Mumbai Metro II update

A consortium comprising RInfra, SNC Lavalin of Canada and Reliance Communication has bagged the prestigious contract of constructing the Rs 8,250-crore Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd corridor of Mumbai Metro. The executive committee of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Wednesday awarded the bid to the RInfra-led consortium. It, incidentally, was the sole bidder. Mumbai Metro One Private, a consortium also led by RInfra, an Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), is also building the first corridor connecting Versova, Andheri and Ghatkopar with a total project value of Rs 2,356 crore. Mumbai Metro I is expected to be ready by July next year and the work on Metro II would start in a couple of months from now. While RInfra would be spending Rs 5,952 crore to honour its commitment towards the public-private partnership project, the government of India would provide a viability gap funding to the tune of Rs 1,532 crore, and the remaining Rs 766 crore would come from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. The MMRDA, in Wednesday’s meeting, also decided to appoint Louis Berger as the consultant to carry out the feasibility study of underground development of Metro-III.

In Memorium

Maharani Gayatridevi....one of the most beautiful women in the world and among the best known faces of erstwhile Royalty died at 90 in Jaipur.

Pune's traffic tales

Getting to be a mess.

Chennai airport to get walkalator

The country’s first walkalator (horizontal escalator) inside an airport will be opened at Chennai airport next month. The conveyor belt that transports people, which is a common feature in most major airports abroad, is installed to connect aerobridges so that passengers can use it to reach the aircraft. It will reduce the distance passengers have to walk inside terminals. The facility is being installed at a cost of Rs 7 crore as part of efforts to enhance passenger amenities and optimise use of infrastructure in the airport. There are five aerobridges in the international terminal and three in the domestic terminal. Airport director K Natarajan said, “The facility will be installed in a phased manner and the first unit of the walkalator was expected to be opened by mid-August.” The first stretch of the walkalator will be useful for passengers using the recently unveiled bus lounge inside the passenger terminal. Sources said that the machines would be installed in small stretches along a 300-metre connecting corridor between terminals so that the airport would be able to use all aerobridges round the clock. Aerobridges in the international terminal remain unused during the day as not many international aircraft take off in the daytime, and aerobridges in the domestic terminal are not used at night. The walkalator will enable the airport to use all aerobridges. There will be two or three walkalators of roughly 48 metres, 24 metres or 30 metres. “We have started to install the walkalators and are trying to open one portion of it by mid-August. I have given instructions to complete civil works quickly so that it can be opened by August 15. The remaining will be ready in the subsequent months,” Natarajan said. “We can use aerobridges in the international terminal for domestic departures and arrivals after closing the international section. The same can be done on the domestic terminal also. International flights can be docked at the aerobridges on the domestic side at night,” said an official. Chennai airport will be the first AAI-owned airport to have the walkalators. Officials said that private airports may build such facilities in the future. GMR is planning to install walkalators inside its new T3 terminal building connecting 74 aerobridges at Delhi airport.

Who says times are bad ?

Karnataka legislators passed legislation on Wednesday, giving themselves a big fat hike in salary and perks. Earlier, they were getting Rs 20,000 as pay and phone, constituency and postal allowances. Now, they will get almost double the amount — Rs 39,000. They are also entitled to several other benefits like train travel and sitting fee. The Karnataka Legislature Salaries, Pensions and Allowances (Amendment) Bill 2009 has hiked the monthly salaries of legislators by Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. Earlier, they used to draw Rs 8,000. Similarly, telephone allowance has been increased to Rs 10,000 from Rs 7,500. However, the bonanza legislators have got is in the constituency allowance. Now, they draw Rs 15,000 per month for visiting their constituency. Previously, they were eligible for Rs 3,500. Even the postal charges have been increased. Legislators now will get Rs 4,000 instead of Rs 1,000 every month. The amendment makes a room boy of a legislator richer. A total monthly salary of a room boy has been fixed at Rs 5,000, an increase of Rs 3,000. Legislators can expect better life, post retirement. Pension now has been enhanced to Rs 15,000 per month from mere Rs 5,000. Payment of family pension for life will be made to the dependent of the legislator.

