Friday, June 10, 2016

Welcoming Nihonium, Moscovium, Tennessine and Oganesson to Periodic Table

Yuri Oganesyan
Four elements in periodic table will no longer be some unknown entities; but an entity with a name. As per the proposals of Chemistry’s governing body, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry,

Element 113 is to be named as 'Nihonium (Nh)'
Was created first - 12 years ago - by a team at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science in Wako, near Tokyo. RIKEN group suggested the name - nihonium. This is a way to say ‘Japan’ in Japanese.

Element 115 is to be named as Moscovium (Mc) 
Named after Moscow region; in order to honour “the ancient Russian land that is the home of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research”

Element 117 is to be named as Tennessine (Ts)
This is in recognition to the contributions of "Tennessee (US), including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to superheavy element research".

Element 118 is to be named as Oganesson (Og) 
Named after Yuri Oganessian, an 83-year-old researcher at Russia’s Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. He "has helped to discover numerous superheavy elements. It will mark only the second time that an element has been named after a living scientist".

For next five months public can give comments; unless something extraordinary happens these names will be confirmed in November.

ORNL Mail Campus

1. Nature Webstite
2. Photo Courtesy:, Wikipedia, JINR, ORNL

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Finally Concern for Wildlife is Catching up with policy makers

A Wildlife Corridor
During my childhood days, I frequently heard stories about elephants. This was mainly because elephants are very much part of Kerala society. An integral part of temple festivals in Kerala. Depends on how much society is willing to spend for festival, number of elephants will differ - one, three, five, seven, fifteen etc. In some festivals like ‘Thrissur Pooram’ total count even reaches hundred. Some temples own elephants. For e.g. There are more than 65 elephants in ‘Punnaturkotta’ – a place where elephants belong to Guruvayoor temple stays.

One word which stuck me from those stories is – ‘aanathara’ (Elephants Way). Elephants for a very long time use same paths. Many other animals also display the same behavior.

Hence, when humans widen roads to ease traffic (and build new roads to reduce travel time) pushes further down into forests, we often end up cutting those decades old elephant and tiger corridors. As animals continue to use these paths, they often end up as victims of fast moving vehicles. Cutting the corridor will also prevent animals from moving from one habitat to another. This movement is essential to prevent inbreeding and maintaining genetic diversity.

It is in this situation we need to think about NHAI’s recent decision to allocate 186 crores for animal friendly measures while widening Mansar section (Madhya Pradesh/Maharashtra border) of existing NH-7 (2,369 km long connecting Kanyakumari with Varanasi) which cuts across tiger corridors of Pench – Kanha reserves.

Work of widening roads (4 laning) was pending earlier due to absence of permissions for felling trees and wildlife mitigation plans.

Now NHAI came up with three elevated sections of 750m, 750m and 300m length, so that wildlife can move across the highways on their natural paths. In addition to that, there will be six other wildlife crossings as well.

This won't help animals much as there will be sound, air pollution throughout the road (even after construction). In addition to that the length of elevated part is very less. However, this is indeed a small step in right direction.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedida

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Venezuela - Breaking Bad Under Low Oil Prices

Empty Shelves Due to Shortages
Venezuela was the rising star and champion of socialist causes in Americas. They helped neighbouring socialist countries economically. Venezuela got this clout not due to its huge population, not due to its military power, not due to its technological advancement but due to the huge reserves of petroleum under the ground. This country owns the largest proven reserves of Petroleum – a mind blowing 298bn barrels – in earth.

This huge reserves were earlier exploited by elite and foreign petro companies. Like in many other petro economies here too the bounty hardly tricked down to common man’s pocket. Then came Hugo Chavez, who assumed presidency in 1999, forced foreign companies to work with state owned PdVSA.

Scenario got changed; many petro billons went to state sponsored programs and neighbouring countries. During those days’ oil was riding high - more than 110$/ barrel - and everything looked green.

However, administration didn’t do three things which were desperately the need of hour.

What Venezuela Exxports 
1, They didn’t invest on modernizing petroleum related infrastructure, services and improving productivity.

2, Administration didn’t create a huge sovereign wealth fund like that of Norway or Saudi Arabia. They had time and huge amount of dollars coming in; but forgot think about a future where the prices might come down.

3, Government didn’t invest in building non-petroleum industries or service industry.

When Venezuelans forgot the fundamentals, this was bound to happen. Oil prices finally came down and government didn’t have a way to balance the budget. As there was nothing much to export and most other things has to be imported, money easily went out but income started haemorrhaging. This resulted in total chaos, which became an existential problem for Chavez’s successors.

In 2015 alone economy contracted by an extraordinary 5%. It is estimated that the economy will further contract by another 8% this year. What we are witnessing now in this south American nation is total chaos, food riots, street violence and a state of emergency.

Venezuela is an example of for all other Petro economies on what not to do. A warning sign.
And for Venezuela, oil prices may go up a bit for some time. Try to invest whatever remains for building up infrastructure, industry. Try to improve the productivity of petroleum production.


Even 'Aung San Suu Kyi' Can't help?

Displaced Rohingya people in Rakhine State
Persecuted people often look towards towering national leaders as a ray of hope. When it comes to leaders and statesmen who want to leave a mark on the history, it is their responsibility and moral obligation to look after the people who other ways don’t have anywhere to go.

When military handed over power – it is still very much dominant and can call shots- to a civilian government which except in name is controlled by-pro democracy champion and Nobel peace laurate Aung San Suu Kyi; Rohingya’s may imagined a slightly better position in society. However, this was not the case. These persecuted minorities still in the same position where they have been for decades.

