Monthly Archives

March 2019

Indigenous no-state people

China destroys thousands of maps showing Arunachal as part of India: Report

Nearly 30,000 world maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India and Taiwan as a separate country were destroyed by customs authorities in a northeastern Chinese city last week.

Reports said it was the largest such exercise in recent years and was carried out to protect China’s “territorial integrity”. The maps were in English and manufactured by a company in a Chinese province called, Anhui.

Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by Beijing as a part of China and depicted on its official maps as a part of south Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Beijing also considers Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as a breakaway province to be eventually unified.

Acting on a tip off, customs officials of Qingdao city in Shandong province raided an office and seized more than 800 boxes containing 28,908 world maps.

“A total of 803 boxes of the 28,908 wrong maps were seized and destroyed, the largest amount to be disposed of in recent years,” the province’s Natural Resources ministry said at a press conference, quoted by the news website Dazhongwang Qingdao reported.

The documents were taken to a secret location and shredded. “The maps were produced by a company in East China’s Anhui Province and were on the way to being exported to an unspecified foreign country,” the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times reported.

“The problematic maps failed to show the correct territory of China and omitted south Tibet and the island of Taiwan, the Qingdao government found after an examination of the maps,” the report added.

Relevant authorities have carried out checks on the domestic map market more than 100 times and have discovered and destroyed over 10,000 incorrect maps, preventing the sale in domestic and overseas markets.

“Maps reflected national sovereignty and were a political statement”, Ma Wei, from the Natural Resources ministry’s geographical information centre, was quoted as saying.

“What China did in the map market was absolutely legitimate and necessary, because sovereignty and territorial integrity are the most important things to a country. Both Taiwan and south Tibet are parts of China’s territory which is sacred and inviolable based on the international law,” Liu Wenzong from the department of International Law of China Foreign Affairs University told the Global Times.

“If the wrong maps were circulated inside the country and abroad, it would have caused great harm to China’s territorial integrity in the long run,” noted Liu.

Beijing opposes visit of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh and is very sensitive to the depiction of Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India. .

In April, 2017, China renamed six places in Arunachal Pradesh in an apparent retaliation against the Dalai Lama’s visit to India’s easternmost state, with experts saying the move is aimed at reaffirming Beijing’s “territorial sovereignty” on the region.

Changing the names was a “legitimate” action done in line with Chinese law, the foreign ministry had then said, adding it supported Beijing’s territorial claim.

The ministry said: “To issue these names, it is actually carried out in accordance with our regulations about the names of localities and it is a legitimate action by the Chinese government,” adding: “These names reflect from another side that China’s territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history, culture and administration.”

Last February, China had criticised Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visit to the Indian state. “China’s position on the China-India boundary question is consistent and clear-cut. The Chinese government has never recognised the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the East Section of the China-India boundary,” Hua Chunying, foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Beijing has increased pressure in recent months on international firms and airlines to refer to Taiwan as a part of China on websites as part of its effort to assert its authority over Taiwan.

Last July, India’s national carrier Air India changed the name of Taiwan to Chinese Taipei on its website after China raised concerns about Taiwan being described as a separate region by various airlines worldwide. Air India was among 40 international airlines to do so.

Also, last year, the US clothing company GAP had to apologise for selling T-shirts with a map of China which didn’t show Taiwan. The international hotel chain Marriott had its Chinese website briefly blocked for listing the Tibet Autonomous Region, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a questionnaire for customers in 2018


 Three possible reasons why China blocked UN move on Masood AzharExplained: Three possible reasons why China blocked UN move on Masood AzharWith China opting to once again block action on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar despite international censure after the Pulwama attack, Hindustan Times decodes the three strategic reasons which could have possibly influenced Beijing’s decision.


Widespread losses of pollinating insects revealed across Britain

A widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades has been revealed by the first national survey in Britain, which scientists say “highlights a fundamental deterioration” in nature.

The analysis of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species found the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980. A third of the species now occupy smaller ranges, with just one in 10 expanding their extent, and the average number of species found in a square kilometre fell by 11.

UK pollinating insects survey: losers and winners – in pictures

A small group of 22 bee species known to be important in pollinating crops such as oilseed rape saw a rise in range, potentially due to farmers increasingly planting wild flowers around fields. However, the scientists found “severe” declines in other bee species from 2007, coinciding with the introduction of a widely used neonicotinoid insecticide, which has since been banned.

