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Satyabhama who reinvented Mohiniyattam passes away

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1.Satyabhama who reinvented Mohiniyattam passes away

Kalamandalam Satyabhama, a pioneer who accorded Mohiniyattam a well-knit structure for the first time, died early on Sunday at a private nursing home at Ottappalam, near here, following a brief illness. The classical dancer, teacher, and choreographer was 77.

A Padma Shri awardee, her contributions to the realm of Kerala’s performing arts remain immense. Satyabhama’s career with the Kerala Kalamandalam marked a crucial phase in preserving and reinventing Mohiniyattam.

2.PM to visit Facebook HQ in California

Modi is also expected to visit campus of tech giant Google

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would visit Facebook’s headquarters in California for a town hall question-and-answer session on September 27.

Mr. Modi and Mr. Zuckerberg will discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges.

“I am excited to announce that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Facebook HQ later this month for a Townhall Q&A,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook. He also said he would post the live video on his page and it would also be on Mr. Modi’s page.

The Prime Minister tweeted to confirm the visit. “I thank Mark Zuckerberg for the invite to visit @facebook HQ & for the Townhall Q&A at 10 PM IST on 27th September

3.U.N. reforms process reaches crucial stage today

Indian officials are bracing for “last-minute surprises” that could stall the U.N. reforms process on September 14 when Sam Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly, presents a resolution to continue the negotiations for another year.

The negotiations of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGN), which have for the first time included written submissions from all countries, could give the process of an expansion of the U.N. Security Council, as India has demanded, some momentum. However, if countries like China, or other groups opposed to the UNSC expansion demand a division, India and other countries who are bidding for a Security Council seat may have to muster up the numbers for a vote to pass the text.

If passed, the draft resolution, forwarded by Mr. Kutesa to all the ambassadors to the U.N. on September 10, would include in the U.N. agenda for next year the “question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council”.

India is a part of the G-4 grouping of India, Germany, Brazil and Japan that are hopeful of Security Council membership. “This is a necessary step for India, if we wish to realise our dream of making progress in the U.N.’s 70th year. If it doesn’t go through, we would be back to square one,” an official told The Hindu ahead of the resolution.

The resolution will be presented by Mr. Kutesa on his last day as President of the UNGA at 10 a.m. (7.30 p.m. IST), he announced in his letter. Senior diplomats said that they hoped the resolution would be adopted without any opposition. However, if members call for a division, it would be up to the UNGA to decide whether a simple majority or a two-thirds majority would be required.

Officials in Delhi and New York admit they face challenges from many countries. The U.S. has expressed support for India and Japan, but has not included the support in its written submission; neither has Russia, which supports India and Brazil as BRICS members to be in the Security Council, but has shown no inclination to push the reforms process forward. China has made no official submission, but is unlikely to help any attempt to include its rivals Japan and India in the power-group of the U.N.

India also has to contend with opposition from a group of 13 countries, made up of rivals to the G-4, including Pakistan, Italy, South Korea, and Colombia called Uniting for Consensus (UFC).

The UFC demands a 25-member Security Council, with more non-permanent members instead of a few more permanent members.

Ahead of the resolution, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi called the plan for only four countries to be included in an expansion of the “club of the powerful and privileged”.

“That is why we believe the best way to achieve this is to ensure an expansion of non-permanent members because that will give a chance to more countries to serve in and have a voice in the Security Council,” she said in an interview to Pakistani daily The News .

Finally, there is the question of whether new members in the Security Council would be given the veto at all, which the US and Russia have made very clear they would not favour.

Without the veto, any new member of the Security Council would only be seen as second-class members.

4. ‘Russia building airstrip in Syrian regime stronghold’

Russia is building an airstrip in the Syrian regime’s stronghold, Latakia province, and has brought hundreds of technicians and military advisers to the site, a monitor said on Sunday.

The claim comes as Washington accuses Moscow of a military build-up in Syria, where Russia has backed President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against an uprising of more than four years.

“Russian forces are building a long runway capable of accommodating large aircraft near the Hmaymeen military airport in Latakia province,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The monitor said “the Russians are preventing Syrians, whether military or civilian, from entering the area where they are building the runway.”

“In recent weeks, military airplanes arrived in Hmaymeen carrying military equipment and hundreds of Russian military advisers and technicians,” the group said.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said sources also reported that Russia was enlarging the Hamadiyeh airport in Tartus province, another regime stronghold that is south of Latakia. The airport is currently used by aircraft that spray crops with pesticide.

Russia is a staunch ally of the regime in Damascus and maintains a naval facility in Tartus province. It has made no secret of its support for Assad’s government, including continuing weapons supplies.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying that Russia will continue with military supplies to Syria. “There were military supplies, they are ongoing and they will continue. They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use these weaponry,” Mr. Lavrov said.

U.S. officials this week, said two tank-landing ships had arrived recently at the Tartus base, and that at least four transport flights had landed in Latakia. They also reported the arrival of dozens of Russian naval infantry and the installation of temporary housing sufficient for “hundreds of people” at Latakia airport, along with portable air traffic control equipment.

