IRNSS-1H: Isro to launch India’s first satellite jointly built with pvt cos today

India’s first satellite that is co-assembled by Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) with a private consortium is set for launch on Thursday, a landmark for the country’s attempt to involve local firms in spacecraft production.

The IRNSS-1H, or the backup navigation satellite Navic with a new atomic clock, is being hurled into space on Thursday on the home-grown Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (Pslv) rocket. This satellite is the first of the two satellites – being contracted by Isro to a consortium of small firms led by Alpha Design Technologies, a Bengaluru-based aerospace firm.

So far, private firms have only built components and systems for India’s satellites and rockets. Isro had planned to tap private players over a decade ago to build its satellites, but the experiment failed as it found the industry wanted a large-scale commitment before it began work.

In December last, Isro shortlisted Alpha Design-led consortium and offered to hand hold the team of 70 engineers in satellite assembly techniques at the Isro satellite centre in Bengaluru.

“We are quite satisfied. Despite us hand holding, we have not lost time on building the satellite,” said M Annadurai, director of Isro Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. “Once this satellite is launched, we will begin the work on the second satellite where most of the work will be done independently by the (private) consortium).

Isro hopes the two Navic satellites would be a good experiment for the private teams to learn and start building satellites on their own for the space programme. Isro’s larger goal, besides boosting India’s navigational capabilities, is to create a group of private companies capable of building satellites independently.

With that, it could potentially hive off production of its over 50-odd satellites to the private sector, freeing itself to work on more complex spacecraft and rockets for its future.

India is in a sweet spot when it comes to making satellites and launching them from its soil. Isro’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has emerged as the workhorse to send small satellites from across the globe into space.

Isro is looking at the consortium approach to not only involve the industry to build the PSLV rocket, the first of which is expected to be launched by 2020 but also enable private players to pitch themselves as integrated service providers: design, build and launch services of satellites for customers globally.

Alpha, founded by Col H S Shankar, a retired R&D head of Bharat Electronics, in early 2000, is already excited about the future.

“We have gained a lot of experience in the first satellite. We had two engineers work with every one Isro engineer to absorb and learn how to make a satellite, almost like Guru Shishyas,” said Col Shankar.

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IRNSS-1H: Isro to launch India’s first satellite jointly built with pvt cos today

Apple, Samsung taking smartphone prices to edge

The newest smartphones are taking their screens to the edge. Apple Inc. AAPL 1.01% and Samsung Electronics seem to be doing the same with their prices, in what amounts to a gamble to revive growth.

The two companies have long dominated the high end of the modern smartphone market. But that part of the business has gotten saturated, curbing the runaway growth they once enjoyed. Apple and Samsung combined accounted for 36% of smartphones sold globally last year— down from 49% five years ago, according to IDC.

iPhone 7, Apple, Tim Cook Both companies also saw smartphone revenue decline in their latest fiscal years. They are betting they can revive growth by selling ever more expensive phones to their most loyal customers. Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note 8 last week, which includes the same edge-to-edge display design as the smaller Galaxy 8 smartphone that went on sale in April. That sort of design uses curved glass and organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, technology to add more high-definition display space to the phone, without increasing its overall size.

 

It’s also expensive. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 will start at a price of around $950 depending on the carrier, which is 8% to 12% higher than what last year’s Galaxy Note 7 started at. The smaller Galaxy 8 was also priced about 12% higher than last year’s models.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to introduce three new iPhone models at a Sept. 12 event. At least one is widely believed to feature an edge-to-edge display along with a glass-covered frame. Analysts expect this new model to start at $1,000 or more, which would make it the most expensive smartphone to ever launch in the U.S. market. The current iPhone 7 starts at $649.

Price hikes seem risky in a slowing market, though Apple may be hoping to repeat some of the success of the iPhone 6, which launched in late 2014. That phone was the company’s first entry into the larger-screen smartphone segment and it paid off handsomely, boosting both iPhone unit sales and Apple’s operating profit by more than 36% for the company’s 2015 fiscal year.

The iPhone’s average selling price rose 11%, to $671, for the same period. Apple’s stock price, which rose about 30% in the six months prior to the iPhone 6 launch, gained another 30% in the six months that followed.

Still, prices approaching $1,000 will be a sticker shock—even if offset with promotions and monthly payment plans from carriers. A Barclays survey earlier this month found that only 18% of iPhone users are willing to pay higher than $1,000.

Both Apple and Samsung have proven skilled at making eye-catching designs. But now the price of those designs seems likely to make their customers eyes bulge.

