Maduro’s presidency was not legitimate as he had “rigged” last year’s election. Since then, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on top Venezuelan government officials and the state-run oil company PDVSA on the calculation that these would make the already battered Venezuelan economy worse, rendering Mr. Maduro even more unpopular. In February, Mr. Guaidó launched another bid when he went to the Colombia border to accept U.S. aid, which the government had rejected. He called for mass protests, but Mr. Maduro survived. Last week’s failed attempt was Mr. Guaidó’s biggest setback so far.

It is evident that Venezuela is going through serious political and economic crises. Governance has broken down, with state institutions at war against one another. Mr. Guaidó is the President of the National Assembly and has the support of most Opposition parties. Mr. Maduro has the support of the executive branch, the military and the judiciary. While they fight, the most pressing problems remain unaddressed. Inflation is sky-high, food and medicine are scant, and millions have fled the country owing to its economic woes. Mr. Guaidó says he will solve the problems after Mr. Maduro is ousted. But the way he is trying to achieve his goal has pushed the country deeper into misery. The Opposition miscalculated the durability of the Maduro regime. Mr. Maduro’s Socialist Party, thanks to the pro-poor policies under his predecessor Hugo Chavez, still commands loyal support among sections of society, especially among the poor. Second, even if the Opposition parties’ narrative that Mr. Maduro lacks legitimacy is accepted, the military’s support is pivotal if they want to remove him by force. Repeated attempts by Mr. Guaidó to win over the military have failed. Third, his over-reliance on the U.S. seems to have backfired. It only strengthened Mr. Maduro’s argument that “imperialists” are behind the chaos. Mr. Maduro also has the backing of Russia, China and Cuba. The way forward is not further clashes, but mutual talks aimed at resolving their differences and giving primacy to rebuilding both the economy and the governance system. If they continue on the path of confrontation, Venezuela will be in permanent crisis.


* Editorial 2

What we need today is social justice





What we need today is social justice

The victims of capitalism have always been the disadvantaged sections of society

“Only by saying a big ‘no’ to brutal capitalism can we remedy the problems that we face today.” Workers walk past a portrait of Karl Marx in Ernakulam, Kerala. Thulasi Kakkat

The world celebrated the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx, which was on May 5, 2018, for a year. Marx was not like other philosophers who interpreted the world in various ways; he made it a point to change it. Marx and Friedrich Engels laid the formulations for the theory and practice of scientific socialism. They applied dialectics to the study of human society and human consciousness. They strove for the liberation of humanity from all forms of discrimination and exploitation. They argued that Parliament should be used as a forum to articulate the concerns of the working people. Marxism as a science, as an ideology, and as a methodology keeps demonstrating its relevance every day.

In the present election campaign to the Lok Sabha, the Left parties have been raising several ideological and political questions in order to save the Republic of India so that it ensures a dignified life to all the people and empowers them in every respect. But it is ironical that several ideological questions are being raised over the relevance of the Left and its future in India. While admitting the widespread influence of communist ideology, some people say communism is dead and the Left as a political force is dead.

The march of capitalism

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, some proclaimed that there was no alternative to neoliberalism. Since then, the so-called triumphant march of neoliberal capitalism has seen many hurdles, such as the 2008 financial crisis. The worst victims of this march and its consequent crises have always been the disadvantaged sections. This shows the presence of class conflict in society. Needless to say, the vulnerabilities of the disadvantaged are a creation of capitalism itself. The French economist Thomas Piketty exposed the essence of neoliberalism, which leads to unprecedented inequalities and disparities.

In the Indian context, liberalisation of the economy was initiated on the premise that the seemingly socialist and centrally planned economy had outlived its utility and that private ownership and market forces would efficiently replace public sector undertakings and provisions. Such an opening up of the economy was also tried in other parts of the world with only one consequence — unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and a marked shift in the actual centres of power. Crony capitalism was soon making fast inroads into the policymaking coteries of India, and this new-found confidence of the private sector bore fruits. But for whom? Definitely not for the masses, as shown in a recent study which named India as the second most unequal society in the world. According to Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global Wealth Report, 1% of the Indian population owns 51.5% of the wealth in the country, and the top 10% own about three-fourths of the wealth. On the other hand, the bottom 60%, the majority of the population, own 4.7% of the total wealth.

