CURRENT AFFAIRS – 25/05/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 25/05/2023

New Parliament to house sceptre that symbolised transfer of power in 1947

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will install the Sengol, a sceptre given by the British to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to represent the transfer of power in 1947, in the new Parliament building, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Tuesday.

The sceptre, kept in a museum in Prayagraj, formerly Allahabad, will be installed near the podium of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Sengol makes the spirit of August 15, 1947 unforgettable and the Parliament House is the most appropriate and sacred place to install it,” Mr. Shah said. “Transfer of power is not a mere exchange of documents; it is done when the government runs according to traditions and culture. Sengol in the new Parliament building indicates the sentiments espoused by Nehruji in 1947.”

It was originally used to mark the handing over of power from one king to another during the Chola dynasty in Tamil Nadu.

The five-foot-long intricately carved, unbending gold-plated silver sceptre, with a finial of Nandi (bull deity), was specially commissioned by the then Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam (pontiff) and was handed over to Nehru.

The Thiruvavaduthurai math is located in Mayiladuthurai district of Tamil Nadu, at the heart of the erstwhile Chola kingdom.

“All 20 Adheenam presidents will also be present to shower blessings in reminiscence of this sacred ritual. I am glad that 96-year-old Vummidi Bangaru Chettyji, associated with its construction, will also participate,” Mr. Shah said.

(With inputs from Sai Charan N. in Mayiladuthurai)


How a letter to PMO set off search for Sengol

A letter to the Prime Minister’s Office by dancer Padma Subrahmanyam set off meticulous research into the Sengol leading to the installation of the golden sceptre in the new Parliament building when it is inaugurated on May 28.

Sources in the Culture Ministry said that Dr. Subrahmanyam had quoted an article in the Tamil magazine Thuglak which had carried details of the ceremony in 1947.

The article had appeared in May 2021 and the dancer and researcher had requested the government to make this information public on the occasion of Independence Day that year.

This set the tone for a relook at the historical event and a Culture Ministry team, assisted by experts from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), began the research into the reports.

The Sengol ceremony seemingly took place minutes before India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the National Flag and made his famous “Tryst with destiny” speech on August 15, 1947. It had been kept at his Prayagraj residence-turned-museum till now.

It was found to have been widely reported in Indian and foreign media at that time including in the Time magazine along with photographs.

“With the nation ravaged by Partition and violence, the ceremony had to be arranged post-haste and it not being a legal or formal matter, remained unrecorded. As a result, the sacred Sengol and its vesting ceremony seem to have disappeared from the institutional memory of the Indian state,” Sachidanand Joshi, Member-Secretary of the IGNCA, told The Hindu.

It was in 2017 that reports again began appearing in the Tamil media about how minutes before Mr. Nehru addressed the nation as the Prime Minister, the Government of India had followed the sacred Sengol-vesting model of Chola kings of Tamil Nadu for transfer of power from the British to Indians.The then Prime Minister had been handed over the Sengol with the Nandi (bull deity) finial amid the singing of the sacred Tamil text Thevaram — symbolic of divine blessings and command to rule justly and fairly.

They found that the golden sceptre was studded with jewels and worth ₹15,000 at that time and was made by Vummidi Bangaru Chetty and Sons, jewellers and diamond merchants of Chennai.

The Vummidi Bangaru Chetty family confirmed that they made the Sengol. Though the eldest member of the family who made it is over 95 years old and is unable to recollect the details, the photograph of the event is kept at their house, the sources said.

A ‘middle kingdom’ dawns on India’s west

The 32nd Arab League Summit held in Jeddah was unique in multiple ways. After 12 years, all 22 Arab states got together again, with 17 of them represented at the head of state or government level. The summit readmitted Syria and heard the Ukrainian President, a special invitee. The post-summit “Jeddah Declaration” was moderate in political optics and showed realism for the contemporary socio-economic challenges facing the Arabs. Although it highlighted the staple pro-Palestinian agenda, it conspicuously refrained from mentioning Israel by name. Similarly, all Iran-related issues were omitted. Instead, it called for “stopping foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries and categorically reject all support for the formation of armed groups and militias”. There was no mention of any non-Arab issue, including Ukraine and the oil market.

