Pune: A Sunday outing turned tragic for a group of 10 doctors as the boat they were travelling in capsized in the backwaters of the Ujani dam near Pune. While six of them managed to come out of the water, search teams recovered the body of one Dr. Chandrakant Urade. Three others — Dr. Subhash Manjrekar, Dr. Mahesh Lavate, and Dr. Annasaheb Shinde — were still missing till late Sunday evening and are feared to have drowned.According to reports, the incident happened around 6 p.m. near Ajoti village in Indapur taluk, around 100 kms from Pune. The missing hailed from Akluj and Natepute in Solapur district. A search operation is on to retrieve the remaining bodies.Last week, four students had drowned in separate incidents in Pune district; two in the Khadakwasla lake — a popular tourist destination, and two others in the Pavana dam.In the Khadakwasala lake incident, the victims lost their balance and got dragged by the current, and in the second incident, the victims ventured into deep waters of the Pavana dam and lost their lives.
The BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh has asked the Centre to compensate thousands of people who had to give up their land for defence structures built during the 1962 war with China.Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who represents Arunachal Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, told The Hindu that the compensation could cost ₹3,000 crore. He held a meeting on Wednesday with MoS for Defence Subhash Bhamre, Chief Minister Pema Khandu and other senior officials. “Although the people of Arunachal Pradesh can be branded as ultra patriotic Indians, a sense of resentment has been brewing of late due to non-payment of compensation for huge areas of land occupied by the Army,” he said. Mr. Rijiju called for resolving all pending issues in a time-bound manner.
What runs the hills’ economy?Tea and tourism are the twin pillars of the economy of the Darjeeling region. It also has some horticulture, floriculture, spice and cinchona cultivation, but the main income and employment generators are tea and tourism. These two are now under attack as the hills are caught in a fresh spiral of violence.What is the status of the tea industry?Let us take tea first. The 87 operating tea gardens in Darjeeling indirectly employ over a lakh people and directly around 60,000 people, 60% of whom are women. As per existing laws, the estates also provide housing and medical facilities to about four lakh people — families of the workers. However, the output of the exotic crop has been on a decline, nearly halving over the last few decades. Most worrisome is the fact that the industry for many reasons is not only losing crop but also revenue.Why has it been hit hard?The current agitation does not help matters, as it comes during peak production season. The two leaves and a bud, plucked during the summer months between April and July, yield some of the best Darjeeling teas, fragrant with their unique muscatel flavour. These are also the teas that fetch the best prices in domestic and international markets, giving the industry 40% of its annual revenue.The industry’s initial optimism on the agitation being a short-lived one has been dashed. Not only is productivity being affected due to the closure but the movement of inputs to the gardens and output of the made teas are also jeopardised.The industry has already sent out SOS appeals, saying that this may lead to closure of many gardens even after return to normalcy.What about tourism?Despite having a palette as rich as the Sundarbans and the Darjeeling Hills, West Bengal was never a top tourist destination. The steps taken by the present government to augment and enhance the state’s tourism potential have yielded results and now the State is among India’s top 10 tourist destinations.As per latest official statistics of the Union Tourism Ministry, in 2016 West Bengal attracted 74.5 million domestic tourists, slipping to the eighth position from fifth in 2015. It attracted 1.5 million foreign tourists during 2016. A significant portion of them headed to the eastern Himalayas to get a view of the Kanchenjunga range as also to soak in the ambience of this former summer capital of the British Empire. Many of them rushed to scamper back to the safety of the plains as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha agitation fanned across the hill district.Aware that Darjeeling is literally the crown-jewel of the State’s tourism assets, the government has taken several steps to spruce up the existing accommodation while adding new ones at Darjeeling and its neighbouring subdivisions like Kalimpong and Kurseong. It has also rolled out a home-stay policy and many people have invested to make their homes a pleasant tourist accommodation. All these are aimed at boosting the employment generation in a State where the scope of generating employment through large industries is limited. These now lie in waste.What does the future hold?Very little, unless the current agitation is resolved. The 18.5 lakh population of the district has a fairly high literacy rate of around 79.6%, according to the 2011 census figures. The tea industry is already losing able hands to a population which is migrating from the district, leaving the women and the infirm to their fate on the tea estates. The tourism industry is run by plains as well as hills people providing employment to the local youth. Little changes for the political leaders in such agitations but much is at stake for the locals, and the Queen of Hill Stations as Darjeeling was once lovingly referred to.
