Ms Missile Scientist
….M. SOMASEKHAR …from the pages of THE HINDU BUSINESS LINE newspaper.
There were just 12 days left for the critical Agni-V missile launch, but that was not why Tessy Thomas was uneasy in the stomach. The doughty ‘Agni putri', as the missile project director is fondly nicknamed, was simply having a bad tummy from the constant travel her work entailed.During a chance meeting over lunch at the Advanced Systems Laboratory in Hyderabad she appeared rather anxious about what she ate. But regarding the country's most ambitious ballistic missile launch — the 5,000-km range Agni-V — Tessy exuded nothing but confidence.Yes, the preparation was long, involving a lot of meticulous checks. But once the mission parameters are completed, the actual blast-off and launch will take just under half an hour. It's unlike Space launches, which have an elaborate countdown, she had explained.Alongside Tessy, the missile programme's top team comprising Avinash Chander, V.G. Sekharan and Ravi Gupta, as also DRDO Chief Dr V.K. Saraswat were a confident lot from the beginning. The success of Agni-III had boosted their morale considerably. Agni-V was a virtual extension in terms of distance. The other big test was re-entry at a much higher temperature differential.
Nevertheless, as they were encountering conditions in hitherto uncharted areas of Space, the suspense was intense.All the hard work was finally rewarded with success when the missile travelled with precision and achieved its distance and target. The team was overjoyed. “The happiness cannot be expressed. It was the fruitful outcome of three years of hard work by a large team. In a span of 20 minutes, as the missile soared and completed its task, our tensions were wiped out and a new confidence dawned,” she recounts.“In the coming years we will work on guidance systems for the MIRVs (Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicles),” she says.
An ambitious start
From the day she joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation in 1988, Tessy has been involved with the country's ambitious missile programme. “Right from the beginning I have been involved in developing inertial navigation systems. During the first Agni launch in 1989, I was also involved in solid propulsion. Our team has developed this crucial technology along with onboard guidance and they have been well established. The challenge ahead is to extend them to multiple stages,” she says.In the steadily growing missile community, Tessy has been the most visible female face for years. Along the way she's had many firsts. She worked her way up to become the first woman to lead a missile project with Agni III. The mission's success brought her greater responsibilities with Agni IV and, now, Agni V.
“I was very fortunate to have worked under the guidance of stalwarts like former President Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Dr R.N. Agarwal and now Dr Avinash Chander, who have led the programme in its near three-decade journey. Dr Kalam, who steered the first Agni launch, has been a role model for me. I am a student of Avinash Chander and, over the years, learnt a lot from them, both in terms of technology and management.” Over the years, this postgraduate in engineering from the Institute of Armament Technology, Pune, has strengthened her managerial skills with an MBA from IGNOU, as also a couple of short courses in project management from IIM-Ahmedabad. Originally from Thrissur in Kerala, the scientist has made Hyderabad her home for the past 25 years. Her husband, Saroj Kumar Patel, is a naval officer who is currently based in Mumbai. He is equally clued into missiles thanks to a stint at the quality assurance directorate of DRDO.
With its focus on completely indigenous development, work on the Agni programme has been intensive and time-consuming. Tessy has had to dextrously juggle family and work. “The last four years have been very taxing with the series of Agni launches. I could hardly get time to pursue my other interests — reading and badminton,” she says. Her son, Tejas, is in the final year of his engineering course in Vellore. She is quick to clarify that her son's name is in no way connected to the famous defence aircraft. “I named him in 1990, a clear couple of years before the LCA (light combat aircraft) was named Tejas,” she says.
Young, enthusiastic lab
The Advanced Systems Laboratory she works at currently is among the youngest of DRDO's labs; it was set up in 2000. Women constitute about 10 per cent of the predominantly young scientific community here. Rohini Devi, an expert in composite technology, is another top woman scientist at ASL, in the position of Associate Director.The young lab is vested with the tough task of strengthening the country's strategic deterrence through the Agni programme. There is a new determination and high level of commitment among the younger generation of scientists,” says Tessy.Equally important has been the ability to learn from the failures. “When it comes to failures and setbacks, we are definitely disheartened, as happened with the Agni IV flop in the first trial. But, over the years, we have put in place a sound failure analysis system to find out the root cause and rectify it,” says Tessy, adding that this has crucially contributed to the Agni programme's growing success rates.
