IAF gets first light combat aircraft

Thirty-two years after the project was sanctioned, the first indigenously-built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was handed over by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to the IAF on 17 January, a red letter day for the Indian defence and aerospace sector.

The handover signals the start of a process of induction of the fighters being built at home under a project which has already cost the exchequer nearly ₹8,000 crore.  The entire project by the DRDO and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is estimated to cost over ₹30,000 crore.

The aircraft that has been handed over has got Initial Operational Clearance-II, which signifies that Tejas is airworthy in different conditions. The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) is expected by the year-end.  This version of the aircraft lacks the latest electronic warfare suite, which was integrated into one of the LCAs two weeks ago, mid-air refuelling and long-range missiles capabilities, among other things that the FOC-configuration aircraft will have.

The IOC-I was granted to the aircraft, being built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), in January 2011. The second IOC was granted after the aircraft successfully completed its maiden flight on 30 September 2014.

20 aircraft will be built by 2017-18, to make the first squadron of the aircraft.

The LCA programme was initiated in 1983 to replace the ageing MiG-21s in IAF’s combat fleet but has missed several deadlines due to various reasons.  HAL’s LCA Project Group has has been upgraded to a full-fledged division to look after production in a systematic way with more investments.

HAL has carried out thousands of sorties of the LCA and outstation flight trials at Leh, Jamnagar, Jaisalmer, Uttaralai Gwalior, Pathankot and Goa for cold weather, armament and weapon deliveries, MultiMode Radar (MMR), Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), hot weather and missile firing flight trials.

Tejas successfully demonstrated weapon delivery capability during trials at Jamnagar and Jaisalmer.

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AIDS campaigners say pandemic has finally reached tipping point

The world has finally reached “the beginning of the end” of the AIDS pandemic that has infected and killed millions in the past 30 years, according to a leading campaign group fighting HIV.

The number of people newly infected with HIV over the last year was lower than the number of HIV-positive people who joined those getting access to the medicines they need to take for life to keep AIDS at bay.

But in a report to mark World AIDS Day on 1 December, the ONE campaign, an advocacy group working to end poverty and preventable disease in Africa, warned that reaching this milestone did not mean the end of AIDS was around the corner.

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via Reuters.

Wireless Implant Eliminates Bacteria, Then Dissolves

Researchers at the University of Tufts and University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana successfully delivered an antibiotic treatment to mice with a bacterial infection with what’s considered to be the first resolvable wireless electronic implant.

The wireless implant, made of silk and magnesium, delivered heat to infected tissue in the mice by a remote wireless signal. After the wireless treatment, the device harmlessly dissolved in the mice. This breakthrough research was recently published online the week of November 24-28, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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via Forbes.com

India has world’s largest number of voluntary givers

India tops the charts when it comes to the largest number of volunteers anywhere in the world. Nearly 18.65 crore people in India support non-profit organizations (popularly known as non-government organizations or NGOs) by volunteering their time and effort. In stark contrast, China, with only 6.8 crore volunteers, was fourth on this list.

Compared with the previous findings relating to 2012, the number of Indians volunteering time has shot up by three percentage points as 29 million more people contributed their time in 2013. These findings were released by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), a global non-profit that compiles the World Giving Index annually.

India has climbed 24 places (from 93) in its overall ranking of 69 out of the 135 countries that participated in the World Giving Index 2014 survey. This index looks at three measures of giving during 2013: The number of people who have given money to charity, volunteered their time or helped a stranger.

When it comes to the sheer number of participants in these acts of giving, India’s booming 100-crore population has shown that it has a large heart.

Nearly 40.9 crore Chinese went out of their way to help a stranger and China led the pack when it came to the number of people helping others. India, with 34.6 crore people doing so, was second.

via The Times of India.

India set to become second-largest internet market

According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, the number of people online in India is forecast to touch 302 million or 30.2 crore by end of 2014, overtaking the US as the second-largest Internet market in the world.

The Internet user base in the country is further estimated to grow to 35.4 crore by June 2015.

China has the largest user base with more than 60 crore Internet users, while the US has an estimated 27. 9 crore users.

Of the 27.8 crore users, 17.7 crore are in urban India, higher by 29 per cent from 2013. This is expected to reach 19.0 crore by December 2014 and 21.6 crore by June 2015.

In rural India, the number of Internet users is expected to reach 11.2 crore by December 2014 and 13.8 crore by June 2015.

Global Terrorism Index 2014

According to the 2014 Global Terrorism Index, by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a non-profit research organization based in Sydney, Australia, the number of deaths caused by terrorism increased by 61 percent between 2012 and 2013. There were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, a 44 percent increase on the previous year.

The Index defines terrorism as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”.

“Not only is the intensity of terrorism increasing, its breadth is increasing as well,” the report said. 

According to the report, the three main factors behind with terrorism were State sponsored violence, such as extra-judicial killings, “group grievances” and high levels of crime. Levels of school attendance, poverty rates, and most economic factors, however, had no association with terrorism.

E-kranti—Digital revolution on the anvil

The ₹113,000-crore ‘e-kranti’ project of the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative is the world’s most ambitious broadband project that seeks to provide digital access to all citizens, from the rural and elderly to the poor. The ‘Digital India’ blueprint revolves round ‘nine pillars’ — broadband highway, e-governance, electronics manufacturing leading to ‘zero import’, universal phone access, electronic delivery of services, jobs, rural internet, information for all and ‘early harvest’ programmes.

The aim is to move governance online, and for that to happen, bridging the so-called digital divide is essential. The government  aims to expand its rural internet coverage to 250,000 villages by 2017, from the existing 130,000. In two years, 150,000 post offices will be transformed into multi-utility centres (providing a range of government services, banking for instance, and not just postal services). Some 250,000 government schools will get broadband and free WiFi and all schoolbooks will have e-versions.

The digital drive is also integral to the government’s plan to create 100 smart cities. Under the plan, all cities with a population of more than a million will get public WiFi hotspots. All government communication will move to a universal secure email client.