The Saudi angle

These subtle nuances would hint at the emergence of Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the main arbiter of the Arab world’s agenda for the foreseeable future. During the months of the run-up to this summit, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took several steps to declutter the Kingdom’s regional agenda: he held triple summits in Riyadh with the Chinese President.

Relations with Iran were normalised, aiming to end nearly 45 years of hostility and geo-religious rivalry. This reduced the friction among their respective proxies in conflict such as Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. In particular, it has raised hopes of putting an end to the civil war in Yemen, the Kingdom’s “Vietnam” since 2015. On the other hand, ties with the United States have been stabilised.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 37, has adroitly chalked out a middle path to take the Arab world’s leadership, currently in a vacuum. Egypt, the usual pretender for Arab leadership, is in a precarious economic state as the Kingdom has curtailed its assistance, demanding greater financial accountability. Syria and Iraq are still battling their internal demons and Iranian interference.

By reconciling with Iran through Chinese mediation, but without a U.S. nod-and-wink, Riyadh has asserted its diplomatic autonomy. The move seriously undermined Washington’s attempt to demonise Tehran and its nuclear programme and put into question the rationale of its economic sanctions regime. Direct ties with Iran have also reduced the importance of Qatar, Iraq, Oman and Pakistan as intermediaries.

Further, by re-engaging Hamas ruling Gaza, the Kingdom has sought to replace Qatar and Iran as the main benefactor. This should help deradicalise the Palestinians. The Kingdom’s instinctive animosity with Israel has been replaced by ambiguity as Riyadh is in no hurry to join the Abraham Accords. In recent weeks, Jeddah has become the venue for peace talks among warring factions in Sudan.

Riyadh’s advantage

In this ongoing quest for Arab supremacy, Saudi Arabia has the advantage of its economic heft: in 2022, its GDP grew by 8.7% to reach $1,108 billion, more than twice as large as the second-placed United Arab Emirates (UAE). Already the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi oil income grew by 51% to reach a record $228 billion, giving it a sway over both the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC+, much to the West’s chagrin.

With the global oil market facing high volatility, only Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, has adequate spare capacity. As the global economic turmoil raises the costs of post-crisis regional reconstruction, Riyadh is emerging as the first go-to destination.

However, the Kingdom’s rapid ascendance to the pinnacle of the Arab world also faces several challenges. First, the Kingdom’s foreign policy has been through several lurches since the Jamal Khashoggi episode in 2018 and greater maturity and consistency would be needed to make it more effective. Second, the various initiatives towards regional reconciliation have not yet become irreversible and could still unravel. Third, the Kingdom’s ties with the UAE and Qatar are friction-prone and could exacerbate. Last but not least, while Saudi Arabia is internally stable, the likely anointment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the next Saudi king could be a disruptive and distractive development.

India’s stakes

India has well-known high stakes in the Arab world, particularly in the neighbouring West Asian region. We, therefore, need to acknowledge the importance of this incipient geo-political shift, watch the developments very carefully, realign our strategy accordingly and vigorously pursue our national interests. Although we enjoy cordial and substantive ties with Saudi Arabia, these are still below the potential and need periodic upgradation. To this end, we could consider several bilateral initiatives. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be re-invited for the India visit postponed last year; his likely presence at the forthcoming G-20 Summit in New Delhi can be leveraged bilaterally for this purpose. Separately, we should synergise the bilateral Strategic Partnership Council at various levels, leverage the potential for energy complementarity, work together more effectively to secure the region, enter a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, suggest India-Saudi partnership for building socio-economic infrastructure, both bilaterally and regionally, and raise our participation in various projects under the Kingdom’s ambitious “Vision 2030”.

