India successfully launched its latest earth observation satellite HysIS, the data from which can be used in wide-ranging areas including agriculture, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here onboard ISRO’s trusted workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The rocket, PSLV-C43, successfully injected state of the art HysIS and 30 other co-passenger satellites from eight countries into their designated orbits.

PSLV-C43, is the 'Core Alone' version of PSLV. It is the lightest version of the launch vehicle.

The rocket lifted off on its 45th flight into cloudy skies at 9.57 am from the first launch pad at the Sriharikota spaceport at the end of the 28-hour countdown.

The Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite was placed in its orbit 17 minutes and 27 seconds after lift-off while the 30 co-passenger satellites were dropped into the designated orbit one by one after an hour.

HysIS, the latest earth observation satellite developed by ISRO, has several uses.

The satellite’s data will be useful agriculture, forestry, soil survey, geology, coastal zone studies, inland water studies, environmental monitoring and pollution detection from industries.

The primary mission of HysIS, whose mission life is five years, is to study the earth’s surface in visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

ISRO chief K Sivan congratulated the team on the successful launch, just 15 days after the spectacular dual mission of GSLV MkIII D2 and GSAT29.

“The heart of the system required for the HysIS satellite is basically an optical imaging detector chip,” he said.

The chip was indigenously designed and developed by the space application centre of ISRO and fabricated indigenously at the semiconductor lab in Chandigarh, he added.

The next mission will be GSAT11, which is India's heaviest satellite. It is set to be launched from French Guiana on December

One-third of world’s stunted kids are from India

India is among the countries accounting for the highest burden of stunted, wasted and overweight children, the new Global Nutrition Report, 2018 reflecting the growing concern around child nutrition in the country.

With 46.6 million stunted children, India accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s 150.8 million children who are stunted, the report shows warning against a major malnutrition crisis.. India is followed by Nigeria (13.9 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million). The three countries together are home to almost half of all stunted children in the world. This is despite the improvement made by India in reducing stunting since 2005-06. According to the latest National Family Health Survey-4 data, India recorded a 10 percentage point decline in stunting from 48% during 2005-06 to 38.4% in 2015-16. Stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long term insufficient nutrient-intake and frequent infections.

Underlining the variation in stunting within the country, the report said India is so diverse, it is important to understand how and why stunting prevalence differs. “The mapping showed that stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4% to 65.1%), with 239 of 604 districts having stunting levels above 40%,” it said.

Apart from stunting, India also accounts for the largest number of wasted children in the world with low weight for height. India recorded 25.5 million children who are wasted, followed by Nigeria (3.4 million). According to NFHS-4, the percentage of wasted children under five years increased from 19.8% in 2005-06 to 21% in 2015-16. Share of severely wasted children also rose from 6.4% to 7.5% during the same period. Wasting, usually caused by acute food shortage or disease, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five years of age.

India also figures among countries that have over a million overweight children.

Rupee back in 60s

The rupee rose 77 paise to close at a three-month high of 69.85, regaining the 60s level following signals from the US Federal Reserve that interest rates in America are unlikely to rise. The Indian currency also got support from lower crude oil prices, which remained below the $60-per barrel mark.

The rupee has been the top gainer among Asian currencies in November, after the Indonesian rupiah, as the domestic unit stands to gain the most from falling crude prices. In a speech in New York, the US Fed chairman Jerome Powell said that interest rates are close to neutral — the level at which they neither hold back growth nor aid it. This was seen as a suggestion that the US central bank might keep rate hikes on hold next year to assess the effects.

Besides making international vacations cheaper during Christmas and bringing down the cost of all imports, a stronger rupee has wider macroeconomic implications. The stronger rupee — by helping keep inflation in check — has improved the fundamentals for interest rates.

The last time the rupee ruled in the 60s was on August 24, when it had finished at 69.91. In the commodities market, the international oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 1.04% lower at $58.1 a barrel. The US Fed signal also improved risk appetite among global investors, triggering a rally in Indian stocks. The sensex rallied over 453 points to close 1.3% higher at 36,170, while the broader NSE Nifty jumped 130 points, or 1.2%, to end the session at 10,859.

The developments in the crude and foreign exchange market are positive for India as a decline in oil prices may push inflation and current account deficit lower.

Besides buying by importers, a slowdown in dollar inflows towards the year-end is expected to keep the rupee appreciation in check. This has reduced the chances of the RBI hiking rates in its monetary policy review next week.