5.‘India-Sri Lanka trade pact not on agenda’

Even as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe begins his three-day visit to India on Monday, the Sri Lankan government on Sunday made it clear that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) would not be signed during the visit.

Malik Samarawickrama, United National Party chairman and Minister for International Trade, said the agreement would not come up for discussion even though issues concerning bilateral cooperation would be deliberated.

Harsha De Silva, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the talks would, however, be centred on improving trade and investment.

The CEPA had been talked about for long and there were expectations in 2012 that the pact would be signed soon.  In mid-2013, the then Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, went on record, stating that the agreement was no longer required for his country as India and Sri Lanka, according to him, “moved on.”   

However, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Colombo six months ago, renewed the debate on the CEPA. 

Addressing a gathering of Sri Lanka’s business community, Mr Modi had said: “We should ensure that Sri Lanka does not fall behind in the changing and competitive world. That is why India and Sri Lanka should move boldly to conclude a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.”

Optimising ties’

The Sri Lankan Deputy Minister pointed out that India and Sri Lanka have been friends for long and “both of us will continue to be friends.” 

He said the focus of the visit would be more on optimising the ties between the two countries. Four memoranda of understanding (MoUs) pertaining to a SAARC [South Asian Association for  Regional Cooperation] satellite; the launch of Emergency Ambulance Health Protection Service on the lines of the Indian model of “108 Emergency Response Services;” provision of medical equipment to 200-bedded hospital in Vavuniya and the execution of development projects concerning local bodies and non-governmental organisations, would be inked.

Mr. Silva declined to comment on whether Mr. Wickremesinghe was expected to take up with Mr. Modi the possible coordinated approach during the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, beginning Monday, to discuss a host of issues, including a probe into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

On the eve of his departure, the Prime Minister ordered the release of 16 fishermen from Tamil Nadu as a gesture of goodwill. The move was also in response to a representation from an association of fishermen of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.

6.Chinese state media slam U.S. for EU refugee woes

In a string of commentaries, Chinese state media have slammed the United States for triggering the flood of refugees into Europe, following its military interventions in Afghanistan, West Asia and North Africa.

A hard-hitting commentary in Xinhua counselled the United States to see the wave of refugees into Europe as a wake-up call to reverse its flawed foreign policy.

“Especially for the United States, it is high time to reflect upon its foreign policy as history and facts have shown that forcibly promoting its ideologies is dangerous and armed interventions can only bring about perilous outcomes,” the write up observed.

Contrary to the focus on the handling of the crisis, the Chinese media is highlighting the underlying causes behind Europe’s on-going social trauma.

An editorial in the state-run tabloid Global Times has nailed the masterminding of “colour revolutions” – a policy, that analysts say has destabilised many countries by bringing about “regime change”— as the root cause of the refugee flood into Europe, especially Germany and France.

A large number of refugees have been displaced, via Turkey, from Syria, and get preferential treatment from their European hosts.

But The Guardian is quoting the head of the European border agency, Frontex, as saying that Arabs from outside Syria were buying counterfeit Syrian passports, to get into Europe as permanent asylum-seekers.

The Xinhua commentary points out that, “Entering the 21st century, under the leadership of the United States, Western powers, in order to secure their own safety and interests, have been meddling in regional affairs, waging wars, inciting turmoil, supporting rebels and so on.

It specifically slammed the U.S. of direct or indirect interventions — widely known as “regime change” — to overthrow Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, while supporting Syrian opposition to topple Bashar al-Assad.

Focusing on the radical militant group Islamic State, it said that the dreaded terror group grew out of Syrian opposition, and has thrived in the turmoil and anarchy created by Western intervention.

Another write-up on the state media said that people need to see through that Washington is responsible for the tragedies that the refugees on the move are encountering.

The official commentaries from China, a top ally of Russia, echo the perceptions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Without mincing words he points out that the “dual campaigns of regime change in Libya and Syria are responsible for unleashing the untold suffering that has affected millions of people in these formerly stable and well-off countries.”

7.‘Aerobic’ rice cultivation reduces water usage

Present day conventional method of rice cultivation is very water intensive and utilises 5,000 litres of water for producing one kg of rice than its actual requirement of 3,000 litres. About 2,000 litres is lost due to flooding and seepage losses. Further, decline in water table necessitates the need for improved water-use efficiency and water productivity in agriculture, particularly in rice cultivation.

Aerobic rice cultivation

Thus, the newly upcoming approach of rice cultivation called aerobic rice cultivation reduces water use in rice production and increases the water use efficiency. In simple words, growing rice plant as irrigated crop like cultivating maize and wheat in aerobic condition, where oxygen is plenty in soil.

The suitable areas for aerobic rice cultivation includes irrigated lowlands, where rainfall is insufficient to sustain rice production, delta regions where there is delay in water release from reservoir, irrigated system of rice cultivation, where pumping from deep bore well has become so expensive and favourable upland system has access to supplementary irrigation.