FTSE to launch India index

FTSE, one of the global benchmark indices on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), will launch its India version shortly. On Wednesday, FTSE, a joint venture of LSE and Financial Times, joined hands with MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) to start FTSE indices with Indian stocks as constituents after the Indian bourse gets the regulatory nod for starting equity trading. At present on MCX-SX — part of the Financial Technologies group that runs India’s largest commodities bourse, the Multi-Commodities Exchange (MCX) — only currency derivative contracts are traded. Other than regulatory nod for starting equity trading, the exchange is also awaiting nod for launching interest rate futures. Under the FTSE-MCX-SX agreement, the UK-based index managers will create a new Indian benchmark for stocks and bring in FTSE’s international indices to be traded on the Indian bourse. It would also help launch indices for MCX, and FT group’s two upcoming international exchanges, Singapore Mercantile Exchange and Bahrain Financial Exchange. The two entities will also aim at launching India-specific index products, which are hugely popular in most developed markets but yet to get wide acceptance among the domestic investors, Jignesh Shah, vice chairman, MCX-SX said.

Not so sweet !

Not very sweet news......

Why do our urban trees fall ?

Somewhere in Jammu & Kashmir....

Seems Mehbooba Mufti and the PDP have gone mad......just see what loser's do! Attrocious behaviour in the JK Assembly for three days in a row.

IPO Season returns

Adani Power was oversubscribed on Day 1 itself......NHPC is the first Government of India undertaking that will start the process of divestment in about a month's time.

Slumbai snippets

Despite reservations expressed by a section of ministers, the state cabinet presided over by CM Ashok Chavan approved the controversial proposal to regularise slums constructed prior to January 1, 2000. When the cabinet took up the proposal, a senior Congress minister obliquely opposed the proposal, saying, before taking a final decision on regularisation of slums, there should be wider debate on it. An official said, “Since the whole issue is pending before the apex court, the government will have to seek the SC’s approval before issuing an official order.” “The move is clearly aimed at wooing slum voters who comprise more than 60% of Mumbai’s total voters. However, the opposition may find it hard to criticise the decision for fear of alienating the voters,’’ said a political observer. Incidentally, the Congress and NCP has won all six parliamentary (Congress-5 and NCP-1) seats in Mumbai. In fact, since 1976, the cutoff dates for regularising slums have been extended on various occasions. In 1995, the Shiv Sena-BJP came to power and formed the Dinesh Afzulpurkar committee to look into the slum removal issue. In the same year in December, the saffron alliance amended the 1971 Act to provide for the creation of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) and announced January 1, 1995, as the cut-off date. Later, when the Congress came to power it filed an affidavit in court that it will not extend the 1995 cut-off date. But the Congress in its election manifesto of 2004 promised to regularise the slums till January 1, 2000, and filed a fresh affidavit in Bombay high court seeking extension of the cutoff deadline till 2000. But with the court unwilling to extend the deadline, the state government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court.


The Balochistan Blunder ?

Balochistan comes into the spotlight after PM Manmohan Singh meets the Pak PM in Egypt and issues a joint statement. Another round of Pakistan's games.....

GAIL's new pipelines planned

Gas Authority of India Ltd.

Outdated Laws

Some more laws that have outlived their utility.

More of Mumbai's Sea Show

More Snap shotz of Mumbai's High Tide.

INS Arihant snapshotz

India's Second Strike.....in case of a nuke attack.

Sach Ka Samna.....

It's just everywhere.....India's latest controversy......Its all about TRPs.

Steel snippets

Somewhere in Gujarat....

The Return of Godhra.