Maharashtra: All parties say yes to 16% Maratha quota

In the third attempt in the past five years to grant reservation to Marathas in government jobs and education, the Maharashtra legislative assembly and council unanimously passed a bill granting 16% quota to the community. This takes the total quantum of quotas in the state from 52% to 68%, making it the second highest in India after Tamil Nadu’s 69%.

The Supreme Court had in 1992 capped total reservations in a state at 50%, and Tamil Nadu and Haryana—which has a 57% quota—are the only two states where quotas far in excess of the limit are being implemented at present. While a plea challenging TN’s quota is pending in SC, Haryana’s attempt to hike its quota further to 67% and Rajasthan’s bid to take it to 54% have been stayed. Proposals by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to go beyond 50% have been rejected by the Centre, and Telangana’s move to take its 4% Muslim quota to 12%, taking the total to 62%, has been referred by SC to a constitutional bench.

The Congress-NCP had in 2014 passed an ordinance giving 16% quota, which was struck down by the Bombay high court. In 2015 the BJP-led state government brought in a legislation for the quota and moved SC, which upheld HC’s stay order. Two years after 58 silent morchas by the community and a series of violent incidents across the state in July-August this year, Thursday’s bill was tabled by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government which recently accepted the state Backward Classes Commission’s recommendation to provide a quota for Marathas in the Socially and Educationally Backward Class category. Existing quotas for OBCs and others will thus not be touched.

The bill, which will become law once the governor signs it likely by next week and the state issues a notification, proposes that 16% of the total appointments in direct recruitment in public services and posts will be reserved for Marathas. The quota will also be applicable to admission to educational institutions other than minority educational institutions. But it does not include seat reservation for polls to panchayats, panchayat samitis, zilla parishads, municipal councils, corporations, etc.

The reservation can be availed by those below the ‘creamy layer’ in the community. For quotas, families with an annual income of Rs.8 lakh and above are defined as being in the ‘creamy layer’. In its ‘statement of objects and reasons,’ the government stated it relaxed the quota percentage as “it would otherwise lead to unwarranted repercussions in the harmonious co-existence in the state if the backward class communities already included in the OBC list are asked to share their well-establish(ed) entitlement of reservation with a 30% Maratha citizenry.” Marathas have for long dominated the state’s politics.

The Fadnavis government in June 2017 set up the MG Gaikwad Commission to decide on quota. It gave its report on November 15, saying Marathas were entitled to quota benefits enshrined in Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution (which deal with discrimination and equality of opportunity).

After the CM introduced the bill, opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said Congress supported it and no discussion was required. He was followed by NCP’s Ajit Pawar and PWP’s Ganpatrao Deshmukh. While Fadnavis described passage of the bill—called the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the State for appointments in public services and posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Bill, 2018—as a “historic moment”, ex-CM Prithviraj Chavan hoped the CM “could defend it in court”.


A pack of sniffer dogs and metal detectors saved a group of CRPF jawans on a routine morning drill from a powerful landmine near a village in Odisha a few months ago. More than 3,700 people including military personnel have died stepping on landmines planted on or under soil in India in 17 years, a study shows.

Soon, India’s earth observation satellite HysIS (Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite), launched by a PSLV on Thursday, will do the job of mine mapping minus the risk, from an altitude of more than 600 km in space.

Its cameras will look at earth in a whole new way that it would detect tyre tracks on a muddy road and on snow, differentiate a healthy crop from dead ones, spot various minerals at once and locate water streams underneath a thick canopy of trees.

“Hyperspectral cameras with near infrared and shortwave infrared capability can penetrate through soil for up to 5 cm, depending on the soil type. It is, however, not as good as a radar that can penetrate deeper by sending wave energy,” said Prof Uday K Khankhoje, department of electrical engineering, IIT Madras.

The HysIS camera will work on a visible and near-infrared band with a wavelength between 400 and 1400 nanometres (nm) and shortwave-infrared falling roughly between 1,400 and 3,000 nm.

HysIS is better than the existing Indian earth observation satellites as it gives finer details of the objects. “The human eye can see only in a combination of red, green and blue. Hyperspectral imagers can see and capture an array of colours present in between any two colours in the electromagnetic spectrum,” said A S Kiran Kumar, former ISRO chairman and a satellite expert. The imager in HysIS can see the earth in 55 spectral or colour bands. This means by looking at, say a patch of land, it can see the soil, what’s immediately beneath, and also if there is a metal or a mineral there.

