THE CENTRAL government has warned its employees against participating in strikes or protests over demand for restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).In a communication to all ministries on Monday, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said, “The undersigned is directed to inform that the National Joint Council of Action under the banner of ‘Joint Forum for Restoration of Old Pension Scheme’, has planned to organise district-level rallies across the country on March 21, exclusively over OPS.”“The instructions issued by the Department of Personnel & Training prohibit Government servants from participating in any form of strike, including mass casual leave, go-slow, sit-down etc. or any action that abet any form of strike in violation of Rule 7 of the CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964. Besides, in accordance with the proviso to Rule 17 (1) of the Fundamental Rules, pay and allowances is not admissible to an employee for his absence from duty without any authority,” the communication said.“Central Government Employees under your Ministry/Departments may, therefore, be suitably informed of the aforesaid instructions under the conduct Rules issued by this Department and other regulations upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. They may be dissuaded from resorting to strike in any form, including protest,” it said.“Instructions may be issued not to sanction casual leave or other kind of leave to employees if applied for during the period of the proposed protest/strike and ensure that the willing employees are allowed hindrance free entry into the office premises.”“For this purpose, Joint Secretary (Admn) may be entrusted with the task of coordinating with security personnel,” it said. “In case the employees go on dharma/protest/strike, a report indicating the number of employees who took part in the proposed dharna/protest strike may be conveyed to this Department on the evening of the day.”Acting on the order, the Animal Husbandry and Dairying department warned its employees of action if they participated in protests over OPS demand. In a circular, it said that in case any official participates in the strike/protest, it will be brought to the notice of the competent authority for appropriate disciplinary/penal action.
The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) might be facing heat from central agencies with its MLC K Kavitha, the daughter of party supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao or KCR, being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) repeatedly in the Delhi excise policy case, but the party is going ahead with its plan for expansion in other states.As part of the BRS’ bid to make inroads into Maharashtra, the party is making preparations to organise a KCR rally at Kandhar Loha in Nanded district – which borders Telangana’s Boath Assembly constituency and has a large Telugu-speaking population – on March 26.The elections to several municipal corporations in Maharashtra, including Nanded, are to be held in the coming months. Gearing up for these civic body polls, the BRS is keen on testing the water in the Nanded corporation polls. On February 5, KCR addressed a public meeting at Bhokar in Nanded.The BRS recently approached the Maharashtra State Election Commission, seeking recognition as a registered party and allotment of its “car’’ symbol in the state.BRS sources said that at the KCR’s Kandhar Loha meeting a “significant number of leaders and activists of various parties would join the BRS fold”.On March 1, KCR named the party’s six divisional coordinators in Maharashtra, appointing Dasarath Sawanth to this position for Nashik, Balasaheb Jairam Deshmukh for Pune, Vijay Tanaji Mohite for Mumbai, Somnath Thorat for Augrangabad, Dyanesh Wakudkar for Nagpur, and Nikhil Deshmuch for Amaravathi division. He also appointed farmer leader Manik Kadam as the president of the party’s Maharashtra unit kisan cell.The BRS camp has claimed that the party’ s policies along with KCR’s vision was “impressing many people and leaders in the country”.“Many leaders from several states are joining the BRS as they like BRS policies, which aim to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of the people,” the BRS claimed, adding that its February Nanded meeting drew a remarkable response. “KCR’s focus on people’s development and welfare and his vision is attracting many from various states. Telangana’s development programmes and welfare schemes have drawn attention from across the country.”Several Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders from Maharashtra have already switched to the BRS, the latter claimed.Recently, several Maharashtra NCP leaders – including president of its kisan cell Shankaranna Dhonge, former MLA Nagnath Ghisewad, Nanded district chief Datta Pawar, state youth secretary Shivraj Dhonge, spokesperson Sunil Patil, Loha president Subhash Vakore, Kandhar chief Datta Karamange and Zilla Parishad members, among others – met KCR in Hyderabad.During their meeting, KCR outlined the BRS’ policies and future action plan, even as the NCP leaders said they would join the party with their followers at his Kandhar Loha meeting.
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been updating his fans regularly about his health condition ever since he was injured on the sets of his upcoming film, Project K in Hyderabad. The actor once again took to his blog on Monday and shared that in the absence of a daily routine to go out and work, he has not been completely feeling like himself.“Work be the essence of routine .. and routine be the effervescence of living life .. in the absence of either the world crumbles and falls apart .. routine guides the day to its efficiency and the absence of which disturbs .. So .. I must rid myself of disturbance .. get back to work and bring back routine .. and that shall hopefully , with all your prayers , occur in its rapidity .. (sic),” he wrote.Adding that an artiste performs best when they are in an environment of peace and harmony, senior Bachchan added, “Artists flourish in the realms of beautiful petals of colourful flowers .. in the sublime strains of soulful music .. in the atmosphere and surroundings of peace harmony and love .. And when they get this they prosper with great achievement ..”Bachchan hinted that he has been trying to rise out of this dullness and emerge victorious. A post shared by Amitabh Bachchan (@amitabhbachchan)“BUT ..When they get the opposite , it triggers the determined angst to disprove , to throw back the garbage that came your way , and rise above it all , chest out, a brave smile adorning the face .. Many have .. and many shall be subjected to this , and shall endeavour to come face to face with it and live up to the expectations that they deserve .. They that be victorious .. be in humbled silence .. they that be victorious in abstract circumstances .. be in silence too, for the noise from the achievement shall drown all else ..(sic),” the actor completed on a somewhat cryptic note. Later, he also shared a photo of himself walking the ramp and captioned it, “Thank you for all the prayers and wishes for my recovery .. I repair .. hope to be back on the ramp soon.”Earlier, the actor had shared that he has been feeling ‘extreme pain’ of late, and is not able to write as he used to prior to his rib injury recently. He also stated that he now has a blister under his callus, something which he hadn’t even heard of.“The rib continues in its painful journey .. but another erupts at the toe and draws attention greater than the rib .. so .. the rib diminishes and the attention drifts to the toe .. the hand that wrote endlessly and with great endeavour, brought down by the pain of its continuous use .. put it in warm or hot water .. no results .. so mentally shift it to the other hand .. now the other paineth and the original be safe and secure .. and in work mode ..,” read a section of his blog post.Bachchan mentioned how doctors had to be called late at night to his residence after he developed a blister under the callus: “So growth under the callus develops overnight and the medics have to be called to attend .. there is a blister under the callus .. a blister under the callus .. ? strange , never heard or experienced before , but there it is and yes extreme pain .. so attention given to it .. a live puncturing under the callus , syringe removal of liquids by piercing the subject and wrapped under the dressed blanket of some protection .. till the morrow ..”Besides Project K, Amitabh Bachchan also has The Intern’s Hindi remake in the pipeline, in which he will be once again sharing screen space with his Piku co-star Deepika Padukone.
Did you set a New Year’s resolution to kick a bad habit, only to find yourself falling back into old patterns? You’re not alone. In fact, research suggests up to 40 per cent of our daily actions are habits – automatic routines we do without thinking. But how do these habits form, and why are they so difficult to break? Habits can be likened to riverbeds. A well-established river has a deep bed and water is likely to consistently flow in that direction. A new river has a shallow bed, so the flow of water is not well defined – it can vary course and be less predictable.Just like water down a riverbed, habits help our behaviour “flow” down a predictable route. But what we are really talking about here is learning and unlearning.What happens in the brain when we form a habit? During the early stages of habit formation, the decision parts of your brain (pre-frontal cortices) are activated, and the action is very deliberate (instead of hitting snooze you make the choice to get out of bed). When a new routine is initiated, brain circuits – also called neural networks – are activated.The more often you repeat the new action, the stronger and more efficient these neural networks become. This reorganising and strengthening of connections between neurons is called neuroplasticity, and in the case of building habits – long-term potentiation. Each time you perform the new action while trying to form a habit, you need smaller cues or triggers to activate the same network of brain cells.Habits strengthen over time as we form associations and earn rewards – for example, not hitting snooze makes getting to work on time easier, so you feel the benefits of your new habit.Later, as habits strengthen, the decision parts of the brain no longer need to kick in to initiate the action. The habit is now activated in memory and considered automatic: the neural circuits can perform the habit without conscious thought. In other words, you don’t need to choose to perform the action any more.How long does it really take to form a habit? Popular media and lifestyle advice from social media influencers often suggest it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – an idea originally presented in the 1960s. This is generally considered an oversimplification, though empirical evidence is surprisingly sparse.A seminal study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology is often cited as showing habits take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form, with an average of about 66 days.In that study, 96 people were asked to choose a new health habit and practice it daily for 84 days. Of the original 96 participants, 39 (41 per cent) successfully formed the habit by the end of the study period. The level of success in forming a habit, and the length of time to form the habit, appeared to vary based on the type of goal.For example, goals related to drinking a daily glass of water were more likely to be successful, and be performed without conscious thought faster than goals related to eating fruit or exercising. Furthermore, the time of day appeared important, with habits cued earlier in the day becoming automatic more quickly than those cued later in the day (for example, eating a piece of fruit with lunch versus in the evening, and walking after breakfast versus walking after dinner).The study was fairly small, so these findings aren’t definitive. However, they suggest that if you haven’t been able to embed a new habit in just 21 days, don’t fret – there’s still hope! What about breaking unwanted habits?Most of us will also have habits we don’t like – unwanted behaviours. Within the brain, breaking unwanted habits is associated with a different form of neuroplasticity, called long-term depression (not to be confused with the mental health condition).Instead of strengthening neural connections, long-term depression is the process of weakening them. So, how do you silence two neurons that previously have been firing closely together? One popular approach to breaking a bad habit is pinpointing the specific cue or trigger that prompts the behaviour, and the reward that reinforces the habit.For example, someone might bite their nails when feeling stressed, and the reward is a temporary feeling of distraction, or sensory stimulation. Once the person has identified this connection, they can try to experiment with disrupting it. For example, by using a bitter nail polish, and focusing on deep breathing exercises when feeling stressed. Once disrupted, over time the old behaviour of biting their nails can gradually fade.Tips on how to form or break a habitTo break a habit:Identify your triggers, and then avoid or modify them Find a substitute: try replacing the old habit with a new and healthier one Practise self-compassion: setbacks are a natural part of the process. Recommit to your goal and carry on.To form a habit:Start small: begin with a simple and achievable habit that you can easily integrate into your daily routine Be consistent: repeat the habit consistently until it becomes automatic reward yourself along the way to stay motivated.If you think of habits like that riverbed, what deepens a river is the volume of water flowing through. With behaviour, that means repetition and similarity in repetition: practising your new habit. Because new habits might be overwhelming, practising in small chunks can help – so that you are not creating a new riverbed, but maybe just deepening parts of the main stream.Finding meaning in the new habit is critical. Some studies have reported strong findings that the belief you can change a habit is also critical. Believing in change and being aware of its potential, along with your commitment to practice, is key.📣 For more lifestyle news, follow us on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook and don’t miss out on the latest updates!