Researchers have become increasingly concerned about dramatic drops in populations of insects, which underpin much of nature. Some warned in February that these falls threaten a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, while studies from Germany and Puerto Rico have shown plunging numbers in the last 25 to 35 years.Advertisement

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, is based on more than 700,000 sightings made by volunteers across Britain from 1980 to 2013. These are used to map the range of each species of bee and hoverfly over time. The data did not allow the assessment of numbers of insects, but some researchers think populations have fallen faster than range.

Pollinating insects are vital to human food security, as three-quarters of crops depend on them. They are also crucial to other wildlife, both as food and as pollinators of wild plants. “The declines in Britain can be viewed as a warning about the health of our countryside,” said Gary Powney at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, who led the research.

He called for more volunteers to take part in the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme: “Their contribution is vital for us to understand what is happening in our landscape.” Another recent study found that allotments, weedy corners and fancy gardens can all be urban havens for bees.

The biggest factor in the decline in pollinators is likely to be the destruction of wild habitats and use of pesticides as farming has intensified. But the analysis also revealed a particularly big drop of 55% in the range of upland bee and hoverfly species, and significant falls in northern Britain, which may result from climate change making conditions too warm.

Among the bees whose range has shrunk are the formerly widespread red-shanked carder bee, whose extent fell by 42%, and the large shaggy bee, whose range fell 53%. But the lobe-spurred furrow bee, which was once rare, has expanded its range fivefold and is now considered an important crop pollinator in England.

Powney said the increased range of the bees most commonly pollinating crops is good news and might be a result of more oilseed rape being grown, as well as wildflower margins being planted. But he also warned: “They are a relatively small group of species. Therefore, with species having declined overall, it would be risky to rely on this group to support the long-term food security for our country. If anything happens to them in the future there will be fewer other species to ‘step up’.”

Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex and not part of the latest research, said: Previous studies have described declines in UK butterflies, moths, carabid beetles, bees and hoverflies – this new study confirms that declines in insects are ongoing.”

If the losses of upland and northern species are due to climate change, “then we can expect far more rapid declines of these species in the future, as climate change has barely got started”, he said. Goulson also said the start of more rapid declines in southern bees after 2007 coincided with the first use of now-banned neonicotinoid pesticides.

Roy van Grunsven, at the Dutch Butterfly Conservation project, said the decline in numbers of insects was very likely to be a lot higher than the shrinking of their range: “Going from flowery meadows full of bees to intensive agriculture with a few individuals in a road verge does not result in a change in distribution, but of course is a huge change in [numbers].”

Matt Shardlow, of the conservation charity Buglife, said unless the pesticide approval process was improved to help bee safety and green subsidies were targeted to create corridors that connect wild spaces, we can expect the declines to continue or worsen.

by Damian Carrington, Environment editor, The Guardian

Development, Economy

Who is afraid of job survey?

The Centre has effectively sounded the death knell for a quarterly employment surveyBy Basant Kumar Mohanty in New Delhi

Union minister Arun Jaitley termed as 'preposterous' suggestions of job losses in the country
Union minister Arun Jaitley termed as ‘preposterous’ suggestions of job losses in the countryPicture by Shutterstock

Finance minister Arun Jaitley had on Tuesday called more than 100 academics “purported economists” and “compulsive contrarians” for issuing an appeal to restore the credibility of economic statistics and described as “preposterous” suggestions of job losses in the country.

Less than 24 hours later, it emerged how the Narendra Modi government was frittering away a golden chance to prove the “compulsive contrarians” and doubters wrong.

The Centre has effectively sounded the death knell for a quarterly employment survey by not clearing the air on its fate in spite of a funding deadline lurking round the corner.

An expert committee, appointed to look into whether it has lost its relevance, had recommended that the survey be discontinued. The quarterly survey was instituted in 2008 during the global downturn, covering establishments engaging over 10 workers in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, trade, transport, IT/BPO, education and health.

Curiously, the committee to review the relevance of the survey was set up in June 2018 after the figures showed that new jobs had remained below 2 lakh in all quarters since July 2016 and the growth was either negative or flat in manufacturing and construction.

In January this year, the committee headed by former chief statistician T.C.A. Anant recommended discontinuation of the quarterly survey as it felt that the “wealth of information” from the database of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (whose figures differed with those of the quarterly survey) “can be used more rigorously….”

However, by then, jobs had become a hot-button political issue and unpalatable questions were being asked about Prime Minister Modi’s pre-election promise to create 2 crore jobs every year.

