AAI in pact with US agency to prepare modernisation roadmap

State-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) has inked an agreement with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to develop a roadmap for modernization of its air traffic services.

Air traffic services (ATS) comprises air traffic management (ATM) and communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS).

The collaboration is aimed at developing a CNS/ATM roadmap for the AAI for modernization of the national airspace system (NAS), the release said.

Under the pact, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing will provide technical assistance which will create a roadmap to enhance communications, expand existing systems and airspace capacity, and invest in CNS/ATM facilities, it added.

The double-digit growth in air passenger traffic over the last 49 months has brought several challenges with it, including maintaining safe and efficient aircraft operations, he said.

In this backdrop, it was decided to draw a robust roadmap for sustained ANS infrastructure to meet the growth challenges in a planned way, Mohapatra added.

According to the release, utilizing global and regional best practices as a benchmark, the technical help will recommend a roadmap and implementation plan to the AAI for improving airspace utilization and implement CNS/ATM air and ground equipage in the short, medium and long-term (up to 10 years).

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Global Education Monitoring Report 2019: Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls

UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, Migration, displacement and education, is released in the presence of the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay today in Berlin. The report shows that the number of migrant and refugee school-age children around the world today has grown by 26% since 2000 and could fill half a million classrooms.

The Report highlights countries’ achievements and shortcomings in ensuring the right of migrant and refugee children to benefit from quality education, a right that serves the interests of both learners and the communities they live in.

Highlights of the report:

Literacy levels in rural households of India dip with seasonal migration

In India, 10.7 million children aged 6 to 14 lived in rural households with a seasonal migrant in 2013. About 28% of youth aged 15 to 19 in these households were illiterate or had not completed primary school, compared to 18% of the cohort overall.

About 80% of seasonal migrant children in seven cities lacked access to education near work sites, and 40% are likely to end up in work rather than education, experiencing abuse and exploitation.

Inter-State migration rates have doubled between 2001 and 2011. An estimated 9 million migrated between States annually from 2011 to 2016. The report also warns of the negative impact on education for children who are left behind as their parents migrate.

The construction sector absorbs the majority of short-term migrants. A survey in Punjab state of 3,000 brick kiln workers in 2015-16 found that 60% were inter-State migrants. Between 65% and 80% of all children aged five to 14 living at the kilns worked there seven to nine hours per day. About 77% of kiln workers reported a lack of access to early childhood or primary education for their children.

What has been done in this regard?

  • India has taken steps to address the issue.
  • The Right to Education Act in 2009 made it mandatory for local authorities to admit migrant children.
  • National-level guidelines were issued, allowing for the flexible admission of children, providing transport and volunteers to support with mobile education.
  • The policies were attempted to create seasonal hostels and aiming to improve coordination between sending and receiving districts and states.
  • Some State governments have also taken steps for migrant children’s education.

Pending Issues:

  • Most interventions are focused on keeping children in home communities instead of actively addressing the challenges faced by those who are already on the move.
  • There is the growth of slums and informal settlements where schools are often scarce due to migration as a challenge. The report shows there is only one urban planner for every 1, 00,000 people in India, while there are 38 for every 1, 00,000 in the United Kingdom.
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Four new horned frogs discovered by Delhi University team

A team of biologists from Delhi University, University College Dublin (Ireland) and the National Museum (UK) have discovered four new species of horned frogs from the Himalayan regions of Northeast India. The team also comprised S D Biju from DU’s Department of Environmental Studies, known as the ‘Frogman of India’.

PhD research work carried out by Stephen Mahony at DU under Biju, as well as at UCD under Professor Emma Telling, led to the discovery. Horned frogs get their name from the “fleshy horn-like projection on the upper eyelids of some species”, and were discovered in the forests of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.

The scientists named the four new Indian species as Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys himalayana); the Garo white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys oreocrypta); the Yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys flavipunctata); and the Giant Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys periosa). The study was published on Monday as a monograph in the scientific journal Zootaxa.