Nature strikes back

The Arabian Sea has thrown back at Mumbai what the city has been throwing into it for so long. During the three days last week when exceptionally high tides hit Mumbai’s coastline, leading to heartache and damage for some while proving to be a spectator sport for others, a variety of non-biodegradable waste also made its way from the sea into the city. Data compiled by the BMC shows that the city got as much as 640 tons (6.4 lakh kg) of waste comprising plastic, polythene bags and thermocol from the sea. This is more than four times the average amount that is dumped on the coast in three days. The sea at Juhu and Dadar threw out the maximum amount of garbage (1.18 lakh kg and 3.35 lakh kg respectively). Madh and Manori gave out 37,000 kg and 23,000 kg, while Versova and its extension threw out 29,000 kg and 22,000 kg. People whose homes were destroyed by the tides also got the largest amount of rubbish.


The Frisking controversy

Ponnappa's take on the Continental Airlines - Abdul Kalam frisking controversy.

Somewhere in Delhi....

As part of the makeover, new streetlights illuminate Mathura Road in front of Pragati Maidan.

Pak fomenting chaos abroad

The damning public US indictment of Pakistan’s use of terrorism came from US Admiral Mike Mullen, who told the Al Jazeera TV network hours ahead of his meeting with India’s General Deepak Kapoor on Thursday that “in the long run, the ISI has to change its strategic thrust, which has been to foment chaotic activity in its border countries.” When the surprised anchor asked, “What do you mean when you say the ISI has had a strategic thrust to foment chaos in bordering countries?” Mullen did not mince his words. “What I mean is that they have clearly focused on support of ... historically of militant organisations both east and west. I mean that’s been a focus of theirs in Kashmir historically as well as in the FATA (federally administered tribal areas). And I think ... that fundamentally has to change.” Mullen’s observations are critical because Pakistan has lately taken to accusing India of fomenting insurgency in Balochistan and even backing the Taliban to offset its indictment in Kashmir, charges that have both New Delhi and Washington have scoffed at. The prevailing Pakistani narrative, encouraged by some of its high officials, is that India and Afghanistan are in cahoots with Washington in destabilising Pakistan, including the use of Pakistan’s own proxy, the Taliban, against it. Islamabad has also complained repeatedly to the US about the strong Indian influence in Afghanistan where Pakistan is now largely despised except in Taliban strongholds. There is palpable agitation in Pakistan over closer military ties between New Delhi and Washington, even though many in India remain leery of the US.

N-liability bill capped at Rs 300 crore

The proposed bill on nuclear civil liablity—very high on the US priority list with India—to cover accidents in nuclear installations will limit monetary accountability of the operator to Rs 300 crore, while damages in excess will be borne by the Indian government. The limited liability clause could bring cheer to multinationals who are looking at billions of dollars worth of business in India. Fixing the liability on operators is important to US firms who are looking to supply nuclear reactors at Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat as otherwise they cannot avail of insurance. With operators, not suppliers, responsible for liability commitments, US firms can go ahead with their business contracts. The government had deflected US pressure earlier this year on the plea that polls are round the corner. Now while a draft bill is ready, it seems it will be tabled in the winter session. The US was keen as Russia and France are already ahead with projects lined up in India. The proposed bill, besides limiting the liability of the operator, gives flexibility to the central government to decrease the compensation amount on the operator. But in what could be of significance, the bill states that in each case where the government decides to decrease the liability, it “shall not be less than Rs 100 crore”. The amount of liability shall not include any interest or cost of proceedings. The bill debars civil courts from entertaining any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter which the claims commissioner is empowered to adjudicate. It says, “No injunction shall be granted by any court or other authority in respect of any action taken in pursuance of this Act.” The setting up of a six-member nuclear damage commission has been proposed to look into the claims. The chairperson and members of the commission shall be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a three-member committee headed by the cabinet secretary and having secretaries from the department of atomic energy and the ministry of law as the other two members. The chairperson of the commission will be a person who will be qualified to be an HC judge. A special mention has been made of ensuring that the project is insured for financial security before it is started. “The operator shall, before he begins operation, take out insurance policy or other financial security covering his liability,” it states. An operator has been defined in the bill as the person designated as the operator of that installation. It also explains that several nuclear installations of one operator which are located at the same site shall be considered as a single installation.

