Spike Adds To Hyderabad Fire Power: Rafael’s ‘Fire And Forget’ Missile Hub Sets Shop

By NEWSCOP / Hyderabad

The city, which is the hub of India’s missile power, is now gearing up to give the nation’s defence forces the best available fire power in the world with Israel’s anti-tank guided missile `Spike MR’ to be manufactured here.

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Once the manufacturing of’Spike MR’ begins in Hyderabad, Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS), the joint venture between India’s Kalyani Strategic Systems Ltd and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd set up to manufacture the missile, will be able to deliver 200 missiles in a month. Continue reading →

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​From Artificial Intelligence To Design Thinking: How Reskilling Is Changing Indian IT Landscape?

Reskilling is the buzzword in the IT sector.

With the sector seeing huge churn due to automation and protectionism in the western markets, industry lobby group Nasscom’s president R Chandrashekhar told employees in May: Re-skill or perish.

Yes, that’s true. The sector is seeing layoffs and voluntary severances. Companies’ hiring is on the decline. One estimate even puts the likely job loss at a whopping 2 lakh over the next three years.
And in that, the sector is class agnostic. Freshers, middle management or the directors and senior management, as is the case of Cognizant, opt for voluntary separation packages which most IT firms offer employees.
Human Resource (HR) professionals in the information technology services companies sometimes seem to be using cruel means to lay off employees, as was evident from the leaked telephonic conversation between a IT professional in Tech Mahindra and an HR executive.
Clearly, Chandrashekhar’s advice for the IT staff is bang on.
According to a survey, Skill acquisition for the Digital Age by Simplilearn, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics and mobile and software development will be the top technology areas where the need for re-skilling will be the highest. The availability of online courses and certifications has increased exponentially in recent times. Organisations choose them for accessibility of self-paced learning, ease in integration into Learning & Development strategy and availability of updated learning content.
Firstpost spoke to experts in the field to find out what is happening in the re-skilling arena and determine its landscape. Here’s what we found out.
K Nageswara Rao, vice-president, India Technology Center, Unisys, says that the country will need 700 million skilled workforce by 2022 to meet the demands of a growing economy. An important area that has already seen blistering growth is Cyber security. Rao says for security professionals, the median salary packages are already 9 percent higher than other IT professionals, according to Job Market Intelligence. The overall demand for security professionals is expected to reach nearly 6 million jobs in the next two years, making it one of the hottest skills to watch out for in the near future.
Robotics, Internet of Things, blockchain and Xaas (Anything-as-a-Service) are the other areas where demand will shoot up, according to Rao.
While the industry is taking a generational leap in training freshers in new generation technologies along with foundational technologies, the employee segment in the 3-15 year experience bracket is the main target for re-skilling, according to Arun Rajamani, country head, Pluralsight. Technology roles have also evolved today to becoming more multi-dimensional. A web developer today is expected to have expertise in 3-4 different skill areas like UX design, psychology, angular, full stack development. So the re-skilling has to focus on skill analytics to determine what the clusters of skills are today and how learning plans can be tailored to get the employee to a target skill level.
Digital skills are defined differently by companies. Rajamani says there are basically two forms of digital skills: 1) Digital experience-related skills – these skills revolve around designing and implementing digital customer experiences for clients; and 2) digital infrastructure-related skills – these skills can be bucketed into 5 categories linked to modernizing legacy IT infrastructure and IT processes – automation, cloud, devOps, cyber security and data analytics.
For Coursera, the world’s largest open online education i.e. MOOC provider, India is one of its fastest-growing markets and second-largest both in terms of learners and revenue (only after the US). The Coursera platform has over 2 million registered learners in India out of a total of 25 million globally. “We onboard close to 60,000 learners in India every month. We also are already seeing India take a lead in adoption of our enterprise platform that allows companies to partner with us on employee training and development,” said Nikhil Sinha, Chief Business Officer.
The most active learners for Coursera in India are young professionals in their 20s and 30s wanting to gain technical skills. Nearly half of enrollments are in technology domains such as computer science and data science. Since not all students with a job in hand can take time out for studies on a daily basis, Coursera is building a learning platform that makes it as easy as possible for people to fit learning into their busy schedules. For example, you can watch video lectures on your commute, submit assignments on your phone, and get immediate feedback on your code with their new in-browser coding feature.
Udacity, another online portal, found that the maximum demand for online courses in India is from Bangalore closely followed by Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai. Ishan Gupta, MD, Udacity India, said Bangalore contributes the most to advanced skills like deep learning, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. Delhi wants to learn more of artificial intelligence followed by machine learning and data analyst skills. Mumbai, on the other hand, is looking at machine learning, android and web development. Hyderabad wants to learn deep learning, data analysis and artificial intelligence. Chennai wants to learn data analysis, deep learning and android, while Pune is witnessing maximum search demand for deep learning, followed by android and artificial intelligence.
If you can think/predict what the customer will need that he/she does not know, rest assured you can find the skill — design thinking, the in-demand skill, will ensure you have a job that most companies are seeking. “Companies will hire design thinkers as they can predict what the consumer does not know and hence charge for the product/service from their clients,” says Ashwin Damera, Executive Director, Emeritus Institute of Management, Singapore.
Design thinking is a mindset. IT firms are trying to move up the curve. Higher-end services that companies can charge more is to provide value and for that you need to know that end-customers needs. For example, to provide value services to banking customers is to find out what the bank’s customer needs are in that country the banking client is based. Latent needs come from a design thinking philosophy where you observe customer data, patterns and provide a solution that the customer does not know. Idea in design thinking is to provide agile product creation or solutions.
“We have a popular course called design thinking by MIT which is taught by a professor whose students created Airbnb. Similarly, in a cloud-based model if you can provide the solution to a problem that does not exist then that is what you charge for,” said Damera.
Infosys’s new offering Aikido, formulated by CEO Vishal Sikka, focusses on design thinking, platforms and knowledge-based IT as part of its efforts to return to industry-leading growth numbers. “…Each of these by themselves help enterprises along a great new path, each of these helps bring together and tie together a lot of Infosys services we offer to clients today and together the three of these become even more powerful than the three individually by themselves,” Sikka had said while announcing Aikido.
Everything is changing in the once-buoyant and sunshine IT sector. To be relevant, constantly upgrading one’s skills is the only way to stay aboard.