The scientists said the frogs vary in size — yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog measures about 5.7-7.5 cm and is the smallest, while the Giant Himalayan horned frog measures about 7.1 to 11.2 cm, making it the “largest of the 15 horned frog species now known to occur in Northeast India”.

Professor S D Biju said Northeast India was “rich in amphibian diversity, but despite being part of two globally recognized biodiversity hotspots (Himalayas and Indo-Burma), this region is neglected as compared to the Western Ghats hotspot in southern India”.

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Kambala season set to begin from Saturday

The coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi are all set for the kambala (a traditional slush-track buffalo race) from this Saturday, with 18 races lined up for the 2018-19 season.

The first race, named ‘sathya-dharma’, is scheduled at Kakkyapadavu, Bantwal taluk in Dakshina Kannada on November 24. The last and the 18th ‘soorya-Chandra’ kambala will be conducted at Talapady-Panjala in Mangaluru taluk on March 23, 2019.

Karnataka government had promulgated Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 on July 20 last year. The President gave his assent to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill making Kambala a legal rural sport in Karnataka. The Bill seeks to exempt kambala and bullock-cart racing from the ambit of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.

Kambla in its traditional form is non-competitive with buffalo pairs made to race one after another in paddy fields, which is considered a thanksgiving to the Gods for protecting the animals from diseases.

Over the years, it has, however, become an organized sport with animal rights activists claiming that the buffaloes run in the race due to fear of being beaten, which the organizers dismiss, saying no violence is involved and that several modifications had been made to ensure that it is an animal-friendly event.

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Bill to give land rights to enclave dwellers in West Bengal passed

The West Bengal Assembly unanimously passed a Bill to give land rights to enclave dwellers in north Bengal, ending an era of uncertain future for the people residing in those enclaves.

Bangladesh and India had exchanged a total of 162 enclaves on Aug 1, 2015, ending one of the world’s most-complex border disputes that had lingered for seven decades since Independence.

The Bill will help in the distribution of land-right documents to the people of the enclaves in the border district of Cooch Behar, the chief minister said, adding that the state government was working hard to give beneficiaries their due.

In Cooch Behar, 111 Indian enclaves, spread across 17,160 acres, became a part of Bangladesh territory and 51 Bangladesh enclaves, comprising 7,110 acres, joined India.

The enclave residents were allowed to either reside at their present location or move to the other country.

Around 37,334 people residing in the enclaves in the Indian side refused to go to Bangladesh, whereas 922 enclave dwellers, who were in the Bangladesh side, preferred to be in India, Banerjee said.

With the exchange of enclaves, following an agreement between the two countries with the consent of West Bengal, the enclave dwellers deserve their rights as the citizens of India, she said.

The state government had already spent over Rs 100 crore for the housing of the enclave dwellers, Banerjee said, adding that the government, which have received Rs 579 crore from the Centre, still had a due of Rs 426 crore. However, the state government needs to spend more from its own exchequer.

The process will result in the creation of 13 new ‘mouzas’ (administrative district), while the rest of the area would be amalgamated with the existing 31 ‘mouzas’, the bill said.

Plot-to-plot verification has already been undertaken to ascertain the ownership status of the land to the dwellers, who now reside on khas land.

Describing how her government helped settle the long-pending issue, Banerjee criticized the way genuine citizens were being harassed in Assam

Those, who have come to India till March 1971, are all Indian citizens, “but a particular political party” was playing politics on the issue, forcing the genuine citizens even to commit suicide, she said.

The update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a massive exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam, excluded over 40 lakh people from the draft list published on July 30, creating a huge political controversy.

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Russia tipped to win Army contract for air defence missiles

Russian defense major Rosoboronexport is understood to have emerged as the lowest bidder in the Indian Army’s tender for procurement of a batch of short-range air defense missile systems, official sources said late on Monday.

The other contenders for the deal were Swedish firm SAAB and French military firm MBDA.

The Indian Army plans to procure hundreds of short-range air defense missiles as part of its efforts to enhance its overall combat capability.

