Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Why BECA when we have NavIC ?

 Why BECA when we have NavIC ?

(https://www.rediff.com/news/column/why-beca-when-we-have-navic/20201027.htm )

By SHIVANAND KANAVI

October 27, 2020 17:25 

Should we celebrate BECA as literal 'manna from the heavens', as the government wants us to believe, or should we be apprehensive?



PSLV-C32/IRNSS-1F

Today GPS (Global Positioning System) is being used extensively in India and all over the world.

It is used to find your way to a destination using your smart phone maps anywhere in India; it is used by airplanes and ships and even fishing boats to navigate the vast seas and the sky safely and accurately.

What is available freely or at commercial rates is a service provided by satellite systems operated by the US Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and the European Union's Galileo.

The same satellite systems are also used in modern military to guide warships, tanks, missiles and drones.

But the signal for this military use is encrypted and is only available to the owners of these systems and their close allies if the owners choose to do so.

Even among 'allies' there is always the danger that the signal could be corrupted or turned off at a crucial juncture, thereby crippling the 'ally''s military capability.

That is why all major powers develop their own navigational system.

India and the US signed a new defence agreement called BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation) on Tuesday.

The US has been pushing for this agreement along with others for over a decade.

It will make selling US military hardware easier to India.

There has been opposition to signing this agreement from within India for over a decade because while the US is supposed to provide accurate GPS data to India, in return India is supposed to exchange maps, charts and data to the US which can compromise Indian defence to the US military.

Using border tensions with China and dreams of targeting terrorist camps in Pakistan, the agreement has been pushed by the present government in India.

It is noteworthy that India has planned such a Satellite Navigational System since 2010.

The system would give accurate positioning for not only the vast Indian subcontinent, but almost the entire Indian Ocean region from the east coast of Africa to South East Asia.

It is called IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System) or NavIC.

The system was developed partly because access to foreign government-controlled global navigation satellite systems is not guaranteed in hostile situations.

According to reports, it happened to the Indian military in 1999 when the United States denied the Indian request for accurate GPS data for the Kargil region which would have helped the Indian military in the Kargil War.

Thus, the goal of the IRNSS was to not only to serve the commercial market in India and surrounding countries, but also make the Indian military 'Atma Nirbhar' as far as the important object of accurate targeting of weapons.

The government has spent so far over Rs 2,000 crores (Rs 20 billion) on it.

Six satellites of NavIC are already in orbit and functioning and five more are planned to be launched.

The commercial service has already started and the military part of it is being tested.

According to a senior ISRO source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, "The only advantage the US system has over the IRNSS is that US has a long experience of operating such a system and actively using it for targeting its missiles and drones all over the world including our neighbourhood. Whereas we have just started setting it up.

"Other than our lack of experience, the US data would not provide any greater accuracy than what NavIC is capable of."

"Moreover, always such offers have been made to us by other powers only when we have developed our own system independently through our resources."

"The goal seems to be that we do not invest further in our system to make our system more accurate and more reliable or more global in reach."

So should we celebrate this literal manna from the heavens, as the government wants us to believe, or should we be apprehensive?

-----------------------------------

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Jack Kilby--A Tribute

Business India, November 13-26, 2000
When the chips are up 

Jack Kilby, inventor of the integrated circuit, gets his due with the Physics Nobel Prize 2000 - after 42 years

Shivanand Kanavi 

Nearly 42 years after the invention of the integrated circuit (IC) the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences announced on 10th October 2000, the award of Nobel Prize to Jack Kilby, the inventor. 

Naturally, this calls for comment. It is surprising that the Nobel Com­mittee took such a long time to hon­our an invention, which has changed the way we live in the last 40 years and has directly led to a $231 billion industry. 

The committee is still to honour Claude Shannon whose semi­nal contribution to information the­ory is at the heart of all modern communication and is over 50 years old. Similarly, John von Neumann, who laid the foundation of computer science with the theory of finite automata, 50 years back, and who led the team that built the world's first electronic computer ENIAC, at the Institute of Advanced Study, Prince ton, did not receive the Nobel. How­ever, inventors of semiconductor devices like the transistor and Joseph­son junction have been honoured. 

Does the committee have a blind spot? Or should the engineers be left out of the highest scroll of honour because of a very narrow-minded reading of Alfred Nobel's charter? 

Even if the rest of the technology world discussed these issues, Jack Kilby seemed far away from it all, when Business India interviewed him 48 hours after the announcement, in Dallas, Texas. 

Kilby's brevity and humility are astounding. Texas Intsruments (TI), the company where Kilby worked when he invented the IC, made full use of the propaganda value of the prize and rival Intel's executives com­mented - off the record - that the prize should have been shared between Jack Kilby and the late Dr Robert Noyce (one of the founders of Intel). But Kilby, 77, could not be drawn into any controversy. 



On 12th October, Business India was privy to a very private celebration at the famous Kilby Centre at Dallas, Texas. The $ 150-million cutting edge R&D centre, the pride of TI , hosts state­of-the-art, 0.1 micron chip fabrica­tion facilities. In the cafeteria of Kilby centre, about 300 TI engineers were gathered to honour an icon. The atmosphere was bordering on the rev­erential, as aging Jack Kilby slowly walked into the hall escorted by K. Bala, senior VP at TI. While Bala, a chip veteran for the last 31 years at TI, and the senior-most executive of Indian origin in TI, gave a two-minute speech congratulating Jack on behalf of TI and the staff of the Kilby Centre, the man at the centre was even more brief. True to the culture of micro­miniaturisation, Kilby only said two words: "Thank you". 