“It can differentiate between a dead plant and a live one. That’s being hyperspectral,” said Khankhoje. On the flip side, HysIS, unlike satellites with synthetic aperture radars, cannot see in the dark. In sunlight, they can see objects as small as one metre. This makes it useful for agriculture, forestry and assessment of coastal zones, inland waters, soil and other geological environments, besides surveillance. A scientist with a national coastal research laboratory said the satellite may help study water quality and map mangroves along the coast.

Isro officials said the imager was first tried on board the IMS-1 experimental satellite in 2008. Another hyperspectral camera was sent on Chandrayaan-1 to map lunar mineral resources.

At the heart of the satellite is the detector array chip designed by Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad and made by Semi-Conductor Laboratory, Chandigarh. The chip can read 1,000 x 66 pixels.Only a few countries including the US and China have incorporated this technology into their satellites.

DeMon a massive, draconian monetary shock

Demonetisation was a massive, draconian monetary shock and it clearly impacted GDP growth, former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian has said in his new book.

“Growth had been slowing even before but after demonetisation, the slide accelerated,” Subramanian says in his upcoming book ‘Of Counsel: The Challenges of the Modi-Jaitley Economy’. Subramanian, CEA at the time of note ban, says he does not think anyone disputes demonetisation slowed growth. “Rather, the debate has been about the size of the effect, whether it was 2 percentage points or much less,” he says, while adding that as a monetary economist what was striking for him was how small the effect was compared to the magnitude of the shock on the overall economy.


India is the fastest growing e-commerce market

India has the fastest growing online retail market among top global economies. The country’s online retail market witnessed a CAGR of 53% for the period 2013 to 2017, according to a latest report by consultancy firm Bain & Company.

The rapid growth, albeit over a small base, has been driven by aggressive discount-driven e-commerce marketplaces, advances in delivery infrastructure and increased smartphone penetration and data usage.

These conditions are giving rise to large retail ecosystems. “What we’re seeing is the emergence of scale open retail ecosystem platforms across the Apac region that offer retailers a compelling alternative to building and scaling their own capabilities,” said Melanie Sanders, partner at Bain & Company.

Middle-class home buyers lap up interest subsidies

The number of urban middle-class home buyers availing Centre’s interest subsidy scheme to purchase or build their first home has more than doubled in the past eight months as compared to the 2017-18 financial year. According to estimates, the number of beneficiaries is likely to cross one lakh by March end.

PM Narendra Modi had announced interest subsidy for two categories of middle income groups in urban areas with annual income of up to Rs.18 lakh, which came into effect from January 2017. “We are expecting higher demand as more and more people submit their applications. In some cases, banks may not have taken keen interest since they don’t see greater business. As government pays the entire interest subsidy of Rs.2.3 lakh upfront, the outstanding loan amount gets reduced and hence banks also get less interest,” said a source.

But he added the situation is changing fast as more builders are focussing on building flats that are affordable for MIGs and the home buyers have also become more demanding. The Centre has so far disbursed Rs.6,300 crore to 2.75 lakh beneficiaries as direct financial assistance under four different components to help people build a home or buy a flat, housing secretary D S Mishra said.

Ministry’s data said majority of the beneficiaries, about 56%, availed the central assistance to build independent houses; 33% went for buying a flat and about 7% beneficiaries were the earlier slum dwellers who got a flat where they lived for years. Mishra said about 3.89 lakh dwelling units have already been completed for rehabilitating slum dwellers.

The ministry also said it has sanctioned 65 lakh houses under PM Awas Yojna (Urban) and 12 lakh houses have been completed in the past four years against only 18,000 completed during UPA-I and II. “We are confident of sanctioning 80 lakh out of the targeted one crore urban houses by March and complete about 25 lakh houses,” Mishra claimed.


PMRDA's ₹54k cr plan to implement mobility proposal in 20 yrs

PMRDA has proposed a Rs.54,601-crore Comprehensive Mobility Plan for the Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporation areas and also the Pune Metropolitan Region localities in the next 20 years.

The CMP submitted to the Centre will be shared with the urban local bodies — Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation — for further recommendations as the Urban Metropolitan Transport Authority is yet to be formed, Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority officials said.