Public-funded education and health are the worst hit by capitalism. Education spending by the Centre has been showing a downward trend — from 6.15% in the 2014-15 Budget to 3.71% in the 2017-18 Budget. Instead of expanding higher education horizontally (to more far-flung areas) and vertically (to the disadvantaged sections of society), the Central government is allowing the Higher Education Financing Agency to allow the private sector to dominate the education sector and make higher education a distant dream for the deprived classes. In the health sector too, the government has chosen private insurance companies and private healthcare lobbies as its partners, taking away the attention from public healthcare infrastructure and its upgradation.

In a country like India, which is plagued with social problems such as widespread poverty, a deepening agricultural crisis, a very high unemployment rate, and abysmal health indicators, giving away public sector assets to private players and shifting the discourse away from realising socialism could prove fatal for a vast majority of the population.

Rhetoric over real issues

In India, in this election season, real issues of the people are considered secondary to vague appeals of nationalism and national security. The last five years are witness to the fact that the ruling elites of India favour improvement in ‘ Ease of Doing Business’ to improvement in the Human Development Index. India is doing badly on many parameters — nutrition, peace, human development, and press freedom — while a section of the media is celebrating improvement in the Ease of Doing Business Index. In other words, ensuring that people live a decent life is subordinate to ensuring that business becomes easier for crony capitalists.

The ruling party’s appeals to nationalism and its use of the sacrifices of the Army for votes are attempts to hide its failure in giving employment to the youth, providing remunerative prices to farmers, ensuring social justice to the marginalised sections, and creating a conducive environment for the overall development of society. The government has presided over the gradual undermining of constitutional institutions, the giving away of national assets to the private sector and the increase in violence against minorities. It brands any opposition to its policies and views as ‘anti-national’. All of these, however, are symptoms of a deeper problem. One has to look beyond the cacophony of high-pitched TV debates that are centred on sensationalism. As Noam Chomsky wrote, “It is easy to be carried away by the sheer horror of what the daily press reveals and to lose sight of the fact that this is merely the brutal exterior of a deeper crime, of commitment to a social order that guarantees endless suffering and humiliation and denial of elementary human rights.”

The tying of national interest to global capital has not only produced adverse and livelihood-threatening consequences for the masses of the country, it has also deprived India of the higher moral pedestal in foreign policy. Deep-rooted socialism is the only true alternative to this ‘post-truth’ world where rhetoric has dislodged real issues.

Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles… [where] oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight.” It is the duty and the responsibility of socialism to carry on that struggle for humanity, and to bring politics back to where it belongs — to the people. Only by saying a big ‘no’ to brutal capitalism and by following what the Constitution envisages in its Preamble — social justice — can we remedy the problems that we face today.

D. Raja is national secretary, Communist Party of India, and a member of Parliament



Seeking and seeing parallels does not undermine science






FROM THE READERS’ EDITOR

Seeking and seeing parallels does not undermine science

A recent article on black holes in this newspaper has provoked an age-old debate

The Magazine supplement of this newspaper recently carried a speculative piece on black holes by Vikram Zutshi. Mr. Zutshi, fascinated by the first-ever image of a black hole that was unveiled by astronomers in April, wrote that there are many striking parallels between Eastern thought and modern astrophysics, especially in their imagining of space, time and the birth of the universe.

Responses from scientists

Ajit M. Srivastava, Professor at the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar, wrote to us saying that he trusted only The Hindu for reliable science coverage in India, but that the publication of Mr. Zutshi’s article had shaken his faith in the newspaper. Ravinder Banyal of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, wrote a stinging mail: “The author has absolutely no idea about the process of discoveries and underlying rigour that mark the success of modern science. How can such [an] article evade editorial scrutiny and manage to find place in a respected newspaper? Conflating mythology with the findings of modern science has already created enough confusion and misunderstanding among [the] common public. Rationality and scientific outlook is our only hope to guard against the mighty tides of obscurantism and propaganda that need to be opposed and not encouraged. As a practising scientist, I appeal [to] you to kindly retract this article and issue a clarification for the benefit of your readers.” Arnab Bhattacharya, Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, was equally livid in his response to the article. He wrote: “It is easy to conflate mythology and history, which, combined with a poor understanding of science, leads to an article which is honestly filled with logical fallacies. (Just because a particular deity is represented in black does not imply a connection with a black hole).”