If Rososboronexport is awarded the contract, it will be another mega contract won by Russia after the S-400 air defense deal. In October, India and Russia finalized the S-400 air defense missile system deal for the Indian Air Force.

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Why CBI needs consent, how far the denial will restrict it in Andhra, Bengal

Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal governments withdrew “general consent” to the CBI for investigating cases in their respective states. The state governments said they had lost faith in the CBI in the backdrop of its internal turmoil marked by the open war among the agency’s top officers. They have also alleged that the Centre is using the CBI to unfairly target Opposition parties.

Unlike the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is governed by its own NIA Act and has jurisdiction across the country, the CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that makes consent of a state government mandates for conducting the investigation in that state.

There are two kinds of consent: case-specific and general. Given that the CBI has jurisdiction only over central government departments and employees, it can investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a given state only after that state government gives its consent.

“General consent” is normally given to help the CBI seamlessly conduct its investigation into cases of corruption against central government employees in the concerned state. Almost all states have given such consent. Otherwise, the CBI would require consent in every case. For example, if it wanted to investigate a bribery charge against a Western Railway clerk in Mumbai, it would have to apply for consent with the Maharashtra government before registering a case against him.

It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving a central government official or a private person stationed in these two states without getting case-specific consent. “Withdrawal of consent simply means that CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them,” said a former CBI officer who has handled policy.

Under what provision has general consent been withdrawn?

GO (government order) number 176 issued by the Andhra Pradesh Home Department by Principal Secretary A R Anuradha on November 8 states: “In exercise of power conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (Central Act No 25 of 1946), the government hereby withdraws the general consent accorded in GO No 109 Home (SC.A) Department dated August 3, 2018 to all members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise the powers and jurisdiction under the said Act in the State of Andhra Pradesh.’’

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Section 6 of the Act says, “Nothing contained in Section 5 (which deals with jurisdiction of CBI) shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in a State, not being a Union Territory or Railway, area, without the consent of the Government of that State.”

Does that mean that the CBI can no longer probe any case in the two states?

No. The CBI would still have the power to investigate old cases registered when general consent existed. Also, cases registered anywhere else in the country, but involving people stationed in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, would allow CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states.

There is ambiguity on whether the agency can carry out a search in either of the two states in connection with an old case without the consent of the state government. However, there are legal remedies to that as well. The CBI can always get a search warrant from a local court in the state and conduct searches. In case the search requires a surprise element, there is CrPC Section 166, which allows a police officer of one jurisdiction to ask an officer of another to carry out searches on his behalf. And if the first officer feels that the searches by the latter may lead to loss of evidence, the section allows the first officer to conduct searches himself after giving a notice to the latter.

Withdrawal of consent will only bar the CBI from registering a case within the jurisdiction of Andhra and Bengal. The CBI could still file cases in Delhi and continue to probe people inside the two states.

An October 11, 2018, order of the Delhi High Court makes it clear that the agency can probe anyone in a state that has withdrawn “general consent” if the case is not registered in that state. The order was given with regard to a case of corruption in Chhattisgarh, which also gives consent on a case-to-case basis. The court ordered that the CBI could probe the case without the prior consent of the Chhattisgarh government since it was registered in Delhi.

Thus, if a state government believes that the ruling party’s ministers or members could be targeted by CBI on orders of the Centre, and that withdrawal of general consent would protect them, it would be a wrong assumption, experts say. A CBI officer said: “CBI could still register cases in Delhi which would require some part of the offense being connected with Delhi and still arrest and prosecute ministers or MPs. The only people it will protect is small central government employees.”

Is it the first time a state government has withdrawn consent?

No. Over the years, several states have done so, including Sikkim, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka — which stands out as an example. In 1998, the Janata Dal-led government of J H Patel had withdrawn general consent. In 1999, the S M Krishna-led Congress government took over and did not revoke Patel’s order. The then state Home Minister was Mallikarjun Kharge, current Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha. “General consent wasn’t renewed for eight long years. The CBI had to virtually close down its office,” said an officer who was in the CBI then. He added that the agency had to seek permission of the state government for every case and every search it conducted on central government employees.