Besides dozens of other honours, Kilby received the National Medal of Science, in 1970, at the White House. In 1982, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, tak­ing his place alongside Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers in the annals of American innovation. However, there is noth­ing like being bestowed with the Nobel. 

When asked why it was that the inventors of transistor were given the Nobel several years ago, he com­mented candidly that their contribu­tion was more basic to semiconductor physics, than his. 

Kilby is an institution at TI, even though he stopped doing active work in the company more than 20 years back. "We have a regular Friday lunch with him every week and find interact­ing with him very useful even now,” says Bala. 

The unassuming Kilby is a typical engineer, who wants to solve problems. In his own words, his inter­est in electronics was kindled when he was a kid growing up in Kansas. “My dad was running a small power com­pany scattered across the western part of Kansas. They had a big ice storm that took down all the telephones and many of the power lines, so he began to work with amateur radio operators to provide some communications and that was the beginning of my interest in electronics," he recalls. 

When he joined TI in the summer of 1958, the company was working on a defence project to miniaturise elec­tronics. Jack, however, had different ideas. Fortunately, he got the chance to check out his ideas, for, soon after he joined, most of the team went on a vacation for which he, being the junior-most member of the team, was not eligible. Kilby spent his time searching for an alternative to the official model. 

"I realised that semiconductors were all that were really required - that resistors and capacitors (passive devices), in par­ticular, could be made from the same material as the active devices (transis­tors). I also realised that, since all of the components could be made of a single material, they could also be made in situ and interconnected to form a com­plete circuit," Kilby wrote in a 1976 article titled Invention of the IC. "I then quickly sketched a pro­posed design for a flip-flop using these components. Resistors were provided by bulk effect in the silicon, and capacitors by p-n junctions. My col­leagues were sceptical and asked for some proof that circuits made entirely of semiconductors would work. I therefore built up a circuit using dis­crete silicon elements. Packaged grown-junction transistors were used. Resistors were formed by cutting small bars of silicon and etching to value. Capacitors were cut from dif­fused silicon power transistor wafers, metallised on both sides. This unit was assembled and demonstrated on 28 August 1958," he elaborated. 

By September, Kilby was ready to demonstrate a working integrated cir­cuit built on a piece of semiconductor material. Several executives, includ­ing former TI chairman Mark Shep­herd, gathered for the event on 12 September 1958. What they saw was a sliver of germanium, with protruding wires, glued to a glass slide. It was a rough device, but when Kilby pressed the switch, an unending sine curve undulated across the oscilloscope screen. His invention worked - he had solved the problem. 

But at the time, did Kilby realise its significance? "I thought it would be important for electronics as we knew it then, but that was a much simpler business. Electronics was mostly radio and television and the first comput­ers. What we did not appreciate was how lower costs would expand the field of electronics beyond imagina­tion. It still surprises me today. The real story has been in the cost reduc­tion which has been much greater than anyone could have anticipated. And it has tremendously broadened the field of electronics. 

In 1958, a sin­gle silicon transistor that was not very good, sold for about $10. Today, $10 will buy over 20 million transistors, an equal number of passive compo­nents, and all of the interconnections to make them a useful memory chip. So, the cost decrease has been factors of millions to one. And I'm sure that no one anticipated that". 

The main contribution to lowering costs and increasing transistor densi­ties in ICS has, of course, come from the innovation that Robert Noyce was responsible for, while working at Fairchild Semiconductors, before he went on to found Intel. Noyce devel­oped the planar technology of deposit­ing layer upon layer of semiconductors with different doping elements to cre­ate a really compact IC in 1959. 

Clearly, both Kilby and Noyce are responsible for the IC revolution. Kilby graciously admits as much. The first Ie made by Kilby had a single transistor, 1.5 mm x 10.5 mm in size. Today, such chips carry millions of transistors. The reso­lution of etching has already reached 0.1 micron (micron = thousandth of a milli metre). 

The inventions of Kilby and Noyce have led to two giants now straddling the IC empire: Texas Instruments, the king of digital signal processors that go into every cellphone and communica­tion device, and Intel which is practi­cally inside every PC. 

Unlike most inventors, Kilby today has the rare advantage of seeing his work create enormous wealth and in fact changing human life. In his own life time.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Ghadar of 1857