Authorities from the Forest Department and the Railways have initiated joint measures to prevent the death of wild elephants in train accidents between the Rambha and Humma railway stations under the Khallikote forest range in the Ganjam district of Odisha.This is the region where, on the night of December 29, 2012, six wild elephants were killed when the speeding Chennai-bound Coromandel Express collided with an elephant herd that was crossing the railway tracks. Usually, wild elephants frequent this area and cross railway tracks and roads at night.According to the Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Ashis Behera, ahead of the coming harvest season of kharif crops, all measures have been initiated to check the possibility of accidents between trains and elephant herds. There are only 20 wild elephants in the Berhampur forest range and seven of them are in the Khallikote forest range. But every year, during the paddy harvest season, elephant herds from the Chandaka forest reach this area via the Barbara forest. During their journey, they cross the railway track between the Rambha and Humma railway stations.The Forest Department has already erected solar-powered electrical fencing on a stretch of around three kilometres near the Satrusallya railway level crossing. A watch tower has also been erected near this level crossing, which is manned by four trackers of the Forest Department for round-the-clock monitoring of elephant movement in the region.On September 29, a joint coordination meeting was held between officials of the Forest Department and East Coast Railway in Berhampur to streamline exchange of information on the movement of elephants in this stretch. Similar coordination meetings are to be held every month. The exact location of elephants would be provided to station masters of the Rambha and Humma railway stations every day.In case of the issue of a caution notice regarding the movement of wild elephants in the region, train drivers will have to reduce the speed of the train and cross the seven kilometre stretch from Burudi to Satrusallya blowing long whistles.Field staff of the Forest Department are expected to be extra vigilant during the cropping season.
Two days after the Gujarat assembly poll results, the Congress on Wednesday began an exercise to analyse the electoral outcome at a three-day conclave that will be attended by party president Rahul Gandhi on Friday.During the ‘chintan shivir’ (introspection camp), the Congress leaders and workers will analyse the election results district-wise and discuss the road-map ahead in view of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, state party president Bharatsinh Solanki said in Ahmedabad.In the elections, the results for which were declared on Monday, the Congress could not wrest power from the BJP even though its tally increased to 77 seats from 61 last time.The Congress ally Bharatiya Tribal Party won two seats, and along with an independent backed by it winning his seat, the tally of the Congress-led alliance stood at 80, 12 short of the simple majority in the 182-member assembly.The BJP retained power for the sixth time, though with a reduced score of 99 seats against 115 in 2012.The Congress performed well in rural areas of Gujarat but failed to make a significant mark in the urban pockets.The venue of the conclave on Wednesday and Thursday is a resort in Mehsana district and on the third and final day, the venue will shift to Ahmedabad where Mr. Gandhi will be present, Mr. Solanki said.Gandhi, who campaigned extensively in the state for the assembly elections, will address the Congress workers on Friday.“The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee has organised the ’chintan shivir’ with the aim of discussing the Assembly poll results and to provide a road-map to strengthen the organisation and increase its connect with the people, keeping in mind the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” Mr. Solanki told reporters.“For two days, we will meet here in Mehsana, and on third day, we will meet in Ahmedabad where Congress president Rahul Gandhi will visit to address party workers,” he said.Congress general secretary and election in-charge for Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot, expressed satisfaction over the party’s performance in the polls, while accusing the BJP of “misusing government machinery” and raising questions over the approach of the Election Commission.“Both in terms of seats and campaigning, the Congress performed wonderfully well. Although we could not form the government, a message has been sent across that the BJP can have a tough time fighting the Congress even in the home state of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah,” said Mr. Gehlot, who is also attending the camp.“The way the BJP campaigned involving cabinet ministers with the prime minister himself making emotional appeals, the way they misused government machinery for polls, and the manner the Election Commission took decisions, we believe we have done exceedingly well,” he said.Senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, who lost from Mandvi in Kutch district, said the party could have formed government had it won 16 seats on which it got defeated by narrow margins.However, he took solace in the fact that the BJP was reduced to “double-digits” despite an aggressive campaigning.“At one point after forming the government in 1985, the Congress was reduced to a mere 32 seats. This time people have supported Congress in large numbers and we have increased our seat tally,” he said.“And after 1990, for the first time the BJP has been reduced to double-digits. We were defeated by small margins on as many as 16 seats. Had we won those seats, we could have formed the government,” Mr. Gohil said.