Observing that there is rampant unregulated industrial and sewage pollution in the Hindon River and neglect by authorities in Uttar Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came down heavily on the state government for not following its earlier orders while hearing a petition seeking action against polluters and cleaning of the river.The petitioner said in spite of the categorical direction, authorities in UP have failed to take any meaningful action and are thus neglecting their constitutional duty.Considering this, a bench of Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel and Members Sudhir Agrawal, and Dr A Senthil Vel on Friday directed to constitute a joint committee headed by the chief secretary of UP with the involvement of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), State PCB, and concerned district magistrate to take remedial action for control of pollution of Hindon without further delay and also to deploy field monitoring teams to assess the real ground situation.Along with this, the tribunal has also directed to involve concerned commissioners or superintendents of police, additional chief secretary, Environment, and ACS/principal secretary, Urban Development Department, State Irrigation and Flood Control, Uttar Pradesh in the committee.“The Committee may meet within one week and will be free to function online or offline, undertake visits to the sites and interact with concerned authorities and stakeholders. Remedial action will involve assessment of compensation against erring industries for past violations equal to 10% turnover but not lower than the assessed cost of restoration, closure of units which are continuing to cause pollution, prosecution of the owners of the industries under the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, following due process of law,” reads the order dated March 17.NGT also said that an action taken report in all aspects should be filed before June 30.The Hindon River originates from upper Shivaliks in the Saharanpur district and crosses Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Meerut, Baghpat, and Ghaziabad of Western Uttar Pradesh before merging with the Yamuna in the Gautam Budh Nagar district of the state. It is a tributary of the Yamuna with a length of approximately 400 km and an approximate basin/catchment area of 7083 sq km.“Action Plan for restoration of the polluted stretch of River Hindon from District Saharanpur to District Ghaziabad was prepared by the authorities in UP but it is only on paper and nothing substantial has been done on ground level. The river thus continues to be highly polluted in the entire length of its travel, particularly in Districts Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar,” reads the order.According to the report submitted by UPPCB in NGT, there are 310 grossly polluting industries (GPIs) discharging their effluent in the river. Out of this, 220 such industries are in Ghaziabad, 22 in Greater Noida, 7 in Baghpat, 35 in Saharanpur, 32 in Muzaffarnagar, and 4 in Meerut. The report also stated that the Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are inadequate and not meeting the norms resulting in untreated sewage being discharged into the river.However, NGT criticised this report and said that the report is casual without any plan of action. “UPPCB being the regulator should have given the responsible report, which has not been done. Earlier report dated 28.01.2021 indicated imposition of environment compensation amounting to Rs. 11.32 Crore in 230 industries and recovering 4.14 Crores. However, in a report dated 27.01.2023, environmental compensation of Rs. 1.89 Crore has been mentioned. Total GPIs are 453. Thus, only imposition of environmental compensation does not serve the purpose of compliance and protection of the environment,” said NGT.The industries operating in the Hindon basin are textile, pulp and paper, distilleries, sugar, tanneries, and others which are known for extracting groundwater/fresh water and discharging trade effluents. Along with the effluent from polluting industries, huge amounts of sewage also enter the river without any treatment. According to UPPCB, 844.63 MLD of sewage is being discharged into the river. The maximum amount of sewage flown to the river from Ghaziabad which is 381 MLD.NGT said sewage is entering into the river through the drains in violation of its directions that no sewage be discharged into storm water drains. Further, no substantive progress has been made after the last order and still, there is no affirmative commitment, said NGT.
The Maharashtra cabinet has cleared a proposal to set up a cow service commission to strictly implement a 2015 law to ban beef and take measures for the overall betterment of livestock, an official said.The decision was taken in the state Cabinet meeting held on March 17.The ‘Maharashtra Gau Seva Aayog’ (Maharashtra Commission for Cow Service) will supervise the rearing of livestock and assess which of them are unproductive and rendered unfit for milking, breeding, and carrying agricultural works etc, said the animal husbandry department official.The Cabinet has approved funds of Rs 10 crore for setting up the commission and a draft bill for its formation as a statutory body is likely to be placed before the state legislature this week.According to the official, the state government has estimated that the population of livestock will go up owing to the beef ban.The cow service commission is being formed by the Eknath Shinde-BJP government on the lines of similar bodies set up by other BJP-ruled states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.“The commission is expected to coordinate with various government agencies to stop non-productive cattle from going to slaughterhouses, which is now illegal under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Animal Act, 1995, passed in March 2015,” the official said.He said the commission will also monitor all gaushalas (cowsheds) formed to shelter stray and unproductive cattle and has the power to provide them financial assistance wherever required.The commission will be a 24-member body and its chairman will be nominated by the state government.“It comprises 14 senior officers from various government departments including commissioners from animal husbandry, agriculture, transport, and dairy development departments, a deputy inspector general of police, and nine nominated members who are associated with either cow protection organisations or NGOs involved in running gaushalas,” said another senior official.He said the commission will not only execute all the existing schemes for gaushalas in the state but will also introduce new schemes and programmes for the betterment of the livestock.“The cow commission has also been mandated to take up the cultivation of improved breeds of cattle with the help of gaushalas and launch research schemes to increase local varieties.“It is expected to take up schemes for generating biogas and power from cow dung and their urine and coordinating with universities and other research institutes that are working in the field of cattle and cattle development among others,” the official added.
All India Guest Teachers Association plans to protest outside the Delhi Legislative Assembly building voicing their problems and demands Monday.The move comes after the controversy surrounding the guest teachers in which Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena ordered an ‘inquiry’ into the alleged irregularities in the engagement of guest teachers in Delhi government schools. The association Sunday demanded salaries for guest teachers equal to that of regular teachers and job security for about 60 years.A statement released by the association said, “Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had promised to confirm guest teachers eight years ago but not even a single guest teacher has been made permanent to date. He also promised to give equal pay for equal work but failed to do so.”The association claimed that former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia ordered an increase in the guest teacher salary in December 2021 but it still had not been hiked.“Getting a permanent job looks like a dream far away as more than 6,000 guest teachers have lost their jobs in the past one year,” said Shoaib Rana, general secretary of AIGTA and a guest teacher himself.Meanwhile, another day of stormy proceedings is expected in the Delhi Assembly Monday, with the BJP prepared to demand that the No Confidence Motion it has introduced against the AAP government be taken up.The Opposition wants the motion, which the AAP has alleged is a ploy to topple its government in Delhi, to be taken up as proceedings, as part of which the Outcome Budget is scheduled to be tabled.