(Ghadar Jari Hai, Vol.1, No. 2, Aug 15, 2007 )
Peepul ke neeche 
Ghadar of 1857

Conversation with Amaresh Misra 
 This time we meet Amaresh Misra, to converse about the Great Ghadar of 1857. Amaresh Misra is a well known historian, free-lance journalist, civil rights activist and a script writer. In all his works, the effort has been to dispel stereotypes of western ‘Orientalism’, and invoke the diverse influences of Indian cultures and nationalities. His new book on 1857, War of Civilisations: 1857 AD (Rupa & Co) is to be published in September in two volumes. His other works include ‘Lucknow: Fire of Grace’, a city biography, ‘The Minister’s Wife’, a novel, and ‘Mangal Pandey: The true story of an Indian Revolutionary’. He has been contributing profusely on the subject in mass media. Shivanand Kanavi participated in this conversation with Amaresh. 
  Shivanand: The absence of well researched books on 1857 authored by Indians, prior to 1947 can be understood by the colonial censorship, (Savarkar's being an exception), but why is that there are so few post-independence? What are the real difficulties a historian faces while writing on 1857? 
  Amaresh: 1857 is a bugbear and an obsession. Many Indian and European writers have lost their focus and minds while studying the event. It is a very Asiatic, indigenous event. Its true study requires the explosion of Eurocentic and hitherto established Anglo-Indian perspectives. It also requires an insight into the Urdu-Persian-Awadhi-Islam-Sanatan Dharma-Mughal-Maratha-Sikh peasant world. The task simply, is too overwhelming. It is beyond the grasp of most of our city bred and English-speaking historians. For me too, a hardened scholar and political activist schooled in being unsentimental, it was very difficult maintaining the necessary distance from the material. I wrote the book, literally with a lump in my throat. I was drained emotionally. In fact, most of the books on 1857, by Indian authors, lack even a rudimentary sense of nationalist, pro-people consciousness, or a passion for objective fact finding. Interestingly, sincere work on 1857 has only four examples--VD Savarkar's pioneering effort, Sunder Lal'a ‘Bharat men Angrezi Raj’ in Hindi, Ram Vilas Sharma's ‘San Sattavan ki Rajya Kranti aur Marxvaad’ again in Hindi, and PC Joshi's ‘1857: a symposium’. Savarkar today is a symbol of the Right. Ram Vilas Sharma and PC Joshi belonged to the Left. 
Shivanand: What sources have you looked at to get the panoramic story of 1857? 
Amaresh: Original manuscripts, British primary and secondary accounts, Urdu, Persian, Awadhi, and even Arabic records--you name it--from London to Patna. Gazetteers gathering dust in various Government departments were of particulalr help. I also included unpublished material, especially accounts in Hindi and Urdu. Another source was oral history, which I tried using to give a subjective perspective of participants in 1857 wars. A lot of work in English has been done by regional intellectuals and academicians, people concerned with bringing out what happened in 1857 in e.g. Orissa, Gujarat, Assam and the North East. These works were very helpful.

Shivanand: It has been a matter of great speculation, whether the Ghadar was planned before the mutinies started breaking out in the Bengal Army, what has been your conclusion? 
Amaresh: Yes it was planned. It was a mass movement. But there seems to have been no fixed date, though the March-April-May months seem to have been fixed. Initially efforts were made to rouse the Bengal based Regiments. Meerut came to the fore, after the Mangal Pandey incident and the failure of the Behrampore-Barrackpore rising. Bahadur Shah Zafar, Wajid Ali Shah, Nana Saheb, Maulavi Ahmadullah Shah, Kunwar Singh and all other principal actors were active even before 1856 and Awadh's annexation. Waliullahites, revolutionary followers of Shah Waliullah, the 18th century Muslim cleric and social scientist--India's Rousseau and Adam Smith combined into one--were following the Dar-ul-Harb fatwa issued by Shah Abdul Aziz (Shah Waliullah's son) in 1803. The Fatwa made it imperative for every religious Muslim to make India's Independence his or her religious duty. The Fatwa was a watershed. It started a jihad, with anti-British, peasant revolution as its focus in Punjab and Bengal in the 1820s and 30s. Waliullahites, whom the British erroneously called Wahabis, were active in the 1840s. They were committed anti-Imperialist activists, a bit like Marxists of today. They had a network running from Hazara to Barrackpore. They were the ones who established a concord of Islam with Sanatan Dharma Hindus, in order to foment a rising against the British. 

Shivanand: Was there a conscious attempt to spread the flames of the uprising all over India? 
Amaresh: Yes--Bahadur Shah Zafar had established study circles, on the pattern of old Mughal Pir-Murid structure. Nana Saheb and Azimullah Khan had visited all major stations of North India in some guise or the other. Sadhus and Maulavis were found preaching ‘sedition’ from Gilgit in Kashmir to Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Right through May and June 1857, leaflets appeared in all the centres of Bombay Army and Madras Army, saying specifically that Bahadur Shah Zafar has been reinstated as ‘The Emperor of India’ and the British Raj is over. Then during the 1857 war, mass actions in North and West India exhibited amazing coordination. The Neemuch Brigade was moving from Neemuch to Agra, where a large British garrison was stationed. The British Persian Expedition Force landed in Bombay. Under Colonel Woodburn, a British field force set forth from Bombay via Marathwada to intercept the Neemuch force. But the June 1857, risings in Aurangabad, Nagpur and several other Marathwada-Vidarbha regions, delayed Woodburn's advance. The Neemuch Brigade was able to reach Agra on 5th July and defeat the British. 

Shivanand: Often the leaders of Ghadar have been painted with the broad brush of decadent feudalism, what was the vision of the leaders of the Ghadar, for an India freed from colonial yoke, in political, social and economic terms? 
Amaresh: The 1857 programme offered: State aid for trade, State protection to indigenous industries, land to the tiller, substantial salaries to middle class professionals, irrigation to agriculture, economic and socio-political patronage and economic incentives to intellectuals, power to the peasant and the village panchayat, self respect to every Indian, freedom of faith and expression, equality to castes, and the aggressive revival of Indian nationalism based on Ganga-Yamuna Tehzeeb. Therefore, the 1857 programme was one of, in Marxist terms, a progressive, nationalist, bourgeois-democratic revolution. To say that they, 1857 leaders, were feudal and decadent is a cruel, Eurocentric joke. 

Shivanand: India of the 18th century has been painted as dark, full of superstition, customs like sati, no development of science and technology, no visionary political and military leadership, no feeling of patriotism, various princes and nawabs wallowing in petty self interest and so on. Hence it is said the East India Company could intervene and take over territory easily. How true is that picture?

Amaresh: Nothing can be further from the truth. Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur built his observatory in the 18th century. The circulation of blood theory, originally discovered by Bhava Misra in the 16th century, acquired further development. It was in this period that Indian entrepreneurship flourished. The Mughal State itself was a military-entrepreneur State. In the Indian context, the army always represented ‘peasants in uniform’. Mughal capitalism was peasant, and not burgher driven. The class basis of Mughal capitalism was different fundamentally from European capitalism. In the 18th century, Mysore, Maratha and the Sikh powers were all competitive, modernized, bourgeois princedoms, as much as England was a bourgeois State. In fact, the East India Company was attracted by Indian development and not underdevelopment. In the 18th century not one but two Industrial revolutions were proceeding apace--one in India and one in Europe. The Indian revolution was killed to finance the European one. 
Shivanand: Based on the treachery of a few Sikh princes it has been said that Sikh's did not participate in the uprising, what does your research show? 

Amaresh: It was only the Sikh Princes of the cis-Sutlej area--Patiala, Kapurthala, Nabha, Jind--who sided with the British. But they had opposed even Ranjit Singh--in fact remnants of Ranjit Singh's Khalsa army, fought for Bahadur Shah Zafar at Sialkot, Ferozepur, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Lahore, right uptill Ambala. At Ropar, Mohar Singh declared a Khalsa Raj under Bahadur Shah Zafar. Then even the cis-Sutlej Sikh soldiers revolted in Benaras, Jaunpur and Mhow in 1857, and then again at Dera Ismail Khan in 1858. 

Shivanand: What role did Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religious organizations and individuals play during the uprising? 

Amaresh: Swami Vrijanand, Swami Omnanand, Swami Purnanand, Dayanand Saraswati, Shirdi Saibaba, the Dwarika-Badrinath-Puri-Sringeri Shankaracharyas all played crucial roles. The religious Shaiv, Vaishnav and Naga akhadas played a major role. Lalpuri Gosain, the descendant of Anupgiri, a major 18th century leader of an entrepreneur/ascetic order, fought in Nana Saheb's army. From Delhi, to Hyderabad, via Deoband, and West UP, the Muslim Ulema and Waliullahites, played a memorable role. They acted as propagandists and fighters. Then Sikh leaders of the later Namdhari-Kuka movement supported the revolution. 

Shivanand: You have made the startling claim that over 10 million people were killed by the British in revenge for the uprising. Can you substantiate the claim? 
Amaresh: It seems that fearing defeat, the British initiated a policy of mass killings. Indians, especially of UP, have grown up with tales of British atrocities during the Ghadar. But till date, no historian has ever tried to put a figure on how many Indians died. Whole cities were looted, innocents were massacred, villages razed to the ground. The killings were so massive that Awadh and Bhojpur faced a labor slump till the 1890s. More than 20,00,000 letters returned back from Awadh addresses. British labor surveys and road department reports state clearly that more than 25,00,000 died in Awadh alone. Records of the Muslim Ulema, and Hindu akhadas also show that more than 50,00,000 of their people and followers died. In Bhojpur and Bihar, labor records show a 25% slump. Calculating backwards I reached the first approximate figure of 10 million. 

Shivanand: the destruction of the economy of Indo-Gangetic plain especially what is called Bi-Ma-R-U, (Bihar-Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh) seems to be linked to 1857. 

Amaresh: Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, spoke about the ‘forced’ backwardness of the Hindi-Urdu belt, or BI-MA-R-U (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) area, specifically due to 1857. I too have mentioned the fact that it was because of the massive killings in the region, details of which are there in the answers sent, that labor was not available for even the kind of meagre development colonial authorities were prepared for. This is apart from the fact that fearing Hindi-Urdu belt's radical potentialities, the British deliberately refrained from developing it. In fact, colonial development was restricted to Calcutta and Bombay, mainly because the colonial middle classes there supported the British during 1857. Nearly all intellectuals of the Bengal renaissance supported the British. This should not be taken as an outright condemnation of the 19th century Bengal impulse, though it was definitely not a renaissance. The real Indian renaissance started during Akbar’s time and was continuing until the 18th when the British cut it short. The pre-British Indian renaissance was in fact more ‘modern’ than the Bengal one. It was indigenous. In Europe, Martin Luther’s act of translating the bible from Latin into German is considered the revolutionary turning point of European quest for renaissance and enlightened progress. In India Tulsidas translated and reinterpreted the Sanskrit Ramayana into Awadhi in the 16th century. Shah Waliullah translated the Koran from Arabic into Persian in the 18th century and later his son Shah Abdul Aziz (author of the famous patriotic fatwa) published the Koran in Urdu. So even going by the European yardstick, renaissance had already occurred in India before the British came. It is only the tendency of Indian English speaking intellectuals to look down upon our indigenous languages and tradition that we see ‘renaissance’ in the efforts of 19th century conservative, metropolitan elites to effect a minimum of reform, and that too in a pro-colonial framework. The Bengal-Bombay renaissance in fact laid the basis of colonial modernity with all its attendant problems of communalism and fascism. 

 (Ghadar Jari Hai is a quarterly magazine produced from New Delhi, India. For more information write to S Raghavan, Editor, jaarihai@yahoo.co.in)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Book Review: Fire and Fury--Transforming India's Strategic Identity

My Book Review of Fire and Fury: Transforming India's Strategic Identity by Anil Kakodkar and Suresh Gangotra in Rediff.com

https://www.rediff.com/news/column/oh-you-are-kakodkar-president-bush-exclaimed/20191130.htm


'Oh, you are Kakodkar!', President Bush exclaimed


November 30, 2019 18:19 IST
Dr Kakodkar's strategic stubbornness ultimately got India what it wanted though the negotiations with the US went to the wire, notes Shivanand Kanavi.
IMAGE: Then India's Atomic Energy Commission chairman Dr Anil Kakodkar.
Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Dr Anil Kakodkar has written his memoir Fire and Fury: Transforming India's Strategic Identity (Rupa, 2019) with assistance from his colleague Suresh Gangotra.
It is natural that it would invoke huge amount of interest in anyone following the evolution of India's nuclear programme for both energy and security.
Kakodkar is a nextgen nuclear engineer, following the pioneers Dr Homi Bhabha, Dr Homi Sethna, Dr Raja Ramanna, Dr P K Iyengar and Dr R Chidambaram.
He joined the department of atomic energy in the early sixties as a freshly minted bright mechanical engineer from Mumbai's VJTI and topped his batch at the Atomic Energy Training School.
However his confidence in hands on problem solving and 'can do' attitude drew the seniors's attention quite early.
Soon he was given the first major independent project to architect and build the research reactor Dhruva in the eighties.
Dhruva has been a workhorse since then for the DAE not only in research, but also as a steady supplier of bomb grade plutonium.
IMAGE: Dr Kakodkar with then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpaye. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anilkakodkar.in
He has participated in trouble shooting and ultimately fixing several problems in the power reactors which were caused by design deficiencies in the Canadian natural uranium based 220 MW, PHWRs (Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors).
There were problems with the sagging coolant channels, cracks in the calandria and even the distribution manifold of Madras, (Kalpakkam) reactors which had collapsed.
IMAGE: Before the Pokhran-II tests on May 11, 1998. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anilkakodkar.in/
These were complex engineering and metallurgical problems.
Having been denied any help from the sulking Canadians after the 'peaceful nuclear explosion' of May 18, 1974 at Pokharan, Indian engineers painstakingly analysed and solved the problems much to the surprise of the Canadians and in fact have turned out to be global experts in coolant channel replacement for natural uranium reactors.
Raja Ramanna, who started the nuclear device design in early seventies at Indira Gandhi's behest, recruited young Kakodkar in 1972 for his engineering skills into the hush-hush project.
Much to Dr Kakodkar's bewilderment before recruiting him, Dr Ramanna wanted to make sure that he did not talk in his sleep! Just to make sure that the secret project did not leak even within team members's families.
IMAGE: Dr Kakodkar with President A P J Abdul Kalam. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anilkakodkar.in/
Dr Kakodkar is a man of few words.
You can see that in all the television interviews that he has given in the last couple of decades.
He weighs his words and is not at all dramatic in his demeanour much to the disappointment of television journalists looking for sound bytes.
But in his understated way he recounts in the book many incidents that happened during the test in 1974 as well as the weapon tests in 1998.
He also lays to rest in an emphatic manner the controversy that erupted about whether India indeed tested a thermonuclear bomb in 1998.
During the India-US nuclear negotiations he was always the 'go to man' for the ministry of external affairs due to the implicit faith that then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh placed in him to protect the long term strategic interests of India and not be pressured by the acute Uranium shortage that the country faced then.
In fact, Dr Kakodkar appeared at one time as a stubborn stumbling block not only to the American negotiators, but also to the eager beavers in the MEA who thought India is looking cussedly at a gift horse in the mouth.
IMAGE: Dr Kakodkar with then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
That's because when India was on the eve of getting recognition as a de facto nuclear weapon power without having signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, paving the way for lifting all sanctions and restrictions on nuclear trade and in fact all hi-tech trade, a major milestone to be crossed was the 'separation plan' that demarcated what reactors and research facilities would be under IAEA safeguards and which others would be off limits to IAEA inspectors, there by implying a connection to the strategic weapons programme.
Here, Dr Kakodkar backed by the PM, was absolutely uncompromising.
This strategic stubbornness ultimately got India what it wanted though the negotiations went to the wire.
He proudly recounts in the book that when the deal was done, then US President George W Bush shook his hands and exclaimed, 'Oh so, you are that Kakodkar, Are you happy now?', thereby implying that he was aware of the tough role Dr Kakodkar had played in the negotiations.
Lessons Life Taught Me, Unknowingly: An Autobiography
His memories of his childhood and the hard life the family faced when his freedom fighter father was in Portuguese jail in Lisbon for many years and the appendices by his wife and sister in the book bring out Dr Kakodkar's character and add further value to this memoir.
So far, Dr Raja Ramanna, Dr P K Iyengar and Dr M R Srinivasan are among those who headed the DAE who have written their memoirs.
Written in a simple narrative style and language, uncluttered by data, Dr Kakodkar and Gangotra's Fire and Fury is definitely worth reading by all those interested in India's nuclear programme in its quest for clean electricity and strategic weapons.