What was missed in this entire debate was the simple fact that the article was a soft feature; it was a personal and emotional response to a certain discovery. It was not a news article and it did not try to peddle religiosity or pseudoscience. In an earlier column, “Carnival of conversation” (November 30, 2015), I had explained in detail this newspaper’s wisdom to draw a distinction between faith and bigotry, and its unwavering commitment to retaining the space for a multireligious and pluralistic public discourse. In another column, “Tall claim is not science” (January 18, 2016), I had spelt out the rules that govern the reporting of science and health stories. This newspaper walks the extra mile to give well-rounded stories on science and technology.

A newspaper publishes both reports and reflective pieces. The reflective pieces sometimes tend to draw parallels between an event and seemingly unrelated worlds. Even scientists have done this. Robert Jungk, in Brighter Than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists, records the reflections of J. Robert Oppenheimer about Trinity, the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. Oppenheimer quoted a short verse from the Bhagavad Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns/ Were to burst forth at once into the sky/ That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One/ I am become Death,/ The shatterer of worlds.”

The idea of scientific temper

In India, in the early 1980s, there was an intense debate about the idea of scientific temper. On July 19, 1981, the Nehru Centre in Bombay released a document by P.N. Haksar, along with Raja Ramanna and P.M. Bhargava, which was titled, ‘A Statement on Scientific Temper’. It called for fostering scientific temper with care at the “individual, institutional, social and political levels”. In his counterstatement, social scientist Ashis Nandy argued for a humanistic temper as he felt the argument for a scientific temper forecloses the space for criticism of criticisms. The feature in the Magazine is a continuation of this debate.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in



A battle won by many





A battle won by many

Demagoguery aimed at appropriating the result of a hard-won battle against terrorism will diminish its effect

Anmolam & Farheen Ahmad

The persistent efforts of India, with the express support of France, the U.K. and the U.S., and the acquiescence of China, culminated in the designation of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council. This has come as a breather at a time of dwindling faith in international law and related institutions.

The UNSC said: “Masood Azhar was listed on 1 May 2019… as being associated with Al-Qaida for ‘participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of’, ‘supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to’, ‘recruiting for’, ‘otherwise supporting acts or activities of’, and ‘other acts or activities indicating association with’ Jaish-i-Mohammed [JeM].” The UNSC recognised that Azhar founded the JeM upon his release from prison in India in exchange for 155 hostages held on an Indian Airlines airplane that had been hijacked to Kandahar. It said that he has been found to be financially supporting the JeM since its inception. However, it made no mention of his role in any of the attacks against India, including the recent one in Pulwama, which was mentioned in the original proposal.

The immediate impact of the listing would subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban, and an arms embargo. Assets freeze means that all states are required to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities. By virtue of the arms embargo, all nations are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories of arms and related material of all types to designated individuals and entities. This resolution is expected to have a long-term impact and is likely to have a preventive and deterrent effect on terrorist activities globally, and particularly in South Asia.

While this is a big diplomatic win for India, showcasing this as only an individual accomplishment is a parochial and imprudent approach. A nuanced analysis of international diplomacy shows that India’s foreign policy decisions depict more of a continuity than a change. Any indulgence in whataboutery for petty political gains will clearly harm all political players. Facts affirm that compromises are often made in international negotiations. Diplomacy can neither be critiqued in rallies, nor steered by shrill mass media debates. It is important to appreciate that any form of demagoguery aimed at appropriating the result of a hard-won battle against terrorism will only arrest its enduring potential and diminish the real value of this extraordinary feat.