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GROWTH-India telescope’s first science observation

The 0.7 m GROWTH-India telescope at the Indian Astronomical Observatory located in Hanle, Ladakh, has made its first science observation which is a follow-up study of a nova explosion. Novae are explosive events involving violent eruptions on the surface of white dwarf stars, leading to a temporary increase in brightness of the star. Unlike a supernova, the star does not go on to die but returns to its earlier state after the explosion. A report on this published in The Astronomer’s Telegram notes the magnitude of the nova explosion first identified by Darnley et al as it varies, from November 8 to November 10.

The GROWTH-India telescope is part of a multi-country collaborative initiative – known as the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen (GROWTH) – to observe transient events in the universe.

The fully robotic telescope is designed to capture cosmic events occurring over relatively shorter periods of the cosmological timescale: years, days and even hours.

Universities and research institutes from the US, the UK, Japan, India, Germany, Taiwan, and Israel are part of the initiative.

Their primary research objective is time-domain astronomy, which entails the study of explosive transients and variable sources (of light and other radiation) in the universe.

Its goals are threefold:

  • Search for explosions in the optical regime whenever LIGO group detects a Binary Neutron Star merger
  • Study nearby young supernova explosions
  • Study nearby asteroids.

Novae are explosive events involving violent eruptions on the surface of white dwarf stars, leading to a temporary increase in brightness of the star. Unlike a supernova, the star does not go on to die but returns to its earlier state after the explosion.

The recurrent nova, named M31N-2008, has been observed to erupt several times, the most recent eruption happening in November 2018.

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Apec leaders summit: five key moments in Pacific tug of war

The Apec leaders summit, held in Port Moresby over the weekend, was one of the most remarkable and tense in recent years. It ended with no joint statement from the leaders – a first in Apec history – and with the fight for dominance in the Pacific region between Australia, the US and Japan on one side and China on the other, coming out into the open.

It ended with no joint statement from the leaders – a first in Apec history – and with the fight for dominance in the Pacific region between Australia, the US and Japan on one side and China on the other, coming out into the open.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific. APEC has 21 members.

Aim: to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.

APEC works to help all residents of the Asia-Pacific participate in the growing economy. APEC projects provide digital skills training for rural communities and help indigenous women export their products abroad.

Recognizing the impacts of climate change, APEC members also implement initiatives to increase energy efficiency and promote sustainable management of forest and marine resources.

The forum adapts to allow members to deal with important new challenges to the region’s economic well-being. This includes ensuring disaster resilience, planning for pandemics, and addressing terrorism.

APEC’s 21 member economies are Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People’s Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; Viet Nam.

APEC Members account for approximately 40% of the world’s population, approximately 54% of the world’s gross domestic product and about 44% of world trade.

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Kerala to rein in trans-fat in eatery foods

The Health Department and the Food Safety wing are joining hands to launch an initiative to enforce dietary guidelines, involving the reduction of Trans fatty acids (TFAs), salt and sugar in commercially available foods in the State.

The initiative, with technical support from the World Bank, WHO and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is being launched as unhealthy diet is pushing up metabolic syndrome and premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among Keralites.

The initiative, with technical support from the World Bank, WHO and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is being launched as unhealthy diet is pushing up metabolic syndrome and premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among Keralites.

Latest estimates put the prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MS) in Kerala between 24-33%, indicating that one in three or four persons — predominantly women — have this condition.

Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a cluster of metabolic abnormalities — high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, raising the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.

Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.

In our diet, the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.

Harmful effects:

TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease. Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.

TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

WHO recommends that trans fat intake is limited to less than 1% of total energy intake and has called for the total elimination of TFAs in global food supply by 2023. FSSAI has proposed to limit TFA limit in foods to 2% and eliminate trans fats from foods by 2022.

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