“They must be worried about me,” says Deepchand Sharma, as he tries to make a call from his wireless in local loop (WLL) phone. “I want to tell them I am safe, but phones are not catching network the past three days.” Mr. Sharma is a Central Reserve Police Force constable, posted in a camp near Burkapal village, Sukma, south Chhattisgarh. On April 24, a Maoist ambush killed 25 of his comrades.For him and the other jawans, the lack of cellular towers in the area means that most of the time their mobile phones are reduced to music players. That is their minor complaint.Into the furnaceThere are 150 men posted here. The jawans have no dormitories; they sleep 30 to a large shed, and there are not enough beds, so some sleep on the floor. There are no cabinets to store their belongings. All 150 share six toilets; inevitably the queues are long every morning.“This is where Ram Mehar slept,” a jawan said, showing a dilapidated bed with a torn mosquito net. Mr. Mehar was one of those who lost their lives.The tin roof has turned the shed into an oven. There are ceiling fans, but as a jawan says mordantly, “They are for display.” There is no electricity in this part of Sukma; the camp has five generators, but those are effectively decorative too. “Supplies come once a month,” another jawan says. “It is impossible to run the generators for a month with the oil we are provided.”The men try to keep drinking water cool by covering bottles with wet cloth — with more dark humour, they call these their refrigerators — but the heat wins: a jawan poured hot water from his bottle on this reporter’s hand to demonstrate, saying, “You can cook rice with this.” Joining in on the grim laughter, another jawan points to a WLL handset: “This is our Doordarshan. It works once in 15 days.”Battle for healthIn their barracks, the heat is overpowering, but on patrol, there is more than sweat to deal with: plants and insects provide itches. Most of them suffer from rashes and infections in sensitive body parts. “It’s difficult to show it to a doctor here,” a jawan says. The nearest CPRF field hospitals are seven kilometres away in opposite directions, in Chintalnar and in Chintagufa. But the men cannot drive there or even walk the road: that would make them easy targets for the extremists.Instead, they must deploy a “road-opening party” — at least 70 jawans struggling through the forest, each carrying 15 to 20 kg: weapon and ammunition, rations, and lots of water to cope with the +40°C heat. (On longer patrols, the load doubles, as they must carry their own food and the means to prepare it.) The result: it takes hours to get anywhere.A jawan puts it like this: “If someone falls ill, only God or a helicopter can save him. In any case, the doctor [at the field hospital] only treats major ailments. Every month, someone is down with malaria.”Roads of bloodAt Burkapal, the jawans’ task is supposed to be anti-Maoist operations. But, as with many CRPF bases in the area, protecting road projects takes up much of the time, a job that feels thankless. Crooked contractors, the jawans say bitterly, stretch out jobs to make profits, while security personnel die. “But when we say no to providing protection,” an officer says, “the police and administration blame us for everything to hide their own incompetence.”Road protection leaves little time and few personnel for patrols. And as for the essential intelligence-gathering, an officer says, “The only way to get proper inputs is human intelligence. But we don’t know the dialect, and local forces are not posted with us.” Despite Home Ministry guidelines, there is hardly any civil police deployment. “You will find only one or two in every CRPF camp.”“The camp is the only place where we can say we are safe,” a jawan says. “Danger awaits even just outside the gates. There have been killings of civilians and security men hardly a few metres away. Everyone is hostile, even the civil police.”The constant danger means that the men are always tense. “Even a wireless set has a 12-hour battery life,” an officer says, “But the men are on alert 24 hours a day. How long can one stay alert?”An officer says, “We don’t get transfers for years, and then mostly to tough areas.” A jawan says, “We get leave twice a year. But to go on leave, the only way is by helicopter, which has limited running hours in this area. When we get leave, it is with short notice. We can’t book berths, so we travel in unreserved compartments. Even going on leave is like punishment.” Another adds, “Even for marriage or funerals, we must wait for a couple of days for leave to be sanctioned, then for the helicopter to arrive.”“Prisoners live better,” a jawan says, “and yet the government wants us to fight like Black Cat commandos.”A senior officer wearily sums it up: “We die of weather and diseases. Those who survive, the living conditions kill us. Those who survive that, the Maoists and the IEDs [improvised explosive devices] kill. Death is always staring at us.”