With the emergence of Saudi Arabia as the main arbiter of the Arab world’s agenda, India needs to realign its strategy.

Arab League, also called League of Arab States (LAS), is an intergovernmental pan-Arab organization of all Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa.

It was formed in Cairo, Egypt on 22nd March 1945, following the adoption of the Alexandria Protocol in 1944.


Currently, there are 22 Arab countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.


It aims to strengthen and coordinate the political, cultural, economic, and social programs of its members and to mediate disputes among them or between them and third parties.

  • The signing on 13thApril 1950, of an agreement on joint defense and economic cooperation alsocommitted the signatories to coordination of military defense measures.

Why Saudi Arabia is important for India

Saudi Arabia is an important and reliable source of India’s energy requirements.

India imports around 18% of its crude oil from Saudi Arabia, making it the 2nd-largest source of crude oil for the country.

It is also now India’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade at $27.48 billion in 2017-18

Saudi investment of around $100 billion is in the pipeline in areas ranging from energy, refining, petrochemicals and infrastructure to agriculture, minerals and mining.

Saudi Aramco is participating in a major refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast. Defence, security, trade, culture, education and people-to-people contacts are the important areas of bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia

During his visit to New Delhi in February 2019, the Crown Prince had committed to invest over $100 billion in sectors of priority in India.

On copyright infringement and AI

How do U.S. courts determine whether a use case is considered fair use or infringement? What is the Andy Warhol Foundation case? What have the courts decided on the case and how does it affect the future of generative artificial intelligence?


The story so far:

The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. versus Goldsmith et al. has added more unpredictability to the process of being exempted from copyright infringement liabilities. The judgment is set to have implications for how we regulate a powerful form of artificial intelligence.

To what extent does copyright law protect artists?

Copyright law protects the work of diverse artists, including photographers, and provides a set of exclusive rights for artists over their creative output. This includes controlling the manner in which others reproduce or modify their work. However, these exclusive rights are balanced with the rights of the users of such work, including other artists who might want to build on or comment on them, with the help of diverse exceptions under the copyright law.

What is exempt from infringement liability?

Different jurisdictions follow different approaches to exceptions. Some countries, particularly those in continental Europe, adopt the ‘enumerated exceptions approach’— the use in question needs to be specifically covered under the statute to be considered as an exception to copyright infringement. Some others, including the U.S., follow an open-ended approach that does not specify exemptions beforehand, instead, they have guidelines about the types of uses that can be exempted.

The U.S. courts primarily consider four factors when determining whether a particular use can be considered to be an instance of fair use — the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion taken by the defendant, and the effect of the use on the potential market of the plaintiff’s work. Of these, the U.S. courts have been giving the highest importance to the first factor — whether the use of something can be considered “transformative” has often played the most critical role in determining the final outcome in a fair-use case.

This open-ended approach to exceptions provides U.S. copyright law considerable flexibility and strength to deal with challenges posed by emerging technologies on the copyright system. However, it has a major limitation: there is no way to know whether an activity will be exempted from liabilities until after litigation. That is, it is very hard to predict ex ante whether an activity will be exempted from copyright infringement liabilities.

What is the AWF case?

Known for her concert and portrait shots, Lynn Goldsmith photographed the famous musician Prince in 1981. One of those photos was licensed in 1984 to Vanity Fair magazine for use as an “artist reference”. The licence specifically said the illustration could appear once as a full-page element and once as a one-quarter page element, in the magazine’s 1984 November issue. Vanity Fair paid Ms. Goldsmith $400 for the licence.

It then hired the celebrated visual artist Andy Warhol to work on the illustration. Mr. Warhol made a silkscreen portrait of Prince using Goldsmith’s photo. It appeared in the magazine with appropriate credits to Ms. Goldsmith. But while the licence had authorised only one illustration, Mr. Warhol additionally created 13 screen prints and two pencil sketches. In 2016, Condé Nast, the media conglomerate that publishes Vanity Fair, approached the Andy Warhol Foundation (AWF) to reuse the 1984 illustration as part of a story on Prince. But when they realised that there were more portraits available, they opted to publish one of them instead (an orange silkscreen portrait). As part of the licence to use it, they paid $10,000 to AWF, and nothing to Ms. Goldsmith.

When the AWF realised that Ms. Goldsmith may file a copyright infringement suit, it filed a suit to declare that it had not committed infringement. Ms. Goldsmith then counter-sued AWF for copyright infringement.

What did the courts find?

First, a district court summarily ruled in favour of the AWF, opining that Mr. Warhol’s use of Ms. Goldsmith’s photo constituted fair-use. The court banked on the first factor and held that Mr. Warhol’s work was “transformative” as they “have a different character, give Goldsmith’s photograph a new expression, and employs new aesthetics with creative and communicative results distinct from Goldsmith’s”. It also observed that Mr. Warhol’s work added something new to the world of art “and the public would be deprived of this contribution if the works could not be distributed”.

However, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed these findings and disagreed that Mr. Warhol’s use of the photograph constituted fair-use. The case subsequently went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which delivered its verdict on May 18, 2023.

The majority of judges concluded that if an original work and secondary work have more or less similar purposes and if the secondary use is of a commercial nature, the first factor may not favour a fair-use interpretation unless there are other justifications for copying.

In this particular instance, according to the majority decision, both Ms. Goldsmith’s photos and Mr. Warhol’s adaptations had more or less the same purpose — to portray Prince. The majority said that while copying may have helped convey a new meaning or message, that in itself did not suffice under the first factor. The dissenting opinion focused extensively on how art is produced, particularly the fact that no artists create anything out of a vacuum. Justice Elena Kagan, author of this opinion, wrote of the need for a broader reading of ‘transformative use’ for the progress of arts and science. The dissenters also opined that Mr. Warhol’s addition of important “new expression, meaning and message” tilted the first factor in favour of a finding of fair-use.

How does this affect generative AI?

While this dispute arose in the context of the use of a photograph as an artistic reference, the implications of the court’s finding are bound to ripple across the visual arts at large. The majority position could challenge the manner in which many generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as ChatGPT4, MidJourney, and Stable Diffusion, have been conceived. These models’ makers ‘train’ them on text, photos, and videos strewn around the internet, copyrighted or not.

For example, if someone is using a generative AI tool to create pictures in the style of Mr. Warhol, and if the resulting images are similar to any of the work of Mr. Warhol, a court is likelier now to rule against this being described as fair use, taking the view that both the copyrighted work and the models’ output serve similar purposes.

The majority’s reliance on the commercial nature of the use may also result in substantial deviation from the established view — that the commercial nature of the use in itself cannot negate a finding of fair use. But the true extent of the implications of the verdict will be clear only when trial courts begin applying the ratio in this judgment to future cases.

What about the implications on Indian copyright law?

There may not be any direct implications for Indian copyright law, as the framework of exceptions here is different. India follows a hybrid model of exception in which fair dealing with copyrighted work is exempted for some specific purposes under Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957. India also has a long list of enumerated exceptions.

This said, the observations by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision could have a persuasive effect, particularly when determining ‘fairness’ as part of a fair-dealing litigation. Then again, only time will tell which one will have a more persuasive effect — the majority or the minority.

Arul George Scaria is an associate professor at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU).


Copyright law protects the work of diverse artists and provides a set of exclusive rights for artists over their creative output. However, these exclusive rights are balanced with the rights of the users of such work, including other artists who might want to build on or comment on them, with the help of diverse exceptions under the copyright law.

Different jurisdictions follow different approaches to exceptions. The U.S. follows an open-ended approach that does not specify exemptions beforehand while India follows a hybrid model of exception in which fair dealing with copyrighted work is exempted for some specific purposes under Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957.

The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. versus Goldsmith et al. has added more unpredictability to the process of being exempted from copyright infringement liabilities.

