Normal is good: On IMD monsoon forecast

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a ‘normal’ monsoon for this year. In the agency’s parlance, normal implies that the country will get 96% to 104% of the 88 cm that it gets from June-September. This quantity, called the Long Period Average (LPA), is a mean of monsoon rainfall from 1961-2010. The IMD, for over 20 years now, follows a two-stage monsoon forecast system. After the prognosis in April, it gives an updated estimate in late May or early June. This includes an estimate of how much rain is likely in: northwest India, northeast India, central India and southern peninsula. Numbers are also given for July and August, which see two-thirds of the monsoon rains and are the most important months for sowing. This year, there will be forecasts for June and September too, to be given in May and August, respectively. Historically, predicting rain for June and September is challenging as it corresponds to the monsoon’s entry and exit. There will also be forecasts for
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Cuba after the Castros

The retirement of Raul Castro as the first secretary of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party brings to an end the six-decade-long rule of the “historic generation”, who, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, captured power in 1959 through an armed revolution. Fidel remained at the helm of affairs in the island, in the face of growing hostility from the U.S. until he fell sick in 2006. Two years later, he handed the party to his younger brother, who had fought alongside him in the guerrilla war against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s. Under the younger Castro, Cuba started taking baby steps towards opening up the state-controlled economy. He had also overseen rapid improvement in relations with the U.S., when Barack Obama eased some restrictions on the Cuban economy, travelled to Havana and opened an American Embassy. In 2018, Mr. Raul stepped down as President, handing government responsibilities to his hand-picked next generation leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Now when the
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Editorial

Steep climb: On BJP and the Darjeeling hills

The three seats of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal may count for little numerically in the State Assembly of 294 members, but their political significance is a different story. The demand for a separate Gorkhaland State in the hills has singularly driven politics among the Gorkha population for more than three decades now. The agitation has been often violent. In 2017, during the last eruption of violence, the hills were in blockade for 104 days and several people were killed. The BJP’s close involvement with Gorkha politics suggests that it has certain plans for the region, which could have ripples in other parts of the country where demands for autonomy or separate States exist. It was in Darjeeling that the BJP got its foothold into West Bengal. From 2009 to 2019, the region sent a BJP member to the Lok Sabha. The BJP’s traditional position in favour of smaller States created an affinity for it, but more importantly, the fact that it had

Editorial

Exiting Afghanistan: On U.S. troop pullout

By announcing that all U.S. troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan by September 11, President Joe Biden has effectively upheld the spirit of the Trump-Taliban deal, rather than defying it. In the agreement between the Trump administration and the insurgents in February 2020, U.S. troops were scheduled to pull back by May 1, in return for the Taliban’s assurance that they would not let terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State operate on Afghan soil. When Mr. Biden ordered a review of the U.S.’s Afghan strategy, there was speculation that he would delay the pullout at least until there was a political settlement. But he chose an orderly pullout — the remaining troops (officially 2,500) will start leaving Afghanistan on May 1, with a full withdrawal by September 11. Besides the U.S. troops, the thousands of coalition troops under the NATO’s command are also expected to pull back along with the Americans. Mr. Biden’s push to revive the peace talks between the Afghan

Editorial

Probing the sleuths: On the ISRO spy case

The Supreme Court’s order tasking the CBI to look into the Justice D.K. Jain committee report on the action to be taken against those who implicated space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the ‘ISRO espionage case’ of 1994 is a logical and much-needed step forward in ensuring accountability for the suspected frame-up. Representing a dark, but brief, chapter in the annals of police investigation in the country, the case was based on unfounded suspicion sparked by the arrest of two Maldivian women and the claims they made in their statements to the police. The Kerala Police arrested Mr. Narayanan based on suspicion that he was among those sharing official secrets relating to space technology and missions to foreign agents. After the investigation was transferred to the CBI in a matter of weeks, the central probe agency recommended that the case be closed, highlighting grave lapses in the probe and the complete lack of evidence. When the Supreme Court awarded a compensation of ₹50 lakh to the

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