Suspected militants launched a grenade attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalion in Pulwama’s Tral area on Monday evening, leaving two jawans injured.Preliminary reports suggested a grenade was lobbed by using under-barrel grenade launcher in Tral under the cover of darkness. A police official said the grenade landed near the camp of CRPF’s 180 Battalion. “Two CRPF jawans have sustained injuries,” said the police officials. The area is being surveyed, they added. On Sunday, militants injured four CRPF jawans in Srinagar’s Saraf Kadal in a grenade attack. It’s third grenade attack in the past three days. Earlier, the district police lines of Pulwama was attacked with a grenade.
Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led State government has not been able to form the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee (MWAC) despite being in power for over three years, resulting in no increase of minimum wages for workers of 32 industries. Labour unions have given an ultimatum to the State government demanding formation of the MWAC and issuing a notification on increase in minimum wages. They said they would approach the Bombay High Court if this was not done. According to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the state government has a constitutional obligation to modify the minimum wages every five years. The previous committee was formed in 2010. In a letter addressed to Labour Minister Sambhaji Nilangekar-Patil the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) has listed 32 industries where the minimum wage has not been revised since 2010. “As per the provisions of the law, MWAC has to issue directions to particular industries asking them to increase minimum wages and a notification is issued subsequently. The government does not have to pay anything from its pocket, but the industry owners will have to pay the wages,” said D.L. Karad, national vice-president and Maharashtra president of CITU.Mr. Karad said non-formation of the committee is a result of constant pressure from owners, as they are content to pay salaries based on old wages. The MWAC includes representatives of owners, labour unions, elected representatives, minister and secretary of the department.The 32 industries in which minimum wages have not been revised in the last 8-9 years include, tobacco, paper, film, silver jewellery, plastic, printing press, motor transport, helpers in shops, watch-belt, cement, salt, ice, electronic, theatres, dairy, cycle workshop, rubber balloon, hospital, chemical fertilisers, wooden furniture, cotton ginning etc. “Close to a million people work in these industries,” Mr. Karad said. While Mr. Nilangekar-Patil was not available for comment, labour department sources said the file to form MWAC was being forwarded and the committee should start working in a month. Asked about the delay of over three-and-a- half years, the officer said there has been no bureaucratic delay.
With Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee vowing to turn Purulia into an “opposition-free district”, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh on Friday warned that situation could be “dangerous” as several people were being killed to achieve the objective. Killing of a 20-year-old Dalit youth whom BJP claims as its member in Purulia district has turned out to be new flashpoint between ruling TMC and the saffron party seeking to gain ground in the state.“The manner in which the TMC is trying to make the state opposition-free by killing people is going to be dangerous. What kind of politics is this? What type of administration is this?,” Mr. Ghosh said while addressing a rally held in North 24 Parganas district’s Habra. The rally was to protest the killing of Trilochan Mahato in Balarampur in Purulia district on May 30 last. He was found hanging from a tree near his home. An unsigned handwritten note in Bengali found near Mahato stated that he was “punished for working for the BJP” during the recent panchayat polls in the state.“We can also free up many things. We have already made the entire India opposition-free. And you [Abhishek] are in a corner of West Bengal and even you will also disappear,” he said. The state BJP chief highlighted several incidents of violence in the state during the recent panchayat elections to drive home the point. Mr. Banerjee, who heads TMC youth wing, during a rally held in the city last Tuesday had vowed to turn Purulia into an “opposition-free district“.Mr. Banerjee had said that he would visit the region along with party secretary-general Partha Chatterjee for the purpose.“They [the BJP] are flying high following their electoral performance in Purulia. But you have to keep in mind that TMC has also performed well in Purulia. I will visit the district on June 1 [Friday] and make sure the opposition’s (panchayat seats) tally is reduced to zero,” he had said at the rally. In the Balarampur block where Trilochan’s village is located, BJP won majority in seven gram panchayats and the panchayat samiti, snatching them from Trinamool. The BJP state president also hit out at the state police and alleged that they were “working” for the TMC resulting in the common people losing their faith in police.“Today police in West Bengal is not working for the public. But they are working for the TMC and that is why the common people have lost their faith in them. That is why these days there are several incidents where policemen are attacked by common men,” the BJP leader said. Meanwhile, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said that that the BJP was busy with issues which had nothing to do with the common people.