The monolithic statue of Gomateswara at Sravanbelagola, which stands 57 feet high, is among the great tourist attractions of Karnataka. Today, it is increasingly dwarfed by the competitive zeal with which new statues are being installed by the Karnataka government. To be fair, the installation of colossi has not been the preoccupation of the BJP alone. Many had previously recognised the importance of the politics of gigantism, both to commemorate historical heroes and to eclipse, quite literally, other claimants to the region’s memory.But perhaps it is only in Karnataka that statues have been imbued with such importance and weight — once again literally — as a means of winning the hearts and minds of communities with which the petrified figures are linked. A 108-foot bronze and steel statue of the legendary founder of Bengaluru, Kempegowda, now graces the sweeping drive up to the city’s airport at Devanahalli. To posthumously extend the Vokkaliga chieftain’s principality, soil was ostentatiously brought from different historical locations of present-day Karnataka for consecration at his feet. He will further be honoured with a 23-acre theme park, perhaps for those who, being outside the charmed circle of frequent fliers, may not otherwise chance upon the city’s founder.The Kempegowda statue successfully snuffs out the memory of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century ruler whose birthplace was Devanahalli, the site of Bengaluru’s airport. But Kempegowda, like his Lingayat predecessor, Basaveshwara, is simultaneously being cohered to another post-16th century history, that of the linguistic state’s formation as part of the federal democratic Indian union. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has promised his inclusion in the clutch of statues that surround the state legislature, Vidhana Soudha. This is not just a rewrite of the “history of democracy” — with which mythology his political masters in Delhi are currently preoccupied — but an acknowledgement of the “second coming” of the dominant castes to the centre of Karnataka’s politics. That is why (the Lingayat) Basaveshwara too has been promised a home on the lawns of Vidhana Soudha.If only the political balance of power remained as simple as installing a few statues. Basaveshwara has already taken top place with a 108-foot statue at Basavakalyan, the region associated with the origin and rise of the Lingayat movement. He is promised another 218-foot presence in the environs of the beautiful, serene, 18th-century Chitradurga matha, although its mathadisha now languishes in jail on sexual harassment charges. The Chief Minister promises yet another 108-foot one in Belagavi, while a 58-foot concrete statue to Akka Mahadevi in Uduthadi, Shikaripur, honours the lineage of 12th century women poets.But it is not enough to secure the past in stone; politicians must gesture to the future as well. In Karnataka today, temples and statues are being heralded as the harbingers of “good times ahead”. The CM made just such a promise when announcing the building of a grand Hanuman temple (and statue) at Anjanadri, near Hampi, the world heritage UNESCO site. This has been a bone of contention with neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, which also lays claim to Anjaneya’s janmabhoomi. So AP sent its “scholars” and “Sanskritists” into a deep dive to establish the Tirupati Thirumala Devasthana as the “historical” birthplace of Rama’s “eternal devotee” Hanuman. Thusly, a luxuriant folk memory that associates Hanuman with multiple sites and roles in southern Indian history and popular religion will now be anchored at Anjanadri in official stone: But will it set a cross-border dispute at rest?The BJP’s constant mantra, invoked with manic fervour as elections draw nearer, is of the virtues of a “double engine” Sarkar. For most of its benighted citizens, this has only meant a “doubling” of the burdens of petty and large-scale corruption, which has periodically been brought to public notice, while the BJP head honchos maintain their stony silence. The long-suffering Karnataka people must find solace in the innumerable farces generated by the colossi or more “human-scale” rivalry. Take the example of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji, which the BJP in Karnataka is enjoined to worship given the Hindu nationalist engine to which it is yoked in Delhi. So a 50-foot statue was unveiled in Belagavi district’s Rajahamsgad Yellur fort by the CM Bommai on March 1 just at the time when its neighbour Maharashtra is braying for a renegotiation of shared borders. Congress’ Lakshmi Hebbalkar, miffed at having been sidelined in this “premature” consecration, decided to “reinaugurate” the statue on March 5. Now the Maharashtra Ekikarana Samiti, determined not to allow such brazen poaching of its linguistic capital, has decided to conduct “shudhikarana” at the site.Similar quarrels between the Kannada and Marathi speakers of Peeranwadi, a town in Belagavi district have led to innovative spatial resolutions. How can the valiant Sangolli Rayanna, from the early 19th century, now the property of the Kurubas (next only to the Vokkaligas and Lingayats in numerical and political dominance) be accommodated on a road despite objections from Marathi speakers? By allowing his statue to adjoin the nearby circle to be named after Shivaji.A 33-foot statue of Parushurama at Karkala (to placate the Brahmins), a 108-foot statue of Mahadeshwara statue at Mahadeshwara Betta (the sacred grove and God commemorated in song and worship by Dalits) and the promise of statues to Koti-Chennaya (the Tulunadu twins worshipped by the Bilavas) — all these and more absorb much attention of the party in power. But one must not mistake this new horizon of heroes as mere symbols that lack substance. The colossi are twinned by the equal fervour with which caste-based corporations are being touted as “Special Purpose Vehicles” for the distribution of state largesse. Thus, the “New Karnataka” that is daily being promised rests firmly on segmented caste “banks”, whose efficacy has long been doubted by political scientists. But it lays to rest Karnataka’s more secular, democratic, citizenship, which was once rooted in an innovative developmentalism.The writer taught history at JNU
Some three kilometres from the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal’s Nadia district, patchy rows of date palm trees demarcate plots of agricultural land growing winter vegetables. Just as dusk is about to fall, tightening the knot on his blue chequered lungi, 40-year-old Sanjit Ghosh climbs up the tallest date palm tree in the grove — nearly 20 ft high — and makes a small incision with his knife. Then, he gently inserts a thin bamboo nozzle into the incision and hangs an earthen pitcher at the top of the trunk.The pitcher that Sanjit has left on the tree will be filled by date palm sap that has trickled into it through the night, and on the next day, just before sunrise, he will make a trip up the tree to bring it down. If he is lucky, it will be filled till the brim, he says.Sanjit is harvesting the last of the season’s nolen gur, or date palm jaggery, a coveted food in the region. This date palm is a wild species indigenous to India that grows in abundance in West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh, and is cultivated for its sap.But factors like climate change and a complex set of socio-economic conditions are throwing the production of the state’s traditional winter delicacy into jeopardy.Winter; blink & it’s gone Harvesting gur has been a family business for Sanjit, one that he has been engaged in for nearly three decades. In his family, he is the second generation siuli, the Bengali term for the community that extracts date palm jaggery. “We used to have three months of winter and we were able to cut trees till the third week of February. This year we saw that February had just arrived but the winter was almost gone,” he says.During the winter months in the state, the maximum temperature hovers around 20°C, while minimum temperature drops below 15°C. But this year, by the first week of February, winter had been quickly replaced by warmer weather.“My generation has seen the weather changing. We would sell sap to vendors through February but the weather was so bad this year that we hardly extracted any. We have suffered heavy financial loss,” Sanjit says.The vulnerability to climate change is more pronounced in the case of date palm because even a minor rise in temperature severely affects the quality of sap that is extracted. The siuli say that over the past few years, a date palm tree that in ideal weather conditions would give five litres of sap, gives an average of two to three litres now, severely reducing the produce that they are able to sell.Some scientists, however, say that it may be too soon to form conjectures. “I can’t say whether climate change has been a contributing factor, simply because there hasn’t been any research on this,” says Dr. Debabrata Basu, an expert on agriculture at the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in West Bengal.Growing up in the Nadia district, Basu’s ancestral home had some 40 trees of date palm, known as khejur in Bengali, from which sap would be extracted to produce fresh, unadulterated jaggery. As a result, he has seen the business of gur extraction and production up close, and more intimately than most. “From my observation, I can say that the amount of sap that used to be collected isn’t available any more. This is happening for two reasons: one, the water table has reduced. Date palms love water, which in turn produces sap,” he explains.The second, he says, is more complex. Till a little over a decade ago, monocrops were largely grown in regions in the state with high numbers of date palms, which did not use large quantities of ground water. That has changed, adding additional stress to the water table which is naturally lower during the winters. “Farmers say that because the roots of the date palm tree don’t go very deep into the soil, they aren’t getting enough water, resulting in low yields of sap. It is likely one reason behind the low production of jaggery,” he says.The demand for jaggery has also put pressure on siuli who are cutting into the trees at shorter intervals, says Sanjit, within three to four days of the last extraction. “When my father worked, he used to cut the trees at intervals of five to six days. As a result, the quantity of sap that he would extract was larger and the taste was superior. But our generation needs the money, so we cut them as soon as possible,” Sanjit explains.Dr. J. C. Tarafdar, former principal scientist at the Institute of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, believes that while climatic factors are most certainly a reason why the production of nolen gur has reduced, it could have been overcome if there were enough siuli. “It is really the lack of skilled labour. The skills required for cutting the trees and collecting the sap are getting lost since the new generation doesn’t want to learn it,” Dr. Tarafdar says.Endangered skillsLike other traditional skills that are slowly disappearing, the art of gur extraction is also under threat. The process of harvesting this sap is highly technical and the required skills can only be learned every day on the job, the siuli say. It is also a method of food processing that has not been successfully mechanised, making it entirely reliant on a generation of siuli who do not have successors to whom they can pass on these skills.“The cutting of the bark, the process of collection and the placement of the pitchers are all skills that nobody wants to learn anymore. The insertion of the bamboo nozzle is another skill that is very important in the process. The trees are 15 to 20 feet high and these days, people don’t know how to climb them without harnesses. And the siuli who have aged are unable to climb these high trees,” says Dr. Tarafdar.As a young boy, Sanjit remembers following his father and uncle as they harvested date palm sap, starting his training from scratch, by doing odd jobs like hauling pitchers of sap after collection. Mastery over the skill of gur extraction would take him three decades to achieve.28-year-old Biswasjit Ghosh grew up in Bhajanghat village, some seven kilometres away from Majdiha, and was compelled to take up the profession of his grandfather and father, despite having graduated from college with a degree in Geography, because of a lack of job opportunities.Among the most complex tasks in the process is the cutting of notches into the delicate tissue of the date palm bark from where the sap slowly seeps into the pitchers. If done incorrectly, the tree may be damaged and there will be no sap to collect. An experienced siuli will climb up the tree, and shave a bunch of palm leaves from one part of the top of the trunk. The bark is removed and the delicate inner tissue of the tree is exposed, where a ‘V’ shaped incision is made. A precisely shaped bamboo tube is attached to this incision, from where the sap drips into the pitcher.