Since then, a perceived suppression of indigestible statistics and periodical revisions have landed the official statistical machinery in controversies. Against this backdrop and with elections fast approaching, the government appears to have developed cold feet in taking a clear stand on the fate of the quarterly survey.

Concern had begun to grow in the Labour Bureau, a labour ministry wing that conducts the quarterly survey, because the request for funds to carry out the exercise has to be placed by the last week of March.

Unsure whether the survey will survive or not, the Labour Bureau had written to the Union labour ministry two months ago seeking a clarification.

But the labour ministry has not yet responded, sources said. The dithering stands in sharp contrast to the finance minister’s swift and acerbic response in less than five days to the appeal by 108 economists and social scientists to restore integrity to official data.

However, the Labour Bureau has sent a separate proposal for funds for implementing the newly started area frame survey, which gathers job data in informal units employing less than 10 workers in the eight sectors. The ministry is currently processing the proposal for funding for the new survey.

The Labour Bureau spends around Rs 10 crore every year on the quarterly survey. “The service of the surveyors engaged in the quarterly employment survey will end this month. The survey may stop completely from next month,” an official said.

Sources suggested that the government was not averse to dumping the old survey but it may not take any decision until the elections are over.

Not everyone agrees with the recommendation of the committee to scrap the quarterly survey. Santosh Mehrotra, chairperson of the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said the data sets from the quarterly employment survey and the EPFO were not comparable.

“The quarterly survey covered both organised and un-organised sectors. The EPFO covers only the organised sector,” Mehrotra said.


Raghuram Rajan says global economists creating own India index after govt’s tinkering with macro indicators

India’s tinkering with lead economic indicators and suppression of discomforting economic data is prompting global economists to plan an independent index for India, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan told India Today TV’s Rajdeep Sardesai and Rajeev Dubey.

“There is a whole lot of noise around our statistics to the extent that investors are starting to get worried and people are talking about a Li Keqiang index for India,” says Rajan.

The Li Keqiang Index was created by The Economist and named after head of China’s Liaoning province who allegedly said he did not trust government statistics and maintained his own index of broad industrial indicators that couldn’t be easily fudged such as electricity consumption and railway volume.

India has restructured the GDP methodology and, of late, withheld discomforting employment data prepared by NSSO which suggested unemployment is at a 4-decade high. India also held back FDI data inexplicably.

Earlier this month, 108 economists had issued a statement objecting to the tinkering with India’s economic indicators. “The national and global reputation of India’s statistical bodies is at stake. More than that, statistical integrity is crucial for generating data that would feed into economic policy-making and that would make for honest and democratic public discourse,” the economists said in a statement.

Their move was later countered by 131 chartered accountants who endorsed the government’s statistics and called the economists’ intervention “baseless allegations with political motivations”.

A US State Department memo exposed by WikiLeaks said, Li Keqiang who was then the People’s Party Committee Secretary for Liaoning, told US ambassador that he did not trust Liaoning’s GDP numbers. Hence, he created his index of three leading indicators: Rail cargo volume, electricity consumption and credit issued by banks.

Investment bank Haitong Securities also used the term ‘Keqiang index’ in its index to indicate the deceleration in China’s economy since 2013.

“Some people are developing a Li Kequiang Index for India because they are no longer paying attention to the GDP numbers. Our GDP numbers are not being trusted by international investors which is why we need some outside opinion, a committee of experts, may not be all from outside the country but who can reliably pronounce on the quality of our statistical structure,” says Rajan.

Incidentally, right after the restructuring of India’s GDP methodology, Mumbai-based broking firm Ambit Capital had created its own Keqiang Index. Ambit’s Keqiang Index captured power consumption, air cargo, vehicles sales and capital goods imports.


India’s happiness ranking drops to 140; way behind Pakistan, China, Bangladesh

The world happiness report for 2019 has put Finland on the top spot on the most happiest country for the second consecutive year. According to reports, Finland is the happiest country amongst 156 nations surveyed by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. India has dropped down seven spots in the happiness rankings as compared to its 2018 ranking. Media quoted the report saying with the increase in population, the overall happiness has dropped worldwide.

In 2018, India was placed on 133 position, but this year its ranking went down to 140. In 2015, India was on 117 spot, in 2016 it was ranked on 118 spot. The position went up to 122 in 2017, according to reports.

Various factors that determine the happiness levels of a country include life expectancy, social support, income, freedom, trust, health and generosity, amongst others.