Gently down the Jhelum: Is water transport in Kashmir a practical option?

Srinagar was once the city of canals. But making the Jhelum navigable today is a complicated project.

In July 2013, two motorboats and one motor-driven shikara sailed down the Jhelum river in Srinagar. They wound down from the wooden Zero Bridge, near the Lal Chowk city centre, to the Habba Kadal bridge in the old town. District Development Commissioner Farooq Ahmad Lone, watching over them, expressed “satisfaction” with this trial run for a state-run water transport service in the city.

In Srinagar, once called the city of canals or the “Venice of the East”, boats were a popular means of transport until its waterways were sealed up to make way for roads. Proposals to launch an inland water transport system and decongest the roads, however, were floated in the late-1990s. A trial was conducted in 2012 and a pilot project launched. Five state-run motorboats would ply down the river in the old town until 2014, when they were damaged by the floods. Now, only a few wooden boats remain, owned by local residents who ferry passengers across the river near Lal Chowk.

In 2016, the government tried once again to revive the transport system. “We can use the water transport for cargo transport, passenger transport and sightseeing for tourists,” then Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Asgar Samoon, said. “This will generate new avenues of employment and help reduce the rush on road transport.”

But a year on, the fate of the ambitious transport service remains uncertain.

‘No one’s baby’

To begin with, there is no dedicated government authority to administer all components of the Jhelum. “The water comes under one department, the bund comes under another and so on,” explained Ufair Aijaz Kitab, managing director of Kashmir Motors, which is to run the river transport. “The main problem is that it is no one’s baby. We had proposed setting up a Jhelum development authority which, besides the river, will be entirely responsible for the affairs of transport.”

According to Kitab, the flood-prone Jhelum lacks safety mechanisms. “This authority would be able to continuously monitor water levels,” he said. “When we navigate, maybe the water levels are not enough [in certain stretches]. There are no rescue boats either, on the Jhelum or on the Dal Lake, where there is a rush of tourists.”

There are other operational glitches, Kitab said. In downtown Srinagar, for example, the boats are prone to accidents. “The base of the bridges there is not visible when water levels are high,” Kitab explained. “There are piers of old bridges and boats get stuck in the whirlpool they create. We had asked the authorities to remove those.”