Accordingly, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, parts of Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka, and eastern Uttar Pradesh are the projected area where there is uneven distribution and frequent occurrence of soil moisture limitation.

In aerobic rice cultivation, rice is cultivated as direct sown in non-puddle aerobic soil under supplementary irrigation and fertiliser with suitable high yielding rice varieties. Throughout the growing season, aerobic rice field is kept under unsaturated condition and field is irrigated by surface or sprinkler system to keep soil wet. Therefore, water productivity is reported to be higher in aerobic rice by 64-88 per cent (calculated as grams of grain produced per kg of water input) and utilises 3,000 to 3,500 litres of water to produce 1 kg of rice compared to rice raised under transplanted flooded system.

Mechanised way of sowing

Further, aerobic rice cultivation system involves mechanised way of sowing with no puddling, transplanting and not need of frequent irrigation, which reduce labour usage more than 50 per cent, compared to irrigated rice. However, aerobic rice cultivation needs suitable rice varieties having the characteristics of both upland and high yielding lowland varieties to get good yield under the new unconventional system of cultivation.

Hence, these early-maturing varieties are with good seedling vigour, responsive to high input and tolerate flooding. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) situated in Manila, Philippines identified several cultivars with high yield potential for this unconventional aerobic rice cultivation. A new improved upland rice variety, Apo developed by IRRI under aerobic rice cultivation system raised during dry season able to attain yield of 5.7 t/ha at IRRI farm.

In India, National Rice Research Institute (NRRI) (formerly Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI)), Cuttack, situated in Odisha, has developed rice varieties suitable for aerobic rice cultivation and so far six varieties were released suitable for this system, — CR Dhan 200 (Pyari) (4.0 t/ha), CR Dhan 201 (3.8 t/ha), CR Dhan 202 (3.7 t/ha), CR Dhan 203 (Sachala) (4.0 t/ha) CR Dhan 205 (4.2 t/ha) and CR Dhan 206 (4.2 t/ha) — which gives higher average yield compared to upland high yielding varieties. Two aerobic rice varieties MAS 26 and MAS 946-1 were also released from the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), GKVK, Bangalore, for the State of Karnataka, which is also said to be performing well under this system.

However, constrains in aerobic rice cultivation is increased weed growth, poor crop stand, crop lodging, high percentage of panicle sterility and root-knot nematode infestation. Importantly, high weed infestation is the major constraint for aerobic rice and cost involved in weed control is higher. Further, due to high infiltration rate of water and imbalanced availability of nitrogen makes the aerobic soil further ailing for micronutrients (iron and zinc) and rise in nematode population. Therefore, efficient nutrient management techniques along with integrated weed management are researchable areas for successful aerobic rice cultivation and research is in progress.

However, the yield of aerobic rice is comparable with transplanted rice and it has been reported from several countries. Thus, it is an alternative option to reduce labour drudgery and to increase water productivity. Further, in environmental point of view, emission of methane is lower substantially in aerobic rice.

Therefore, in recent days it is gaining momentum among rice researchers and farmers. However, extra care should be taken, since poorly managed field may cause partial to complete failure of crop, which might happen due to weeds and micronutrient non-availability.

Who were the Mughal rulers under whom there was active exchange of Sanskrit and Persian ideas, in your account?

Sanskrit flourished in the royal Mughal court primarily under three emperors: Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan. However, we should not make the error of attributing Aurangzeb’s lack of interest in Sanskrit to his alleged bigotry. Aurangzeb is a severely misunderstood historical figure who has suffered perhaps more than any of the other Mughal rulers from present-day biases. There are two main reasons why Sanskrit ceased to be a major part of Mughal imperial life during Aurangzeb’s rule. One, during the 17th century, Sanskrit was slowly giving way to Hindi. This was a wider literary shift in the subcontinent, and even under Shah Jahan we begin to see imperial attention directed towards Hindi-language intellectuals at the expense of Sanskrit. Aurangzeb’s reign simply happen to coincide with the waning of Sanskrit and the rise of literary Hindi.

Second, as most Indians know, Aurangzeb beat out Dara Shikoh for the Mughal throne. Dara Shikoh had been engaged in a series of cross-cultural exchanges involving Sanskrit during the 1640s and 1650s. Thus, from Aurangzeb’s perspective, breaking Mughal ties with the Sanskrit cultural world was a way to distinguish his idioms of rule from those of the previous heir apparent. In short, Aurangzeb decided to move away from what little remained of the Mughal interest in Sanskrit as a political decision, rather than as a cultural or religious judgment.

As a side note, let me clarify that while Akbar inaugurated Mughal engagements with Sanskrit, he did so for slightly different reasons than many people think. Akbar’s reputation is that he was open-minded and tolerant, almost a protosecular figure. This can be a misleading characterisation. Akbar was interested in Sanskrit for its political valence in his empire, not as some personal religious quest. Akbar also had no qualms about harshly judging perspectives that he viewed as beyond the pale. A good example is that he questioned Jain thinkers about whether they were monotheists because to be otherwise would mean being evicted from the Mughal court (Jains assured him that they believed in God).

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