Once UMTA is formed, it will implement CMP subject to amendments every five years. Of all the proposals, plans worth Rs.2,420 crore will be of short terms. Proposals worth Rs.4.335 crore will be of medium term and the long-term proposals will be worth Rs.48,145 crore, the officials said.

PMRDA commissioner Kiran Gitte said UMTA would be formed within two months.

The officials said once UMTA was formed, the Comprehensive Mobility Plan will be under its purview and the urban local authorities concerned will put forth what they will implement. CMP was approved by the working committee and the executive committee of PMRDA, which is headed by the chief minister.

The mobility plan was prepared to cater to the travel demand and mobility needs of the two cities and the rest of the PMR areas to assist further growth in economic activities. It focuses on the urbanized areas in Pune Metropolitan Region and its first study includes PMC and PCMC and also Hinjewadi, Talegaon, Chakan and Wagholi.

The present study covers 2,172 sqkm, which is 30% of the Pune Metropolitan Region. PMRDA officials said CMP aimed at increasing the modal share of public transport by 50% and reduce the modal share of private transport by 50%.

Somewhere in Varanasi....

In April, when hundreds of houses were demolished in Varanasi to build a corridor between Kashi Vishwanath temple and Ganga ghats, the administration and experts had not expected to come upon a trove of architectural marvels so rich. Seven months into the project, so many 18th century temples — several in immaculate condition — have been found in the bylanes that authorities are now planning to throw them open for worship once again.

ASI has already identified 43 for prayer and preservation. These will be made part of the larger Kashi Vishwanath pilgrimage route. The finds have been considered so valuable that the detailed project report of Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project has been amended to include them. “We are preparing a list of structures and their architectural details to finalise a conservation plan,” said Niraj Sinha, in-charge, ASI Varanasi.

After a conservation plan is finalised, the temples will be opened for public to worship, a senior Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust official said. The KVC project is to provide direct access to Ganga for devotees visiting the temple.

Approximately 296 buildings were identified for demolition. While a few old temples were found in the first round of the demolition drive, their number surged during the second round, which started in November.

India had fastest wage growth in south Asia in 2017

Globally, the rate of growth in wages in 2017 fell to its lowest level since 2008, but workers in India had the highest average real wage growth in Southern Asia of 5.5% over the period 2008-17.

At the same time, India and Pakistan had the dubious distinction of having the highest gap between what men earn and what women do. The mean gender pay gap of 34.5% for India and 34% for Pakistan on the basis of hourly wages were the worst among 73 countries for which data was available.

Globally, women continue to be paid about 20% less than men. Not surprisingly, the gender gap in wages was lowest in high income countries and highest in low and middle income countries.

These were among the findings of the Global Wage Report 2018 brought out by the International Labour Organisation. Globally, growth in wages in real terms (that is, adjusted for price inflation) declined from 2.4% in 2016 to just 1.8% last year, far below the level of 3.4% before the global financial crisis. If China with its huge population and rapid wage growth were excluded, the global real wage growth would be just 1.8% in 2016 and 1.1% in 2017. The slowdown in wage growth in 2017 occurred in spite of more rapid economic growth.

Workers in Asia and the Pacific have enjoyed the highest real wage growth among all regions over the period 2006–17 with countries such as China, India, Thailand and Vietnam leading the way.

However, even here, wage growth in 2017 was lower than in 2016, falling from 4.8% in 2016 to 3.5% in 2017. Again, if China were removed, the growth would be even lower.

Over a longer period, 1999 to 2017, real wages have almost tripled in the emerging and developing countries of the G20, while in advanced G20 countries they have increased by just 9%. Yet, in many lowand middle-income countries, average wages remain low and insufficient to adequately cover the needs of workers and their families, pointed out the report.

According to the report, gender pay gap is wider at the high end of the pay scale in high-income countries, while in low- and middle-income countries the gender pay gap is wider amongst the lower paid workers.


Bondevik’s Mission Kashmir

Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has become the new player to embark on a ‘Mission Kashmir’ to break the ice on the Kashmir tangle.

After meeting Joint Resistance Leadership including Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani and moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Bondevik visited Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and met its president Masood Khan. This sent the political spectrum in a tizzy over Bondevik’s mission.