Starting the mass nesting this year, more than 3,100 female olive ridley turtles came out of the sea to the sandy beach of the Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district of Odisha on Tuesday night. The Rushikulya coast is considered to be a major nesting site in the world and lakhs of olive ridleys come here every year to lay eggs. “Congregation of mother turtles in sea near the rookery is quite high this year. We anticipate that in comparison to 2017 more number of turtles will nest this year,” said Berhampur divisional forest officer Ashis Behera. In 2017, over 3,85,000 turtles had reached the Rushikulya rookery coast to lay eggs. The mass nesting process is expected to continue for around a week. The Forest Department has erected temporary fences on a stretch of 4.5 km to prevent predators from damaging the nests and the eggs in them.To monitor the endangered marine reptiles, the department has established five control rooms near the Rushikulya rookery. A data interpretation centre has also been started.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced on Wednesday that it would contest the Rajasthan Assembly elections that are likely to be held later this year.At a press conference in New Delhi, AAP leader Ashutosh said the party’s political affairs committee (PAC) met two days ago to discuss Rajasthan polls. “The party decided to contest the Rajasthan Assembly elections with full strength.” The PAC also decided to appoint Deepak Bajpai as Rajasthan in charge, replacing AAP founder-member Kumar Vishwas, who has had a thorny relationship with the leadership in the past year and has criticised the party over its Rajya Sabha picks earlier this year.When asked about the decision to replace Mr. Vishwas, Mr. Ashutosh said: “Kumar Vishwas is a senior leader of the party. The responsibility of Rajasthan was with him. Due to some realities, he could not give as much time to it.”When asked if Mr. Vishwas, a member of the PAC, attended its meeting, Mr. Ashutosh said he didn’t.Mr. Bajpai had started working in Rajasthan, having moved to Jaipur about a month-and-a-half ago. He had visited all Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies and was meeting workers, said Mr. Ashutosh, adding that the process of identifying candidates was under way and some had been selected.
The tug of war between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over who would replace Ashok Parnami, who recently quit as the Rajasthan State unit chief, continued on Thursday, with the CM huddled in meetings with national president Amit Shah and general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal in New Delhi. Mr. Parnami was considered close to Ms. Raje. He was asked to quit the post as the State unit chief in an overhaul, after being trounced by the Congress in the recent bypolls in Rajasthan. State unit chiefs of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh had also quit, but the replacement for Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur Lok Sabha MP Rakesh Singh, had been appointed quickly. That same speed has been missing with regard to Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. According to senior party sources, the BJP top brass is in favour of appointing Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to the post, while Ms. Raje has been pushing the case of Shrichand Kriplani, and even a new entrant in the race, Laxminarayan Dave.
During his two-day visit to West Bengal starting on Wednesday, the national president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah will mainly focus on organisational matters of the party.On Wednesday, Mr. Shah will check the party’s poll preparedness for the next Lok Sabha polls at the block level, State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.“In 2016 our focus was on 22 seats but now we are focusing on 26-27 seats in the State. While the party will contest in all the 42 seats in the State we expect to win 26-27 seats. We will submit a report to the party president on this in the meeting,” Mr. Ghosh told The Hindu.In the evening, BJP president will meet all office bearers of the party along with its full time members to understand the “difficulties they are facing while working in the State,” Mr. Ghosh said. The meeting is described as ‘Vistarak Baithak’ or meeting to expand the party.Prior to this meeting Mr. Shah will deliver the Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay Memorial lecture in a south Kolkata auditorium.Following the lecture, Mr. Shah will interact with the city’s intellectuals.Party’s national secretary Rahul Sinha said that they have invited many members of Kolkata’s civil society.“But we can not disclose the names of who all are going to attend the lecture and the interaction,” he told The Hindu on Tuesday.On the second day of his visit to the State, Mr. Shah will visit Purulia and address a public meeting in the district. The State government has made elaborate security arrangements, including setting up of close circuit television in Tarapith temple, scheduled to be visited by Mr. Shah.