Apple, Samsung taking smartphone prices to edge

Donald Trump keeps ‘all options’ open after North Korea missile launch

US President Donald Trump said that “all options” are under consideration in response to North Korea firing an unidentified ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday as Kim Jong Un’s latest provocation rattled markets.

“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signalled its contempt for its neighbours, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behaviour,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday before flying to Texas.

“Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” according to the statement. “All options are on the table.”

 

The missile landed in the Pacific Ocean about 1,200 km east of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered a show of force in response, with four F-15K jet fighters conducting bomb-dropping drills.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the launch was “absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible” and that the Security Council now needed to take serious action.

US stocks rebounded from earlier losses sparked by the missile launch as investors speculated the event wouldn’t lead to a wider conflagration. The dollar fell to its lowest level in more than 2-1/2 years against a basket of major currencies, benchmark 10-year Treasury yields fell and the price of gold hit more than a nine-month peak.

“A missile passing over Japan is an unprecedented, grave and serious threat,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo. Abe said he spoke with Trump for 40 minutes, and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea. He also called for China and Russia to take action.

The White House said in a statement that Trump and Abe agreed that North Korea poses “a grave and growing direct threat” to the US, Japan, South Korea and countries around the world. The two agreed to try to increase international pressure on Pyongyang. The UN Security Council was scheduled to discuss North Korea at a closed session following a 10 am meeting Tuesday.

Asked by reporters what he would do regarding North Korea as he left the White House for Texas to survey hurricane damage, Trump said, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

It was the first North Korean projectile to fly over Japanese airspace since the regime launched a rocket over Okinawa in 2016, and undermines nascent hopes for dialogue with North Korea. That’s after tensions had appeared to cool following a war of words between Trump and Kim earlier this month.

“North Korea is acting as if it’s a nuclear weapons state,” John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard Kennedy School, told Bloomberg Television. “You can draw any number of red lines; in North Korea’s mind they’re on the cusp of getting itself the capabilities that are in the realm of the great powers.”

The state-run Korean Central News Agency mocked and goaded Trump in a commentary that didn’t reference the missile. It called the US president “the source of headache at home and abroad” and said his policies were “either ignored or delayed” and he was snubbed by other Western leaders.

South Korean stocks led regional losses, with the Kospi index sliding as much as 1.6 per cent before closing 0.2 per cent lower. Safe haven assets from gold to Treasuries and the yen advanced.

Trump spoke with Abe and last week said Kim was “starting to respect us,” a shift in tone after he vowed earlier in the month that threats from North Korea would be met with “fire and fury.” He has previously said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

Donald Trump keeps ‘all options’ open after North Korea missile launch

Gorkhaland demand: WB govt, GJM begin talks to restore peace in Darjeeling

The West Bengal government and the major hills parties opened dialogues on Tuesday, to resolve the demand for a separate statehood in northern West Bengal and restore peace and order in the Darjeeling hills.

As the prolonged shutdown in the hills entered its 70th day, hitting the region’s economy as well as normal life, both the West Bengal government as well as the parties supporting the shutdown felt it necessary to open dialogues to end the stalemate holding talks at Nabanna, the state secretariat.

However, although the Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha (GJM), Gorkhaland National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Jan Andolan Party (JAP) – the hills parties demanding separate statehood, opened the talks with the demand for the separate state, the West Bengal government cleared its stance of not discussing the issue but focus on restoring normalcy in the region.

 

“Dialogue is a continuous process and will continue. We will meet again on September 12 at Uttarkanya in northern West Bengal”, the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee told reporters here at a press conference after the meeting.

She said that on account of the continued shutdown, normal life has been hit in the region and the tea estates and tourism sector – the economic driver in the hills – has been hit hard.

“I have requested them to withdraw the shutdown. Let them take their own time. We all want to restore peace”, she said acknowledging the fact that a separate Gorkha state for the Nepali majority there is a “deep rooted aspiration of the people”.

GJM leader, Binoy Tamang, who attended the meeting said the issue to withdraw the shutdown will be discussed at a meeting of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) – a confederation of 14 hill parties demanding separate statehood.

“The GMCC will decide on the shutdown but peace has to return to the hills”, he said at the press conference.

Nevertheless, the GJM has demanded a CBI and judicial enquiry into incidents of police firing which allegedly killed its supporters and injured several others. He also pressed for compensation for the families of those killed in incidents of purported police firing.