“What are the Norwegians up to in Kashmir? Would either Sushma Swarajji or Dovalji care to put the visit of the former Norwegian PM to both sides of the divided state in the correct context or do we have to rely on rumours & conjecture?,” tweeted Omar Abdullah, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference vice-president.

On November 23, Bondevik met Geelani and Mirwaiz at Hyderpora residence of Hurriyat hawk while JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik couldn’t attend the meeting as he was under detention.

What added a curious dimension to the whole saga was that the delegation of former Norweigian prime minister had also the representative of the Art of Living.

Later Bondevik flew to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, where he met its president Masood Khan.


Jaffer Sharief dies at 85

Former Union railway minister CK Jaffer Sharief, 85, died after a brief illness in Bengaluru. Sharief, who was once a close confidant of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had been elected to Parliament eight times. Sharief had entered politics under the mentorship of S Nijalingappa, a former Karnataka chief minister. During the famous Congress split of 1969 between Congress (O) and Indira Gandhi’s Congress, he had sided with the latter.

Interestingly, he was credited for leaking the plans of the Syndicate - as Congress (O)’s leaders were known - to Indira Gandhi’s faction thus helping her. He was duly rewarded when she made him minister of state for Railways when the Congress returned to power in 1980.

During his long parliamentary career, he also handled the irrigation and coal portfolios at the Centre. However, it was his stint as Union Railway Minister between 1991 to 1995 for which he is remembered as it was during this period that Indian Railways comprehensively moved largely to broad gauge from meter gauge. He also played a key role in establishing the Wheel and Axle plant at Bengaluru. While he was a senior minority leader of the party and aspired to be the Chief Minister of Karnataka, it never came to fruition.

While Sharief’s biggest calling card was his unswerving loyalty to the Gandhi family, in the last decade or so his relationship with the high command had been frayed.

After his defeat in 2004 by BJP’s Sangliana from the Bengaluru North constituency, Sharief never regained his electoral footing. He had his son-in-law selected to be a minister in Karnataka, lobbied for tickets for his sons and eventually his grandson, all of whom lost polls. Feeling marginalised within the Congress, he threatened to quit the party several times only to eventually withdraw his resignation each time after being mollified. He surprised a lot of people including some of his closest supporters in 2017 by backing Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, as the next prospective President of the country.

Given his long stint in public life, however, Sharief had friends across the political spectrum in Karnataka.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted “It is a day of tragedy for the Congress party, with another senior, loved and respected member of our family in Karnataka, Shri Jaffer Sharief ji passing away today.My condolences to his family, friends & supporters in their time of grief.”

The Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Deputy CM G Parameshwara and other senior leaders also condoled his death.

Tracking Maharashtra's mangrove cover

Mangrove cover across Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts witnessed a 30% net increase this year but a 4% decline was recorded in districts of Palghar and Thane in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

Raigad recorded a 33% rise with highest increase across all districts at 35 sq. km. This takes its mangrove cover tally to 141.21 sq. km as compared to the India State of Forest Report 2017 that recorded 106 sq.km. The increase was revealed in a 2018 assessment of mangrove cover across coastal districts of Maharashtra by the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research submitted to the state mangrove cell last week.

Mangrove cover in Mumbai city and suburban areas was not studied.

The mangrove cell said focus on livelihood activities helped boost mangrove cover across three districts and human activities led to decline in remaining districts.

Environmentalists had mixed views about the report. 

26/11 : 10 years on....

It’s been 10 years since the dastardly attack shook the nation, but it continues to face threats from across the borders. Difference is, Mumbai is now equipped to effectively tackle such incidents, say experts. This is mainly due to efforts in the aftermath of the tragedy, like tightening internal security through quick response mechanism, setting up more CCTVs and special units of National Security Guard and Force One.

The Ram Pradhan Committee was also a result of the attack whose aim was to recommend ways to strengthen and modernise the police force, upgrade intelligence and counter intelligence network, strengthen coastal security network and promote police-public dialogue to sensitise them on terror, chemical and cyber attacks.

Ten years ago on November 26, 10 heavily armed terrorists entered Mumbai via sea route and laid siege to Mumbai through a series of coordinated attacks, that left 166 persons, including 26 foreign nationals, dead. Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attacks. At least 10 terrorists armed with weapons launched simultaneous attacks at six locations on the night of November 26 in the city – Leopold Cafe, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi Trident, Cama Hospital, Nariman House. The attacks lasted until November 29 and drew condemnation across from the world.