Independence of judiciary is part of basic structure of Constitution: SC

The Supreme Court has held that the independence of district judiciary is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and judicial independence from the executive and the legislature requires the judiciary to have a say in matters of finances.

“The independence of the district judiciary must also be equally a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Without impartial and independent judges in the district judiciary, justice, a preambular goal, would remain illusory. The district judiciary is, in most cases, also the court which is most accessible to the litigant,” a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justices V. Ramasubramanian and P.S. Narasimha observed in a judgment.

The judgment, based on a petition filed by the All India Judges Association, gave a series of directions to amend the service rules of the district judiciary and for payment of arrears of pension, additional pension, gratuity and other retiral benefits.

The directions were based on the recommendations made in the report of the court-appointed Second National Judicial Pay Commission headed by Justice P.V. Reddi (retired) as its chairman with senior advocate R. Basant as its member.

Crucial role

The judgment records the crucial role played by the district judiciary in the justice administration system by recording the submissions made by its amicus curiae, advocate K. Parameshwar, that “on a single day, the district judiciary handled nearly 11.3 lakh cases”.

Justice Narasimha said the district judiciary was the backbone of the judicial system. “Vital to the judicial system is the independence of the judicial officers. To secure their impartiality, it is important to ensure their financial security and economic independence,” the top court noted.

The judgment highlighted the doctrine that the “judiciary must possess the inherent power to compel payment of those sums of money which are reasonable and necessary to carry out its mandated responsibilities”.

“This doctrine is only the logical conclusion of separation of powers and ensures that the independence of the judiciary is secured,” the court said.

Independence of the Judiciary?

  • Fair and neutral judicial system:

Which can take its decision without any interference of the executive or legislative branch of government.

  • Mentioned  in Basic Structure of Constitution:

Judicial Independence is guaranteed in the constitution and reaffirmed by the Kesavananda Bharati (1973) Judgement.

  • Principle of separation of powers:

The Judiciary keeps in check the executive and Legislature in accordance with the derived from Article 13.

Separation of judiciary from the executive (Article 50)

Provisions that ensure Judicial Independence

  • Security of Tenure:

Judges continue to remain in office till they reach the age of 65 years in the case of judges of the Supreme Court (Art. 124(2)) and

62 years in the case of judges of the High Courts (Art. 217(1)).

  • Removal of Judges:

They cannot be removed from the office except by an order of the President and that too on the ground of proven misbehaviour and incapacity.

The resolution has also to be accepted to that effect by a majority of the total membership of each House of Parliament.

  • Also by a majority of no less than two-third of the members of the house present and voting.

It is so complicated that there has been no case of the removal of a Judge of the Supreme Court or High Court under this provision.

  • Salaries and Allowances of Judges:

The judges are independent as their salaries and allowances are fixed and are not subject to a vote of the legislature.

  • Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court:

Parliament can only add to the powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court but cannot curtail them.

In civil cases, Parliament may change the pecuniary limit for the appeals to the Supreme Court.

  • Power to Punish for Contempt:

Both the Supreme Court and the High Court have the power to punish any person for their contempt.

Article 129 provides that the Supreme Court shall have the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Likewise, Art. 215 lays down that every High Court shall have the power to punish for contempt of itself.

  • Separation of the Judiciary from the Executive:

Article 50 states that the state shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state.

There is no mention of the term “Basic Structure” anywhere in the Constitution of India.

It was the Kesavananda Bharati case that brought this doctrine into the limelight. It held that the “basic structure of the Indian Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment”. The judgement listed some basic structures of the constitution as:

1.Supremacy of the Constitution

2.Unity and sovereignty of India

3.Democratic and republican form of government

4.Federal character of the Constitution

5.Secular character of the Constitution

6.Separation of power

7.Individual freedom

Over time, many other features have also been added to this list of basic structural features. Some of them are:

Rule of law

Judicial review

Parliamentary system

Rule of equality

Harmony and balance between the Fundamental Rights and DPSP

Free and fair elections

Limited power of the parliament to amend the Constitution

Power of the Supreme Court of India under Articles 32, 136, 142 and 147

Power of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227

Any law or amendment that violates these principles can be struck down by the SC on the grounds that they distort the basic structure of the Constitution.