Shivanand Kanavi, adjunct faculty at the National Institure of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, is a former VP, TCS and the author of Sand to Silicon: The amazing story of digital technology and Research by Design: Innovation and TCS.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Book Review: Bridgital Nation


My Book Review of "Bridgital Nation by N Chandrasekharan, Roopa Purushothaman" in Outlook Magazine.


Captains, Put Up A Design

The early ’90s liberalisation, like the great Bombay Plan before it, has run its course. To design the economy’s future, there must be another guiding vision.

Captains, Put Up A Design
The Bombay Plan (1944) was finalised at Bombay House, HQ of Tata Group
BRIDGITAL NATION
BY N. CHANDRASEKHARAN AND ROOPA PURUSHOTHAMAN
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE | PAGES: 344 | RS. 799
Seventy-five years ago, on January 17, 1944 and on December 17, 1944, two slim volumes with far reaching consequences for India were published. They were A Brief Memorandum Outlining a Plan for Economic Development of India Part I and A Brief Memorandum Outlining a Plan for Economic Dev­elopment of India, Distri­bution-­Role of the State Part II. The first was authored by Sir Pur­ushottamdas Thakur­das, J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla, Sir Ardeshir Dalal, Sir Shri Ram, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, A.D. Shroff and John Mathai and the second was auth­ored by the same group, except for Sir Ard­eshir Dalal, since in the inte­rim he had been inducted into the Viceroy’s executive council in charge of planning.
The plan by India’s leading businessmen came to be known as the ‘Bom­bay Plan’, perhaps because it was discus­sed, drafted and finalised in Bombay, as a matter of fact in the Bombay House, the headquarters of Tata Group. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Bombay Plan, also called Tata-Birla plan by the media, guided the course of post war and post-colonial economy of India from 1947 to 1991.
There is no better testimonial to the impact of Tata-Birla plan than the words of former prime minister Manmohan Singh who, while addressing the ASSOCHAM in  2004, said, “As a student of economics in the 1950s and later as a practitioner in government, I was greatly impressed by the Bombay Plan of 1944. When we read it today, nearly 60 years later, we see how relevant many of the central propositions of the Bombay Plan remain. In those days, it was an unprecedented document. It is worthy of emphasis that nowhere in the developing world had a group of businessmen come tog­ether to draw up such a long-term plan for a country. The Bombay Plan laid great emphasis on public investment in social and economic infrastructure in rural and urban areas. It emphasised the importance of agrarian reform and agricultural research, in setting up educational institutions and a modern financial system. Above all, it defined the framework for India’s transition from agrarian feudalism to industrial capitalism, but capitalism that is humane, that invests in the welfare and skills of the working people. In many ways, it encapsulated what all subsequent Plans have tried to achieve.”
As the two authors say, India’s approach to automation has to be distinct from China, US and Japan. It has to focus on technologies that augment and raise people’s skills.

Everyone is currently familiar with the big bang reset in India’s economy from consolidation and protected growth to globalisation of markets and capital that started in 1991. The stirrings for a reset had started a decade earlier. It is, however, striking that unlike the captains of industry who articulated the Bombay Plan, the business leaders of the ’90s and even the first decade of the 21st century failed to art­iculate their vision for India in the midst of challenges and opportunities of globalisation. Perhaps they were too busy improving efficiencies, expanding capacities and acquiring assets abroad. In fact, the only document which comes close to a vision document for that period did not come from business leaders but by an economist who had served the Indian state in various capacities for decades: Manmohan Singh’s budget speech of 1991. And that was it.
Bridgital Nation by N. Chandrase­kha­ran, who is currently chairman of Tata Sons and Roopa Purushothaman, chief economist at Tata Group, is an attempt to provide a vision to guide India in the coming decades of what they call the fourth industrial revolution, propelled by artificial intelligence and other technological developments. It is slim, about 260 pages plus notes, well annotated and captivatingly written, thereby making it reader-friendly.
They skilfully sketch with colour and brevity the complexities in the real world of healthcare, education and skilling, unemployment and under-employment, formal and informal economies, problems faced by women in the workforce, entrepreneurship etc. The authors draw stories, data and lessons from their own rich experience in services as well as the institutional reach and memory of Tata Group that encompasses nearly a hundred enterprises that cover many sectors of the formal economy.
On top of that they have access to over a century of experience in the vast philanthropy of Tata Trusts and of individual Tata Group companies among literally all sections of society in all corners of India. Among adivasis, rural communities, rem­ote hill regions, in the heartland and per­iphery of the subcontinent, in areas of education, adult literacy, healthcare, self-help groups and so on. From there they draw rich human interest stories which act as parables for their theses. The aut­hors are able to weave the stories in the grey matter of ideas, data and graphics. That’s a stylistic achievement.
At the outset they explain the new word they have coined, ‘bridgital’: a new approach that views AI and automation as a human aid, not a replacement for human intervention. If we do this, automation in India will look nothing like it does anywhere else.
We have today in corridors of power bluster and hubris, and groping around in the dark. It can best be described as a tactical approach to challenges, not strategic ones.