The immediate neighbours of India including Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are way ahead in the happiness rankings. In this report, Pakistan stands at 67th rank, China at 93, Bhutan at 95, Nepal at 100, Bangladesh at 125 and Sri Lanka at 130, leaving India way behind.

Here’s a list of Top 10 happiest countries of the world:

The World Happiness Report 2019 has disclosed the list of happiest and unhappiest countries worldwide. Finland, for the second consecutive year, has topped this list. It is followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria.

Here’s a list of Top 10 unhappiest countries of the world:

South Sudan has topped the list of the unhappiest countries of the world. It is followed by Central African Republic at 2nd spot, Afghanistan at 3rd and Tanzania, Rwanda, Yemen, Malawi, Syria, Botswana and Haiti, respectively at the next spots.

The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. It ranks the citizens of 156 countries based on how happy they perceive themselves to be. The World Happiness Report 2019 focuses on happiness and the community.

Indigenous no-state people

Good rains to continue in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland

The weather system affecting the eastern states of India will move east/northeastwards and merge with the cyclonic circulation over parts of Assam. This will result in increased weather activities over the northeastern states.

AssamMeghalayaArunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in particular will receive good rain and thundershowers on March 27 and 28. Thereafter, for 48 hours the intensity of rain will decrease significantly over most parts of Northeast India.

Weather Alert – Rain and thundershowers with squally winds and lightning will occur over Anjaw, Changlang, Dibang Valley, East Kameng, East Siang, Kra Daadi, Kurung Kumey, Lohit, Longding, Lower Dibang Valley, Lower Siang, Lower Subansiri, Papum Pare, Siang, Tawang, Tirap, Upper Siang, Upper Subansiri, West Kameng, West Siang, Baksa, Barpeta, Biswanath, Bongaigaon, Cachar, Charaideo, Chirang, Darrang, Dhemaji, Dhubri, Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Golaghat, Hailakandi, Hojai, Jorhat, Kamrup, Kamrup Metro, Karbi Anglong East, Karbi Anglong West, Karimganj, Kokrajhar, Lakhimpur, Majuli, Morigaon, Nagaon, Nalbari, N.C.Hills, Sivasagar, Sonitpur, South Salmara-Mankachar, Tinsukia, Udalguri, East Garo Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, North Garo hills, Ribhoi, South Garo Hills, South West Garo Hills, South West Khasi Hills, West Garo Hills, West Jaintia Hills and West Khasi Hills districts of Arunachal Pradesh Assam and Meghalaya during next 24 hours.

However, from March 31 to April 2, we once again expect fairly widespread rain and thundershower activities over the northeastern states, due to the formation of a cyclonic circulation over Assam and adjoining areas, which will extend up to 3.1 km above mean sea level.

During this period, we expect moderate spells with few heavy showers accompanied with lightning strike and isolated hailstorm activity over Northeast India.

April 2 onward, weather will once again start clearing up over most parts of Northeast India. However, intermittent rain and thundershower will still continue in parts of northeastern states.- See more at:

Climate Change, Environment

Odisha to plant palms to arrest lightning bolts

Satyasundar Barik

The Odisha government has decided to revive the traditional practice of planting palm trees to deal with the issue of deaths caused by lightning every year. Approximately 500 lives are lost annually due to lightning in the State. Palm trees, being the tallest ones, act as a good conductor when lightning strikes.

Palm tree plantations will come up along the forest boundaries on National and State Highways and in common land in coastal villages. The State Forest and Environment Department has issued instructions to all regional conservators of forests and divisional forest officers in this regard.

Traditional practice

“Earlier, planting palm trees was a traditional practice in villages, but this has now been discontinued due to urbanisation and development. The tree has a wide range of uses — its fruits are eaten, the stem is valuable as wood, and baskets and mats are woven with the leaves. It is also learnt to be helpful as a bulwark against lightning casualties,” said D. Swain, principal chief conservator of forests.

“Lightning usually hits the tallest object first. The palm tree being the tallest among other trees in its surroundings works as a lightning conductor, decreasing deaths by lightning,” said Mr. Swain. Palm trees also protect coastal areas from storms and cyclones, while its roots protect embankments from soil erosion.

According to Bishnupada Sethi, managing director, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), as many as 1,256 lightning deaths took place in the State in the last three years, most of them (about 85%) in the May-September period. Lightning deaths account for about 27% of the total number of ‘disaster deaths’.

The OSDMA has taken up a massive awareness drive, educating people on how to react during a thunderstorm.