Bill on judicial accountability

The Union Cabinet after approving the Judges Assets Bill mandating the Chief Justice of India as well as other judges of the Supreme Court and HCs to declare their assets and that of their dependents has swiftly moved on to step 2 of the reforms agenda—a bill designed to make judges accountable for infringements of law. The Cabinet meeting overwhelmingly favoured a law to extend the frontiers of accountability to members of the higher judiciary, dismantling the system where they are treated as holy cows. The accountabiity legislation would seek to introduce a mechanism to inquire into cases of misconduct by judges. At present, the inquiry into any misconduct—be it Mysore sex scandal, Punjab and Haryana HC cash-at-door scam involving judges or Soumitra Sen of Calcutta HC—is done by an in-house panel of three judges appointed by the CJI. The CJI used to receive the findings of the committee and take steps on the administrative side. The steps taken by the CJI in these matters on the administrative side seldom proved a deterrent as judges of the HCs and SC are all constitutional post holders who can be removed only through a cumbersome impeachment motion. The second legislation which may be introduced in the next session of Parliament will be necessary also for enforcement of the Judges Assets Bill. Take for example, the provision in the Judges Assets Bill that provides for adverse consequences a judge would attract if he did not declare assets owned by him and his dependents or when he makes an inadequate or false declaration. Under the voluntary declaration scheme that has been in vogue since 1997, he would attract no penalty. Under the Bill cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday, however, he would be obliged to give an explanation to the CJI. If the CJI finds the explanation unsatisfactory, then he could take action against him as per law, says the Bill which possibly could include drastic constitutional steps. Also, while the information on assets made to the CJI is not to be put in the public domain, the Bill specifically provides freedom to individual judges of HCs and SC to go public with their assets if they so desired. Also, though the Bill accepted the judiciary’s suggestion not to make the assets so declared by the judges amenable to queries under the RTI Act, it proposed that the CJI should declare his assets to the President. Immediately after assuming charge as law minister, Veerappa Moily had promised to chalk out a roadmap for judicial reforms, but was sympathetic to their apprehension that making it public under the RTI Act could lead to frivolous litigation leading to harassment.

Lo and Behold....

India witnessed nature at it's best...the Eclipse in Varanasi and the High Tide show in Mumbai. As waves well over five metres lashed the city at the appointed hour on Friday, thousands of office-goers, taxiwallahs, taporis, lovebirds and even families with nana, nani and the dog in tow gathered at waterfronts like Worli (above), Mahim, Haji Ali, Marine Drive and Cuffe Parade to watch the high tide roll in. They stood and they gaped. They got soaked and shrieked with joy. Some clicked pictures while others went home with tall stories to tell of their free entertainment. Of course, for those living on the edge, it was another sad day as their rickety homes and belongingswere swallowed by the hungry tide.

Trial Run On NCR Metro Link

A month from now, you will reach Connaught Place from Noida in 25 minutes, or even go all the way up to Dwarka in one hour flat. With the trial runs having started on the 13.1-km long Delhi Metro line to Noida Sector 32 on Saturday, Metro is finally reaching other NCR areas. By year-end, it will enter Gurgaon and reach the Ghaziabad border, followed by the Faridabad border in September 2010. For the trials, the trains were made to run between Yamuna Bank and New Ashok Nagar Metro stations from 10 am to 2 pm at a speed of 15 kmph. For 10 days, this exercise will end at New Ashok Nagar station, after which the entire track up to Noida City Center will be checked. The line is scheduled to be opened by August-end,’’ said a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson. The trial runs will test the section for signalling, tracks, telecommunication, interfacing of train working with different systems and overhead electrical (OHE) supply. These will continue for the next one month for a duration of about 10 hours daily. During the day, the focus will be on checking the performance of the train and its coordination with other systems while signalling checks will be carried out at night. Construction of the entire line has been completed and work on 10 stations falling on the line is now being carried out. The OHE supply hasbeen energised till the Noida Sector 15 station. The new section is an extension of the existing Line 3 (Yamuna Bank-Dwarka Sector 9), which will now become the longest operational line of Delhi Metro with 42 stations spanning across 47.2 km. On this extension, four stations are located in Delhi and six after the Delhi border in Noida. The line is fully elevated and the frequency of train operations will be the same as that of Line 3. All the stations between Yamuna Bank and New Ashok Nagar have parking facilities. But in Noida, you have parking only at Botanical Garden and Noida City Centre stations.