Anmolam runs a non-profit organisation called BDLAAAW, and Farheen Ahmad is a research scholar who is pursuing his Ph.D. in international law from South Asian University, New Delhi


* Foreign

Churches remain closed for 2nd week





Churches remain closed for 2nd week

Catholics participate in televised mass by Archbishop of Colombo amid fears of further attacks

Agence France-Presse

Hope and prayers: Members of Zion Church, which was bombed on Easter Sunday, praying at a community hall in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, on Sunday.REUTERSDANISH SIDDIQUI

Negombo

Father Suranga Warnakulasuriya said prayers alone in his church on Sunday, as Catholic services were suspended across Sri Lanka for the second straight week since the Easter suicide attacks. With the Army staging raids across the country and authorities maintaining high levels of security, the country’s 1.25 million Christians are still on edge after jihadist bombers killed 257 people.

Fr. Warnakulasuriya has been saying mass in an empty church in Negombo, just north of the capital, every day since the slaughter at three hotels and three churches, one not far from his. “Sometimes we feel lonely by not being able to celebrate the mass together,” admitted Fr. Warnakulasuriya, 32, who only became a priest in 2015.

With churches closed, the country’s Catholics had to make do on Sunday with a second televised mass by the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

A few people went to St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo to say prayers in front of a barrier set up in front of the church where dozens died on April 21. But the faithful are frustrated.

“It’s not enough because we cannot receive the eucharist through television, that’s the important thing,” said Shehani Rangana, 33, whose father was among the dead at St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo.

Since the bombings, Catholics — shaken by physical and psychological scars from the jihadist attacks — have been organising their own services and solidarity groups. Sometimes, Fr. Warnakulasuriya and other priests say prayers in the homes of parishioners.

Fr. Warnakulasuriya said he goes to up to 20 homes each day to celebrate communion. “They share their views on this attack,” he said. “Sometimes they have hatred feelings, so we try to control them, to persuade them not to have revenge. We try to calm them by saying that Jesus is not hatred but love.” Around St. Sebastian’s Church, ravaged by a suicide bomber who killed 102 people, nearly all the houses have white flags, the colour of mourning.

The bigger pennants are a sign that someone from the house died in the massacre.

Curfew in Negombo

Later on Sunday, Negombo was placed under curfew by police on Sunday, following clashes between Muslim and Christian mobs. “About two motorcycles and a three-wheel taxi had been damaged in the clashes,” said a senior police officer. “We declared a curfew till 7.00 a.m. to contain the unrest.”

Meanwhile, a Minister said on Sunday that Sri Lanka has expelled over 600 foreign nationals, including around 200 Islamic clerics, since the bombings. Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said the clerics had entered the country legally, but amid a security crackdown after the attacks were found to have overstayed their visas, for which fines were imposed and they were expelled from the island.



Toll in Gaza fighting rises to 8





Toll in Gaza fighting rises to 8

Israel orders ‘massive strikes’ against Hamas, Islamic Jihad

Reuters

Rapid escalation: A Palestinian girl near the remains of a building in Gaza destroyed during an Israeli air strike.AFPSAID KHATIB

Gaza/Jerusalem

Rockets from Gaza killed three people in an Israeli city while five Palestinian militants died on Sunday in cross-border fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he ordered the military to continue “massive strikes” against Gaza’s ruling Hamas group and Islamic Jihad, in the most serious border clashes since a spate of fighting in November.

Israel’s military said more than 450 rockets, many intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, have been fired at southern Israeli cities and villages since Friday, and it attacked some 220 targets belonging to Gaza militant groups.

Rocket hits Israel house

A rocket that hit a house in Ashkelon killed a 58-year-old Israeli man, police said. He was the first such Israeli civilian fatality since the seven-week-long Gaza war in 2014. Separate strikes on the southern Israeli city killed two men, a local hospital official said. In Gaza, at least four Palestinian gunmen were killed in Israeli strikes, health officials said.

In a separate strike it described as a targeted attack, Israel’s military killed Hamed Ahmed Al-Khodary, a Hamas commander. The military said he was responsible for transferring funds from Iran to armed factions in Gaza. The air strike on his car was the first such killing of a top militant since the war five years ago. Israel had suspended such attacks in a bid to lower tensions.

