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Development, International

Key tunnel on Lhasa-Nyingchi railway completed

Construction on a pivotal tunnel on a railway linking Lhasa and Nyingchi in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region was completed Friday, marking huge progress of the mammoth project.

  • The Bukamu Tunnel, located in Milin County of Nyingchi, is 9,240 meters long with an average elevation of 3,100 meters above the sea level. It is also the 37th tunnel being finished, leaving just 10 tunnels to be completed by the end of the year.
  • Over 3,000 rock bursts were counted during the construction of the tunnel, while the oxygen level inside was merely 19 percent that of the plain areas, said Wang Shucheng, director of the project.
  • The Lhasa-Nyingchi railway is 435 km long, 75 percent of which are bridges and tunnels. It is expected to be completed in 2021

Most of the tunnels along the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway have been completed, railway authorities said over the weekend.

The Bukamu Tunnel, one of the longest tunnels on the railway linking Lhasa and Nyingchi in Southwest China’s Tibet autonomous region, was completed on Friday. With its completion, 96 percent of the tunnels on the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the railway are finished.

The 9,240-meter Bukamu Tunnel is located in Manling county of the region’s eastern Nyingchi city. According to the China Railway 17th Bureau Group, and it is also the 37th tunnel to be completed for this section, leaving 10 other tunnels to be finished by the end of the year.

“Once construction began in October 2015, it took more than 300 workers 1,234 days to complete the tunnel,” said Yan Qingjing, an official of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway Headquarters, which is part of the group.

“The oxygen level in the region is merely 50 percent that of the plain areas, with the tunnel’s location at an average elevation of 3,000 meters above sea level, and the oxygen level inside the tunnel is only 19 percent of that of the plain areas,” Yan said.

The group’s statistics show that more than 90 percent of the tunnel is rock burst section, and that more than 3,000 rock bursts were counted during construction of the tunnel, with an average daily burst of three.

Wang Shucheng, director of the project, said the tunnel’s depth reaches 1,381 meters at one point, and high geostress inside causes the tunnel’s highest temperature to reach 42 C, much higher than the railway tunnel construction safety temperature of 28 C.

“The tunnel is like a steam room,” said Kang Yanjun, who works with the group. “Once you get inside, you begin sweating profusely. It is like doing anaerobic exercise.”

The technicians must exert a lot of energy every time they work in the tunnel, and each person needs at least 10 bottles of water, Kang said.

“We have implemented a 90-minute work shift schedule,” Kang said. “We place ice blocks in the tunnel to prevent workers from getting sick because of the high temperature, and we also use fans and oxygen transfer stations inside the tunnel.”

With a length of 2,416 kilometers, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway connects Southwest China’s Sichuan province with the Tibet autonomous region. It is the second railway linking Tibet with the rest of the world, along with the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.


Development, Society

University of California, Berkeley to adopt 100 villages in Meghalaya

The U.S.-based University of California, Berkeley will adopt 100 villages in Meghalaya to start a concept of smart villages and address the issue of urban migration due to environmental issues, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said on Friday. The Chief Minister was addressing a gathering at Montreux (Switzerland), who converged for the Caux Forum, which aims to inspire, equip and connect people, groups and organisations to build a just, sustainable and peaceful world.

The State government will sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the University of California, Berkeley in September to adopt 100 villages to start the concept of smart villages in Meghalaya, Mr. Conrad said, according to an official release issued here.

Our cities are already choking and having smart villages will prevent urban migration and related environmental issues, he said.

The Chief Minister spoke highly of the States’ uniqueness in terms of land ownership, forest conservation techniques as he deliberated at the Forum.

He said, “We as a government are proud of our society and the idea of our sacred groves and living root bridges should be known to the rest of the world. My government has given importance to these indigenous knowledge and have stressed on community participation in the implementation of government programmes, he said.

With a population of about 3.3 million people, the Chief Minister said the State is known worldwide for receiving the heaviest rainfall in the world.

Another great aspect of the State is the discovery by Geologists in 2018 about the Meghalayan Age which put the State in the global spotlight, he said.