INS Arihant

The Indian Navy is all set to join the global elite club today when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formally launches the indigenously-built nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant at the naval dockyard of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) in Visakhapatnam. Prime Minister will arrive at the ENC’s airbase INS Dega in Visakhapatnam by a special IAF plane along with his wife at 11 am and drive straight to the naval dockyard to commission INS Arihant. The 6000-tonne submarine will first be put on sea trials for two years before being commissioned into full service. In these two years, the submarine will also undergo harbour trials of its nuclear reactor and other systems. Sunday’s launch coincides with Vijay Diwas marking India’s triumph over Pakistani intruders in Kargil. With the launch of the submarine India will join the exclusive club of US, Russia, China, France and the UK with similar capabilities. The ENC headquarters in Visakhapatnam has been decked up for this historic event. INS Arihant has been built under the advanced technology vessels (ATV) programme at a cost of USD 2.9 billion.

The Maharaja's bleeding big time

The National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL), has accumulated losses of Rs 7,200 crore till this March. The AI-IA combine is to receive 111 new aircraft worth $11 billion (list price) to replace decades-old planes in its fleet. Until now, 51 new planes worth $4 billion have joined the fleet. But in this slowdown when all airlines have been badly hit, AI, which has been struggling for some years, was even more affected and needs a massive cash infusion from the exchequer to stay in air. Armed with a plan for cost-cutting and revenue enhancement, AI chief Arvind Jadhav met the CoS that has finance and aviation secretaries Ashok Chawla and M M Nambiar as members to seek the bailout. The CoS was set up to examine issues related to the national carrier following a meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with Praful Patel last month. During the two-hour meeting, a presentation was made to the high-powered panel by the ministry and SBI Caps on financial restructuring that basically means cost-cutting and enhancing revenue. The airline also told the panel that it needed new aircraft to phase out the old ones in its fleet to be able to compete. NACIL said it will reduce its annual wage bill of Rs 3,100 crore by finding a low cost alternative to the performancelinked incentive that employees get and which accounts for nearly half of the total wage bill. The CoS asked NACIL to immediately appoint a cost auditor. They have presented an annual cost-cutting plan but that was not specific. AI has to come up with a more detailed plan, possibly with quarterly benchmarks, whose progress can be monitored. The challenge for the airline would be no to draw up but effectively implement any plan, said sources, possibly alluding to the ministry’s grand plan of merging AI and IA to create a mega airline. While the merger plan prepared by Accenture was near perfect on paper, its implementation has been a near disaster.

Catwalk in Srinagar....

A cat has the run of a closed market in Srinagar. Life was disrupted in the city after a bandh was called by the Hurriyat to protest against the arrest of Syed Ali Geelani.The Hurriyat surely needs to protest the killing of the 3 year old boy by the militants in Shopian..but they have other better reasons to protest I guess....skewed priorities!

Indian students everywhere....

The likely and unlikely countries that host Indian students.

Destination India

If we get our act together..tourism,travel and hotels can be the biggest money spinner for India beating our software export revenues.......


Core sector shoots up 6.5 per cent in June

Riding double-digit growth in cement and coal output, the index of six core infrastructure industries expanded 6.5 per cent in June, the most in 16 months.Buoyed by this robust performance and given that the Core Six have a 27 per cent weight, economists expect positive news on the index of industrial production, which expanded 2.7 per cent in May. The latest core sector numbers are an improvement over the 5.1 per cent growth seen a year earlier, as well as the dismal 2.8 per cent seen in May 2009. In the three months ended June this year, the sector grew 4.8 per cent, against 3.5 per cent in the corresponding period last year.
This better-than-expected showing was aided by the base effect-the sectors had lower output in the year-ago period -- pushing up growth in June. Barring petroleum products and finished carbon steel, absolute figures in the four remaining sectors were lower than those in the previous month. Economists maintain that there are tell-tale signs of recovery in the economyHowever,India's chief statistician, Pronab Sen, maintained that the core sector data is not necessarily indicative of a revival.

Nilekani checks in

Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani formally assumed charge of his new assignment as the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and exuded confidence that the Authority would be able to roll out the first set of UID numbers within 12-18 months for the country's more than 1.7 billion population. He said that it would be an enabling infrastructure for other identification schemes and will conform to different applications.
Arguing that identity was important for everyone, especially for the poor, he said UIDAI would provide a database of residents. Nilekani said the UIDAI would not issue biometric cards itself but the database it will create would help government agencies to undertake that task. He said the UID number would help the government in identifying targeted beneficiaries for PDS, extending subsidy on kerosene or for providing new LPG connection. Departments can use the number for issuing cards. He said the key objective of the project was to minimise the need for multiple identity proofs for citizens while availing any government service, or for private needs like opening bank accounts or seeking telephone connections. "We have several options on biometrics like fingerprint, face identification, retina identification, DNA testing etc on devising the database," he said. Nilekani would spend the next few weeks setting up the requisite administrative infrastructure to deal with the project."We will pick up talent from both government and outside," he said.


Strong showing so far

India and the Emerging Markets year to date.

Monsoon Tracker mid - July 2009

The monsoon rains posted it's best weekly performance this year in the week ended 15 July. Above normal rainfall over central India, the west coast and Orissa together brought down the monsoon's overall deficit to 27%. The rain deficit was nearly 54% on 30 June. The weather office also forecast widespread rainfall in the next five days in most of India where at least twothirds of the people live in villages and 60% of the farm land depends on the annual rains.
In the week to 15 July, the key soya bean producing regions in central India as well as sugar cane, cotton and groundnut producing areas in western India received normal or excessive rains, data from the weather office showed. But the rice bowl and sugar cane producing hubs of northern India continued to suffer. Rains were inadequate in Uttar Pradesh, the top sugar cane producing state. Haryana and Punjab, where farmers have stepped up sowing of premium rice grades that need lesser water, also received meagre rain. Moreover, key reservoirs, such as the Gobind Sagar in Himachal Pradesh, still stocked only half the water of their 10 year average.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said crop sowing had accelerated in the past week as rainfall increased after the worst start to the annual monsoon season in at least 80 years. In rice growing regions, transplantation had increased 76% in the past week.

FDI falls 47% in May

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country declined by about 47% to $2.1 billion in May due to the global recession and the trend is likely to continue for some more months. The government had scaled down the FDI target by $5 billion from $35 billion last fiscal. Separately, the government also said there was no proposal to change the current foreign direct investment policy on retail trade. India currently does not allow FDI in retail trade, except for single brand products where up to 51% FDI is allowed.

Let's pass the pillow !

I also spend time on other issues though statues are my favourite....

Rural Snapshot

Farm labourers with paddy saplings.

Somewhere in Pune....

A car caught unaware on the riverbed near Bhide bridge as water was released from the Khadakwasla Dam.

Mumbai on a High

High tide + Heavy Rains = Perfect recipe for disaster.....Mumbai gets waves of approximately 5m.......seen against the Bandra - Worli Sea Link.

Somewhere in Hyderabad....