In an operation that lasted four days, security officials managed to eliminate 9 terrorists and arrest one terrorist, identified as Ajmal Kasab, alive. Many security personnel, including two NSG commandos laid down their lives in the Mumbai attack. The martyrs included Assistant Police Sub-Inspector Tukaram Omble, Joint Commissioner of Police Hemant Karkare, ACP Ashok Kamte, encounter specialist senior inspector Vijay Salaskar, senior inspector Shashank Shinde, NSG Commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and NSG Commando Hawaldar Gajendra Singh.

Three railway officials were also killed in the attack at Mumbai CST where Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan had opened indiscriminate firing. While Kasab was captured alive, the remaining 9 terrorists were killed by security officials. During interrogation, Kasab confessed that he was a Pakistani citizen and was a member of LeT.

As India remembers the martyrs on the 10th anniversary of the attack, take a look at how these brave security officers sacrificed their lives while fighting terrorists.

1. Tukaram Omble, Assistant Police Sub-Inspector, Mumbai Police

A retired soldier from the Army, Tukaram joined the police as a constable in 1991 after retiring from the Signal Corps as a naik. The 54-year-old was serving as an assistant sub-inspector in Mumbai Police when he was killed while fighting terrorists during the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. It was he who managed to capture Ajmal Kasab alive with his bare hands. Unfortunately, he was killed in firing at Girgaum Chowpatty. The government posthumously honoured him with the Ashoka Chakra for his extraordinary bravery. Ashok Chakra is the country’s highest peace-time gallantry award.

2. Hemant Karkare, Chief of the Mumbai ATS

The 53-year-old officer was killed after being shot thrice in his chest while fighting terrorists. He had also played a key role in operations to eliminate the terrorists. The government on January 26 next year honoured him with Ashoka Chakra. Karkare was credited with solving many cases and led the investigation into 2008 Malegaon blasts cases. A 1982-batch IPS officer, he was the Joint Commissioner of Police (Administration) of Mumbai Police before becoming the ATS Chief in January 2008. Karkare had also served in RAW for 7 years in Austria.

3. Ashok Kamte, Additional Commissioner of Police, Mumbai Police

Kamate, 42, was a 1989-batch IPS officer. He was serving as the Additional Commissioner of the Mumbai Police, supervising the Eastern region when he was killed during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The government had honoured him with Ashoka Chakra for his bravery. The officer was known for his cool temperament and negotiation skills. During the attacks, he offered assistance although his area East zone was not under attack.

Ashok Kamte ACP (EAST), Mumbai Police. Kamte died fighting terrorists near Cama Hospital

4. Vijay Salaskar, encounter specialist, Mumbai Police

Salaskar, 51, was an encounter specialist. He had joined the Mumbai Police as a sub-inspector in 1983. During his 25 years of service, he had eliminated around 75-80 criminals. Salaskar was killed during the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 fighting the terrorists. During interrogation, captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab had confessed killing Salaskar. Salaskar was heading the Anti-Extortion Cell before his death. The government had honoured him with Ashoka Charka on January 26, 2009 for his bravery.

5. Shashank Shinde, senior inspector, Railway Police

Shine was an officer of 1987 batch. He was killed while fighting terrorists at Mumbai CST Railway station on November 26 night. He was awarded Kirti Chakra, country’s second highest peace-time gallantry medal. Mumbai CST was among the other iconic places in the city that was attacked by 10 heavily armed LeT terrorists. Before he was transferred to the GRP, Shinde had worked with the Crime Branch, Protection Department and Traffic Police.

6. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, NSG Commando

Unnikrishnan was 31 when he was martyred during the Mumbai attacks. He was serving in the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards (NSG). The government had honoured him with Ashoka Chakra for his bravery. He was the team commander of 51 Special Action Group (SAG) deployed in the operation at Taj Hotel to rescue the hostages. He had entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos and managed to engage the perpetrators in a firefight. The officer was killed when a bullet was fired at him from the back.

7. Hawaldar Gajendra Singh, NSG Commando

Gajender, 38, was a member of NSG’s 51 Special Action Group. He was part of the NSG team who were fast-roped on the roof of Nariman House where terrorists were holding at least six hostages. The team came under fire from the terrorists at the hostage site. A few grenades were also hurled by terrorists at commandos. The government had honoured him with Ashok Chakra for his bravery.