In newly emerging Buddhist Myanmar – where Buddhism by accepting intolerance and violence moved far away from the very teachings of Buddha – Rohingya’s are yet to find any acceptance in the society. Mass violence of 2012 moved many of them away from their land. In fact, it was their desperate attempt to escape further persecution at home which resulted in deadly sea voyages of last year.

In Myanmar Rohingya’s were denied almost all fundamental rights like Citizenship, Freedom of Worship, Education, Marriage, Travel etc. They are still branded as Bengalis even after living for many generations in Myanmar. What more, Suu Kyi even asked US Ambassador to Myanmar not to use the term Rohingya for referring the community.

I can understand the challenges faced by Suu Kyi. Trying to integrate Rohingyas to the society might antagonize Buddhist majority and may even upset nation political reconciliation process. May be Suu Kyi even loss the support of a big group. But for getting acceptance do she has to continue with the policy of her successors.

Suu Kyi may be the last hope for one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. No one is there to fight for them. Hope that, she and International community will come to rescue of Rohingyas.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Another Round of PSU Stake Sale, Please Don't Force LIC to Come for Rescue

Government is again lining up companies for sale. This time - HUDCO, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, RINL and Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Government of India (GoI) also set an ambitious target of 8000 crores for stake sale.

So far good; after all, there no need for GoI to hold 100% stake in above mentioned companies. Making them a corporate entity will improve efficiency, transparency and will make some money for GoI.

But the problem which may arise during the whole process is, what will happen if not much institutions/people are subscribing the IPO? I hope that environment is good and IPOs will be oversubscribed. What if it’s not?

Will government ask LIC to come as White Knight and save IPOs; just like what happened in previous occasions? I hate to see such a scenario. There is no problem in LIC buying up shares, but it should not be like, only LIC is buying the shares. At least this time, let LIC do their math and decide on to what extent they are willing to buy up shares in IPO.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Pesticide Economy? Wakeup call from UAE

I am afraid to buy vegetables from market. My roommate Jithu never buy/eat banana which is bigger than normal ones. He is worried about the injections that banana got from farmer or stockist or merchant. Same things goes with many other vegetables. 

Main problem is the heavy use of chemicals at farm for protecting the harvest from insects and pests. After that, stockists and merchants apply another heavy round of chemicals so that it will remain fresh for days if not weeks. By the way, these chemicals are known to cause side effects. Just imagine your kid of  5-6 years consuming these type of vegetables every day... 

This is going on for some time. Year after year chemical use in agriculture is increasing. Main problem is, many residual pesticides - which are banned for use on vegetables and fruits - will remain in the crops for 45 days or more. Which means, if you are consuming those with in time frame, you are actually taking those chemicals to your blood system as well. 

This is not only affecting us, but are also creating a very bad impression for Indian products overseas. Recently, UAE tightened norms for import of Chilli Peppers, Mango and Cucumber. They also made it mandatory for Indian exporters to furnish pesticides residue analysis report for each consignment. UAE is not the first one to do that, and definitely not going to be the last one. 

Last fiscal year (2015-16) alone India exported 2,62,158 tonnes of fresh vegetables and 43,591 tonnes of fruits to this tiny little city state in Middle East. Just imagine, if every major country restrict/ban Made in India vegetables then it will create a very bad impression about India itself and blow back and mistrust will not be limited to vegetables. Government, farming and merchant community needs to take emergency actions to limit the use of chemicals in agriculture.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Blowing Up AirIndia’s Recovery

Not long ago there were too much hue and cry for selling Air India. After all who don't want to sell a company which makes mind blowing losses day after day. Government didn't sell Air India at that time; as a matter of fact there were hardly any suitors.

One argument which often heard along with the demand to shutdown/sell the company was – it was the government which destroyed the company. There is indeed some merit in this argument. If government ran that company like a corporate entity, then AirIndia would have been in a better position. 

That is past, in the end Government intervened and helped AirIndia to come out of the crisis. Company also started implementing plans to reduce costs and improve efficiency. This plan is actually showing some results. 

Now West Bengal CM wants a direct flight between Kolkata and a European City. There is no problem in such a demand. All CMs would like to get better deals for their states. Union Civil Aviation minister can consider that request. No issues. However, can he ask AirIndia to introduce a new plane in that route?

I don't have any problem in Kolkata getting a direct flight to London. But, we need to look into the question of why Airline companies are not introducing a direct flight in the first place. The reason they provide is very simple – the route is not commercially viable. 

# AirIndia itself stopped direct flight between Kolkata and a European city in 2007. Reason -  commercially NOT viable.
# Lufthansa discontinued Kolkata-Frankfurt in 2011.
# British Airways discontinued Kolkata-London in 2008.
# Lufthansa, Germanwings, KLM, AirFrance and Thomson Airways, Jet Airways expressed its inability to CM's request for a direct flight

It is to be noted that this is the situation even after CM went to the extent of completely waiving ATF Tax.

Mamta was demanding a direct plane for some time. However, it was her recent election victory which gave a new life to the request. Assembly elections give her the power to send more people to Rajya Sabha (Council of States) where central government currently don’t have enough numbers to push forward reform bills. Hence government is willing to satisfy some of Mamta's wishes. However, why bleed AirIndia for that? This type of politics may give quick results, but it will break institutions. 

We should not forget that, a direct flight to London is neither a primary right of citizen nor his/her basic need. Forget about basic need, it won’t even qualify under affirmative action.

What West Bengal should focus on is, how to get the state back in industrial map, how to revamp Kolkata port, how to improve literacy rate, how to improve GDP/capita, how to reduce child mortality rate, how to bring industries to the state... so on and so forth. Those actions will give more momentum to the state than a direct flight to London, which hardly much people use but bleed AirIndia.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia