India set to become water scarce by 2025: report

Call drops: TRAI gives 15 days to operators

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3.Call drops: TRAI gives 15 days to operators

With almost all operators failing to comply with quality of service parameters during a recently audit conducted by TRAI, its Chairman R. S. Sharma on Wednesday asked operators to take immediate measures to address the issue. He added that their performance would be reviewed in 15 days to measure progress achieved.

Mr. Sharma on Wednesday met the CEOs of telecom firms, including Bharti Airtel’s Gopal Vittal and Gurdeep Singh of Reliance Communications

4.Call for conservation of Himalayan ecosystems

While the study of changes in the Himalayas and conservation of its ecosystems remains confined to research, this year, ‘Himalaya Diwas’ was a call for the conservation of the Himalayan ecosystems to be taken up as a public campaign.

‘Himalaya Diwas’ is being observed by activists since 2010, but on Wednesday, the State government too observed the day. At a programme held at Gandhi Park here, environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna administered an oath to students and teachers present to protect and conserve the Himalayas.

Chief Minister Harish Rawat said the initiatives on the conservation of the Himalayan ecosystems were confined to research institutes. Mr. Rawat said through initiatives such ‘Himalaya Diwas,’ the conservation of the Himalayas was becoming a public campaign.

Dehradun-based environmentalist and founder of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation Anil Prakash Joshi, who has been spearheading the campaign since 2010, said: “I felt that we needed a day to speak about the Himalayas and the issues around it. In 2010 a meeting of activists was called at HESCO and we decided that September 9 must be celebrated as the ‘Himalaya Diwas.’”

Wildlife Institute of India historian from Uttarakhand Shekhar Pathak said, “In this era of rapid transformation, we need to understand and mitigate the loss of the Himalayan ecosystem.”

5.Here, Adivasi children shun school

Is bullying, a form of ragging in tribal welfare educational institutions, a major cause for the higher incidence of dropouts among Adivasi schoolchildren in Adilabad? As hundreds of young Adivasis continue to keep away from schools despite the good facilities being made available by the government, the issue needs a thorough examination, according to tribal educationists.

As many as six Kolam tribe children, all from the same family from Shivguda hamlet of Babejhari village in Kerameri mandal of Telangana, have stayed away from schooling after one of them was allegedly bullied by his schoolmates belonging to the Lambada tribe in 2012-2013. The incident took place at the satellite Ashram primary school of Babejhari which incidentally is the village from where the legendary Gond martyr Kumram Bheem had first waged his war against the tyranny of the Nizam of Hyderabad three quarters of a century ago.

Like all Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG), the Kolams are a sensitive, reserved and shy people which explains their choosing to shun school instead of complaining. “The bullies used to sink Ramu’s head in a bucket of water,” shuddered Ramesh, the eldest son of Tekam Manku as he gave reasons for himself and his siblings not going to school.

“Given the customary disposition of the PVTGs, the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Utnoor, long back started four Ashram schools, especially for their children to facilitate learning amidst ‘familiar’ mates,” stated Mesram Manohar, a tribal educationist and a former District Educational Officer in the agency area. “The Babejhari and the Jodeghat primary schools were opened as satellite schools to facilitate tribal children of the dozen remote habitations lying on the 22-km stretch between Hatti and Jodeghat,” he recalled.

Action promised

The number of children of PVTGs being far less than the capacity of the schools, children from even plains tribes began to be accommodated in these schools located at Adilabad, Utnoor, Hatti and Asifabad. This aspect nonetheless, needs a relook in the light of the instance in question.

Responding on the issue, the ITDA Project Officer, R.V. Karnan promised to address the issue as well as education of Manku’s children. “We will admit them in the special schools for PVTGs either at Asifabad or Adilabad,” he asserted.

6.Government clears two gold schemes

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved two schemes — the Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme and the Gold Monetisation Scheme — that could bring an estimated 20,000 tonnes of idle gold lying with Indian consumers into the economy and also reduce India’s dependence on gold imports.

Through the Gold Monetisation Scheme, gold in any form can be deposited with banks for a period of one to 15 years. This gold will earn interest and redemption will be at the prevailing market value at the end of the tenure of deposit.

The Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme is aimed at customers looking to buy gold as an investment. Under the Scheme, “there will be no need to buy actual gold as customers can buy gold bonds which will be relatable to the weight of gold,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said while announcing the Union Cabinet’s decisions.

The bonds will be issued in denominations of 5 grams, 10 grams, 50 grams and 100 grams for a term of five years to seven years with a rate of interest to be calculated on the value of the metal at the time of investment,” Mr. Jaitley told reporters at the press briefing.

“The Union Cabinet’s announcements reflect both a very practical approach and a long-term view of gold. The question is no longer whether the scheme will work, but how to make it attractive for customers. The scheme must be well marketed… to ensure that the households savings in gold can be tapped by the banking industry. This will pave the way for a more active and larger role for Indian banks in bullion,” said Somasundaram PR, Managing Director, India, World Gold Council.

However, Mr. Jaitley announced that there would be a cap of 500 grams that a person can purchase in a year. Such bonds would be offered to only Indian citizens and institutions.

Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das later said that the government plans to exempt capital gains made at the time of redemption of gold under the Gold Bond Scheme.