GJM, the largest party in the hills, also pushed for withdrawal of all cases against the Gorkha political leaders demanding statehood and demanded assurances from the state government of not politically victimising the tea garden workers.

On August 22, the GNLF wrote to Banerjee to open talks to resolve the crisis in the hills, spurring from the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state. Thereafter, the state government invited other hill parties for a discussion at the state secretariat to resolve the issue.

Gorkhaland demand: WB govt, GJM begin talks to restore peace in Darjeeling

Right to privacy: SC judgment also makes case for regulating data storage

The past decade has seen the initiation of numerous government programmes like Aadhaar and Natgrid. Due to the increased collection of citizen’s information by the government, concerns have been raised on their impact on citizens’ privacy. The road map for addressing these concerns was laid down by a Bench of nine Supreme Court judges in the judgment delivered last week in Justice KS Puttaswamy and Anr Vs Union of India and Ors.

The nine-judge Bench, speaking through six separate opinions, unanimously held that “the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.”
It is well known that fundamental rights are enforceable vertically – that is, against the state. However, the advent of technology into every aspect of human life ensures that the question of privacy is a little more complex.

Individuals are constantly generating valuable data that can be used by non-state actors to track their moves, choices and preferences. The data once processed can be of immense value. In fact, even Nandan Nilekani, the man many see responsible for setting the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) infrastructure, has observed that data in the 21st century are like oil in the 18th – an extremely valuable asset. In spite of this, India remains one of the few large economies without a regime for protection of data that is in the hands of private players. In this context, some of the observations made in the last week’s judgment are extremely significant.

Justice Chandrachud’s leading opinion notes that it is an age of “big data” – data sets capable of being searched and marked by their exhaustive scope and permanency of collection. He goes on to note that “the dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well”. He suggests that the state put together a data protection regime after drawing a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the state.

The strongest expression for the need for a robust data protection regime comes in the opinion of Justice Kaul. He observes, “Social network providers, search engines, email service providers, messaging applications are all further examples of non-state actors that have extensive knowledge of our movements, financial transactions, conversations – both personal and professional – health, mental state, interest, travel locations, fares and shopping habits.” Justice Kaul goes on to state that there is an unprecedented need for regulation regarding the extent to which such information can be stored, processed and used by non-state actors.

As already pointed out, India does not have a data protection law. However, it is not as if no groundwork has been laid. A privacy Bill was drafted in 2005. However, it never found its way out of the parliamentary logjam. Subsequently, the Planning Commission constituted a ‘Group of experts on privacy under the chairmanship of Justice A P Shah. The group submitted its report in October, 2012. However, no steps were taken by the government thereafter. Less than a month ago, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology constituted a committee of experts to deliberate on a data protection framework, under the chairmanship of Justice B N Srikrishna. It is to be seen what steps are taken from here.

Ultimately, the creation of a data protection regime remains the prerogative of Parliament. However, the Supreme Court has set the ball rolling by determining certain issues which the data protection framework must address. These relate to the type of data that can be collected, the time for which it can be stored and the uses to which it can be put. In a world where our bank accounts are connected to our emails, which in turn are connected to our social networking accounts – it is imperative that the issue of data mining techniques and cross-linking of databases is addressed.

Finally, as observed by Justice Chandrachud, the data protection framework must also lay a special emphasis on consent – a principle that is at the heart of the data protection regime in the European Union. The principle of consent relies on the ability of the individual to make an informed choice after reading a privacy notice. It is common knowledge that such notices are not easily accessible, are too long or are simply unintelligible to the common man. Most of us click through privacy notices – the ones required to access Twitter or Facebook – without really reading them. A vast majority of Indians might not be able to understand notices written in English. This is a major cause for concern and can only be addressed by a framework that brings about a degree of uniformity in these notices.

The judgment has also brought to the fore some sensitive issues like anonymity, the right to be forgotten. All of these will undoubtedly crystallise over time.

Knowledge about a person gives power over that person. Personal data are capable of effecting representations, influencing decision-making processes and shaping behaviour. It can be used as a tool to exercise control – like the Orwellian ‘big brother’ state exercised. In Code, written as far back as the year 2000, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig had predicted that cyberspace would become a “perfect tool for control” – not by the government, which Lessig characterised as clueless and inadequate, but by software programmers who knew how to use the data generated.

Rather than quarrel about whether it lost or won the battle for privacy rights, both the government and civil society need to come together, to set up an architecture of consent, in which privacy can be structurally negotiated.