There is a visible split in the nature of the Indian economy—a high-skill, high-­productivity sector that produces goods and services for wealthy, tech-savvy, and urban consumers alongside external markets, and a low-cost, low-­productivity sector that is mostly geared towards the poor. India is missing a ‘middle’—the midway jobs, the mid-skilled workers.
India’s approach to automation has to be distinct from China, the US and Japan; it has to focus on technologies that augment and raise people’s skills.
India does not resemble the traditional story analysts tell about economic progress. Economic growth does not reflect job growth. While India is abundant in unskilled and inexpensive lab­our, GDP growth has instead been powered by industries that prize skill and capital—scarce res­ources unavailable to a vast swathe of the country.
India’s challenges are urgent. It is easy to be trapped in crisis mode, fighting fires as they spring up. To evolve, though, the country has to anticipate and act­ively design the future it wants.
The changes that took place in the early ’90s seem to have run their course in three decades since, just as the Bombay Plan (1944) had run its course by the 1980s. In order to face the challenges of today’s geo-politics, geo-economics and the explosion in technology, there is a need for the articulation of another vision document with practical policy guidelines drafted by India’s best economic, scientific, technological brains along with business leaders in manufacturing, trade, agriculture, fin­ance, capital markets and services.
In the absence of such a vision, we have today in the corridors of power an atmosphere of bluster and hubris on the one hand and groping around in the dark on the other. It can at best be described as a tactical approach to the challenges rather than strategic.
Chandrasekharan and Purusho­tha­man have ventured to contribute tow­ards such a new Tata-Birla plan thr­ough their book Bridgital Nation. Hopefully, it will attract other business and thought leaders to put aside some time and put in intense efforts to articulate a new vision—a Tata- Birla Plan 2.0.

(Shivanand Kanavi is former VP, TCS and currently adjunct faculty, NIAS, Bangalore)

