Strategic petroleum reserve for use in times of national crisis  

The Hindu newspaper:: May 27, 2009


MANGALORE: A small ceremony on Wednesday marked the commencement of work on the Mangalore chapter of the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL) — one of the most ambitious capacity building projects of the Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) in recent times.


ISPRL is a special purpose vehicle of the OIDB, which is an autonomous body formed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (Government of India). The Mangalore reserve is one of the three strategic reserves of crude oil being planned in the country, the others  being at Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and in Padur (Udupi district, Karnataka). Once completed, the three projects will together contain a buffer stock of 5 million tonnes of crude, capable of sustaining the fuel needs of the country for 14 days.


Plus point

All the refineries in the country can presently sustain the country's demand for three weeks. It is hoped that these reserves will substantially improve the country's ability to withstand economic and military sieges and provide it with much-needed bargaining power with oil supplying nations.


ISPRL officials told The Hindu that the Mangalore reserve was coming up on 82.62 acres of land acquired from the Mangalore Special Economic Zone Ltd., at a cost of Rs. 41.31 crore. The construction is expected to be completed by 2012 at a cost of Rs. 1,000 crore. Work on the Visakhapatnam reservoir started in April last year while land is still being acquired for the project in Padur.


According to present official estimates, the three projects will cost over Rs. 11,000 crore. The construction of these storage spaces is expected to cost just a fraction of the total investment. The main expense will be incurred during the filling of the reservoirs with crude oil, which is expected to cost over Rs. 8,000 crore based on average crude prices of $ 55 a barrel.

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Align the practice of S&T with societal expectations  

Editorial page article in the Times of India: 20th May 2009…. by….…Sumit Bhaduri, Visiting professor at Northwestern University, Illinois.

Political change at the national level is a good time to talk about the state of science and technology (S&T) in India for two reasons. First, "inclusive economic growth" to which every political party pays lip service would remain a pipe dream unless mechanisms are put in place for the successful coupling of technological capabilities with the engine of growth. Second, the new government should understand that issues related to the precarious state of Indian science require serious public focus. Bluntly put recently by the chairman of the prime minister's scientific advisory council, seriously ailing Indian science has moved to its deathbed and, if it has to have a reasonable chance of revival, requires critical attention.

Societal expectations from S&T lie almost entirely in the 'T' part and are threefold: strategic defense capabilities, an improved quality of life and industrial research and development (R&D) activities which lead to competitive technologies and contribute to the national economy. The 'S' part is a critical component for acquiring, absorbing or developing the technological fruits.

In India till mid-1980, the responsibilities for meeting societal expectations in all three sectors were almost entirely shouldered by government agencies. Within the boundaries of a planned and protected economy, they performed their functions satisfactorily and sometimes admirably. Examples of a few visible successes are our continuing capabilities in nuclear and space technology, massive improvement in agricultural output in the period 1970-80 as a result of the 'Green Revolution' and availability of cheap out-of-patent drugs.

The reasons for the successes mentioned above are not far to see. In the strategic sector as well as in the case of the Green Revolution, the state had a long-term goal, and plans and commitment to achieve that goal. It put together a team of competent scientists, engineers and administrators, provided them with an environment conducive to work and, most important, monitored and owned the final outcomes with patience and perseverance. In the pharmaceutical sector, the state through its patent laws made it possible for private players to focus on the manufacturing processes and take advantage of available scientific expertise to bring down the cost of manufacture of patent expired drugs. This made it possible for private enterprises to be profitable and occasionally share interactive synergies with government laboratories.

However, the state's most important contribution often overlooked in the overall S&T enterprise was in human resource development. Quality higher education in basic sciences a critical requirement for successful technology development was far from satisfactory even 40 years ago, but the system did ensure supply of the required human capital in the form of enough skilled people to satisfy demand in the defense and civilian sectors, including the much-hyped IT sector. It is interesting to note that some of the most effective and competent managers of the private sector had science degrees, and honed their management skills in state-owned enterprises.

Globalization and the end of the Cold War changed everything. One of the most obvious manifestations of globalization is the enormous reach and power of global capital and the shrinking influence of the nation state in economic affairs. The other changes brought about by globalization such as change in patent laws, lowering of import tariffs etc, basically meant the entry of technology-savvy international competition.

Indian companies are trying to find ways to stay technologically competitive through increased focus on R&D. This has increased the demand for skilled technical personnel but supply is far too short and the level of skill inadequate. The rapidly changing aspirations of the younger generation and, more important, other job opportunities available to it add enormously to the complexity of the problem.

This acute shortage of students opting for a career in science had prompted the prime minister to offer a solution based on the "supply-demand equilibrium" model of economics. On the supply side, steps would be taken to increase the number of skilled scientists and technologists, while on the demand side the government would encourage, to use the prime minister's words, "technology-led accelerated inclusive growth". Since all this would require substantial additional resources, he had also announced that science funding over the next few years would be increased significantly.

However, funding is only a part of the problem. Recent statistics show that half the funds available for science are lying unutilized with the science ministry. The real challenge is how to utilize these funds in a manner that does not betray societal trust and expectations.

Improvement in quality of life can only be brought about by an S&T strategy that promotes the Nehruvian concept of scientific temper. Inclusive economic growth would result only if appropriate rather than glitzy technologies are developed or adopted. Promoting a scientific temper also means an emphasis on good science teaching rather than, in the name of democratization, below average research in innumerable research institutions. While solo efforts should be rewarded, new mechanisms must be found for rewarding team effort and collaboration a new emergent trend in global science. Increase in the quantity and quality of students trained in the emerging inter-disciplinary areas of science would certainly go a long way to align the practice of S&T with societal expectations.

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The leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels has been killed along with his son and other rebel commanders, according to reports today.
The death of Velupillai Prabhakaran came as the Government claimed to have seized control of the entire island state for the first time in 26 years, ending Asia's longest-running war.
Prabhakaran was ambushed and shot dead while trying to flee government troops as special forces closed in on the last rebel fortifications, state television said.
That account of events was disputed by a military spokesman who said that there had been no formal identification of Prabhakaran's body.
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Miliband effigy burnt on streets of Colombo
Joy tinged with fear as Tamil Tigers surrender
However, another official source said that the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse would address the nation this evening to announce the death of the Tiger leader.
This morning fighting had continued to rage in the northeast of the country despite the Tigers' admission of defeat on Sunday.
Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, told The Times that commando units and other crack government troops were trading machine gun fire with “a couple of hundred” of Tiger fighters hunkered down in fortified bunkers, thought to include several senior rebel leaders.
The conflict area had been reduced to a patch of land just 100 metres by 100 metres, he added. Tens of thousands of civilians who had been caught in the crossfire were finally allowed to flee to freedom over the weekend.
A senior defence official said Prabhakaran had been killed while trying to flee the area in an ambulance with two close aides.
"He was killed with two others inside the vehicle," the official told AFP.
The government said that they had found the body of Prabhakaran's 24 year old son Charles Anthony, the heir apparent of the Tigers’ leadership.
The head of the rebels’ political wing, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of the Tigers' defunct peace secretariat, Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and their eastern leader, S. Ramesh were also said to be among the dead.


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Indian stock market jumped higher
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