A view of the P V Narasimha Rao Expressway, a portion of which is nearing completion, at Mehdipatnam.

Varanasi gets the view....

For three minutes and four seconds on Wednesday morning, an ethereal blue-grey darkness descended on this city of light. To the east across the Ganga, it was like God’s own eye flashing in the sky, giving pilgrims, bathers and eclipse-watchers in the jam-packed ghats sights they are unlikely to forget ever. While clouds blotted out the view in most places in India, the century’s most spectacular solar eclipse was seen in full glory in holy Banaras. It was a sight to behold. The eclipse displayed all the classical phases associated with the event. Seconds before the Sun was fully blocked by the lunar disc, a brilliant diamond ring formed in the sky. Moments later, brightness dropped dramatically as totality began, a phase technically called second contact, that began at 10 seconds past 6.24 am. A roar went up at the ghats as people gasped and screamed in awe. Some stared in stunned silence while others shook hands with total strangers in fits of joy. The city was suddenly clothed in a surreal glow of faint light that was eerie, exhilarating and nothing like most had ever seen before. Up in the sky, a soft white halo formed around the black ball of the lunar disc. This was the Sun’s atmosphere, called corona (meaning a crown), that’s visible from Earth only during a total eclipse. The sight is often called God’s eye, and in Banaras on Wednesday, it appeared in the sky with a black eyeball and a white cornea. Spots of light, called Baily’s beads, appeared around the edges of the Moon’s disc and in photographs clicked by lensmen, rarely-seen solar prominences were clearly visible. These are huge masses of fiery matter that get spewed from the Sun’s surface and are pulled back by its gravity. At the same time, planets like Venus and Jupiter came back on, shining brightly in the sky under totality. Birds around the ghats flew in random circles, confused and dazed by the sudden darkness hours after dawn. Then, just after the total phase ended at 6.27am, another bright diamond ring dazzled in the sky, this one more mesmerizing than the previous. Then began the slow march of the Moon away from the Sun’s path, as thousands of dazed watchers tried to come to terms with the breathtaking show they had witnessed. The fact that such a spectacle would not visit India in another 105 years just added to the momentousness of the occasion. Yet, at the beginning of the eclipse, it looked as if monsoon clouds would spoil the day for everyone. But the breeze soon blew away the obstacles, and by the time totality arrived, the clouds were incidental to the show. Meanwhile, the devout had been streaming into Varanasi’s ghats much before sunrise for the ritual dip in the river during the eclipse. Many of them chanted Sita Ram, Sita Ram, as they made their way through the sea of humanity for the purifying Ganga bath to cleanse themselves of the ill-effects of the ‘grahan’.

Continental Cousins ?

Genetic research conducted by a team of Indian scientists has indicated that aborigines, who initially arrived in Australia via south Asia, may have originated from India. The evidence was found by Dr Raghavendra Rao, who worked with a team of researchers from the Anthropological Survey of India, to find telltale mutations in modern-day Indian populations that are exclusively shared by Aborigines. For the research, the team sequenced 966 complete mitochondrial DNA genomes from Indian ‘relic populations’. “Mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother and so allows us to accurately trace ancestry. We found certain mutations in the DNA sequences of the Indian tribes we sampled that are specific to Australian Aborigines,” said Rao. This shared ancestry suggests that the Aborigine population migrated to Australia via the so-called “Southern Route”. The “Southern Route” dispersal of modern humans suggests movement of a group of hunter-gatherers from the Horn of Africa, across the mouth of the Red Sea into Arabia and southern Asia at least 50 thousand years ago. Subsequently, the modern human populations expanded rapidly along the coastlines of southern Asia, southeastern Asia and Indonesia to arrive in Australia at least 45 thousand years ago. The genetic evidence of this dispersal from the work of Rao and his colleagues is supported by archeological evidence of human occupation in the Lake Mungo area of Australia dated to approximately the same time period.

India - US relations v 3.0

Hillary Clinton on her maiden visit to India as US Secretary of State.