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Spacecraft enters elliptic parking orbit; soft landing likely on August 23; Chandrayaan-3 testament to our scientists’ relentless dedication: Modi

India’s third moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, was successfully launched onboard a Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM-3) rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 2.35 p.m. on Friday.

This is India’s second attempt at soft-landing robotic instruments on the lunar surface after the previous attempt, Chandrayaan-2, failed in 2019. Thus far, only three countries, the U.S., Russia and China, have successfully soft-landed on the moon.

Speaking to reporters after the launch, ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said the next 42 days are crucial. “The landing is currently planned on August 23 at 5.47 p.m. IST, if everything goes as per plan,” he said.

Hailing the launch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Chandrayaan-3 scripts a new chapter in India’s space odyssey. It soars high, elevating the dreams and ambitions of every Indian.”

Taking the defence cooperation between India and France to a new level, the two countries announced that they will extend their “ground-breaking” defence cooperation in advanced aeronautical technologies by supporting the joint development of a combat aircraft engine and also an engine for the Indian multi-role helicopter (IMRH) being designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

This is among the several announcements made by the two sides on the defence front. Both nations also announced cooperation on small and advanced modular reactors and finalisation of the joint Earth observation satellite, among others.

A spate of programmes, including exhibition, heritage walk and talk, is planned to celebrate the bicentenary year of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh, who was a fine connoisseur of art

An exhibition, a walk and a talk to be held this weekend in Kolkata will mark the bicentenary year of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh who spent his final years on the outskirts of what was then the capital of British India.

The tribute is the brainchild of visual artist Soumyadeep Roy, who is organising it with the help of, among others, Kolkata-resident Manzilat Fatima, who is the great-great granddaughter of Wajid Ali Shah and his wife Hazrat Mahal.

“Since the nawab was an artist himself, we are celebrating and commemorating his birth anniversary through art. We will be hosting an exhibition, a heritage walk, and a talk,” said Mr. Roy who, with the help of an art grant received from the German consulate back in 2017, has been working on a project on the nawab, and it is his works that will be on display at the exhibition.

An inspiration

“I think we live in polarised times and it’s inspirational to look back at personalities, especially artists, who were more liberal in their approach and had to tackle and overcome boundaries and restrictions in their times. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was definitely one such artist and personality and there’s something so charming and fascinating in not only the way he made art himself, but also the way in which he facilitated and paved the way for other artists around him,” he said, explaining why he was fascinated by the nawab.

His grant-aided project, titled Huzn, was an exploration into the peripheral lives around the nawab and the people who migrated to Calcutta with him. While working on it, he parallelly began creating artworks on the nawab and it will be those on display at the exhibition, called Intekhab.

The events will take place in Metiabruz, where the exiled Shah spent the last part of his life. “The response has been immense. For the heritage walk alone, where we were expecting a small group, but some 84 people signed up and we had to close registrations. The reason for the overwhelming response might be that people actually want to know about the nawab. Both Metiabruz as well as Wajid Ali Shah have been villainised since the 19th century itself, and yet, their popularity continues to soar. Popular Indian cinema, even contemporary films, are hugely indebted to him and the legacy he left behind,” said Mr. Roy.

Manzilat Fatima said: “Intekhab is a befitting tribute to a king by a visual artist. I am so overjoyed that the city is remembering our great-great grandfather.”

External Affairs Minister meets Wang Yi along the sidelines of East Asia Summit in Jakarta; in earlier meetings with Chinese side, Jaishankar had called for Beijing to take forward disengagement of troops in the two remaining friction points

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday discussed “outstanding issues” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi along the sidelines of the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Jakarta.

Friday’s meet was Mr. Jaishankar’s third high-level engagement with the Chinese side in recent months, following bilateral talks during visits by Foreign Minister Qin Gang to India for the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ meet in March and for a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gathering in May.

In both meetings with Mr. Qin, Mr. Jaishankar underlined the importance of peace on the LAC as a prerequisite for normalcy in the broader relationship, and called for China to take forward disengagement of troops in the two remaining friction points.

A third meeting between the two Foreign Ministers was expected in Jakarta, but Mr. Qin did not travel because of reported health reasons. Instead, his predecessor, Wang Yi, who was promoted last year to the Politburo and also heads the ruling Communist Party’s Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, attended the Jakarta meetings.

“Just concluded meeting with Director Wang Yi of the Office of the CPC Central Commission for Foreign Affairs,” Mr. Jaishankar said on Friday in a message on Twitter. “Discussed outstanding issues related to peace & tranquility in border areas. Our conversation also covered EAS/ARF [ASEAN Regional Forum] agenda, BRICS and the Indo-Pacific.”