“They [the BJP] are still busy with the panchayat elections. But they are not at all interested about the people’s sufferings because of the everyday hike of petroleum prices. They have no responsibilities towards the real issues of the people. We (TMC) under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, are always for the cause of the common people,” Mr. Chatterjee said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will probe the murders of journalists Santanu Bhowmik and Sudip Datta Bhowmik, who were killed last year in west Tripura, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb announced at a press briefing late on Friday night. Santanu was hacked to death on September 20 while covering a tribal agitation at Mandwai, 25 km east of Agartala, while Sudip was shot dead at the office of the Commandant (CO) of the 2nd battalion of Tripura State Rifles (TSR) at R.K. Nagar, close to Mandwai, on November 21. The erstwhile CPI(M)-led Left front government had constituted separate Special Investigation Teams (SIT) in both incidents, which led to the arrest of several suspects.However, the Forum for Protection of Journalists, Tripura — a joint platform of nine media organisations — had long been demanding a CBI probe, claiming that the SIT had not booked the real perpetrators. The trial in the Sudip Dutta Bhowmik case in the additional district and sessions judge court was stopped following orders from the Tripura High Court. The Special Investigation Team had probed the killing and filed a chargesheet. It also investigated the Santanu Bhowmik case, but hasn’t filed a chargesheet yet. According to a notification by the Ministry of Personnel, the CBI will probe all aspects including ‘attempts, abetment and conspiracy’.The BJP, during its campaign for the Assembly election, had assured a CBI probe into the murders within the shortest time if voted to power. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for the Ministry of Personnel Jitendra Singh made similar assurances when a delegation of journalists met them in New Delhi in December.The Chief Minister said, “Today, we feel relieved as the CBI is going to investigate both the cases. With this, the BJP-IPFT government has fulfilled yet another promise made in the party’s vision document.” The Agartala Press Club and other journalists’ bodies, which staged protests demanding a CBI probe, have welcomed the move.
Delhi-based journalist and blogger Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who courted controversy over his alleged objectionable remarks about the Sun Temple and legislators of Odisha, appeared before the State Assembly House Committee in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. He will appear before the Committee again on November 2.Mr. Iyer-Mitra’s statement was recorded by the Committee which is headed by Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra. Five other legislators – Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo, Debiprasad Mishra, Pramila Mallick, Arun Kumar Sahoo and Sanjay Kumar Das Burma – who are members of the Committee were also present.Mr. Mishra after the hearing told presspersons that Mr. Iyer-Mitra will appear before the Committee for the second time as the proceedings have remained inconclusive.Mr. Iyer-Mitra will file an affidavit on November 23 after which the Committee will decide the next course of action before filing a report with recommendation to the House, said Mr. Mishra. Mr. Iyer-Mitra’s counsel Nikhil Mehra told The Hindu that the blogger appeared before the House Committee voluntarily in response to the summons issued by the Committee and was asked to file a detailed affidavit after the recording of initial statement.The House Committee had summoned Mr. Iyer-Mitra for breach of privilege of the House for his alleged derogatory remarks against the State legislators in social media in the wake of the controversy over his video post against the backdrop of the Konark temple.Mr. Iyer-Mitra, who had failed to appear before the House Committee on October 11, had apologised for his remarks in an email to the Speaker of the State Assembly. He was summoned again to appear on October 23.Mr. Iyer-Mitra had been earlier arrested by Odisha police in Delhi on the charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion. A Delhi court had denied permission to police to bring him on transit remand. Instead, the court had granted Mr. Iyer-Mitra limited bail until September 28 and asked him to join the investigation. He, however, was subsequently denied regular bail by the Supreme Court.As regards the two cases registered against Mr. Iyer-Mitra – one at Konark and another in Bhubaneswar – the police are likely to question him this evening. These two cases relate to his video post in which he allegedly made unsavoury remarks on the architecture of the Sun temple at Konark.
One person was killed and six others were injured after members of two communities clashed at Chatela village here, police said Tuesday.The clash broke out after two men — Rajkumar and Shavaiz — entered into an argument following a quarrel between their children, Superintendent of Police, Rural, Alok Sharma, said.On Monday evening, members of the two groups attacked each other with sticks, leaving six injured and one dead, police said. Rajkumar was declared dead at a hospital here. The injured are undergoing treatment at the health facility, they said.Two people have been arrested and a search has been launched to nab the remaining accused, Mr. Sharma said. Police personnel have been deployed in the village to thwart any untoward incident, the officer said.