India set to triple speed of its fastest supercomputers

Processing power to such a degree eases complex mathematical calculations required for accurate weather forecasting

India is set to dramatically scale up its supercomputing prowess and install an 18-petaflop system over the course of this year, Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Wednesday.

Flops (floating point operations per second) are an indicator of processing speed of computers and a petaflop refers to a 1,000 trillion flops. Processing power to such a degree greatly eases complex mathematical calculations required, for, among other things, forecasting how the weather will be over the next few days all the way up to two or three months ahead.

Currently India’s most powerful, civilian supercomputers — Pratyush and Mihir — with a combined capacity of 6.8 petaflops are housed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Noida, respectively. They were made operational in 2018 at an investment of ₹438 crore. Both these organisations are affiliated to the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

The new supercomputers too will be housed at the two institutes, M. Ravichandran, Secretary, MoES, said at an event on Wednesday when Mr. Rijiju visited the NCMRWF. This was Mr. Rijiju’s first official visit to an MoES institution since taking charge as MoES Minister on May 18.

Imported from France

The new supercomputers, yet to be named, are imported from French corporation, ATOS — an information technology service and consulting company. The Narendra Modi government had signed a deal in December 2018 with France to procure high-performance computers worth ₹4,500 crore by 2025.

The new MoES computers are likely to cost ₹900 crore.

“Every four or five years systems have to be upgraded. Our current high-performance computers allow us to map weather and climate changes to a resolution of 12X12 km,” Mr. Ravichandran said. “With the new system, we can improve resolution to 6X6 km.” This translates to greater clarity and more accurate local forecast. “The goal is eventually to be able to represent an area by 1 km-square grids and that can be used to warn of cloudburst and such rapidly evolving weather systems,” he added.

The fastest high-performance computing system in the world is currently the Frontier-Cray system at Oakridge National Laboratory, United States. This has a peak speed of one exa-flop (or about 1,000 petaflops).

The top 10 other systems, based on speed, range from about 400 petaflops to 60 petaflops.

Pratyush supercomputer

India’s fastest supercomputer yet, Pratyush, which is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world dedicated for weather and climate research.

It follows machines from Japan, USA and the United Kingdom. It can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops (One petaflop is a million billion floating point operations per second and is a reflection of the computing capacity of a system).

A key function of the machine’s computing power would be monsoon forecasting using a dynamical model.

Mihir : High Performance Computing Facility

Mihir is a high performance computer system (HPC) or supercomputer

Inaugurated by Ministry of Earth Science (MoES) in NOIDA

The HPC will provide facility for improving weather/climate forecasts.

It is country’s largest HPC facility in terms of peak capacity and performance.

It also propelled India’s ranking to Top 30 in the list of HPC facilities in world.

Mihir HPC facility will improve following services

Weather forecasts at block level over India which can predict extreme weather events.

High resolution seasonal and extended range forecasts of active and break spells of Monsoon.

Very high resolution coupled models for prediction of cyclones with more accuracy and lead time.

Ocean state forecasts including marine water quality forecasts at very high resolution.

Tsunami forecasts with greater lead time.

Air quality forecasts for various cities.

Climate projections at very high resolution.

A supercomputer is a computer that performs at or near the currently highest operational rate for computers.

Generally, PETAFLOP is a measure of a Supercomputer’s processing speed and can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

India’s first supercomputer was PARAM 8000.

PARAM Shivay, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, was installed in IIT (BHU), followed by PARAM Shakti, PARAM Brahma, PARAM Yukti, PARAM Sanganak at IIT-Kharagpur, IISER, Pune, JNCASR, Bengaluru and IIT Kanpur respectively.