Informing that about 6,500 villages are there in Meghalaya, he said the government will ensure that the National Resource Management Plans are made through full community participation.

He also informed that there is also a special emphasis on restoration of land in more than 400 villages of the State and added that the government has linked all livelihood programmes to natural resources and are encouraging people to protect these natural resources.

I am happy to inform that this year on World Environment Day we have planted 1.2 million trees and every citizen is encouraged to plant and adopt one tree, he said.

On water scarcity, the Chief Minister said Meghalaya is one of the first States in the country to be ready with the State water policy to face the issue of water conservation and water use.

There are problems we have to address and there are also solutions, we just need to come together to talk, discuss and share and need to create goals that must permeate down to the individual level so that every individual has a goal for the development and good of the society, the nation and the world, he said.

At the 2019 Dialogue at Caux, global thought leaders and practitioners will explore how community and individual actions can reverse degradation leading to peace and stability.


Meghalaya: Skill development programmes for coal miners

More than 100 people in Meghalaya’s East and West Jaiñtia Hills districts have come forward to register themselves for skill training programmes, to help them overcome the disastrous impact on the economy following the coal mining ban in 2014.

Over five years after the ban was imposed by the National Green Tribunal and after continuous nudging from a committee appointed by it, community mobilisation drives in the two districts were carried out last month resulting in garnering of 147 candidates for skill training programmes.

East and West Jaiñtia Hills have been worst hit by the ban. Apart from the coal miners and labourers, people dependent on mining-related activities have been hit hard. From grocery shopkeepers to tea sellers, the economy in places like Lad Rymbai, Sutnga and Amlarem, among others, have been dislocated since the ban came into effect. For years now, there was very little done to alleviate the plight of those who suffered the most.

In August last year, the tribunal constituted a committee chaired by Justice (retd) B.P. Katakey to oversee the implementation of the tribunal’s orders.

The committee had also asked the state government to identify those people from the coal mining areas who would like to avail of alternative employment for which they would require skill development.

In a report submitted to the committee earlier, the state labour department had proposed imparting of training to coal mine workers in the age group of 18-35 years with a view to provide them with alternative employment.

Last month, the labour department, through the Meghalaya State Skill Development Society (MSSDS) and with the support of Aide et Action, an NGO, conducted a two-week community mobilisation drive to sensitise the public, particularly those affected by the coal mining ban, and to offer them various short-term skill training programmes.

People were enlightened about the government-sponsored skill training programmes, which could pave the way for an alternative livelihood option that can ensure sustainability.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the state government said efforts were made to reach out to the people in various areas and corners of the two districts through home visits, awareness programmes, poster campaigns and mobile announcements.

“There were a considerable number of people who participated in these awareness programmes and the total reach-out is 1,191, covering over 1,606 number of households, and around 147 candidates registered themselves for various skill training programmes,” it added.

The programmes include integrated farming, service sector trades like hospitality, security guard, general duty, assistant, fashion designing, integrated farming, pottery and other native crafts, among others.

The participants were encouraged to take advantage of the various skill programmes offered by the government.

According to official estimates, Meghalaya’s real GSDP declined in 2014 by 2.1 per cent in view of the huge forward and backward linkages mining had with other economic activities.

In 2014-15, after the first mining ban came into effect, the loss to the state exchequer was Rs 255 crore


54,000 BSNL Staff Likely to Lose Jobs as Telecom Ministry Waits for EC Nod: Report

New Delhi: Close to 54,000 employees of the state-owned telecom operator BSNL are likely to lose their jobs once the Telecom Ministry seeks approval from the Election Commission to move its Cabinet proposal to offer voluntary retirement scheme. 

The board of the company has accepted the proposal for the layoff and is waiting for elections to get over before taking the final call, a report by Deccan Herald said on Wednesday.

The telecom ministry will seek approval from the Election Commission to move its Cabinet proposal to offer voluntary retirement scheme for MTNL and BSNL employees, a government official said Wednesday.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is preparing a Cabinet note recommending the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for BSNL and MTNL employees above 50 years of age.