Frank discussion

In May, Mr. Jaishankar said following his meeting with Mr. Qin that both sides had a “frank” discussion on the border, and India had made it clear that relations with China were not normal and could not be normal if peace in border areas was disturbed.

Mr. Qin responded by calling on both countries “to draw experience and lessons from history” and “steer bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said then. Mr. Qin also called on both sides “to consolidate existing outcomes, strictly abide by relevant agreements and protocols, work to ease and cool down the border situation, and maintain sustained peace and tranquility in the border areas.”

However, Indian officials say the Chinese military has continued to drag its feet in the slow-moving negotiations to restore peace and complete disengagement in all seven friction areas that have seen tensions following multiple Chinese transgressions in April and May 2020.

Both sides have disengaged in five areas, creating buffer zones in some of them, even as tens of thousands of troops still remain deployed in forward areas close to the LAC.

The strains of Sare Jahan Se Accha rang through the Champs-Élysées on Friday as a 242-member Indian military contingent marching in France’s Bastille Day parade saluted chief guest Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. Welcoming the Prime Minister, Mr. Macron said India was “a giant in world history, with a decisive role to play in the future, a strategic partner, a friend”.

Both the marching contingent and the band have historical connections to France, being some of the oldest units of the Indian Army. They fought in both World Wars, with many members laying down their lives in battlefields here and being decorated for their sacrifices.

“This July 14, soldiers and Rafale aircraft from India are marching and flying alongside our troops. We honour the memory of those who fought with the French in the First World War. We shall never forget,” Mr. Macron said on Twitter.

The parade began with a flypast by French aircraft, showing the colours of the French national flag, followed by a formation of three Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force and a French Air Force Rafale. The marching contingents began as the flypast ended.

The Indian Army contingent, comprising 68 marching personnel from the Punjab Regiment and 38 band members from the Rajputana Rifles, was led by Captain Aman Jagtap.

World War memories

Troops of the Punjab Regiment took part in both World Wars, as well as in post-independence operations. In the First World War, they were awarded 18 Battle and Theatre Honours. The Rajputana Rifles is the seniormost rifle regiment of the Indian Army and took part in some of the bloodiest battles of both the World Wars.

The Naval contingent comprised four officers and 64 sailors, and was led by Cdr. Vrat Baghel, a specialist in gunnery and missile warfare.

The Indian Navy was also represented by INS Chennai, an indigenously designed and constructed guided missile destroyer, which is on deployment to France from July 12 to 16. The ship’s crew represented India at the Bastille Day celebrations at Brest, a port city in northwestern France, the Navy said.

The IAF contingent comprised four Rafale fighters, two C-17 Globemasters, and 72 IAF personnel. The IAF observed that many Indians — including Welinkar, Shivdev Singh, H.C. Dewan and Jumbo Majumdar — fought over the skies of France during the two World Wars.

The IAF’s marching contingent was commanded by Squadron Leader Sindhu Reddy, a helicopter pilot who has extensively flown the Alouette-III.

Gaganyaan is expected to demonstrate India’s manned spaceflight capability; LVM project director Mohan Kumar said the human-rated S200 [solid strap-on motors] have been used again, and the L110 Vikas engine has also become human-rated

With a human-rated Launch Vehicle Mark (LVM) to be used for the upcoming Gaganyaan mission, the LVM-3’s successful launch of the Chandrayaan-3 on Friday gained significance, as it has further enhanced the reliability of the launch vehicle.

Following the launch, LVM project director Mohan Kumar said that the rocket used for the Chandrayaan-3 mission used multiple systems that were rated for humans. “The human-rated S200 [solid strap-on motors] that were used earlier were again used, and the L110 Vikas engine has also completely become human-rated today,” he said.

ISRO’s Gaganyaan project is expected to demonstrate India’s human spaceflight capability by launching three astronauts to an orbit of 400 km for a three-day mission, and then bringing them safely back to earth, landing them in Indian seas.

The success of the Chandrayaan-3 launch was celebrated by several public and private sector units all over the country that played an active role in the mission. For instance, Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (MIDHANI), the defence PSU, had developed and supplied various critical and strategic materials for the three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle.

It supplied cobalt base alloys, nickel base alloys, titanium alloys and special steels for liquid engine, nozzles for liquid stages, gas bottles, thrusters, cryogenic upper stage components, rocket motor casing, propellant tanks and investment castings of nickel alloys, stainless steel for exhaust unit, etc., said an official release.