Two months after a case of rape of minor inmates of a shelter home in Muzaffarpur was lodged, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday broke his silence and said he was ashamed about the incident. He said he would like to have a “High Court-monitored” CBI inquiry into the case and added that nobody found guilty would be spared.Opposition parties have been demanding a HC-monitored CBI inquiry.RJD to hold dharnasThe Rashtriya Janata Dal has announced dharnas across the country on Saturday. Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Tejaswi Yadav will sit on a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and others are likely to join him. On Thursday, the Left parties had called a Bihar bandh, demanding Mr. Kumar’s resignation.“The Muzaffarpur incident is a heinous act and it has shamed us… The guilty in the case will not be spared… I’ve asked our Attorney General to request the High Court to monitor the CBI probe…,” Mr. Kumar said at a government programme for women empowerment here. “Such incidents happen due to the absence of an institutional mechanism… Things will be made transparent now and as long as I am here there will be no compromise, on the law and order front.”Emerging from the programme, Social Welfare Department Minister Manju Verma not only refused to answer questions, but her security personnel pushed media persons causing some of them to fall. Ms. Verma’s husband was earlier accused of frequenting the Muzaffarpur shelter home, a charge she had denied, claiming “it was all politically motivated.”
Conservationists on Friday asked the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) to reverse the clearance for the 1750MW Demwe Lower hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh.The project’s 124-metre high dam is proposed to be constructed on river Lohit jointly by Athena Energy Ventures and the Arunachal Pradesh government. The project site, greens and local activists say, is extremely close to cultural heritage site Parshuram Kund, a major Hindu pilgrimage.Lohit is one of three rivers that meet to form the Brahmaputra in Assam downstream.“I am shocked to see that your committee has granted wildlife clearance to the 1750 MW Demwe Lower project based on a seriously flawed report of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII),” Bimal Gogoi, a conservationist based in Assam’s Golaghat district, said in a letter to SC-NBWL chairman, Dr Harsha Vardhan, also the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.Junked by NGTMr Gogoi had filed an appeal in the National Green Tribunal challenging the 2010 clearance to the project by the environment ministry. He pointed out that the NGT had, in October 2017, cancelled the final forest clearance as the project site was 8.5 km from the Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary.As director of Bombay Natural History Society and NBWL member, Asad Rahmani had, in 2014, studied the site and said the project would submerge parts of the Parshuram Kund Medicinal Plant Conservation Area that the Environment Ministry had identified for protecting “globally significant medicinal plants”.Environmentalists in adjoining Assam also said the project would severely impact the grasslands of Dibru Saikhowa National Park –— home of the only population of feral horses in India — and riverine islands of Lohit river, which Birdlife International identified as Important Bird Area.New surveyThe NGT had sought a peer review of the project, but the ministry commissioned a short study by a WII-led team, which acknowledged downstream concerns while saying upstream submergence would not be much of an ecological issue. The team admitted the site needed to be studied over three seasons, but its survey in February this year took 20 days.Based on the team’s report in May, the project was cleared at the 50th meeting of SC-NBWL whose minutes were made public on Wednesday. The minutes said that that the wildlife board has accepted the Dehradun-based WII’s report on the rapid ecological assessment of impacts of Lower Demwe project on wildlife.The WII report said: “In the light of the history of this dam site, wherein the submergence zone has been studied and an environmental impact assessment was approved to give environmental clearance, we feel that the creation/construction of the dam per se would not be critical in undermining the biodiversity values of the region. The submergence zone of the dam is a habitat which is available elsewhere within the region and is not critical for the conservation of any known threatened, endangered or critically endangered species population. This hydroelectric project is run of the river type water which is released. Hence, the amount of river flow quanta is not likely to be altered once the dam is filled and power generation is based on an inflow-outflow regime.”Hydrologists too have found flaws in the report. “Demwe, like most mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in the Northeast, is a disaster in the making. For Assam, the disaster could be worse than Kerala’s,” Partha Jyoti Das, a water expert, said.