Magnificent Mary

All of India shook to “Maaaaryy, Maaary!” as a doughty 35-year-old punched her way to boxing immortality on Saturday. By claiming her sixth world title, Mary Kom became the most successful woman boxer in history. She beat Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota, 22, in a unanimous 5-0 verdict in the 48 kg category summit bout. The mother of three had won her maiden gold at the Worlds as far back as 2002.

Later, between tears, Mary Kom said she had fulfilled her duty. “After winning, she just lay down, weight of the world lifted from her shoulders,” said Indian team coach Raffaele Bergamasco. “For me, she is the Maradona of boxing,” he added. No one had asked her to push herself beyond limits to do this. But then Mary Kom is as stubborn as they come. “I used to tease her, ‘How will such a slightly built girl learn boxing? She would howl and I’d relent. Today, she’s a six-time world champion. Unbelievable!” said Ibomcha Singh, her childhood coach.


IMD hints at El Nino from February

The India Meteorological Department has indicated an increased probability of El Nino conditions from February next year, probably resulting in above-normal summer temperatures.

El Nino-Southern Oscillation is an irregular periodical variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. The warming phase, which is thought to impact India’s southwest monsoon, is known as El Nino, while the cooling phase is La Nina.

IMD officials said it was too early to say whether the weather event will impact the 2019 monsoon. An IMD source said El Nino might start weakening by spring next year.

A recent probability forecast for El Nino and La Nina by the IMD indicated maximum probability for ENSO neutral conditions (neither an El Nino event nor a La Nina event) from October to February next year. Thereafter, an increased probability for El Nino conditions is seen from February to July, the forecast said.

An IMD official said that if one went by consensus of various experts and models, there was a good chance of an El Nino event during early next year. He said there could also be a chance of an increase in summer temperatures in 2019 because of El Nino .

A scientist of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said whenever there is an El Nino during summer, temperatures tend to rise, with increased chances of stronger or more severe heat waves. 

Auto sales fizzled in festive season: Dealers

Total vehicle registrations declined 11% during the 44-day festive season that ended with Diwali, according to retail sales data released for the first time by a dealers’ association. The Federation of Automobile Dealers Association cited the liquidity crunch faced by vehicle financiers as the main reason for slower sales.

Registrations of two-wheelers fell 13% and four-wheelers by 14% in the 42-day period, Fada said.

Industry lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers provides wholesale data, or monthly despatches to the dealers, on a monthly basis. The data released by Siam for October shows a 1.5% increase Retail sales data shows vehicle sales declined 11% in the 42-day festive period till Diwali.

A study conducted by Fada shows total vehicle registrations grew by 6% from a year earlier in the April to 20 November period, while two-wheelers and commercial vehicle sales grew by 5% and 30%, respectively. However, passenger vehicles, considered a big ticket purchase after real estate, declined by more than 1.4%, according to Fada, compared with a 6.1% growth shown by Siam data from April to October.

The data compiled by Fada is accurate since it has been sourced from the Vahan website, where vehicle registration data is made available by the Union government, according to Vinkesh Gulati, vice-president, Fada. Representatives of Fada reached out to dealers who are still not part of Vahan to take stock of the situation.


Festive season sales see a 71% rise in online shoppers

The festive season saw a 71% rise in online shoppers this year—the result of aggressive discounting, marketing campaigns by e-tailers and a wider product range on offer.

Nearly 24 million shopped online, with the mobile phones electronics goods contributing to 80% of the total gross merchandise value this year, according to a Red Seer report titled Festive Sale Month Performance.

Last year, 14 million shoppers made digital purchases during the month-long festive season that ran from October 9 to November 8, although these are not like-for-like comparisons as the festive season began in September last year. The number of customers from tier-II cities doubled to over 11 million during October 9-14, the five days when online shopping portals like Amazon and Flipkart offer heavy discounts before Diwali, from over 5 million during the same period last year. While tier-II cities are steering the growth in e-tailing customers, there has also been a gradual decline in online shoppers from metropolitan and tier-I cities.

According to the report, the festive season sale witnessed a 43% year-on-year growth in GMV in the e-tailing industry. It clocked $4.3 billion in total GMV in festive months 2018 as compared to $3 billion last year. Most of the sales were driven by mobile and electronics category, which grew more than 50% over the last year. Other major categories this year were large appliances (10%) and fashion (11%). India’s top retailers Flipkart and Amazon claimed record numbers during the festive season sale.