“The DoT is preparing a Cabinet note for seeking its approval to grant VRS to BSNL and MTNL employees. The Department is going to immediately approach Election Commission for its nod to approach the Cabinet,” the official, who did not wish to be identified, told reporters.

The ministry has to seek approval from the Commission since the Model Code of Conduct is in place for Lok Sabha elections.

BSNL has 1.76 lakh employees across India and MTNL has 22,000. It is estimated that 16,000 MTNL employees and 50 per cent of BSNL staff will retire in the next 5-6 years.

The VRS for BSNL and MTNL could have a revenue impact of Rs 6,365 crore and Rs 2,120 crore, respectively.

The DoT plans to fund the VRS through issuance of 10-year bond. The bonds would be paid back by lease revenue that they will get from land asset monetisation.

The revenue to wage ratio in case of MTNL has swelled to 90 per cent while in the case of BSNL it is around 60-70 per cent.

Both telecom firms have requested the government to grant VRS for employees on the Gujarat model.

Under the Gujarat model, an amount equivalent to 35 days of salary for each completed year of service, and 25 days of salary for each year of service left till retirement is offered.

When asked about the number of employees to be covered under the proposed VRS, the officer said it will cover all employees above 50 years of age.

The exact number cannot be determined as it is a voluntary scheme and cannot be forced on employees, the official added.

Development, Politics

Economist Dreze held for trying to host meet, freed

Noted development economist Jean Dreze and his associates, Vivek Kumar Gupta and Anuj Kumar Gupta, were detained by police for about two hours on Thursday just before they were about to host a public meeting in Jharkhand, allegedly without taking permission from the state administration.

The team had organised the meeting to listen to people’s grievances related to social security pensions and delayed allotment of foodgrain. After being released, Dreze said that police had threatened the organiser with legal consequences. 

Renowned Indian development economist Jean Drèze is a Belgian-born social activist who has been influential in the economic policy making of his country. In his years in India since 1979, he has made wide-ranging contributions to development economics and public economics. He has promptly worked on social issues such as hunger, famine, gender inequality, child health and education, and the NREGA.

Jean Drèze as Academician

Born in 1959 in the ancient town of Leuven, Jean currently lives in Ranchi, Jharkhand. His father, Jacques Drèze, is one of the world’s great economic theorists and a celebrated teacher as well. Jean grew up in an atmosphere composed equally of scholarship and service. One of his brothers became a left-wing politician; a second was a professor of marketing; a third is a translator.

He studied Mathematical Economics at the University of Essex in the 1980s and did his PhD (theoretical economics of cost-benefit analysis) at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi.

He has lived in India since 1979 and became an Indian citizen in 2002.

Jean Drèze taught at the London School of Economics in the 1980s and at the Delhi School of Economics. Presently, he is an Honorary Chair Professor of the “Planning and Development Unit” created by the Planning Commission, Government of India, in the Department of Economics, University of Allahabad.

He is also a visiting professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.

He was a member of the National Advisory Council of India in both first and second term.

Dreze is well known for his commitment to social justice, both in India and internationally. Apart from academic work, he has been actively involved in many social movements.

He played a central role in the conception of the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme; helped draft the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA), and continues to monitor its implementation.

He also contributed to the Right to Information Act and the National Food Security Act of the Government of India.

Jean has written a great deal in English. His columns have been collected in a book called Sense and Solidarity, with the self-deprecatory sub-title, Jholawala Economics for Everyone. The essays cover a wide range of themes; from food security to healthcare to the rights of children to the threat of nuclear war.


On the need for action-oriented research in development policy

A whole new way of looking at poverty and development policy is taking shape in the world of economics. Traditionally understood as meagreness of material resources, there is a growing realisation that poverty also depletes mental resources. Understanding of how poverty impacts behaviour, what the absence of resources does to a person’s mindset can vitaminise the poverty-fighting policy toolkit.

Insights, well-designed qualitative and quantitative data from field surveys enable sounder grasp of human behaviour. If you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, how that makes you pick or reject an option. It is not enough to go taste the food the poor consume, visit their homes. The idea is to try to feel how being impoverished impacts decision-making and choice.