Kerala government undertaking Keltron in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Minerals and Metals (KMML) in Kollam, and long-time industry partners of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) such as Ananth Technologies Ltd (ATL) and Kortas Industries Pvt Ltd supplied many components. Keltron supplied 41 electronics modules and various power modules. Many of the critical components on the mission used alloys from titanium sponge produced by the KKML. KMML has a 500-tonne capacity titanium sponge plant at Chavara, Kollam, a joint venture with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL). A Kerala-based rubber products firm supplied the a crucial flex seal. Vajra Rubber Products in Thrissur supplied S-200 thrust vector control flex seal for the vehicle.

The Hyderabad-headquartered Ananth Technologies Ltd (ATL), which has exclusive facilities in Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru for supporting ISRO’s space programmes, contributed to the avionics packages for the LVM-3 mission, including on board computers on the launch vehicle, navigation system, control electronics, telemetry, power systems and various vehicle interface units.

In Bhubaneswar, technicians and students of the Central Tool Room and Training Centre are eagerly waiting to see the successful soft landing of the vehicle on the moon’s surface. The CTTC has also supplied critical components. The Bhubaneswar-based central PSU has manufactured several flow control valves used in the LVM-3. It also supplied gyroscopes, propellant walls and parts, and sensors. The CTTC also manufactured some links and components of the wheel mechanism of the moon lander.

(With inputs from Kerala, Telangana and Karnataka bureaus and PTI)

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday administered the oath of office to two new Supreme Court judges, Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and S. Venkatanarayana Bhatti.

Justice Bhuyan, appointed as a judge of the Gauhati High Court on October 17, 2011, had been serving as the Chief Justice of Telangana High Court since June 28 last year.

“Justice Ujjal Bhuyan is a judge with a good reputation for integrity and competence,” the Collegium resolution read.

Justice Bhatti was appointed as a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on April 12, 2013.

The Collegium explained its choice of Justice Bhatti, saying the Andhra Pradesh High Court did not have any representation on the Bench of the Supreme Court since August 2022. Justice Bhatti was transferred to the Kerala High Court in March 2019. He had been serving as Chief Justice there since June 1.

The Collegium noted that Justice Bhatti’s judgments dealt with a myriad range of issues from multiple branches of law, and “stand testimony to his legal acumen and competence”.

There is certainly some cause for concern about Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated cyber-attacks, malware, highly convincing information manipulation, and scams that can be deployed cheaply and at formidable scale using these tools, India said in a statement at the conclusion of the G-20 conference on cyber security.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) conducted the G-20 Conference on ‘Crime and Security in the Age of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) AI and Metaverse’ on July 13-14 at Gurugram.

“There is also a need for analysis of capabilities and applications of AI technologies used by malicious actors that can be exploited for malicious purposes. Focussed discussions on the need for transparent and accountable AI governance frameworks to ensure the responsible use of AI technologies is necessary considering the recent developments in this field,” the statement said. India is currently chairing the G20 presidency.

The emerging challenges and risks associated with the misuse of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) needs to be explored. Discussions, knowledge exchange, and the formulation of strategies to address this evolving threat landscape is necessary, the statement said.

The conference also shed light on challenges in tackling illicit activities associated with Metaverse technologies by facilitating discussions and presenting recommendations and insights during the discussions.

An upcoming amendment to the Right to Information Act, 2005 is set to remove the legal basis allowing government agencies to share personal information in public interest, a move that activists have warned would dilute the transparency law.

In the version of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill cleared for introduction in Parliament, a copy of which was reviewed by The Hindu, there exists a section that would eliminate the majority of Section 8(1)(j) of the 2005 law.

According to that section, personal information cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act “which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless … the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information”. The data Bill would remove all these caveats, prohibiting government agencies from sharing private information of any kind, regardless of the public interest it may entail.

The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), which has been among the major pressure groups advocating for transparency since 1996, wrote to Members of Parliament raising alarm on this change. “The Bill seeks to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 by severely restricting its scope and adversely impacting the ability of people to access information,” said the letter, signed by NCPRI co-convenor Anjali Bhardwaj and other activists.

“It is well established that access to granular information, including personal information, is critical to empower people to undertake collective monitoring and ensure they are able to access their rights and entitlements,” NCPRI said in a note accompanying the letter.

“This principle is well recognised and has been adopted in various welfare programmes and schemes. The proposed Bill will potentially place impediments and restrictions on such public disclosures.”

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