Four minor girls were found missing on Sunday from a shelter home in Patna. A case has been registered at the Patliputra police station.According to the police, four girls, aged between 12 and 16, are said to have escaped from the Asha Kiran shelter home, located inside a school campus in Patliputra Colony on Sunday morning. The State Welfare Department runs the home which is managed by an NGO. The girls, living on the second floor of the shelter home, are said to have escaped from a window using a dupatta (stole) as rope and jumped over the boundary wall. The police have registered a case and begun searching for the missing minors. “We searched for the girls at railway stations, bus station and other prominent locations but they’re yet to be found,” said Patliputra police station in-charge T.N. Tiwari. The official in-charge of the shelter home did not respond to questions on the incident. The rape and sexual exploitation of 34 girls at another Bihar shelter home in Muzaffarpur was exposed earlier this year in a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Over a dozen persons, including the main accused Brajesh Thakur, were later arrested. The Supreme Court is monitoring the case. Following a court order, Brajesh was recently shifted to Patiala jail in Punjab as the CBI said he could have “influenced” the case by being in Muzaffarpur jail. The then Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma had to step down from her post after her husband’s name cropped up in the case.Meanwhile, the municipal commissioner has ordered demolition of illegal constructions at the Muzaffarpur shelter home.
Hurriyat faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was placed under house arrest at Nigeen when he started for the party headquarters in Srinagar on Saturday. “We were having a one-day Hurriyat workers’ session and it was barred. The Rajbagh office was also sealed. I am not allowed any space or scope for any political activity. So much for practising honest democracy, Governor sahab,” said the Mirwaiz.A Hurriyat spokesman said senior leaders like Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone and Mukhtar Ahmed Waza were scheduled to meet at the party headquarters. “But before they could, all the lanes and by-lanes were sealed by police.”
A 25-year-old unmarried woman died while attempting to deliver a baby alone in her rented room at Bilandpur here, police said on Monday. According to sources, the woman was reportedly watching a video on giving birth on her mobile.A native of Bahraich, she was living in Gorakhpur for the last four years and was preparing for competitive exams, police said. Four days ago, she took a room on rent in Bilandpur area and on Sunday, the other tenants noticed blood coming out of the door of her room, police said. After reaching the spot, police found the woman and her baby lying in a pool of blood. The woman’s body was later taken for postmortem.“The woman was 25 years old and unmarried. She died in an attempt to deliver baby alone in her room in which she came to live on rent just four days ago. However, she was living in Gorakhpur for the last four years and was preparing for competitive exams,” said Ravi Rai, the SHO of Cant police station.“No FIR was lodged as the family did not give any complaint letter and they also did not reveal anything about the man with whom she was having an affair,” he said.
Efforts to fight polio outbreaks by vaccinating adults as well as children are costly and potentially misguided. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of recent polio outbreaks in Tajikistan and the Republic of the Congo. Researchers wanted to know whether adults and older children had spread the virus and, more important, whether giving adults booster vaccines to prevent transmission would do any good once an outbreak started. To find out, the team analyzed real-world data with two computer models. The first was a standard model of polio transmission, in which people don’t lose their immunity over time. According to that model, adults in Congo, but not in Tajikistan, transmitted polio. That’s no big surprise, because polio is transmitted when fecal matter ends up in someone else’s stomach, and Tajikistan has generally better hygiene than Congo. More surprising was what happened when the researchers considered a second computer model, which took account of the fact that in the years since they were vaccinated, adults and older children may have lost their immunity and could therefore help spread polio. Despite the change, the model predicted about the same number of people would get sick, and the epidemic took about the same course, even if some people lost their immunity. That conclusion, reported online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, means that lost immunity isn’t to blame for adults spreading polio, and simply giving adults polio vaccinations won’t necessarily help stop an outbreak. In Congo, they say, adult boosters could have helped, but in Tajikistan it would have been costly and probably useless. In the future, the team argues, global health officials should spend their time and money on responding more quickly to the early signs of a polio outbreak. That way, children can get the protection of a vaccine before an outbreak gets out of control.
Just before Christmas, a Southwest Airlines plane carrying nearly 150 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after colliding with a bird. So how come our feathered friends don’t get out of the way when a giant piece of metal rushes at them? It’s difficult to conduct field experiments without causing actual casualties, so wildlife researchers resorted to virtual reality. They played videos of trucks approaching at speeds ranging from 60 to 360 kilometers per hour toward brown-headed cowbirds in an enclosed chamber and studied the birds’ behavior. The scientists found that the cowbirds paid attention to the distance between them and the truck rather than the truck’s speed, always flying away when the truck appeared about 30 meters away, they report online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The strategy may have saved them from natural predators such as hawks, the researchers suggest, but it proves fatal for dealing with highway cars and other vehicles traveling above 120 kilometers per hour. More studies are needed to determine whether other birds and animals behave in a similar way, but the researchers suggest that installing special lights on planes could alert birds to begin their escape from a longer distance away.
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