This year, dredging of the Jhelum has hampered operations. “We need to follow a standard operating procedure to ensure entry and exit times and to check equipment, life jackets, etc,” Kitab said. “For that we need a base to handle operations. Our base station on the Rajbagh bund was filled with sand due to the dredging.” Moreover, he added, the government has started building a new bridge over the river near Lal Chowk, making their operations difficult.

Javed Jaffar, former chief engineer of the state’s irrigation and flood control department, said the pilot project in 2012 failed for various reasons, one being high fares.

A motorboat provided by the J&K government for a trial run of the waterway transportation system on the Jhelum. Photo credit: Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times

Running dispute

The government has ambitious plans to start similar water transport service in North Kashmir, but, again, this is easier said than done. Not least because keeping the Jhelum navigable in all areas and through the year is difficult. For now, the river is navigable only in the summer, when the water levels are high.

Zahoor Ahmad Chatt, formerly with the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, said the transport system would be “successful only for limited portions” of the river. To make the river navigable all year round, he explained, it would need a long series of weirs, or barriers across the river that would raise water levels during lean seasons. At present, there is only one weir at Chattabal in Srinagar, built in 1905 by the Dogra ruler Hari Singh. It raises the level of the Jhelum from Chattabal to Pampore, about 14 km south of the city, said Chatt.

As the river travels down north from Chattabal, the long awaited barrage at the mouth of the Wullar Lake in Bandipora district, known as the Tulbul Navigation Project, would be crucial to the transport service, Chatt said. He explained that the barrage would ensure adequate water levels from Wullar to Chattabal. If boats are to ply from South Kashmir to Srinagar, Chatt said, “then weirs behind that [south of Chattabal] will ensure that the river is navigable from Baramulla to Anantnag.”

But the Tulbul project has long been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan, which believes it would violate the Indus Waters Treaty, signed by the two countries in 1960. “Pakistan has raised objections to the barrage and despite 13 meetings between the Indus Water Commissioners of the two countries, the matter remains unresolved,” said Shakil Romshoo, head of Kashmir University’s earth sciences department. Over the years, construction of the barrage has happened in fits and starts. In 2012, separatist militants attacked the barrage in an attempt to stop work.

Jaffar said the flood control department had also attempted to construct rubber dams, which could be inflated or deflated, on the river. “But the Chinese company that was given the contract backed out,” he added.

Even if the river were made navigable, it would be a long commute. By river, the distance between Sangam in Anantnag and Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar is 56.5 km. By road, it is about 42 km. According to Kitab, the inland water transport system might work in the congested areas of Srinagar. Beyond that, it would just be too slow for regular commute. “From Srinagar to Anantnag, it will take four hours,” Kitab said.

Stately legacy

Yet, before motor vehicles became popular, both people and goods would travel on the river and the canals that snaked through Srinagar.

There were ration depots on the banks of the river. Even now ration depots, no matter where they are, are called “ghats”. Coal, firewood, and vegetables grown on the islands of the Dal Lake were also supplied through the waterways to other parts of the city, Chatt said.

Often, visiting dignitaries would take a stately ride down the Jhelum, from the Mughals to the viceroys in British colonial times to Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1940s.

In the 1970s, the government filled up a 14th century canal, Nallah Mar, which had earned Srinagar the moniker “Venice of East”. “That was the main blunder,” Chatt said. “It was the jugular vein of the Dal Lake. It would pass through downtown Srinagar, and vegetables and goods would come [to the city] through this route.”

Romshoo also lamented the lack of scientific thinking in policy. “Successive state governments have not bothered to conduct pre-feasibility assessment of the work they want to do, to assess the long-term viability and implications of a policy,” he rued.

​India’s Hair-Raising Urban Myths: From The Monkey Man To Child-Eating Wolves

By M H Ahssan & Sarah Williams

At least 90 cases of mysterious hair chopping have been reported from across north India since June. Experts blame mass hysteria and say that this is not the first such incident where people have been terrorised due to an ‘urban legend’. 

Terrorised by mysterious chopping of hair over the oast month, people have resorted to putting lemon-chillies, neem leaves and hand imprints at the entrance of their house.