While the gold deposited with banks under the monetisation scheme will be allowed to be sold to jewellers in order to boost domestic supply, Mr. Das emphasised that there would be no dilution of KYC (know your customer) norms.

“We do not want to allow the Gold Monetisation Scheme to become a vehicle for converting black money into white,” he said.

Jewellery stocks up

Shares of jewellery firms rallied on the bourses on Wednesday. On BSE, Gitanjali Gems settled with gains of 11.85 per cent, Shree Ganesh Jewellery (7.28 per cent), Rajesh Exports (3.03 per cent) , PC Jeweller (2.94 per cent) and Tara Jewels (1.06 per cent).

Dearness allowance

The Union Cabinet also approved an additional dearness allowance (DA) of six per cent for central government employees from July 1, which has now been raised to 119 per cent of basic pay as compared to 113 per cent earlier.

This hike will benefit 50 lakh government employees and 56 lakh pensioners.

The Union Cabinet also permitted 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route for white label ATM operations.

“This decision will ease and expedite foreign investment inflows in the activity and thus give a fillip to the government's effort to promote financial inclusion in the country, including the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna,” an official statement said.

The government plans to exempt capital gains made at the time of redemption of gold under the Gold Bond Scheme.


1.Australia, India maritime exercise begins today

The first bilateral maritime exercise between Australia and India is all set to begin here on Saturday. Three Royal Australian Navy ships — fleet tanker HMAS Sirius, Anzac class frigate HMAS Arunta, and Collins class submarine HMAS Sheean — docked at the Visakhapatnam Port on Friday to participate in the weeklong AUSINDEX. The exercise includes tabletop exercises, scenarios and practical demonstrations ashore, and a sea phase.

2.India, Germany to teach each other’s language

Joint declaration likely to be made during Merkel’s visit next month

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to New Delhi in October will see the announcement of a joint declaration on teaching of Hindi and Sanskrit in Germany and German in India. The move comes less than a year after the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry decided to discontinue the teaching of German in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools.

According to officials in the government, the HRD Ministry’s decision had put a strain on Indo-German ties, especially at a time when India was reaching out to Germany to partner with it in its various flagship programmes including the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ campaigns.

Amicable solution

After the issue was raised by Ms. Merkel during her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-20 Summit in Brisbane last year, both sides had agreed to arrive at a more amicable solution.

Plans to popularise Hindi and Sanskrit in Germany and German in India have been in the works for the past several months and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent visit to Germany gave a fillip to them.

Ms. Merkel’s visit will also see announcements about collaborations in setting up of educational and cultural centres, including a Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences in India.

Officials are hopeful that the issues pertaining to the teaching of German in Indian schools will be resolved coinciding with Ms. Merkel’s visit.

3.Militants outsmart Indian agencies with new tech tool

A technological breakthrough prompted by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 in New York area is the latest militant tool baffling the Indian security establishment.

The technology, of sending mobile communications without using mobile networks, has given another twist to the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between militants and security agencies in recent months. For sometime now, Indian agencies have noticed infiltrating militants from Pakistan carrying smart phones without SIM cards. And they presumed the militants would procure local SIMs in Kashmir for using them.

However, latest inputs, including interrogation of Sajjad Ahmed, who was captured by the Army in August last week, show that the militants are adopting the breakthrough technological solution, primarily meant to ensure basic mobile communication even when mobile networks are down, to overcome eavesdropping by Indian agencies.

Indian agencies can today listen in on VHF conversations, mobile phones and satellite phones.

With accurate interception and monitoring of these devices, intelligence agencies, the Army and the BSF have been very effective in neutralising several militants, especially when they infiltrate into India.

These technical capabilities have dealt deadly blows to attempts to breathe life into a dying Kashmir militancy.

With the breakthrough capability to send bare mobile communications through VHF (very high frequency), the militants seem to have been successful in avoiding Indian agencies, especially during the crucial hours when they cross the Line of Control.

The technology is to pair a smart phone with a radio set, and send out short SMSs, an SOS appeal or the exact location to other paired devices using line-of-sight very high frequency. The first public discussion on the solution, and the most high profile product for it, emerged in the U.S. after the October 2012 Hurricane Sandy. The ineffectiveness of cell phones after mobile towers were destroyed by the hurricane was the reason for dreaming up the technological breakthrough.

The capability ensures that the infiltrating militants have continuous, but bare, communication link with their handlers and other militants who are in the group, while avoiding tracking by Indian agencies. This capability is secure even in high peaks and ravines, especially near the Line of Control where conventional mobile and satellite phones can give away their exact location.

Ahmed, who was captured from Rafiabad area, told his interrogators about what they call YSMS communication application. He said they were advised against using mobile phones, and to rely on YSMS for contact.

When Abu Suhaib, one of the militants in the infiltrating group and technology expert among them, was sure to be killed by the Indian Army on August 27 he tried to break up the system, However, Ahmed stopped Suhaib from fully destroying it. The Army later recovered the Samsung mobile phone and the wireless set paired to it for YSMS.

Sources said the recovered radio set is a traditional one, and not the slim gadget that U.S. start-up GoTenna has developed. “Which means this is either a Pakistani or a Chinese solution,” an official in a technical intelligence agency said.

“We have been recovering smart phones without SIM cards for sometime. Now we know the reason,” he said.


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