“This is such a difficult job; it is such a difficult skill to acquire. Just because our forefathers could do it, it doesn’t mean that we can. I have been trying to learn this skill for five years but I haven’t been able to,” says Biswajit.It isn’t just the technicalities involved that make this a difficult profession. While the grace and agility with which experienced siuli climb up date palm trees make the job look simple, it is far from it.Young men in siuli families are increasingly unwilling to take on the risks that come with this job, Biswajit says. “This is a very tough job. You have to climb up a tree without a harness and there is always a concern that if you fall down, you may be seriously injured. Only someone who has done this will be able to explain how difficult it is to balance on trees using just a rope. There are a few people from my generation who are doing this, but the future generation will definitely not want to do this job.”There is also a very short window during which the collected sap can be processed to make jaggery. The pitchers that have collected the sap through the night need to be brought down from the trees before sunrise, after which the process of fermentation increases the alcohol content in the liquid, rendering it useless in the production of jaggery.A question of economicsIt is also a question of economics for young men in villages that have historically been centres of date palm jaggery production in West Bengal. There is little that the siuli get in return for their labour, a factor that has discouraged the younger generation from taking on the profession of their fathers and grandfathers.“The income they earn is very less. There is huge disparity in the price at which the siuli sells the sap and the price at which the customer purchases the adulterated gur,” says Dr. Basu.With fewer siuli extracting jaggery, the quantity of pure gur available for purchase in the markets has drastically reduced over the years. Approximately 80 per cent of the jaggery being sold as nolen gur is adulterated, say agriculture scientists. During the process of heating the sap, in most cases, sugar is added to the liquid in an attempt to increase the quantity of jaggery. But the siuli and middlemen say that they are unfairly blamed for adulteration.“Pure jaggery is sold at Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 per kilo. The siuli near our university tell us that if they don’t mix sugar they won’t be able to sell gur at affordable prices,” says Dr. Basu.Sugar costs Rs. 50 per kilo and when mixed into the sap, it reduces the market price of jaggery, making it affordable for the public. “There is a large percentage of sugar in the gur that is sold at Rs. 150 per kg. None of us get pure jaggery these days. It is very rare,” he says. Not many people are able to distinguish between pure and adulterated jaggery, in part because the process is so difficult and because they have never tasted pure nolen gur.The value and cost of fresh date palm jaggery are usually high because it is available only for eight to ten weeks every year during the winter months, agriculture scientists say. A wide range of Bengali sweets or mishti in the state are prepared specifically using nolen gur and such is the popularity of this seasonal produce, that it has been appropriated for preparing everything from nolen gur essence to ice creams in the flavour.In the name of jaggeryIn his shop outside Majdiha’s railway station, Jhantu Das has been selling blocks of jaggery and jars full of liquid nolen gur, also called jhola gur, for over a decade.“Even 10-12 years ago, the jaggery was good. But these days, sugar is added because the quantity of jaggery available has reduced. The siuli have aged and the younger boys can’t cut the trees. Many of them don’t want to. Although the quantity of jaggery has reduced, the appetite for it has not and so sugar is added to the liquid. It is not just us shopkeepers, but even customers understand that jaggery is adulterated. In Majdiha however, you will still get better quality jaggery because less sugar is added here. But in some other places, they just sell sugar in the name of jaggery,” says Das.An identifying feature of pure patali gur or the solidified blocks of date palm jaggery most commonly sold in markets, is that it is an incredibly delicate food product, and melts at room temperature, explains Tanmoy Bera, the proprietor of Sreemanta Gurer Arat, a 200-year-old establishment in central Kolkata that sells different kinds of jaggery. To increase its shelf life and make transportation of the product easier, sugar is added to give it the form of hard blocks which are then wrapped in newspaper and sold in marketplaces.In West Bengal, date palm trees are also not found in organised plantations, making their numbers drastically less in comparison with the demand for their processed sap. “Date palm is not grown for its fruit in the state and farmers aren’t interested in growing this. These trees were traditionally used for buttressing ponds because it has anti-erosion properties,” says Jayanta Kumar Aikat, Director, West Bengal’s Department of Food Processing Industries and Horticulture.These palms are usually wild, found in several parts of rural West Bengal. In villages across the state, Aikat says, in addition to securing shorelines of ponds, the trees are also used to demarcate land and agricultural fields.In the state, the tree has traditionally not been grown for its fruit. Despite the popularity of its jaggery, especially during the winter months, Aikat says, the state government has not observed any serious demand among farmers for the tree’s plantation.The absence of formal plantations is another challenge for the siuli across the state because they are forced to rely on rapidly reducing numbers of wild date palms. “Khejur trees are reducing in number in many districts across West Bengal because brick kilns are constantly looking for khejur wood. The wood of this tree burns slowly, on low flame, which is ideal for brick making. The siuli have told me that the trees are disappearing because the wood is being sold off,” says Basu. Since there has been no formal documentation of the number of trees that grow across West Bengal, it is difficult to estimate how many are lost each year.The complex socio-economic circumstances and climatic conditions indicate a challenging path ahead for the date palm trees and the siuli of West Bengal. “It is not an exaggeration to say that pure nolen gur will become an endangered product in the future,” says Dr. Basu.
Uttar Pradesh Secondary Education Minister Gulab Devi is no stranger to controversy or backlash. The leader, who was in the news last year for equating Prime Minister Narendra Modi with god, is back in the limelight with the arrest of a YouTuber-journalist on March 12.The journalist, Sanjay Rana, was arrested after a local BJP leader filed a complaint alleging that Rana was interfering in government work during a state minister’s programme and had assaulted him. Rana got bail after spending over a day in police custody. A day earlier, he had attended an event that Devi participated in and asked questions related to the lack of implementation of the promises the MLA had made during the elections.The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress have criticised Devi and accused her of “dictatorship”. Speaking to The Indian Express, Devi said, “The arrest of that individual has nothing to do with me. I have been serving the region for three decades…If I had not done work, why would people elect me repeatedly? Workers have all the right to question me on development and I pay serious note to it. It is all being taken in the wrong way.”Devi represents Sambhal district’s Chandausi constituency and is a well-known state BJP face, having worked her way up the party ranks to ministerial posts. The veteran leader is also one of the five women ministers in Yogi Adityanath’s government.She has represented Chandausi, an ST-reserved constituency, five times. Her first victory was in 1991 and she held onto the seat in 1996 and 2002. She got the seat back in 2017 and won again in 2022. Devi had a Cabinet position in Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta’s government (1999-2000) and also during former Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s stint as the state CM (2000-’02). She got the social welfare department’s charge in Adityanath’s first tenure.आज अपने विधानसभा क्षेत्र #चंदौसी में दिव्यांगजन सशक्तिकरण विभाग द्वारा दिव्यांगजनों को कृत्रिम अंग/सहायक निशुल्क सहायक उपकरण वितरण शिविर मे उपकरण वितरित किए।#मेरा_विधानसभा_मेरा_परिवार pic.twitter.com/8gJsBfuKWp— Gulab Devi (@gulabdeviup) March 13, 2023Her key position in the state BJP unit was on display in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly polls, when she was chosen as the party candidate despite resistance at the local level. Chandausi was also the only constituency the BJP won of the five Assembly segments that are part of the Sambhal Lok Sabha seat. The others went to the SP.The leader was in national news in October 2022, when she compared Modi to an “avatar of God” who “had extraordinary powers”. This caused a furore in the UP Assembly and the Opposition demanded her resignation. She later attempted to clarify the statement saying, “When he (Modi) wants that water reaches the houses of people, then water starts reaching. When he wants that the poor get houses, then houses start getting built. When he wants that people should get gas connection, the connections start. Toilets start getting built. This is why he is an avatar of God.”In February, she called SP leader Swami Prasad Maurya “Ravana” after his remarks on the Ramcharitranas triggered a backlash.Opposition party leaders say that Rana’s arrest has created “fear” in the general public. Congress district president Vijaya Sharma said, “The issue being raised by the journalist was genuine. Any local might have raised the same as she had promised to adopt this village before the elections. He was just questioning her on promises made. With the construction of a pucca road, the distance to the main road and highway would be reduced to mere 10 minutes from the village concerned, as compared to over half an hour at present. After this incident, people will think a hundred times before questioning politicians on their promises, which is a wrong trend in democracy.”She added: “Just the video and pictures of the way the journalist was taken by the police, with his hands tied behind like a criminal, is enough to scare others not to ask questions. Journalists here have also submitted an application demanding action against the police officers for taking such actions without any proper enquiry or investigation.”Samajwadi Party leader Azghar Ali said, “The condition of the roads can be seen by anyone here. After this incident, even the public cannot question them about it. The family of the journalist is so scared…they are not ready to speak on the issue. It has started a wrong trend. If this is the situation, how will the public question politicians before elections?”
Your ruling planet, Mars, is being slightly indecisive, mainly because you find it very easy to be swept away by small details and lose sight of the big picture. You may therefore do best to make it clear that your position cannot be changed.It’s time for all you Taureans to exercise due caution, so think long and hard before committing yourself to any financial ventures. Impulse buys should be off the agenda unless you are willing to part with a large amount of cash for a minimal return!That energetic planet Mars is encouraging you to be impatient and reckless, so if you start issuing any orders or ultimatums now, you may land yourself in very hot water indeed. My advice would be to stick to your guns but tread very cautiously, especially in personal matters.It’s time to check out your essential, inner, nature. Cancer is a water sign and, like all watery individuals, you are deeply caring and compassionate. Yet events at work may leave you feeling slightly bemused. Colleagues and associates just don’t see things through your eyes!Lighten up and enjoy yourself. Venus, lady of love, is soon to line up in a special formation which promises affection to all but total hermits. Your associations with children should benefit and sons, daughters, nephews and nieces may be indulged to their hearts’ delight.It’s a mixed week, but a positive one. Changes at home should be temporary and superficial. However, even if you suspect that all your good work may eventually be undone, that is no excuse not to go ahead. Any worthwhile activity equals a useful experience even if the results are not what you expect!Get talking but be prepared to wait a little longer before you see your plans and ideas put into practice. By the end of the week you’ll be clear about what must be done at home and will be able to compare notes with family members. If you really want to get them to see things your way, you must set a fine example.Even if you feel that you have missed the boat there is still time to catch up. Friends and relations will make allowances for you, especially if you’ve made any generous gestures lately. You must be fair to friends and family, and largesse must be equally distributed amongst all.You like to tell it as it is, which to some people means being rather tactless. However, right now you are at your most charming and persuasive, and straight talking may not be the best approach. Also, within seven days you’ll hear news about a financial plan.Life can be full of all sorts of half-hidden undercurrents. However, an unexplained mystery will be cleared up soon, possibly within the week. Until then, you’ll be fascinated by all sorts of gossip, rumours and hidden knowledge. Midweek favours domestic arrangements.None of us can exist entirely without human company and you still need partners’ or close companions’ support and co-operation if you are to tie up loose ends. However, people you meet next week may be more positive and helpful than those you’ve known for a long time.You are easily embarrassed, but what takes place over the next seven days should boost your professional standing and social confidence, enabling you to overcome past memories. Sort out all financial matters sooner rather than later, otherwise you may find that circumstances have moved on, and you have to go back to square one.
The Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) on Friday announced the cancellation of the Group 1 prelims exam held on October 16, 2022. In a statement, the TSPSC said that the decision was taken following a report of the special investigation team (SIT) and an internal inquiry conducted by the commission.In the wake of an ongoing controversy over a TSPSC exam paper being leaked, the commission had on March 15 cancelled the exam for the post of assistant engineer (civil) held on March 5, 2023, and postponed the exams to the posts of town planning building overseer on March 12 and veterinary assistant surgeon on March 15 and 16.According to TSPSC, the AEE exam held on January 22, 2023, and the divisional accounts officer (DAO) exam held on February 26, 2023, stands cancelled. “It is decided to conduct Group 1 prelims on June 11, 2023, again. The dates for re-conduct of the other examinations will be intimated shortly,” it said. As many as 2.8 lakh people had appeared for Group-1 prelims exams then and about 25,000 of them had qualified for the mains.On March 11, the Begum Bazar had launched an investigation based on a complaint from TSPSC alleging suspected hacking of its secured systems. The probe led to the arrest of nine people, including five government staff. The arrested accused include two TSPSC employees who misused their access to the commission and used the credentials of another employee to steal question papers from confidential sections, the police had found. The investigation was handed over to the SIT for further inquiry.TSPSC Assistant Section Officer Pulidindi Praveen Kumar, the main accused, had appeared for the Group-I preliminary exam held October last and his marks proforma showing that he secured 103 marks out of 150 was widely shared on social media. However, he did not qualify due to technical reasons.The protests that started on Tuesday demanding the resignation of TSPSC chairman B Janardhan Reddy have intensified further with political parties and their leaders jumping in. The protesters have also been demanding an impartial probe by a sitting judge of the Telangana High Court.కేసీఆర్ సిట్ అంటే సిట్… స్టాండ్ అంటే స్టాండ్ అనడమే సిట్ పని. అమరవీరుల స్థూపం సాక్షిగా శాంతియుతంగా దీక్ష చేస్తున్న మమ్మల్ని పోలీసులు అడ్డుకోవడంతో దారుణం. pic.twitter.com/jIJWpiPygt— Bandi Sanjay Kumar (@bandisanjay_bjp) March 17, 2023Though police invoked Section 144 around the premises of TSPSC headquarters in Nampally to prevent protests, BJP leaders, including its state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar and MLA Eatala Rajender, staged a sit-in protest at Gun Park memorial and were taken into preventive custody when they tried to proceed towards the TSPSC office.Telangana has won over corrupt @TSPSCofficial today. I ended my ‘Fast Unto Death’ following the decision to cancel all the leaked exams. But #BSP will continue to fight till the all real culprits in TSPSC are arrested and the inefficient chairman is removed from the post. pic.twitter.com/3Mk4FeJW8p— Dr.RS Praveen Kumar (@RSPraveenSwaero) March 17, 2023BSP leader and former IPS officer R S Praveen Kumar, who staged a fast-unto-death protest at his office demanding a CBI probe, was shifted to his home by the police. YSR Telangana party leader Y S Sharmila was restricted to her residence and not allowed to come out and protest. Bandi Sanjay demanded the sacking of Minister K T Rama Rao for the fiasco at TSPSC.నిరుద్యోగుల పక్షాన శాంతియుతంగా పోరాడుతుంటే హౌజ్ అరెస్ట్ చేయడం దుర్మార్గం. TSPSC అక్రమాలపై CBI దర్యాప్తు చేపట్టాలి. ఎనిమిదేండ్లుగా బయటపడని అక్రమాలను కూడా తేల్చాలి. ఈ కుంభకోణంలో ఉద్యోగులతో పాటు బోర్డు సభ్యులు, మంత్రుల హస్తం కూడా ఉంది. TSPSC నిరుద్యోగుల విశ్వసనీయత కోల్పోయింది.1/2 pic.twitter.com/cNjYjtH1wd— YS Sharmila (@realyssharmila) March 17, 2023Responding to the BJP president, K T Rama Rao said in a statement that TSPSC is a constitutionally-constituted independent organisation. “Bandi Sanjay, who had made such meaningless and baseless allegations about the inter exams in the past, is facing a defamation case in the public domain. He will have to face criminal cases in the coming days for these conspiracies carried out by him with political malice,” said KTR in his statement.
Early last week, my father was admitted to the hospital for a medical procedure. I spent the better part of the week watching my mother watching over my father anxiously in the hospital. I fretted about both, as my mother refused to leave the hospital for a single night to rest at home. Their golden labrador Nobu was distressed by all our fretting and unable to understand why no one was around to play with him. Fortunately, this week started well with my father, aka “Pop”, coming back home and instantly renewing his usual routine. As I stayed an extra night back in Hyderabad to make sure they were both settled back in before I came back to Delhi and my litigator life, I tuned into Netflix to watch the documentary short film, The Elephant Whisperers.The film has won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film this year — the first Indian film to do so. The film is directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga, Achin Jain and Doug Blush. This is also Gonsalves’s debut directorial venture. What a film to debut with!Set in the stunning Mudumalai National Park in the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu, The Elephant Whisperers tells the story of Bomman and Bellie, members of the indigenous Kattunayakan tribe, whose name means “king of the jungle”. Bomman and Bellie are retained by the forest department to take care of an orphaned three-month-old elephant calf named Raghu. Both Bomman and Bellie look after Raghu in the Theppakadu Elephant Camp within the national park. Raghu’s mother had been killed by electrocution when she got entangled in a fence.It is a rare movie that has so many captivating protagonists. The breathtaking beauty of our first hero, Mudumalai National Park, is marvellously captured by the cinematographers Karan Thapliyal, Krish Makhija and Anand Bansal. The opening sequence, featuring the flowing waters of the park catching the sun and turning into a river of flowing gold sets the tone of the beauty to follow. Inquisitive langurs, elegant deer, speedy leopards and chattery birds all make an appearance in the film. The national park is simply 321 square kilometres of a natural paradise — stunning blue skies, golden setting sun, and looming cliffs from which one can have luminous views. There simply is no stronger argument for preserving our wilderness than parks like this.If the national park is the first hero of the film, a playful Raghu who is nursed back to health by Bomman and Bellie, is the second protagonist that draws us in. With a thatch of spiky hair on his head, mischievous eyes, a fondness for sweets and a love for being scrubbed with soap in the water, Raghu becomes the glue that brings Bomman and Bellie together.Bomman and Bellie, our other protagonists, are witty, caring and loving of their elephant ward Raghu. As they care for Raghu, they find the love for their calf-ward growing to envelop the three of them. Bellie, who is recovering from the loss of both her daughter and her husband, finds laughter and a fresh joy in life by caring for Raghu, and then love for her co-parent Bomman. Later on in the 41-minute film a second orphaned elephant Ammu joins them.The strong writing by Priscilla Gonsalves tells a moving story that unfolds before us. This is what distinguishes this film from any skillfully crafted National Geographic documentary on the wild. At the heart of The Elephant Whisperers is the story of the healing power of love. As in this case, when found, it is love that saves Raghu, Ammu, Bomman and Bellie. Orphaned elephants rarely survive, and, for a human, the loss of a child and spouse is often too heavy to bear. The film itself is a labour of love. It was made over five years, including a year and a half that Gonsalves spent with Raghu before she started shooting the film.As I landed back in Delhi and got home, my children shouted gleefully as I entered the door. The infinitely better half beamed happily. As I was enveloped in hugs and stories from school, I thought of my parents, safe and back in their home. Flashes of Raghu, Ammu, Bomman and Bellie also came back to me. To love is simply to be human. And it comes in all forms. When we have it, all we can do is treasure it and marvel at it.The writer is a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India
Neelkanth Mishra, Co-head of Asia Pacific Strategy, India Equity Strategist for Credit Suisse and Part-Time Member of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council, decoded the challenges before our economy. The session was moderated by Executive Editor P Vaidyanathan Iyer.I think the government’s role in the economy increased substantially during the Covid pandemic and it is very important to calibrate the withdrawal. So, when a government’s fiscal deficit goes up, it means that the government is borrowing from the future and spending now. The second big variable is the amount you borrow from the market. Before Covid, the government’s borrowing was Rs 4-5 lakh crore which has now jumped to almost Rs 12 lakh crore. Then there was a shortfall in tax receipts. So, this suddenly creates pressure in the market. The third concern is that your numbers need to be very credible. This is an extraordinarily volatile global economy. In fact, while the Indian private sector and consumption are beginning to recover, there are still questions.This brings us to the fourth factor, that of financial stability. We may think fundamentals of the economy drive financial markets but very often financial markets can also affect the economy. Suppose there is some disbelief in fiscal numbers and bond deals spike by 50 basis points. Then suddenly, the cost of borrowing for the overall health of the economy shoots up and creates downward spirals. If the economy slows down, then the government’s tax revenue starts to slow down and a lot of damage can happen as we saw in the UK.The numbers are quite credible, I don’t think anyone has a problem with a 10.5 per cent nominal GDP growth. The apprehension that many had was with regard to the quality of expenditure, whether the government would give handouts or spend on longer-term growth multipliers.The fact that the government continues to focus on capital expenditure is very important because the size of the fiscal deficit and government expenditure are what drive near-term or medium-term growth. If you raise the allocation for schemes like PM KISAN, raise the base rate of wages or announce a cash transfer scheme so that an extra Rs 100 go to someone’s pocket, people start spending. This creates aggregate demand. It could also create higher inflation if you choose to spend that Rs 100 on building a road. It creates demand for steel, jobs and over a period of time, brings down logistics costs, making India more competitive, and therefore, supporting medium-term growth. Now whether the government is able to meet these capital expenditure targets, whether the Rs 1.3 lakh crore have been handed over to states for doing capex or whether the states are able to ramp