The sounds of sirens and explosions reverberated on both sides of the frontier, fraying nerves and keeping schools closed.

The latest round of violence began two days ago when an Islamic Jihad sniper fired at Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers, according to the Israeli military. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of delaying implementation of previous understandings brokered by Egypt aimed at ending violence and easing blockaded Gaza’s economic hardship.

This time, Israeli strategic affairs analysts said, both Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants appeared to believe that they had some leverage to press for concessions from Israel, where independence day celebrations begin on Wednesday.

Israel is also hosting Eurovision Song Contest in Rehovot, southeast of Tel Aviv, in two weeks, and sirens sounded there on Sunday.

In a statement announcing Israel would press on with its attacks, Mr. Netanyahu, who doubles as Defence Minister, also ordered forces around the Gaza Strip to be “stepped up with tanks, artillery and infantry”.

For residents in Gaza, the escalation comes a day before the Muslim holy month of Ramzan begins in the territory on Monday. Since Friday, 13 Palestinians, of whom five were civilians, have been killed in Gaza.



4 dead as Taliban targets police headquarters





4 dead as Taliban targets police headquarters

Suicide bombing followed by attack on police compound in Pul-i-Khumri

Agence France-Presse

Attack on establishment: Afghan special forces arriving at the site of Sunday’s attack in Pul-i-Khumri, Baghlan.REUTERSSTRINGER

Kabul

A Taliban suicide bomber and several gunmen attacked a police headquarters in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least four people and wounding 40 more, according to the insurgents and Afghan officials.

The attack occurred two days after President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan, which begins on Monday. The insurgents rebuffed the move, which came at the end of peace talks in Kabul, and as the Taliban meets with the U.S. in Qatar.

Sunday’s attack started with a massive blast at the police facility in Pul-i-Khumri, about 250 km north of Kabul, sending a huge plume of smoke into the sky.

The explosion was followed up by gunmen storming the police compound, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. In a tweet, he said a suicide bomber had detonated a bomb inside an armoured personnel carrier, “flattening most of the building”. Asadullah Shahbaaz, a provincial council member in Baghlan province, said that intermittent fighting was ongoing. Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said “two terrorists were gunned down” in the attack, while “the rest of the attackers were besieged by the Afghan forces.”

At least four people had been killed and another 40 wounded, Baghan provincial health director Mohibullah Habib said.

The current round of talks between the Taliban and U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad entered their fourth day on Sunday.



U.S. to hike tariffs on $200 bn of Chinese goods





U.S. to hike tariffs on $200 bn of Chinese goods

Trade talks moving too slowly: Trump

Agence France-Presse
Washington

President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that the U.S. would raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% this week, because trade talks are moving “too slowly.”

Mr. Trump’s action came ahead of the arrival of a major Chinese delegation to Washington for the latest round of talks — a round, it is believed, could possibly lead to a deal. “For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “The 10% will go up to 25% on Friday,” he said. The two sides have imposed tariffs on $360 billion in two-way trade since last year. But Mr. Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in December to refrain from further escalation.

“The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” Mr. Trump complained on Sunday.



Kim oversaw testing of tactical weapons





Kim oversaw testing of tactical weapons

North Korea on Saturday conducted ‘strike drills’ in violation of UN resolutions

Reuters

Going ballistic: Short-range weapons being tested in an undisclosed location in North Korea on Saturday.AFPKCNA VIA KNS

Seoul

North Korea has conducted a “strike drill” for multiple launchers, firing tactical guided weapons into the East Sea in a military drill supervised by leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday, the state media reported on Sunday. The purpose of the drill was to test performance of “large-calibre long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defence units,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Photographs released by KCNA showed the tactical guided weapons fired could be a short-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, according to Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Korea’s Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies.

While such a missile launch would be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, it would not involve long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the U.S.

The new, solid fuel ballistic missiles can fly as far as 500 km, putting the entire Korean Peninsula within its range and are capable of neutralising the advanced U.S. anti-missile defence system (THAAD) deployed in South Korea, the military analyst said.

The South Korean Defence Ministry, however, put the range of weapons fired on Saturday at between 70 to 240 km


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