Say the task at hand is to figure out whether to universalise old-age widow pensions or not. A narrow evaluation of the proposal would measure impact on poverty of the limited version of the programme in use, the administrative costs of expanding it, the vulnerability to leakages, so on and so forth. Field intelligence could help provide the human angle such as what the pensions do to the quality of life of the beneficiaries. Being able to afford small luxuries — a new pair of glasses or treats for the grandchildren — out of the pension money rather than having to depend on their families for the expenses can improve the women’s sense of independence and dignity. The family’s attitude is also likely to become more favourable.

Economist Jean Drèze’s new book, Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics for Everyone, argues for an increased role for action-oriented research in development policy. The book is a compilation of op-eds, published mainly in The Hindu, under 10 broad themes such as Drought and Hunger, Poverty, School Meals, Health Care, Employment Guarantee, and Food Security and the Public Distribution System. He has updated the pieces with introductions, background notes, statistical and bibliographic sources.

Action research is not a collection of principles, theories and methods as academic research tends to be. It supports an action, or a change, while at the same time producing new knowledge. Active cooperation between the researchers and the participants is involved in this relatively new approach. Action and academic research shares a mostly tense relationship. Action researchers see academic researchers as occupants of ivory towers.

Drèze’s argument about the inadequacies of statistical analyses and academic approaches cannot be quarrelled with. The world has grown pessimistic about economics for its over-reliance on mathematics, its failure to predict the global financial meltdown and its inability to draw the world economy out of the economic slowdown. The feel of the field gathered from his own trips far and wide, from the hills of Chamba district to the forests of Kalahandi and the dusty plains of Bihar in the book’s essays make for great reading.

Drèze’s findings from the ground leave readers less confident of imposing our assumptions about poverty and humans on policy and economics. To economists suffering from insufficient understanding of society and human life, Drèze recommends copious doses of literature (although he does also caution against getting carried away by fiction or personal experiences). The works he regards helpful in developing empathy include Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s classic novel Pather Panchali, Dalit autobiographies of Daya Pawar, Laxman Gaikwad, Om Prakash Valmiki and Shantabai Kamble.

In ‘The Bullet Train Syndrome’, he questions the pro-rich institutional bias of the Indian Railways based on his own extensive travel on its networks. “If you have money, the Indian Railways is great fun, bullet or no bullet,” he writes. “But the lesser mortal who travels without reservation is exactly where she was 35 years ago.” The book succeeds in reminding us that poverty and privilege both are inherited at birth more often than earned. “The privileged tend to believe that they deserve or have earned what they have. But the chief determinant of privilege is chance,” he writes of the accident of birth. And that often the system works to perpetuate those inequalities.

In ‘Glucose for the Lok Sabha?’, he traces the clamour from Parliamentarians and ministers for replacing cooked midday meals in primary schools with biscuits to the corporate lobby. The plea for doing away with cooked midday meals for schoolkids was first made by the Biscuit Manufacturers Association through a letter signed by a senior executive at Parle Products, the biggest manufacturer of glucose biscuits.

Drèze’s differences with academic research are deep and go beyond approach and methodology. Why is carrying a corporate briefcase innately more respectable than carrying a jhola, he asks. Jholawalas — the student volunteers, like-minded scholars, field investigators, driven by passion, not money — has become a term of abuse in India’s corporate-sponsored media, he writes.

Undeniably, corporate influence is growing. But his attack on policy and the media seem sweeping; his suspicion of intent and sense of hurt excessive. Didn’t action research play a role in the schemes he has championed: the rights-based and legislation-backed social security schemes, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Right to Food or the National Food Security Act? They too are not free of leakages and infirmities, as Drèze concedes and makes clear he would like to see the defects addressed.

Even if readers disagree with the book, it is valuable because through it Drèze hopes to start a dialogue between economists and jholawalas for greater mutual learning.

Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics for Everyone; Jean Drèze, Permanent Black, ₹795.

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.