up or not, time will tell.While subsidy allocations have come down, fertiliser subsidies are about filling the gap between market and government fixed prices. As market prices come down, the fertiliser subsidies will come down too. The government’s intent is not to reduce the allocation, it is just that it is less necessary. Similarly, NREGA is a demand-driven scheme. If more people demand it, the Rs 60,000 crore allocation will become Rs 80,000 crore again. If there is more demand, there will be supplementary grants mid-year.Private sector capex has been doing well. Industrial goods suppliers, like capital equipment suppliers, are consistently showing significant improvement in their order books. Very few of those are government projects. If you see the reduction in India’s capital expenditure ratio, what in economic parlance is Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) to GDP, which is the total investment happening in the economy as a percentage of GDP, that was primarily because of real estate. These investments from 2012 to 2020 – and very likely to 2022 – had actually been stagnant and had declined as a percentage of GDP. When those numbers come back, you will see that GFCF ratios start going up. Private corporate capex has been quite steady even during this period. Some of the credit improvement that you’ve seen from the banks on new investment announcements have come through.The Central government’s mandate does not go beyond highways and railways. I’m glad airports are expanding but an airport is just a runway with a building and it’s not very capital-intensive. From a Rs 2 lakh crore railway capex, we need to spend Rs 8 to 10 lakh crore over a period of time. The problem has been absorptive capacity, in the sense that the railways have struggled to spend the money given to them. It’s the same with national highways too. We still need significant investments in roads and railways to facilitate lower logistics costs and, therefore, support private sector capex from a global competitiveness perspective over the next 10 years.The PLI scheme is a very creative way to align the interests of the government and the private sector. More importantly, supply chain shifts are starting to happen. Some of them are policy-driven but quite a few suppliers are coming through. In 2018, only five units from India were among Apple’s top 200 suppliers, there were 13 in 2021 but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are substantially more when the 2022 list comes out. Then solar panels manufacturing has potential. When you think about all the capex in PLI schemes over four to five years, it would be only about $21 billion. In an economy where the total aggregate investment is close to a trillion dollars, $ 20-25 billion over five years is not that substantial. But it is a very important signalling mechanism that India wants manufacturing. We need to get the apparel sector right because it’s very significant in terms of job creation and is being seeded by China.Revision of slabs costs the government about Rs 35,000 crore, a very small percentage of aggregate consumption. So, I would not look at it as a consumption stimulus. Some of these schemes are seen as giving relief to the taxpayer, creating more incentives to get more people into the tax base and simplifying the process of tax filing.What is most important is the slowdown of exports and I’m apprehensive that if Indian demand remains resilient, global manufacturers could start pushing their products into India. There is a lot of goods deflation happening right now, so we should be careful about dumping.On reducing the debt-to-GDP ratioFinancial savings percentages at a gross level are not as bad as they are at a net level. Household borrowing has gone up and while that is criticised as a debt-driven culture, these small ticket loans are very small in my view.One of the reasons that household debt has actually gone up is because the informal sector, which was earlier shut out of the formal borrowing system, is getting credit now. I think a debt-to-GDP ratio of above 80 is very dangerous. The best way to shrink the debt-to-GDP ratio is to grow the denominator, the nominal GDP.On gender budgeting in IndiaThe female labour force participation rate in India is very low. Instead of just looking at specific gender allocations, think about ways to get women back to work, like helping them save time walking five kilometres to fetch water. Give them piped water. Ever since LPG cylinders have reached women, the enrolment of girls, who would be deployed for chores and collecting cow dung, up to class VI has improved dramatically.
On 6th March, BirthRight by Rainbow Hospitals did its first under water delivery at its hospital in B.G. Road, Bengaluru, under the supervision of Dr Shailaja, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist.A variety of birthing options are available today. Depending on the parent’s preference, mothers and baby’s health, the mother may choose to deliver in the hospital or a birth centre. Delivery process is so unpredictable, nobody can anticipate any complication accurately. So, if the Natural Birthing Unit is part of the Hospital with all facilities, the mother and baby will be safer and also it will boost up the mother’s confidence and morale.In this case, the mother was pregnant for the second time with previous vaginal conventional delivery. The baby’s weight was 3.33kg. She was submerged in water when she started having labor pain. Within 1½ hours she successfully delivered a baby boy under water with less pain. We did not cut the perineum, the baby came out on its own and came to the surface. Mother, herself supported. Baby cried as soon as it reached earth side. Mother fed the baby even before the placenta was separated. She had a small perineal tear, which was sutured under local anaesthesia on the labor cot. Blood loss was very minimal. The whole family including her first baby rejoiced at the birth. Water births have become more popular over the last several decades. American College and Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognize certain benefits. Immersion in water may help shorten the duration of labor. Laboring in water also decreases her need for epidurals or other spinal pain relief. This reduces caesarean section rate by 50%. Also it has been shown to cause less urinary stress incontinence problems for mothers. Mothers will have higher birth satisfaction. The warmth of water and the weightlessness give mothers room to escape without disconnecting. They treasure the moment, the gentle start they give for their babies. They themselves bring their baby unto their chest from still water.One thing is important, mothers should be careful while choosing water births. Water births may not be recommended for women who have unfavourable factors for vaginal delivery. While rare, babies born in water may acquire infections. Other risks include trouble regulating baby’s body temperature, chance of umbilical cord damage, respiratory distress for baby, asphyxia and seizures. To avoid these we use a birth pool liner, sterilize tubs, continuously monitor water temperature, baby heart rate at regular intervals and progress labor. We play soothing music to keep mother calm. We should be well equipped and prepared for any unpredictable eventualities. Parents always have to communicate their desires to have a water birth with a healthcare provider to discuss their individual risks and birth plan.Dr.SHAILAJA NMBBS Consultant – Obstetrics & GynecologistMBBS, MS(OBG), DGO, DNB, MRCOG (UK) FICOG, FCLS, FMAS, PGDMLEBirth right by Rainbow Hospital
The exhibition at Khalsa College Ground, Amritsar, as a part of the G20 Summit had a lot to offer its visitors, especially the farmers, on Wednesday in terms of how to reduce agro-pollution, how to increase farm production and other solutions related to farming.The canopy of Gurdaspur-based Agro Stubble Management is made of drop ceiling tiles which are yet to be launched in the market. Made from paddy stubble, these tiles are still under testing. Company director Parminder Singh is excited to launch the product aimed at reducing stubble burning in the next six months.Talking to The Indian Express, Parminder Singh said, “The company is to find appropriate solutions to reduce agro-pollution which is a major threat to the environment these days. In the beginning we will work on rice stubble utilisation and management, and afterwards we will work on plastic menace which is the major source of pollution nowadays and will also work to reduce the loads on dumping grounds.”There are many stalls at the exhibition which are offering solutions related to farming, which is the main profession of people in Punjab.Bio Trend Energy (BTE) Pvt Ltd at the exhibition is trying to bring focus on biomass and waste, agro-residues like paddy straw, rice husk, sugarcane, cotton, groundnut shells, soya stalks, mustard stalk, jute, coffee, horticulture waste, etc. and forestry and bamboo residues.BTE is working with rural youths in states of UP and MP to create viable business models in agro-residue aggregation, collection, storage, and processing.Syngenta TechWorld is offering Quick Spray technique for farmers involving drones on rent which can cover 1 acre in just 7 minutes.BioShakti has introduced dry anaerobic digestion technology which is particularly suited to India due to its low water requirement, zero effluent, modular structures, and minimal preprocessing of biomass. It is a concept of integrated waste management centres which also use crop residues, palm oil biomass and animal manure.T & D Electronic Systems is displaying super seeder Precision Seed Management System. Farmers can count every single seed with this system. It monitors seed flow at sowing operation even in dust conditions, can be fitted in a tube size of 30mm & 32mm. It has display count view, bar graph view, and performance view.NGO RoundGlass Foundation is working in the field of air, water, and soil through initiatives in reforestation, waste management, and regenerative farming. It has planted 1,038,199 native trees across 984+ villages in the state including 807 mini-forests, 363 parks, 23 fruit orchards. It has also created 137 waste management facilities. It also works in empowering women to become self-reliant through financial independence.Mooofarm is offering idea of end-to-end ownership with advanced machine learning algorithms to select the best cattle of the lot and give the best prices to dairy farmers.Mooofarm aims at completely negating the dependency on middle man by providing the cattle verified by expert veterinarians.Farmers get the vaccinated cattle, top-quality breed at the right price, along with a bunch of other services such as free cattle delivery, vaccinated cattle and free doctor support.Black Eye Technologies is offering solutions to quality irrigation and quality fertilisations. It claims to save more than 47% groundwater per hectare, save 1/3rd of the diesel usages by the farmers and increase the crop production by 25% per hectare. Its product offers SMS notifications, soil health card on the mobile app, real-time monitoring of soil health & water requirement and pump integration.