Friday, August 30, 2019

65 years of Computer Science in India


65 years of Computer Science in India


August 29, 2019 

Shivanand Kanavi, former VP, TCS and adjunct faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, marks the milestones in India's computer science journey.
Photograph: Reuters
The late R Narasimhan was probably the first Indian to study computer science back in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the US.
After his PhD in mathematics, he came back to India in 1954 and joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, being built by Homi Bhabha.
India owes much of its scientific and technical base today to a handful of visionaries.
Homi Bhabha was one of them.
Though a theoretical physicist by training, Dr Bhabha was truly technologically literate.
He not only saw the need for India to acquire both theoretical and practical knowledge of atomic and nuclear physics, but also the emerging fields of electronics and computation.
After starting research groups in fundamental physics and mathematics, at the newly born Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Dr Bhabha wanted to develop a digital computing group in the early '50s!
IMAGE: Dr Homi J Bhabha, left, with J R D Tata.
The audacity of this dream becomes apparent if one remembers that at that time von Neumann was barely laying the foundations of computer science and building a handful of computers in the USA.
He had no dearth of dollars for any technology that promised the US a strategic edge over the Soviet Union.
After the Soviet atomic test in 1949, hubris had been replaced by panic in the US government circles.
And here was India emerging from the ravages of colonial rule and a bloody Partition, struggling to stabilise the political situation and take the first the steps in building a modern industrial base.
In terms of expertise in electronics in India, there did not exist anything more than a few radio engineers in the All India Radio and some manufacturers merely assembling valve radios.
Truly, Dr Bhabha and his colleagues must have appeared as incorrigible romantics.
IMAGE: Dr Rangaswamy Narasimhan, pioneering computer scientist.
Once he had decided on the big picture, Dr Bhabha was a pragmatic problem solver.
He recruited Dr Narasimhan to TIFR in 1954 with the express mandate to build a digital computing group as part of a low profile instrumentation group.
"After some preliminary efforts at building digital logic sub-assemblies, a decision was taken towards late 1954, to design and build a full scale general purpose electronic digital computer, using contemporary technology," Dr Narasimhan told me.
"The group consisted of six people, of which except I, none had been outside India. Moreover, none of us had ever used a computer much less designed or built one!" Dr Narasimhan recalled.
The group built a pilot machine in less than two years, to prove their design concepts in logic circuits.
Soon after the pilot machine became operational, in late 1956, work started on building a full scale machine, named TIFR Automatic Computer (TIFRAC), in 1957.
Learning from the design details of the computer at the University of Illinois, TIFRAC was completed in two years.
However, the lack of a suitably air-conditioned room, delayed the testing and commissioning of the machine by a year!
IMAGE: Sanjiv Arora, theoretical computer scientist.
Comparing these efforts with the contemporary state of the art in the 1950s, Dr Narasimhan said, "Looking at the Princeton computer, IBM 701, and the two TIFR machines, it emerges that except for its size, the TIFR pilot machine was quite in pace with the state of the art in 1954."
"TIFRAC too was not very much behind the attempts elsewhere in 1957, but by the time it was commissioned in 1960, computer technology had surged ahead to the second generation."
"Only large scale manufacturers had the production know-how to build transistorised second generation computers."
IMAGE: Umesh Vazirani, computer researcher.
TIFRAC, however, served the computing needs of the budding Indian computer scientists for four more years, working even double shift.
The project created a nucleus of hardware designers and software programmers and spread computer consciousness among Indian researchers.
Meanwhile, computing groups had sprung up in Kolkata at the Indian Statistical Institute and the Jadavpur Engineering College as well.
In the mid-'sixties TIFR acquired the first ever high-end machine produced by Control Data Corporation, CDC 3600, and established a national computing facility.
IMAGE: Kesav V Nori, computer scientist educationist.
The other source of computer science in India came from the new set of Indian Institutes of Technology being established in Kharagpur, Kanpur, Bombay, Delhi and Madras.
IIT Kanpur became the first engineering college to start a computer science group with a Masters and even a PhD programme in the late '60s.
That was really ambitious when only a handful of universities in the world had such programmes.
H Kesavan, V Rajaraman, H N Mahabala, Kesav Nori, H Sahasrabuddhe at IIT Kanpur played a key role in computer science education in India.
"At the risk of not specialising in a subject, I purposefully chose different topics in computer science for my PhD students -- 32 till the '80s when I stopped doing active research -- who then went on to work in different fields of computer science," remembers Rajaraman.
"Those days, I thought since computer science was in its infancy in India, we could ill afford narrow specialisation," Rajaraman adds.
Generations of computer science students in India thank Rajaraman for his lucidly written, inexpensive textbooks.
They went a long way in popularising computing.
"At that time foreign text books had barely started appearing and yet proved to be expensive. So, I decided to write a range of textbooks," says Rajaraman.
"The condition I had put before my publisher was simple -- that production should be of decent quality. but the book be priced so that the cost of photocopying would be higher than buying the book," he says.
IMAGE: Narendra Karmarkar, mathematician.
The combination of research at TIFR, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and teaching combined with research at the five new IITs, led to a fairly rapid growth of computer science community.
Today, computer science and engineering graduates from IITs and other engineering colleges are in great demand from prestigious universities and hi-tech corporations all over the world.
IMAGE: Dr Rajeev Motwani, mentor to Google's founders.
However, the late Dr Rajeev Motwani, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur, guru to Sergei Brin and Larry Paige -- founders of Google and a professor of computer science at Stanford University, recalled to me in 2002, "I did my PhD work at Berkeley and am currently actively involved in teaching at Stanford, but the days I spent in IIT Kanpur are unforgettable. I would rate that programme, and the ambience created by teachers and classmates, etc, better than any I have seen elsewhere."
Winner of the prestigious Godel Prize in computer science and a technical advisor to Google, Dr Motwani was no mean achiever himself.
IMAGE: Manindra Agrawal, innovator.
If we are looking for global headline grabbing development in computer science from India, then surely there is no better achievement than that of Manindra Agarwal a faculty member at IIT Kanpur and his two undergraduate students, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena.
On August 8, 2002, Agrawal, Kayal and Saxena made the headlines of The New York Times -- a rare happening for any group of scientists.
Two days earlier, they had announced in a research paper that they had solved the centuries old problem of a test for the prime nature of a number.
Their algorithm showed that it is computable in a finite amount of time -- in 'polynomial time' to be exact in computer science jargon.
The claim was immediately checked worldwide and hailed as an important achievement in global computer science circles.
Many looked at it as a tribute to education at the IITs.
IMAGE: Madhu Sudan, computer scientist.
Many Indian students of computer science have gone on to put their stamp on global computer science: R Narasimhan, Raj Reddy, Narendra Karmarkar, Rajiv Motwani, Umesh Vazirani, Madhu Sudan, Sanjiv Arora, Luv Grover, Ravi Kannan, Manindra Agarwal to mention a few.
IMAGE: Ravi Kannan.
Indians have won all the major honours and awards in computer science like the Turing Award, Fulkerson Prize; Nevanlinna Prize; Godel Prize etc.
IMAGE: Luv Grover.
Besides Saraswati -- the Goddess of wisdom and learning -- computer science in India has won over Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth as well.
Today, the Indian IT industry involves over 2 million engineers that do business worth over $160 billion a year and growing and have a multinational presence.
A pioneering company like TCS (1968) today is the largest IT company with over 400,000 engineers and a market cap of about $120 billion that rivals any other in the world.
The fruits of computer science are now available to over a billion Indians in their daily life with the largest digital projects in the world like Aadhaar, computerisation of Indian Railways, technology enabled financial systems, stock markets and banking and so on.
IMAGE: F C Kohli, the mastermind behind TCS's success story.
It is time we salute the foresight of Homi Bhabha and R Narasimhan who started the computer science group at TIFR and J R D Tata and F C Kohli who pioneered the IT business with TCS.
Shivanand Kanavi, is former VP, TCS, adjunct faculty at NIAS and author of Sand Silicon: The Amazing Story of Digital Technology.
All Photographs: Kind courtesy, Shivanand Kanavi.