After Rajasthan and Haryana, multiple cases of mysterious hair chopping have been reported in Delhi too. Women in at least four Delhi villages have complained that their braids were cut by someone without their knowledge.
There have been reports of at least 90 cases from Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab since June this year. Though rumours have it that something ‘supernatural’ is causing the braids to be snipped off, psychology experts blame mass hysteria.
As the hair chopping takes the status of an urban legend, here’s a list of other ‘unexplained’ incidents in India that tested people’s faith, spread scare in cities and even led to deaths in some cases.
The Monkey Man

In 2001, dozens of Delhi residents reported being terrorized by a black ‘monkey-man’ who would allegedly bite and scratch people before disappearing. The belief in the monkey man was so strong that two men had even died after jumping from balconies to escape the creature. The creature disappeared into legend as the sightings slowly reduced. Dilli 6, a 2009 film by Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, has a subplot on the same monkey man.
Muhnochwa (Face Scratcher)

In 2002, people in eastern Uttar Pradesh reported spotting a light-emitting flying object that would attack them at night and scratch their face. Many referred to it as the ‘muhnochwa’, a Bhojpuri word that loosely translates to ‘face scratcher’. At the height of the panic, people went off streets after sundown. Scientists from IIT Kanpur were roped in to investigate the event, and they ruled out the existence of any such creature. The closest explanation, they said, could have been sightings of ball lightening, a rare meteorological phenomenon.
The Milk Miracle

In 1995, the unexplained phenomenon of Ganesha idols consuming milk originated in Delhi. A man offering milk to a Ganesha idol in a temple in south Delhi was the first to claim that the milk disappeared from his bowl. As the news spread across the world, many people claimed to have experienced the same ‘miracle’. In Delhi, meanwhile, the sale of milk shot up and traffic jams were reported outside many temples as people queued up to offer milk to idols.
Wolves of Pavagada

In 1983, a quiet small village Pavagada in Karnataka hit the headlines after the mysterious death of five young girls. Some alleged that it was a wolf-like animal that took away the children at night when everyone was sleeping. Others suspected it to be a case of ritualistic sacrifice by a tantrik. According to news reports, all the children who went missing were girls.

The Stoneman of Kolkata

In the summer of 1989, 13 people were murdered over six months in Kolkata and all of the victims were hit on their heads with a heavy stone. The victims were homeless, pavement dwellers and were killed while they were sleeping in dimly lit areas.
It was not clear if the murders were done by one person or a group of people but the events led to people calling the alleged killer by the name of Stone-man. None of the victims could be identified as no one came forward to claim their bodies. Most of the killings were in central Kolkata, adjoining the Howrah Bridge.

Why Is The India Pale Ale, King Of Craft Beers, Virtually Unheard Of In India?

They are increasingly available at discerning bars in affluent enclaves in some cities, but the India Pale Ale is yet to win over India.

It’s 2pm on a Sunday. The ‘beer buffet’ at a Gurgaon brewery has just started to pick up pace. A dozen people are hovering around the live grill counter. A handful of anxious servers are shuttling from the bar to tables, balancing tumblers and tall glasses of house brews on wooden platters. Advertised as a buffet with unlimited fresh brewed beer, business is quick in this sprawling bar nestled in one corner of a modest Gurgaon mall. Continue reading →

In A Country Enamoured By Performance Patriotism, Trying To Prove A Point By Chanting ‘Bharat MataKi Jai’ Is Only Expected

Facts and figures take a back seat as patriotic fervour reigns supreme.

The courtroom is not a television studio.

That’s what a judge had to tell a government lawyer in court. Kashmiri separatist Shabbir Shah is on trial in a money-laundering case. He has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate after a hawala operator said most of the money seized from him came from Shah. Continue reading →

​‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’ Is a Soulless, 144-Minute Tribute to Shah Rukh Khan’s Ego

By M H Ahssan / Hyderabad

Between its deeply regressive ideological pronouncements and terrible filmmaking, Jab Harry Met Sejal has no redeeming qualities.

A few hours ago, at 10:28 am, exactly 62 minutes into Jab Harry Met Sejal, I wanted to walk out of the theatre. For someone who watches and reviews films every Friday, I am, like other critics, accustomed to mediocrity. But there was something so crass and insensitive about the latest Imtiaz Ali release that watching it any longer felt like an insult, felt like an act of personal debasement. Continue reading →