The neighbouring Bangladesh, which also sees many deaths every year due to lightning strikes, has announced a similar programme to plant one million palm trees.


PM will turn dictator: Kejriwal

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said that if the BJP formed the next government at the Centre, Narendra Modi would remain Prime Minister forever as there would not be any election after the 2019 poll.

He alleged that the Modi government was following “Hitler’s tactics” to run the country. Mr. Kejriwal appealed to the people to ensure the defeat of the saffron party.

“Today, every patriot should have only one motive to stop the Modi government from coming back to power again at any cost… if they [the BJP] come to power in 2019, he (Mr. Modi) will be the Prime Minister forever,” he said.

He was speaking at a function to unveil a book “Vada Faramoshi”, a compilation of replies under the Right to Information Act to queries on the Central government’s works. The book was written by Neeraj Kumar, Sanjoy Basu and Shashi Shekhar.

The Chief Minister made the claim referring to the recent incident involving a “brutal” attack on the members of Muslim family in Gurgaon, and said the people from minority community were being “beaten up, harassed and murdered today without any fault”.

“Today, anyone who questions the Modi government is labelled an ‘anti-national’,” he added.

The seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi will go to polls on May 12. The Hindu

Sc. & Tech.

IIT Guwahati’s bone graft aids extensive bone formation

by R Prasad

A scaffold made of silk–bone cement composite doped with silicon and zinc metal ions has been found to regenerate new bone tissue in rabbits in three months. The newly formed bone forms a seamless joint with the existing bone and has blood vessels inside it. Tests carried out on rabbits with defective thigh bone (femur) showed extensive bone formation of 73% at the end of 90 days compared with 49% in the case of scaffold made only of silk fibre. Even at the end of 30 days, there was adequate bone regeneration and new blood vessel formation.

Superior graft

The bone graft fabricated and tested by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati is superior to currently available ones, affordable and does not require external use of growth factors for bone cells to grow.

“At the end of three months, the silk fibre had completely degraded leaving behind a homogeneous bone produced by rabbit bone cells. The newly formed bone had healed the defective femur,” says Prof. Biman Mandal from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Guwahati who led the team. The bone cement made of calcium phosphate becomes a part of the bone while the biocompatible metal ions (silicon and zinc) get leached out at the end of 90 days.

The team is now validating the bone graft in large animals for clinical translation.

IIT Guwahati’s bone graft aids extensive bone formation

The scaffold is fabricated by first doping the bone cement with silicon and zinc and mixing the bone cement with chopped mulberry silk fibre. The bone cement gets adsorbed on the silk fibre. Liquid silk fibre is then added to bind the chopped fibre and bone cement; the liquid silk also makes the composite highly porous. The silk–bone cement composite has higher density and strength, more surface area and high surface roughness, closely resembling a native bone.

“The zinc and silicon ions get leached from the composite and activate bone and blood vessel cells. This leads to faster regeneration of the bone tissue and blood vessel formation,” says Prof. Mandal. “By doping with these metal ions we are doing away with external addition of growth factor and also making the graft affordable.”

“While the silk scaffold provides the physical cues, the silicon and zinc metal ions provide the chemical cues. These two synergistically mimic the biological cues which people use for tissue engineering,” explains Joseph Christakiran Moses from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Guwahati and first author of a paper published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

Explaining how new blood vessels are formed, Moses says: “Silicon and zinc trigger a molecular response within the bone cells which makes them feel that they are lacking oxygen (triggering hypoxia response element). So the bone cells start secreting pro-blood vessel forming (angiogenic) signals leading to vascularisation.”

Bone regeneration

The compressive strength of silk fibre is about 40 kPa, while it is nearly double in the case of the silk–bone cement composite. Though doping with the silicon and zinc metal ions reduces the mechanical properties, particularly the compressive strength, the bulk strength of the doped composite is sufficient to activate bone regeneration.

Through in vitro studies carried out prior to experimentation with rabbits, the researchers realised that incorporation of bone cement and metal ion doped bone cement enhanced the bone tissue regeneration capacity.

                    While the composite was seeded with bone cells for in vitro studies, in rabbits, the composite was used without adding any bone cells. “Bone cells from neighbouring tissue migrate and bind to the scaffold and aid in bone regeneration,” Prof. Mandal says. The high porosity allows the bone cells to migrate and occupy the insides of the composite and regenerate the tissue, while the surface roughness of the composite, which closely mimics the native bone, facilitates faster and better regeneration of the bone.(Source: The Hindu)