• India
  • May 02

Short Takes / May 2, 2021

India, Russia to establish a ‘2+2 ministerial dialogue’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to establish a ‘2+2 ministerial dialogue’ between foreign and defence ministers to add further momentum to the bilateral strategic partnership.

Russia now has become part of a small group of countries with whom India has 2+2 dialogue of foreign and defence ministers. India has such mechanism with the US, Japan and Australia.

The two leaders also reviewed diverse bilateral cooperation, especially in the area of space exploration and renewable energy sector, including in the hydrogen economy.


Gigantic Stratolaunch aircraft makes 2nd test flight

The gigantic Stratolaunch aircraft for its second time, taking to the skies over the Southern California desert.

The six-engine jet with the world’s longest wingspan took off from Mojave Air and Space Port two years after its maiden flight, following a change in ownership and purpose.

The behemoth safely touched down on its 28 wheels about three hours later and Stratolaunch called the flight test a success.

Named Roc, the twin-fuselage aircraft has a wingspan of 117 meters (385 feet). It was developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, who died just months before it flew for the first time in April 2019.


Rahul Bajaj resigns as chairman of Bajaj Auto

Rahul Bajaj, one of the most successful business leaders in the country, has finally decided to hang his boots at Bajaj Auto, the company he nurtured and steered to one of the leading firms in two and three-wheeler space.

The non-executive chairman of the Pune-based two and three-wheeler maker has tendered his resignation.

In place of Rahul Bajaj, the company has appointed Niraj Bajaj, 67, as chairman. 

Rahul Bajaj would continue as Chairman Emeritus of the company for a term of five years. 

Rahul Bajaj had taken charge of the Bajaj group in 1965. He led the company, known for its Bajaj Chetak scooters from strength to strength.

As a non-executive chairman of the company, Rahul Bajaj has been at the helm of the company since and the group for five decades.

He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2001. He was also a member of Rajya Sabha from 2006 to 2010.


Sitharaman inaugurates India’s first 3D printed house at IIT-M

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the country’s first 3D printed house at IIT-Madras, conceived by former alumni and built in just five days.

Chennai based TVASTA Manufacturing Solutions built it on a concept by former IIT-M students. TVASTA Manufacturing was set up as part of the new incubator — ASHA Incubator — of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs at IIT-Madras.


Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee dies

Distinguished jurist and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, who appeared in several historic cases, passed away due to COVID-19 in New Delhi. He was 91.

A recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the country, the renowned human rights lawyer served as the Attorney General for India from 1989-90 and then from 1998-2004 during the tenure of V.P. Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee respectively.

Considered one of the best Constitutional law experts, Sorabjee wrote several books on laws and justice, press censorship and the Emergency, and vehemently fought against human and fundamental rights violations.    

One of his recent court battles pertaining to fundamental right violations was the Shreya Singhal case in which the Supreme Court in 2015 agreed to his submissions and struck down a provision in the Information Technology Act relating to restrictions on online freedom of speech and expression. The top court held that section 66A was unconstitutional as being violative of freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution, the point put forth by Sorabjee. 

Sorabjee had led India’s fight in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when Pakistan sought compensation from India for downing of their naval patrol aircraft Atlantic in 1999 just after the Kargil war. The ICJ at the Hague ruled in India’s favour after taking note of submissions of Sorabjee and dismissed Pakistan’s claim for compensation, saying it had no jurisdiction over the matter.

Sorabjee appeared in many important cases including the Kesavananda Bharati matter on basic structure doctrine and the S.R. Bommai matter relating to invocation of President’s rule in states among others.

He was appointed by the United Nations as a Special Rapporteur for Nigeria in 1997 to report on the human rights situation in that country and later became a member and the chairman of the UN-Sub Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, from 1998 to 2004.

Sorabjee was also a member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities since 1998. 

He has also served as member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague from 2000 to 2006.


Germany to start returning ‘Benin Bronzes’ next year

Germany aims to start returning ‘Benin Bronzes’ to Nigeria next year, part of a growing trend to return cultural artefacts seized during the colonial era to their places of origin.

Britain’s soldiers seized thousands of metal castings and sculptures in 1897 during a raid on the Kingdom of Benin, then separate from British-ruled Nigeria.

The “bronzes” — actually copper alloy relief sculptures, many showing court figures — were auctioned off and then spread among institutions from New Zealand to Germany and the United States, with the biggest collection in London.

The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin has more than 500 historical artefacts from the Kingdom of Benin in its collections, mostly bronzes.

The University of Aberdeen in Scotland said last month it would return a Benin Bronze to Nigeria within weeks, one of the first public institutions to do so.

The British Museum, which holds hundreds of the sculptures, has alongside several other museums formed a Benin Dialogue Group to discuss displaying them in Benin City, some officially on loan.

Plans are underway in Nigeria’s Edo state, of which Benin City is the capital, to build a centre to store and study the returned artefacts by the end of 2021, and a permanent museum by 2025.


T.V. Somanathan appointed as Finance Secretary

Expenditure Secretary T.V. Somanathan has been designated as the Finance Secretary.

He is a 1987-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved designating Somanathan as the Finance Secretary, a Personnel Ministry order said. 


Tonnes of dead fish wash up on shore of polluted Lebanese lake

At least 40 tonnes of dead fish have washed up on the banks of a lake on Lebanon’s Litani river, in a disaster blamed on polluted waters.

Volunteers collected rotting fish carcasses near the Qaraoun lake on Lebanon’s longest river, the Litani, where activists have warned for years of water pollution caused by sewage and waste.

The pollution prompted a ban since 2018 on fishing in the reservoir, which was created in 1959 with a large dam to collect water for hydropower and irrigation.

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