Ms Missile Scientist
The result of the MAH-MBA/MMS-CET 2012 shall be declared on 16-04-2012 at 5.00 P.M. The eligible candidates shall be able to register for GD/PI as per schedule.
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Stating that 90 per cent of the people in India are at a poor intellectual level, Justice (retd.) Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, emphasised at an interactive session organised by Public Relations Society of India, Kolkata chapter the role of the media in giving leadership to society in the realm of ideas. “But how can the media give leadership to the people in the realm of ideas unless it is itself of a high intellectual level,” he asked, advising journalists to carefully study the social sciences, history and literature.
“The media is not justified in giving 90 per cent of its coverage to entertainment leaving only 10 per cent to real issues which are basically socio-economic in nature. Doubtless, the media should provide some entertainment. But the thrust of its coverage should be in public interest. You have lost your sense of proportion,” he said, referring to journalists, at a lecture on ‘The Role of Media in India,' organised by the Calcutta Chapter of the Public Relations Society of India. He said that the argument that the media was also a business and must give the people what they wanted “is degrading the media. The media is not an ordinary business that deals with commodities, it deals with ideas.”
“The intellectual level of most of our people is very low. Is the media going to go down to that level and perpetuate it or should it seek to uplift it,” he said. Although he said that 90 per cent of the people in the country were at a poor intellectual level, going by the comments he had seen on the Internet and networking sites like twitter, 90 per cent of the people supported his views on the media. On paid news, he said that there had been pressure to suppress the 71-page report on the phenomenon prepared by the two-member committee of the Press Council comprising Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K. Sreenivas Reddy. Justice Katju had passed an order within an hour of taking over as Chairman of the council to publish the report on the official website.
He said that India was passing through a transitional period of her history from a feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial one — a painful and agonising period in history. “In this transitional period, ideas become very important. You have to promote rational ideas, scientific ideas, and modern ideas, in order to help society get over this transitional period faster and with minimum pain,” he said ruing the fact that a large section of the media was promoting regressive ideas like astrology. He pointed to Europe, which underwent its own transition from the 17th to 19th century, and the role of great writers like Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Paine and Junius in this period. On the other hand, a large section of the Indian media was actually acting in “an anti-people manner” by diverting attention from real issues, creating rifts in a diverse country like India and promoting superstition.
Media must provide leadership to society
Reliance, Tatas among 150 in race for solar photovoltaic projects
Over 150 companies have evinced interest in developing large solar photovoltaic projects of up to 20 MW. These include Reliance (Anil Ambani Group), Lanco, Moser Baer and the Tatas.
Also in the race are public sector companies GAIL (India) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.Official sources told Business Line that the request for selection (RFS) were received for 218 solar PV projects for over 2,500 MW capacity, much higher than the capacity offered – 350 MW. The RFS were invited by the Government as part of the second batch of Phase-1 of the National Solar Mission. The last date for submission was October 3.NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN), the trading arm of NTPC, has been designated as the nodal agency for sale and purchase of grid-connected solar power under Phase-1 of the Mission. NVVN expects to call for discount bids from the shortlisted entities by November.
What made this phase attractive was that besides the incentives being offered by the Government, the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy revised the guidelines for new grid-connected solar PV projects and increased the per unit capacity into multiples of 5 MW with the maximum of 20 MW for FY 2011-12. In the earlier round, where projects with a cumulative capacity of 150 MW were approved, the maximum capacity stood at 5 MW for each unit. Further, for the second batch of the Mission, the Government has increased the timeline to achieve financial closure by a month to seven months or 210 days for the bidders from the time of signing the power purchase agreements.
Also, the total capacity of such projects to be allocated to a company, including its parent, affiliate or ultimate parent or any Group company shall be limited to 50 MW. They can submit applications for a maximum of three projects at different locations, subject to a maximum aggregate capacity of 50 MW. The net worth of the company should be equal to or greater than the value calculated at the rate of Rs 3 crore of the project capacity up to 20 MW. For every MW additional capacity, beyond 20 MW, additional net worth of Rs 2 crore would need to be demonstrated. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission envisages the implementation of the solar programme including utility grid solar power in three phases – first phase up to 2013 (1,100 MW), second phase up to 2017 (4,000 MW), and third phase up to 2022 (20,000 MW).
…..Richa Mishra …from the pages of HINDU BUSINESS LINE newspaper
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