I come from the border state of Uttarakhand. Before 2014, whenever I used to visit remote villages in the border districts like Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar and Champawat, I used to shudder upon witnessing mass exodus from villages bordering China. People living in these remote villages have always acted as an important source to report the Chinese army’s suspicious activities along our borders. This phenomenon is not just confined to the border districts of Uttarakhand, other Himalayan states in the Northeast also faced similar challenges. Unfortunately, the UPA government’s policy to shy away from developing our border areas cost us dearly.Since this issue is related to our national security, Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to it in earnest. He not only focused his government’s attention towards developing infrastructure in the border areas, he also conceived the Vibrant Village Programme, which focuses on the development of our border villages. This will be a milestone in the development of border villages and the progress of the Himalayan states. BJP cadre are committed to making this highly innovative programme a grand success.The Vibrant Village Programme aims to strengthen and enhance basic infrastructure in the villages along the LAC so that migration can be stemmed. Border villages are being provided with all basic amenities including modern housing and good roads; water and electricity supply; good education, health and communication facilities; access to Doordarshan channels, etc. This initiative will soon transform our border villages neighbouring China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar, and address the problem of migration. A total of 2,962 border villages in five states will be developed under this scheme.The scheme will also develop growth centres on the “hub-and-spoke model” through the promotion of social entrepreneurship, empowerment of youth and women through skill development and entrepreneurship and leverage the tourism potential through the promotion of local culture and traditional knowledge. It will also develop sustainable eco-agribusinesses through the “One village-One product” concept.For decades our border villages remained untouched by development. Our enemies took advantage of these lapses and strengthened their position along our borders. Sensing an opportunity, China increased its influence along our borders by rapidly developing its infrastructure and increasing the presence of its army. India also suffered similar setbacks along the Pakistan border due to serious lapses of the Congress governments. Terror activities also increased along the Myanmar border.Immediately after taking over, PM Modi tweaked the PM Gram Sadak Yojna to connect remote villages with all-weather roads. It started with the construction of concrete roads in all villages with over 250 inhabitants. Remote villages were also connected with a robust optical fibre network. Similarly, under PM Awas Yojna, pucca houses were constructed in remote villages. People were provided with water and electricity connections and given toilets. Under the Ayushman Bharat Yojna, villagers were covered under the world’s largest health insurance scheme. The PM then embarked upon the Vibrant Village Programme.In 2018, the Parliamentary Standing Committee pointed towards illiteracy, backwardness and lack of basic facilities in our border areas. The Vibrant Village Programme is an important and commendable initiative that will address all these issues.The BJP is contributing to making the initiative a grand success. As a result, under the leadership of its president, J P Nadda, the party has planned various programmes to step up its communication outreach in border villages. The party will also hold various programmes, ensure the effective implementation of various government schemes and promote art and cultural activities in these villages.People living in border villages are the first line of our defence; they are our sentinels.Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, our border areas are undergoing a social and economic transformation. This will not only make our borders safe and secure, it will also bring remote and border villages into the national mainstream, and make them more vibrant, developed and self-sufficient.The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and national media head, BJP
A Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday in a “brazen violation of international law,” causing American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle, the US said.But Russia insisted its warplanes didn’t hit the MQ-9 Reaper drone. Instead, it said the drone manoeuvred sharply and crashed into the water following an encounter with Russian fighter jets that had been scrambled to intercept it near Crimea.The incident, which added to Russia-US tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, appeared to be the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft was brought down after an encounter with a Russian warplane.US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, according to White House national security spokesman John Kirby. He added that US State Department officials would be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts and “expressing our concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional intercept.”State Department spokesman Ned Price called it a “brazen violation of international law.” He said the US summoned the Russian ambassador to lodge a protest and the US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, has made similar representations in Moscow.A Russian military jet struck the propeller of an American reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, causing its loss in international waters, U.S. officials said. Russia denied that the jet made contact. https://t.co/OAXAEoxe3P pic.twitter.com/7IqQUs4PfH— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 14, 2023The US European Command said two Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepted the drone while it was operating within international airspace. It said one of the Russian fighters struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to bring it down in international waters.Prior to that, the Su-27s dumped fuel on the MQ-9 and flew in front of it several times in “a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the US European Command said in a statement from Stuttgart, Germany. “This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” it added.US Air Force Gen James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said the MQ-9 aircraft was “conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9.” He added that “in fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the incident occurred at 7.03 am Central European time (0603 GMT; 11.30 am IST) over international waters, and well clear of Ukraine, after the Russian jets had flown in the vicinity of the drone for 30 to 40 minutes. There did not appear to be any communications between the aircraft before the collision, Ryder added.MQ-9 Reaper drone.#AFPGraphics diagram of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, used for intelligence, surveillance and attack missions.A Russian fighter jet on Tuesday dumped fuel on an American drone over the Black Sea and then collided with it, causing the drone to crash, US military says pic.twitter.com/3jdUmjcvdF— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 15, 2023The MQ-9 includes a ground control station and satellite equipment and has a 20-meter wingspan. It is capable of carrying munitions, but Ryder would not say whether it was armed. The US had not recovered the crashed drone, US Air Forces-Europe said in a statement, and neither had Russia, Ryder said.He said it appeared the Russian aircraft also was damaged in the collision, but the US has confirmed that it did land, although Ryder would not say where.Russia’s Defense Ministry said the US drone was flying over the Black Sea near Crimea and intruded in an area that was declared off limits by Russia as part of what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, causing the military to scramble fighters to intercept it.“As a result of a sharp manoeuvre, the MQ-9 drone went into unguided flight with a loss of altitude and crashed into the water,” it said. “The Russian fighters didn’t use their weapons, didn’t come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and they safely returned to their base.”The Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, described the US drone flight as a “provocation” and argued that there was no reason for US military aircraft and warships to be near Russia’s borders.Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., said his country wants “no confrontation” with the U.S. after a Russian fighter jet collided Tuesday with a large U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea. https://t.co/eahJg24Jay pic.twitter.com/5g4yU4jMjo— The Associated Press (@AP) March 14, 2023Speaking after meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried, Antonov insisted that the Russian warplanes didn’t hit the American drone or fire their weapons. He added that Moscow wants “pragmatic” ties with Washington, adding that “we don’t want any confrontation between the US and Russia.”Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern about US intelligence flights close to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed. The Kremlin has charged that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the US and its allies have effectively become engaged in the conflict.Kirby emphasised that the incident wouldn’t deter the US from continuing its missions in the area.“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying, and operating in international airspace, over the Black Sea, then that message will fail,” Kirby said. “We’re going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters. The Black Sea belongs to no one nation.”The US European Command said the incident followed a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea.“These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation,” it warned.Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said this type of collision is his greatest concern, both in that part of Europe as well as in the Pacific. “Probably my biggest worry both there and in the Pacific is an aggressive Russia or China pilot or vessel captain, or something gets too close, doesn’t realise where they are, and causes a collision,” Berger said, in response to a question at a National Press Club event Tuesday.As fighting continued in Ukraine, a Russian missile struck an apartment building Tuesday in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, killing at least one person and wounding nine others in one of the major urban strongholds the Donetsk region.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video showing gaping holes in the façade of the low-rise building, which bore the brunt of the strike that damaged nine apartment blocks, a kindergarten, a bank branch and two cars, said regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko. A post shared by Володимир Зеленський (@zelenskiy_official)Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking with workers at a helicopter factory in southern Siberia, again cast the conflict in Ukraine as an existential one for Russia.“For us, it’s not a geopolitical task,” Putin said, “it’s the task of survival of Russian statehood and the creation of conditions for the future development of our country.” Russia had welcomed a Chinese peace proposal, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kyiv’s refusal to talk leaves Moscow with only military options.“We must achieve our goals,” Peskov told reporters. “Given the current stance of the Kyiv regime, now it’s only possible by military means.” The Russian onslaught has focused on the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, where Kyiv’s troops have been fending off attacks for seven months and which has become a symbol of resistance, as well as a focal point of the war.Zelenskyy discussed Bakhmut with the military brass and they were unanimous in their determination to face down the Russian onslaught, according to the presidential office.“The defensive operation in (Bakhmut) is of paramount strategic importance to deterring the enemy. It is key for the stability of the defense of the entire front line,” said Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces.
The Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, which comes under the Agriculture Ministry, surrendered Rs 44,015.81 crore of its budget during the last three years, as it could not fully utilise its allocation, according to a Parliamentary Standing Committee report tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday.In its report on Demand for Grants (2023-24) of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Food Processing, headed by P C Gaddigoudar, asked the government to “avoid” the “practice” of surrender of funds.“The Committee note from the reply of the Department that funds have been surrendered amounting to Rs 23,824.54 crore, Rs 429.22 crore and Rs 19,762.05 crore during 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 (tentative), respectively,” the report stated. “That means Rs 44,015.81 crore in total have been surrendered by the department in these years.”The report said the surrender of funds by the ministry is mainly on account of “less requirement” for the schemes meant for welfare of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. “The Committee has been informed that the surrender of funds is mainly on account of less requirement under NES (North Eastern States), SCSP (Schedule Caste Sub-Plan) and Tribal Area Sub-Plan (TASP) Components,” it noted.“The Committee feels that the practice of surrender of funds must be avoided by all means henceforth so that the tangible benefits accrued from the schemes are allowed to percolate to the ground level in an optimum manner,” it stated. “The Committee, therefore, recommends the Department to identify reasons leading to surrender of funds and take corrective measures to ensure that the funds are utilized fully and efficiently.”Surrender of large amounts by the Department is significant because the government had allocated this money for schemes aimed at farmers’ welfare. If the department is not able to utilise the allocated funds, it means benefits of these schemes are not reaching the farmers.The report also highlighted that the department’s budgetary allocation as percentage to the total budget of the Centre has come down from 4.41% in 2020-21 to 2.57% in 2023-24.“The Committee notes that the Department has admitted in its replies that the proportion of Budgetary Allocations made in favour of the Department in terms of the percentage out of the total budget of the Government of India during the years 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 stood at 4.41%, 3.53% , 3.14 % and 2.57% respectively,” the report said.It stated, “The total Budget outlay of the Central Government in 2020-21 was Rs 30,42,230.09 Crore, which increased to Rs 45,03,097.45 crore in 2023-24. Taking into account the prominent role played by agriculture in rural livelihood, employment generation and food security of the country, the Committee recommend the Department to take up the issue of budgetary allocation in percentage terms out of Central Pool with the Ministry of Finance and ensure that trend is reversed from the next Budget onwards,” it said.The committee also asked the department to look into the reasons for delay in settlement of claims by insurance companies under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. It also asked the department to take necessary measures and make concerted efforts to address them in the best possible manner so that they are counted in best practices to be adopted globally and enhance the credibility of PMFBY among the farmers manifold.