In 2020, PARAM Siddhi, the High-Performance Computing-Artificial Intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer, achieved global ranking of 62nd in Top 500 most powerful supercomputer systems in the world.

In 2015, the National Supercomputing Mission was launched to enhance the research capacities and capabilities in the country by connecting them to form a Supercomputing grid, with National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone.

The NKN project is aimed at establishing a strong and robust Indian network which will be capable of providing secure and reliable connectivity.

It supports the government’s vision of ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives.

The Mission is being jointly steered by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

  • It isimplemented bythe Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the IISc, Bengaluru.

The mission was planned in three phases:

  • Phase Ilooking at assembling supercomputers,
  • Phase IIlooking at manufacturing certain components within the country.
  • Phase IIIwhere a supercomputer is designed by India.

An indigenously developed server platform called ‘Rudra is being tried out in a pilot system, with an interconnect for inter node communication called Trinetra also having been developed.

‘Remember our history, recognise our labour,’ say

Sri Lanka’s Malaiyaha Tamils

Marking 200 years since their arrival in Sri Lanka from southern India, to work in the British-run plantations, members of the island nation’s historically marginalised Malaiyaha [hill country] Tamil community have sought greater recognition, political rights, and improved living and working conditions.

“Design, resource, and implement a 10-year development plan that is explicitly based on the principle of affirmative action in response to the decades of structural exclusion that has resulted in poor human development indices of [the] Malaiyaha Tamil community when compared with all other communities,” a key demand read, in a declaration released after a recent three-day public event held in the central Nuwara Eliya city.

The development plan must aim to reduce poverty, provide land and housing, enhance public health and education access, while ensuring labour rights, including a fair living wage and legal protection, the declaration said. Further, it asked the Sri Lankan government to recognise the Malaiyaha Tamils as a community with “a distinct identity and as equal citizens”, and ensure appropriate political power sharing and proportional system of electoral arrangements.

Incessant injustices

Organised by the Institute of Social Development, an NGO working on addressing challenges facing the Malaiyaha Tamils, the event sought to highlight the centuries-long struggle of the much-neglected community, while demanding long-pending solutions to their enduring problems. From being deprived of their citizenship in 1948 — the struggle for citizenship continued until 2003 — to being subjected to discrimination and exploitation, the community has been enduring incessant injustices.

Around 1.5 lakh people from the million-strong community currently work in tea and rubber estates, bringing in crucial foreign exchange to Sri Lanka. A majority works outside the plantation ecosystem, including as professionals across sectors.

The estate-bound families, living in the Central, Southern and Uva provinces, are among Sri Lanka’s poorest, with some still residing in colonial-era line rooms, without basic amenities. India committed financial assistance to build 14,000 houses in the estate areas, but the slow pace of the project has come under frequent criticism.

Along with Sri Lankan legislators, scholars, workers, artistes and activists from the Malaiayah Tamil community, popular Tamil rapper Arivu, of Enjoy Enjaami fame participated and performed at last weekend’s event.

1.Contemporary forms of slavery have an ethnic dimension.

2.In particular, Malaiyaha Tamils —who were brought from India to work in the plantation sector 200 years ago — continue to face multiple forms of discrimination based on their origin, said Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

  1. The plight of the Malaiyaha Tamil community, historically neglected and marginalised, has received relatively less international attention.
  1. Roughly 1.5 lakh people from the community, with a population over 10 lakh, are engaged in direct labour in the estates, and most of them are women.
  1. Their daily wage of LKR 1,000 (about ₹373) — won after sustained protests in recent years — is tied to an arduous target of 18-22 kg of plucked tea leaves every day, to be met rain or shine, while braving leeches and wasp attacks.

6.A prominent item in Sri Lanka’s export basket — apart from garments, rubber, and spices — tea brings roughly $1.3 billion a year into the country.

7.India has committed to building 14,000 houses in Sri Lanka’s hill country, but the construction is progressing at a slow pace amid private plantation companies’ apparent reluctance to part with land.