Maharashtra on Monday became the first State to have an Integrated State Water Plan (ISWP), with an aim to ensure equitable distribution by diverting water from overfed areas to drought-prone regions. The ISWP mandates all civic bodies in the State to set up a mechanism to recycle all waste water and to reuse at least 30% of it. Industries will also have to recycle 100% of the waste water generated by them. “Out of the total water use in the State, industrial use is around 3%, and with each civic body mandated to set up recycling plants, the industrial sector will be made self-sufficient,” Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan said. The government will extend financial aid to set up the plants.The minister said the ISWP will allow the government to transfer excess water from water-sufficient areas to those in need. The plan has also made drip irrigation mandatory for sugar cane cultivation, and 5 lakh hectare land will be brought under it within the next five years. “No new dams will be allowed to be built in the catchment areas of other dams as has been the practice,” Mr. Mahajan said. The plan also sets a target of creating new 7.5 lakh hectare irrigation potential within the next five years and completing 150 irrigation projects for which over 75% of the project cost has already been spent.“Acceptance of the ISWP means that it now has legal validity and departments will be held responsible for its implementation. The Chief Secretary will take quarterly review of the implementation process, while the State water council headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will take a review twice in a year. The report will be presented to the legislature annually,” Mr. Mahajan said.Maharashtra has six river basins: Godavari, Krishna, Narmada, Tapi, Mahanadi, and westward flowing rivers. A separate water plan for each river basin has already been prepared. The ISWP, which was created based on these individual plans, was accepted by the State government on Monday.
A man in Mizoram jumped off a cliff along with his four-month-old daughter on Thursday after his wife allegedly refused to breastfeed the baby. The baby died while he sustained grievous injuries.The man, identified as Shanti Joy Chakma, had been admitted at the Civil Hospital in Lunglei, headquarters of Lunglei district about 170 km south of State capital Aizawl.Locals said Shanti Joy, employed as a cook at a private college in Zawlpui village, picked up a quarrel with his wife after she refused to breastfeed the baby. In a fit of anger, he took the baby and jumped off the edge of the hill on which his rented house in the Rahsi Veng area of the village was located.Lunglei Superintendent of Police L.T. Mawia, however, said the reason behind the man’s “seemingly suicidal” jump would be known only after the investigation was over.“The information I have is that he jumped from a height of about 100 feet after a quarrel with his wife possibly because of some domestic issues. He snatched the baby from the woman, ran out of the house and jumped off the cliff,” he said.
Three business management students of a leading educational institute in Pune drowned on Thursday morning in the waters of the Mulshi dam near here, according to the police.“According to the information we have, seven to eight MBA students had come to Mulshi on picnic on Wednesday. On Thursday morning three of them ventured into the dam waters without gauging the depth,” said an officer attached to the Paud police station.The students — Sangeeta Negi, Shiv Kumar and Shubham Sinha (all in thier early 20s) — were pursuing MBA at the Bharati Vidyapeeth and had gone to Mulshi’s Valane village, a popular picnic spot 45 km from the city, along with friends on May 1. While they were drowning, the other students raised an alarm, he said and a hunt was immediately launched by rescue teams aided by local villagers to retrieve the bodies.“By the time help could reach them, all three went missing. We have fished out all the three bodies and sent them for post-mortem,” said the officer.Sources said while Sangeeta hailed from Delhi, Shubham and Shiv were from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh respectively.College authorities and parents of the three students had been informed of the tragedy.In April 2018, three students from a Chennai-based school, who were part of a summer camp in Katarkhadak village near the Mulshi dam, had drowned.(With PTI inputs)
A DNA analysis challenge posed by the U.S. Department of Defense proved more difficult than many contestants expected, but a winner has emerged. The agency announced this week that Team Huson—a latecomer to the competition that became an immediate front-runner—will take the $1 million prize for their speedy DNA analysis computer program. Earlier this year, the design and scoring of the contest drew heavy criticism from some top contenders after just three of 103 entrants made it into the final round.One of those finalists, Daniel Huson, a bioinformaticist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, says that he and his teammates “had a pretty good feeling” they might take the top prize. They were thrilled to discover earlier this month that their intuition was sound.The contest, officially known as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA’s) Algorithm Challenge, sought a better way to identify organisms and genes in a DNA sample to identify possible bioterror threats. The challenge was open to anyone, and participants submitted their work using the online contest host InnoCentive. Huson says that he relished the frantic, round-the-clock work needed to win: “The only other time I ever had this much fun was when I was working on the human genome at Celera genomics.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)To qualify for the evaluation round, participants needed to earn a passing accuracy score on nine sets of genetic data. Several expressed frustration over DTRA’s opaque scoring algorithm and felt they had to reverse-engineer their programs to satisfy a set of unclear requirements.The task proved so challenging that DTRA had to extend the deadline and relax the requirements. That’s when Huson and two colleagues—bioinformaticist Xie Chao of the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and Benjamin Buchfink, a computer science graduate student at the University of Tübingen—teamed up and entered the game.“The scoring scheme was delicate,” Huson admits. “There were things that did raise some eyebrows.” But he says his team was able to make steady progress by trying many alternate approaches.Christian Whitchurch, the project manager, told ScienceInsider in July that a full report on the contest design and scoring would be released once the challenge was over.