Three ways Finland leads the world – and education isn’t one of them

Finland’s education system is globally renowned. For more than a decade, Finland has been one of the top performers in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). But the Finns are not only outperforming others in the classroom; they are also frontrunners when it comes to change management, implementation of evidence-based measures and education in artificial intelligence (AI). These factors contribute to the image of Finland as an innovative and ambitious nation equipped to meet the new societal challenges ahead. There are undoubtedly many countries in the world that could benefit from looking to Finland.

The Empire of Nokia – the rise and fall

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Finland was plagued by deep economic depression in the 1990s. However, within a few years the country changed from being an investment-driven economy to becoming a knowledge-driven economy. Many people still remember Nokia’s golden era in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nokia put Finland on the map and enjoyed global dominance as the leading mobile phone brand. That was before Apple disrupted the whole market with their innovative new mobile phones, however – and from that point on, Apple and its iPhone launched a new era marked by a new generation of phones – smartphones. Back in Finland, after Nokia’s abdication, many of the engineers went into the video game industry. This has resulted in success stories such as Angry Birds and Clash of Clans. Thus, in recent years, Finland has developed a leading start-up environment from the ashes of a fallen empire.

Radical research initiatives

Finland also impresses in its successful approach to integrating research and innovation into its own healthcare system. Between 2004 and 2016, Finland conducted a research project in which participants were screened for colon cancer with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). The results from this research showed no clear evidence of reduced colorectal cancer mortality from this screening, and thus the plans to implement a national cancer-screening program with FOBT was put on hold.

Finland now plans to launch a new screening program in 2019, but this time using the more research-validated faecal immunochemical test (FIT) instead. This knowledge-based approach, coupled with the ability to reflect on research findings and make the necessary amendments as the basis for important decisions is exemplary.

The Finns are also focusing on the future of healthcare services. In the last couple of years, the growth of healthcare technology has accelerated globally. As a result, more and more data are used to improve clinical practices and patient outcomes. This development demands equally adept healthcare professionals, which can be achieved with the right training. Clinical informatics is the term used to describe this particular field, and Finland has already invested in it. The International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) has created an accreditation system for universities that teach clinical informatics, and the first accredited university is located in Finland.

Finland has also performed cutting-edge research on social innovation. In 2017, the controversial research study on universal basic income (UBI) took place in Finland. The concept of UBI is based on the idea that the government pays all citizens an unconditional income, without means testing. In the Finnish experiment, 2,000 unemployed people between the ages of 25 and 58 were selected to participate in a two-year pilot during which they received a monthly basic income of €560. This group of people was compared to a control group consisting of unemployed individuals who received a traditional minimum unemployment wage. The primary objective of this study was to investigate whether receiving UBI could stimulate the unemployed individuals to acquire work. The secondary objective of this experiment was to find novel ways and gather more insight on how to revise the Finnish benefits system. However, the government stopped the support for this research programme. The preliminary results after a year showed no effects of basic income on the employment rate – but the self-perceived wellbeing of participants had improved. Regardless of the preliminary results, this research-based approach shows that Finland is willing to make evidence-based decisions in political matters, and is bold enough try out big ideas that few have tested before.

AI for all

Finland was the first country in the EU to develop an official strategy on AI in 2017, even beating G7 nations such as the UK, US, Italy, France and Germany. Since then, many other countries have joined them in this endeavour. Nevertheless, few are as forward-looking as Finland.

The Finns are focusing on collective competence building in AI, meaning they want the whole population in general to become fluent in basic AI. In 2018, the University of Helsinki and the consulting agency Reaktor launched a free online course on AI available to everyone. Finland set a goal of having 1% of the country’s population take the course. The goal was reached far earlier than expected, and now several countries have been inspired to do the same. Swedenand the Netherlands have made their own versions and have set the same 1% goal.

Have you read?

This initiative is part of Finland’s plan to become a world leader in practical applications of AI. Arguably, Finland understands that AI is going to become the electricity or internet of our generation, and thus the entire population must receive training in basic AI. Finland’s Minister of Economy, Mika Lintilä, recently stated that the country will never have enough resources to compete with countries such as China and the US who are leading the race to develop AI technology. But Finland could nevertheless become a leader in practical applications of AI.