MARGAO: Amidst the Carnival revelry at Margao on Sunday, one tableau stood out.Even as this tableau produced by the state’s agriculture department grabbed eyeballs on account of its novel theme, the senior-level agriculture officers who accompanied the float, dancing down the parade route, drew loud cheers and applause. Leading from the front was the department’s director, Nevil Alphonso, attired in Carnival costume. He held a placard proclaiming the nutritional value of millets. “Eat nachnea bhakri (millet pancakes) to stay fit,” the placard read, and the message at once seemed to have found resonance among the spectators.The government of India has decided to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets in order to popularise the superfood. Centred around the theme ‘Grow Millets, Eat Millets, Stay Healthy’, the float presented by the agriculture department had 45 officers participating in the Panaji and Margao Carnival parade.The tableau urged farmers to grow millets like ragi (nachani) and proso millet (vari) and to cash in on their nutritive value-added products like amil, tizen, ladoos, bhakri etc.“The float was aimed at conveying the message through creatively designed images, foot-tapping music, meaningful lyrics, well-choreographed steps, and catchy taglines on placards. This was an out-of-the-box idea for reaching out to farmers, and I am glad the initiative was widely appreciated,” Alphonso said.It was for the first time that the agriculture department participated in the float parade. The float was presented by its extension wing, State Agriculture Management and Extension Training Institute.“We plan to hold several programmes throughout the year with the view to promoting millets,” Alphonso said.
MARGAO: Health officer of urban health centre, Margao, has red-flagged a potential health hazard in the seepage of water through the subway at Comba, Margao.In a letter addressed to the deputy collector (DRO), South Goa, the health officer said that a site inspection of the Comba subway has revealed that the stagnation of water is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. “Water constantly seeps/leaks into the subway from both sides of the road and gets stagnated on the stretch ,” the letter read. Stating further that the source of seepage couldn’t be identified, the health officer requested the deputy collector to depute an expert technical team to troubleshoot the problem. Executive engineer, PWD (sewerage), Joaquim Fernandes, said that they have succeeded in tracing the source of the leakage to subsoil water drainage and that it has now been plugged. “There was a subsoil leakage in the subway (probably on account of the spring water finding its way through the subway). Last week we noticed traces of sewage seeping through the subway. The leakage has now been plugged. What remains now is the dried up stagnated water,” Fernandes told TOI.The waterlogged subway has turned out to be a nuisance for the road users, including the pedestrians, for the last several weeks, owing to the consistent flow of water emanating a foul smell. While water logging during monsoons was understandable, what caused to raise eyebrows among the public was the stagnation of water even during the dry season. What’s worse was that the problem lay unidentified for long .Margao MLA Digambar Kamat had inspected the subway last month and issued directions to the PWD to locate the source of seepage and plug it on an urgent basis.
PANAJI: Goa is high on birdwatching enthusiasts' go-to list, with 486 resident and migratory bird species recorded in the state and Goa offering birding in a wide variety of landscapes - from pelagic or sea and coastal, to forest and plateaus. But when the recent birding season began in October 2022, birdwatchers noticed that birding in wetlands and plateaus of Goa was not quite the same.Both in terms of numbers and species variety, fewer birds were spotted than in previous years. Birders attribute this to a number of reasons, from destruction of mangroves, change in land use patterns on plateaus, and saline water ingress in fields due to bundhs not being repaired.Increased human activities on beaches like Morjim also means less space for gulls and terns to frolic on the sands.On Sunday, Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN), parallel to the Indian BirdRaces in the rest of the country, held the third Goa Bird Race. Many committed birdwatchers took part in the exercise across locations in Goa, and what struck the birders was the reduced presence of avians in many traditionally well-loved birdwatching spots in the state."While talking with participants at the race about their experience, we learnt that although the winner and the runner-up team bagged 200+ species out of a total of 486 found in Goa, the overall number of birds has decreased, especially at few wetlands like Carambolim, and plateaus like Soccoro," said GBCN president Mandar Bhagat.Bhagat said that the migratory wader birds that come to Goa mostly look for wetlands with shallow waters, but as agriculture has been abandoned in many places, the water is not used for irrigation. This leads to increased levels of water, which is not preferred by these ducks as they find it difficult to forage for food.'Govt not capable, need PPP to maintain wetlands'In the case of plateaus, uncontrolled human interference like constructions and even burning of grass by some antisocial elements drives away birds," said Bhagat.GBCN vice-president Omkar Dharwadkar said that birds like pintails could earlier be spotted in hundreds in Goa's wetlands, but are not seen in such numbers anymore."Knob-billed ducks too have gone down in numbers," said Dharwadkar. "Most migratory birds in Goa come to wetlands. But now, in some areas mangroves are dying, sweet water is turning into brackish, sluice gates are not maintained, land use patterns have changed. In lakes like Maina, birds still come as the land use pattern has not changed. But in other places like Curtorim, the vegetation has been entirely cleared and these ducks feed off the vegetation. Both the density and diversity of birds spotted has reduced." He added that this is unlikely to affect those birdwatchers coming to Goa solely for the purpose of birdwatching, as they mainly want to spot endemic birds in the state's forests.He hoped that as land use patterns change, though some birds seen earlier are no longer coming, other species may make their way to the state."Some sort of private-public partnership is needed for maintenance of wetlands. The government alone may not be able to do it as crores may be needed for repair of bundhs to keep the saline water out. Also, in some places, the sluice gates and release of water is controlled by the people and not the government," Dharwadkar said.Bhagat said that although the number of migratory birds visiting forests of Goa are satisfactory as of now, this may also change if some proposed projects go through, like diversion of water of the River Mhadei by Karnataka, and linear projects passing through the protected forests of Mollem.
Valpoi: Revolutionary Goans’ (RG) padyatra, held under the banner of ‘Together for Mhadei’, was stopped by Sattari deputy collector Pravin Parab, Valpoi police inspector Prajyot Fadte and joint mamlatdar Apurva Karpe at Thane, Sattari, on Monday. The deputy collector stated that no permission was taken from the authorities for the rally, and pointed out that Mauxi panchayat had intimated authorities not to allow the rally. “We are concerned about safety and security,” the deputy collector said.RG members argued with the authorities and demanded to show on what grounds they are asking for permission.After heated arguments, the authorities directed the group to submit a letter seeking permission to hold a rally.St Andre MLA and RG president Viresh Borkar later arrived at the spot and said, “This is a mockery of democracy. If Amit Shah or any other BJP functionary had held a rally, authorities would never question them or dare to stop them.”Borkar further said while Karnataka people are protesting and their government is supporting them to fight for their water rights, the Goa government is not supporting the people who are fighting to save river Mhadei.RG head Manoj Parab said that chief minister Pramod Sawant is appealing Goans to come together to support Mhadei, but not allowing to hold the padyatra.“It doesn't make any sense that the police and deputy collector are scared of a village panchayat. It is wrong to accept what the sarpanch wants,” Parab said.Later in the evening, authorities granted permission for the padyatra and subsequently revoked it.
Margao: The gram sabha of Cavelossim on Sunday passed a resolution to the effect that no borewells be allowed in the village, and that the panchayat would take the initiative to clean all the wells in the village under a clean water programme. A resolution was also passed unanimously by the gram sabha demanding withdrawal of the approval for the Detailed Project Report (DPR) granted to Karnataka by the Centre for its Kalasa Bandura project that would divert the waters of the Mhadei. The gram sabha also saw a heated discussion over the issue of bringing unassessed commercial units in the village under the tax net so as to generate enough revenue to undertake development of the village. It was decided that the panchayat would grant three months’ time for such shops to register with it or face action.It was also decided to take up construction of breakwater at the mouth of River Sal on an urgent basis in view of the massive erosion that took place lately.Sarpanch Dixon Vaz, who chaired the meeting, proposed the annual 2023-2 budget. A significant portion of the outlay has gone towards disaster management, garbage collection, waste management and pre-monsoon works, Vaz said.“We will also focus on tackling the issue of roadside parking by tourists which creates inconvenience to the public,” Vaz said.The gram sabha also urged the government not to impose the services of Goa Electronics Ltd (GEL) on water sports operators and suggested that the panchayat monitor their queue system instead.
PANAJI: Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari has said that he will look into the request for a bypass road by halting the proposed plan to expand the existing highway passing through Corlim and Bhoma villages of North Goa. Union minister of state for tourism Shripad Naik had written to Gadkari to consider the villagers’ request for a bypass road.“I am in receipt of your letter dated November 11, 2022, requesting that road widening of NH4A through Corlim and Bhoma villages of North Goa be halted in favour of a bypass highway through the neighbouring fallow fields instead,” said Gadkari in his response to Naik. “I am having the matter looked into.” Corlim and Bhoma villagers are opposing the road widening, stating that it will lead to the loss of houses and temples and change the character of the village, which is one of the smallest in Goa.They state that the highway expansion will require the demolition of some important temples in the village. As a major chunk of the village land has already been utilised for an industrial estate, they said that the expansion of the road will further destroy the structure of the village.In October last year, a retired professor, Erwin De Sa, had written to Naik requesting that the proposed work be halted and that the construction of a bypass through the neighbouring fallow fields be considered instead. “I shall be grateful if you kindly look into the request by Professor De Sa and do the needful,” Naik, a resident of Corlim himself, had stated in his representation to Gadkari.The locals have proposed an alternative route of 7km that connects the Kadamba plateau to Kundaim. Not only is this route 2km shorter, but it also avoids human settlement areas and passes through mostly fallow land, according to the villagers.