Right to privacy: SC judgment also makes case for regulating data storage

Aadhaar deadline for social benefits to be extended till Dec 31: Govt to SC

The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that they would extend till December 31, the deadline to furnish Aadhaar for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes.

Attorney General K K Venugopal made the submission that the current deadline of September 30 has been shifted to December-end after some of the petitioners, who have challenged the government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of these schemes, mentioned the matter before the court.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners, told the apex court that a nine-judge constitution bench had recently declared right to privacy a fundamental right and now a batch of Aadhaar related petitions should be taken up for hearing by an appropriate bench.

When he referred to the September 30 deadline to give Aadhaar for availing these benefits, the Attorney General said the government would extend it to December 31.

“We (Centre) have said we will extend it to December 31,” Venugopal told the bench which also comprised Justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar.

The bench thereafter said that the batch of petitions on the Aadhaar issue would be taken up for hearing in the first week of November.

“Urgency is not there. The Attorney General is saying that it will be extended. It (petitions) will be listed in the first week of November,” the bench said.

Divan referred to the privacy judgment penned by Justice R F Nariman’s separate but concurring verdict and contended that the judge had said that matters relating to Aadhaar be sent back for adjudication on merits by a bench of three judges.

However, the Attorney General requested the bench that these matters be sent for adjudication by a five-judge bench, considering the importance of the issues involved in it.

Venugopal said since the deadline would be extended till December 31, there was no urgency in hearing the matter and it could be taken up in November.

Divan did not oppose Venugopal’s submission and said he has no objection if the matter would be heard in November. Initially, a three-judge bench had on July 7 said that all issues arising out of Aadhaar should finally be decided by a larger bench.

On July 12, the apex court had said that its five-judge Constitution Bench will hear the matters relating to Aadhaar, including the aspect of right to privacy.

Thereafter, the five-judge bench had constituted a nine- judge bench to decide on whether the right to privacy could be declared a fundamental right.

In a historic judgment on August 24, a nine-judge constitution bench had declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right saying it is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

Various petitions have been filed in the apex court challenging the government’s move making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.

The apex court had earlier passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes.

It, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens for extending benefits of schemes like the LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and public distribution system.

Aadhaar deadline for social benefits to be extended till Dec 31: Govt to SC

Cess hike on large cars will not dent volumes, say analysts

Auto and auto ancillary stocks ended higher on Wednesday even after the Cabinet cleared an ordinance to hike cess on luxury cars and sport-utility vehicles to 25% from 15% under the goods and services tax (GST) regime at present.

The move came after the GST Council earlier this month approved increasing cess on SUVs, mid-sized, large and luxury cars that had become cheaper post GST rollout on 1 July.

The Nifty Auto index settled 0.6% higher at 10,572, led by gains in Bosch, Amara Raja Batteries and TVS Motor Company, which added between 2% and 6% on the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

Mahindra & Mahindra, which is the most exposed to the SUV segment, was leading loser on the index and slipped over 1% to Rs 1,360.

In the calandar year 2017 so far, the Nifty Auto index has rallied nearly 15% against over 19% surge in benchamrk Nifty50, data available with database AceEquity showed.

TVS Motor Company, Eicher Motors, Maruti Suzuki and Motherson Sumi Systems were the leading gainers advanced between 40% and 64% during the same period. Mahindra & Mahindra was also up 16% year-to-date.

Meanwhile, Ankur Varman, AVP – Institutional Equity sales at SBI Capital Markets maintained his bullish on the auto stocks, saying cess hike wouldn’t impact volumes.

“The cess hike doesn’t change our outlook on the auto stocks. We’re particularly bullish on Maruti Suzuki in the four-wheeler space and Hero MotoCorp among the two-wheelers,” said Varman.

“If you look at Maruti, initially we realised that the prices might fall post GST implementation and people will buy more cars, but that did not happen and we are back to original tax rates. However, entry segment cars such as Alto and WagonR are no longer Maruti’s bread and butter. Value-adding and models such as Baleno and Brezza have come into play. These are EBITDA accretive. So, the company may pass on the prices to consumers but it would not have much impact on the volumes,” he elaborated.

AK Prabhakar of IDBI Capital also believes the cess hike wouldn’t hit the profitability.

“As auto companies will pass on the cess hike to consumers, it will not impact their margin, but sales will take a hit in short-term. Consumers into SUVs may delay their purchases for three to four months, but they won’t change their preferences. So, I believe only one quarter of topline may get impacted.”

Cess hike on large cars will not dent volumes, say analysts