The Finns also want to challenge other countries to take part in education in AI and seeks cooperation with other neighboring countries in order to experiment with AI. It remains to be seen whether the approach of countries such as China and the US will prevail, or whether Finland succeeds in creating the most enlightened population equipped to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Nonetheless, Finland is punching way above its weight. (Source: World Economic Forum,


Modi inaugurates the Pakyong Airport in Sikkim

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Pakyong Airport in Sikkim on September 24, nine years after the foundation stone was laid.

The airport is the hilly state’s first and only airport.

PM Modi had spoken about the inauguration of the airport on September 23 during the launch of Centre’s Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission from Ranchi, Jharkhand. The prime minister had said that that it will improve connectivity and benefit the people of Sikkim

Currently, the nearest airport for the people of Sikkim is 124 kilometre (km) away in Bagdogra, West Bengal.

Here’s all you want to know about it:

> The foundation stone for the greenfield airport was laid in Pakyong in 2009, which is around 33 km from Gangtok — the state capital. The airport is located around 60 km from the Indo-China border.

It is constructed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The project cost Rs 553 crore.

> The airport is seen as an engineering marvel for its soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques, keeping in view the altitude it was built at.

> Integrated structures of the airport comprise of an ATC tower-cum-fire station, a terminal building for passengers, high-intensity runway lights, parking for over 50 vehicles.

> The reinforcement wall of the project is 80-metre-high — one of the tallest in the world.

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Sikkim’s first-ever Airport at #Pakyong decked up for inauguration by Hon’ble PM @narendramodi, a short while from now. #PakyongAirport

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> The runway is 1.75 km long and is 30 metres wide. It has a 116-metre taxiway connecting the runway to an apron measuring 106 metre by 76 metre. The apron can accommodate two ATR-72 aircraft.

> The airport has 3,000 square metre terminal building and has a capacity to handle 50 in-bound and out-bound passengers.

> Although the airport will be inaugurated on September 24, the commercial operations are expected to begin on October 4.

> There is also plan to construct another 75-metre stretch adjacent to the main runway in the coming days, which would allow the Indian Air Force (IAF) to land various types of aircraft on the airport’s runway.(With inputs from PTI)


Sikkim’s Pakyong airport stuns before it flies

Perched between the Himalayan ranges at a height of 4,500 ft, flights from Sikkim’s first ever airport in the small town of Pakyong are set to take off from September 23.

Pakyong airport, sikkim airport

XSikkim will finally get its own airport — the Pakyong airport is perched between the Himalayan ranges at a height of 4,500 ft. 

To visit Sikkim by air means landing at West Bengal’s Bagdogra airport, then travelling 124 km uphill on winding roads to reach its capital, Gangtok. However, from September 23, Sikkim will finally get its own airport — perched between the Himalayan ranges at a height of 4,500 ft! The Pakyong airport will be the country’s 100th functional airport — and on September 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modiwill fly in to inaugurate it.

Pakyong airport, sikkim airport

The Pakyong airport will be the country’s 100th functional airport. Photo Courtesy: Airports Authority of India (AAI)

The greenfield airport — the Northeast’s first — which has been conceived at a budget of Rs 605.59 crore is skilfully engineered to include soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques in context of the altitude it has been built in. 

Pakyong airport, sikkim airport

From October 8, SpiceJet will operate daily flights under the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s UDAN scheme.

Photo Courtesy: Airports Authority of India (AAI)

“Greenfield airports have their own beauty and merits. You will experience them when flights start operating. Moreover, the airport will have multi-dimensional benefits for Sikkim which will gradually come to the fore with time,” said Ugen T Gyatso Bhutia, Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism department, Government of Sikkim. The airport — located in the small town of Pakyong in East Sikkim — is about 30 km from Gangtok. 

Pakyong airport, sikkim airport

The greenfield airport — the Northeast’s first — which has been conceived at a budget of Rs 605.59 crore. Photo Courtesy: Airports Authority of India (AAI)

Earlier this year, on March 5, the Indian Air Force’s Dornier 228 was tested from Pakyong. Later, SpiceJet followed by conducting test runs of the 78-seater Bombardier Q400 from Kolkata to Pakyong on March 10. This led to security clearances for commercial operations.