Who says Hollywood trivializes science? The 2014 blockbuster movie Interstellar has spawned its own academic paper, published online today in Classical and Quantum Gravity. Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who came up with the original idea for the movie, worked closely with the London-based special effects company Double Negative to ensure that the wormhole and black hole shown were as realistic as possible. Using physics equations provided by Thorne, the company’s computers mapped the paths of millions of rays of light through the warped spacetime caused by a fictional black hole. As well as producing Oscar-nominated visual effects for the movie, Thorne and the effects team also unearthed some unexpected physics, such as that an observer close to a rapidly spinning black hole would see more than a dozen images of individual stars just outside one edge of the black hole’s “shadow.” These multiple images are caused by the spinning mass dragging spacetime into a whirlpool that bends the light rays around itself many times. The team, once their film work was done, carried out a number of research simulations with Thorne, studying how the swirling spacetime distorted star fields behind the black hole (above). As a virtual observer moves around the black hole, it could see the swirling spacetime constantly creating and annihilating images of individual stars. The multiple-image effect was observed only on the side of the black hole where spacetime is being dragged toward the observer, which the team concluded was because some light was being “flung” outward.
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When a 100 residents of Oxford, United Kingdom agreed to swallow live typhoid bacteria as part of a study, they paved the way for a breakthrough Indian vaccine for typhoid.The first conjugate vaccine for typhoid, by the Hyderabad-based company Bharat Biotech, was prequalified by the World Health Organisation in December 2017 and has caught the attention of GAVI, the international vaccine alliance.India has produced a vaccine that can be administered to children as young as 6 months, unlike previous typhoid vaccines that could only be given to children 2 years old and above. To test this vaccine’s strength, Bharat Biotech not only did clinical trials in India but undertook a ‘human challenge study’ in Oxford, an unusual feat for Indian companies, according to Bharat’s founder and managing director Dr. Krishna Ella.Read it at News18 Related Items
Bollywood singer Arijit Singh’s US concert landed in him in controversy, after it was discovered that the organising company is run by a man who is one of the most wanted criminals in India. The accused, identified as Jai Singh, has been absconding for the past 30 years and has been listed as ‘wanted’ by the Chandigarh police, due to charges like video piracy and drug smuggling.Read it at The Quint Related Items
Diamond traders from Surat can now start a direct trade of rough diamonds with South Africa. The Surat Diamond Association (SEA) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South African government in Johannesburg in this regard.The tie-up came after South African businessman of Indian origin, Mohammed Amir Mirza, who hails from Kosamba village in Surat district, took this initiative. A delegation of diamond merchants from Surat, led by SEA secretary Kiritibhai Shah, visited South Africa last week after being invited by Mirza. Mirza is the founder of Indian-African Trade and Investment Promotion and a special adviser in the Black Business Chamber of South Africa.Rough diamonds from the mines of South Africa will now directly reach the traders of Surat and Mumbai as per the MOU, which was signed by Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, the minister of mineral resources of the Republic of South Africa, Sipho Manese, the chairperson of South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator, and Mirza.Until now, the rough diamonds of South Africa reached India through different countries of Europe and through Dubai. “Due to this, their price was high. But, with the direct trade, there will be a price drop of around 12 to 15 per cent,” Shah said, according to the Indian Express. He added that they will form a company to source rough diamonds from South Africa.“We will also do a survey of 300 diamond traders in Surat to find out their requirements in terms of quality and quantity. We will again visit South Africa with the report,” he added.Traders interested in starting manufacturing units in South Africa will also get visa support, along with logistic facilities and other services from the government.While South Africa is one of the major exporters of rough diamonds in the world, with over 60 per cent of stones coming from its mines, Surat is equally integral in the diamond business. It is a major diamond polishing hub, and eight out of 10 rough stones produced in the world are cut and polished here. Related ItemsDiamondSouth AfricaSurat