Pakyong airport, sikkim airport

The airport — located in the small town of Pakyong in East Sikkim — is about 30 km from Gangtok. 

Photo Courtesy: Airports Authority of India (AAI)

From October 8, SpiceJet will operate daily flights to and from Kolkata and Guwahati under the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme that aims to enhance regional connectivity. Fare prices are pegged at Rs 2,600.

The airport will be inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on September 23. Photo Courtesy: Airports Authority of India (AAI)

“Also, gradually, the airport will connect Sikkim with other countries in the region like Bhutan, Kathmandu and Bangkok where people from the state usually go on vacations,” said Bhutia. ( Indian Express)

Photo Courtesy: Airports Authority of India (AAI)


Bhutan ranks 134 on Human Development Index

Bhutan ranks 134 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2017, climbing a step up from its 135 rank in 2016, according to the Human Development Indices and Indicators: 2018 Statistical Update that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released online yesterday.

Bhutan’s HDI value at 0.612 puts the country in the medium human development category. A press release from the UN country office states that Bhutan shares its rank with Kiribati.  InSouth Asia, countries that are close to Bhutan in the 2017 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are the Maldives, which ranks 101 and Nepal, 149.

However, when the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI drops to 0.446, a loss of 27.2 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices, the press release states. The Maldives and Nepal show losses due to inequality of 23.4 percent and 25.6 percent respectively. The average loss due to inequality for medium HDI countries is 25.1 percent and 26.1 percent for South Asia.

Between 2005 and 2017, Bhutan’s HDI value increased from 0.510 to 0.612, an increase of 20.1 percent. Between 1990 and 2017, Bhutan’s life expectancy at birth increased by 17.7 years, mean years of schooling by 0.8 years, expected years of schooling by 6.9 years and GNI per capita by about 284.2 percent.

Bhutan has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.476, ranking it 117 out of 160 countries in the 2017 index. The country has 8.3 percent of parliamentary seats held by women, and 6 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 13.7 percent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 148 women die from pregnancy related causes. Female participation in the labour market is 58 percent compared to 74.3 for men. In comparison, Maldives ranks 76 and Nepal 118 on this index.

The top five countries in the HID rankings are Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland, and Germany while the bottom five are Burundi, Chad, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Niger.

The Human Development Index focuses on three basic dimensions of human development: the ability to lead a long and healthy life, measured by life expectancy at birth; the ability to acquire knowledge, measured by mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling; and the ability to achieve a decent standard of living, measured by gross national income per capita.

The 2018 Statistical Update highlights that across the world, people are living longer, are more educated and have greater livelihood opportunities.

The average lifespan is seven years longer than it was in 1990, and more than 130 countries have universal enrollment in primary education. However, progress since 1990 has not always been steady. Some countries suffered reversals due to conflicts, epidemics or economic crises. Human deprivations remain high despite overall progress, the press release states.

When taking into account inequality in the distribution of achievements of HDI indicators, the global HDI of 0.728 in 2017 falls to 0.582, representing a 20 percent loss and a drop from the high to the medium HDI category. Worldwide inequality in the distribution of income is the highest (22.6 percent) followed by inequality in achievements in education (22.0 percent) and health (15.2 percent).

By region, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest regional loss in the HDI because of inequality (30.8 percent), followed by South Asia (26.1 percent) and the Arab States (25.1 percent). Europe and Central Asia remain the regions with the lowest overall losses in HDI from inequality at 11.7 percent.

The statistical update also indicates that women have lower HDI than men across regions and face specific barriers to empowerment all through life. Worldwide, the average HDI for women is 6 percent lower than for men. The HDI for men is 0.749 while for women it is 0.705. At the global level, the gap in HDI between women and men is due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries.

At the global level, 44 percent of combined achievements in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market is lost due to inequality in achievements between men and women in these dimensions, as measured by the Gender Inequality index.Among developing regions, Europe and Central Asia have the smallest inequality between men and women (with a GII of 27 percent). Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest GII (of 57 percent), followed by the Arab States (53 percent) and South Asia (52 percent).