An Australian man of Indian origin is facing charges of human trafficking, general dishonesty and document forgery for allegedly trafficking his wife and their two-month-old daughter from Sydney to India.Pardeep Lohan, 27, from Lidcombe in Sydney west, allegedly used threats, coercion and deception to force his India-born wife and Australia-born child to travel to India in March this year. Detectives from Australian Federal Police (AFP) Human Trafficking Team started looking into the case in May after they received a tip-off from a non-government organization Anti-slavery Australia.The woman “feared she was being forced to travel to India without her consent,” according to Detective Superintendent Dan Evans, the coordinator of AFP’s Victim Based Crime Command, Sydney Morning Herald reported.“Once she was overseas, the suspect in this case contacted the Department of Immigration to attempt to have the victims’ visa application cancelled,” the publication quoted him as saying. Lohan is also accused removing the infant’s passport so she could not return to Australia.Lohan’s wife returned to Australia in May before her visa expired but was unable to get her daughter with her. She then contacted Anti-slavery Australia who put her in touch with AFP’s Human Trafficking Team. The team worked to get the two-month-old girl back in the country.The court documents show that Lohan used a false withdrawal of visa application form (Department of Immigration form 1446) “to induce a commonwealth public official to accept it as genuine and dishonestly influence the exercise of a public duty or function.”Detective Evans did not comment on the motive for the crime. The woman and her baby are now in Australia and are being taken care of under the government’s Support for Trafficked People program.“This is a reminder that forcing someone to leave Australia using coercion, threats of deception is an offence under our laws, and strict Commonwealth trafficking offences may apply,” Evans said.Lohan was arrested in November and has been charged with one count of trafficking persons (exit from Australia), which holds a maximum penalty of 12 years imprisonment, one count of general dishonesty and one count of using a forged document, which carry maximum penalties of 10 and five years imprisonment, respectively.On Dec. 5, he appeared before the Downing Centre Legal court where he was advised that the charges against him are serious. He was told to get legal representation. “My wife asked me to book tickets for her to go overseas. Now she is saying I forced her to go,” he was reported to have told the court.Lohan’s case was adjourned until Dec. 19, and he is currently out on bail.Human trafficking in Australia is often under-reported, making it hard to estimate the scale of the problem. Investigators have received 150 referrals in relation to human trafficking for a range of cases such as forced labor, forced marriage and sexual servitude in the past financial year. Related ItemsAustraliaHuman Traffickingwomen’s rights
Kerala may have undercounted almost 2,700 elephants in the latest elephant census, the response to a question in the Lok Sabha on India’s elephant numbers indicated.In 2017, the Union environment ministry reported that there were 27,312 elephants on average in the country according to figures collated from 23 States, a decline from the 29,576 elephants recorded as the mean figure in 2012. The exercise was part of the elephant census, conducted once in 5 years under the aegis of Project Elephant.In response to a question on the ‘census of wild animals’, the environment ministry said on Friday that the updated 2017 figures showed 29,964 elephants on average, or a slight increase from 2012’s mean. The earlier 2017 figures indicated that Kerala had only 3,054 elephants whereas, Friday’s number showed Kerala as having 5,706 elephants. The Andaman and Nicobar islands was the only other region that showed a different number from its 2017 estimate: 25 as opposed to the earlier 19.Direct count methodA scientist associated with the census said that the discrepancy had resulted from Kerala’s insistence in 2017 on using a technique called the ‘direct count’ method. “When word began to get around that the elephant population had declined, they changed tack,” the scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu.Dung sightingsBecause sighting animals in the wild is hard, researchers over the years have used several proxies as well as statistical techniques to estimate population. The method in vogue is the ‘indirect count’ method that estimates populations in a region based on sightings of elephant dung. Kerala’s revised figure — as the answer to the Lok Sabha indicates — is likely based on the indirect count.