Domestic Air Traffic Growth at 13% in Oct

Domestic air traffic growth during October slowed down a bit, registering a growth of about 13.34% from a year ago, data released by the aviation regulator showed. The data, released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday, showed that Indian carriers carried 11.8 million passengers during the month, up from 10.5 million in October last year.

Travel industry insiders said that the growth in October this year has slowed down due to the higher base effect of last year.

A larger number travelled in October last year, as Diwali fell in the same month.

As a result, all key scheduled carriers reported lower load factors than the past month but flew their planes with close to 80% of their seats full. Gurgaon-based SpiceJet continued to maintain its pole position in terms of load factor by flying its planes 90.8% full, followed by GoAir, which flew its planes with 84.1%, and IndiGo that flew with 83.1% seats full. SpiceJet said that they have been reporting highest load factors for the past 43 months.

“This is the 43rd month-in-a-row that we have flown with the highest loads in India. This has set a new benchmark in global aviation and we are proud of that. We at SpiceJet make every effort to offer our customers a top-notch experience every time they fly with us,” said Shilpa Bhatia, chief sales and revenue officer, Spice-Jet, in a statement to the media.

GoAir topped the list by operating 90.5% of flights on time, followed by Vistara that operated 88.5% of its flights on time.

IndiGo flies 50 lakh passengers in a month

In a first for Indian airlines, IndiGo has flown more than 50 lakh domestic passengers in a month. This feat was achieved in October 2018 when the low-cost carrier had 196 aircraft and is on its way to become the first desi carrier to cross 200-mark in fleet size. Among big airlines, Air India is the only one with no planes on order and no growth path charted out. Jet’s order for new planes is mainly to replace its ageing fleet. However, higher fuel prices and weaker rupee in October have forced airlines to hike spot fares, leading to a fall in aircraft occupancy.

Cabinet clears Kartarpur corridor

Two months after a bid by the new government in Pakistan to restart talks with India failed, the two countries seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough by agreeing on a Kartarpur corridor after the Modi government approved a road on its side of the border.

With the Cabinet approving the development of a corridor to enable smooth passage of pilgrims seeking to visit Guru Nanak’s final resting place at Kartarpur across the border, India “approached and urged” Islamabad to develop the passage on its side too so as to facilitate unrestricted flow of devotees.

The corridor on the Indian side will begin from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to the international border with Pakistan. The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is located across the border on the banks of the Ravi.

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi responded to India’s announcement by tweeting that Islamabad has already conveyed to India its decision to open the corridor for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in 2019 and that PM Imran Khan would do the groundbreaking for facilities at Kartarpur on November 28.

India’s decision to build the corridor was announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley on the eve of Gurpurab, or Guru Nanak Jayanti. It came a day after Pakistan media reported that Islamabad was going to build a 2.5-km corridor leading to Kartarpur Sahib in its territory and that Khan himself would lay the foundation stone next week.

Indian government sources said the Cabinet passed the resolution after many weeks of consultations. The move to build a corridor will also serve to test the commitment of the Pakistani side, which, despite suggestions that a corridor was in the works, had not moved on the project.


Somewhere in Pune....

Rainfall has been scanty this year and Pune has been feeling the pinch, with water cuts prevalent across the city. However, in a proactive step, citizens living around the foothills of the Pashan hill have ensured that they, and residents of the general Baner and Pashan areas, have sufficient groundwater to meet their needs.

Over the past three years, residents took the effort to build continuous contour trenches and check dams along the foothills, thus ensuring the conservation and percolation of water.

Earlier, we relied on around six water tankers a day for 350 residents in our society. Now, over the past two years, our dependence on the tankers has reduced to zero,” said Dr Vijay Rahayakar, a resident of the area. Rahayakar emphasised that the water percolation initiative was entirely community-based and done manually without any assistance from machinery. “Volunteers from the neighbourhood and regular visitors to the Pashan hill contributed to the effort. The result is that some residential complexes like us, which spent around Rs.60,000 a month on water tankers, no longer need to rely on them,” he added.

Around 1,200 people have benefitted from these efforts taken over the last three years during which 20 check dams and trenches were built to store and percolate the water. “Regular visitors to the hill from four residential complexes claimed to have become independent of tankers even during summer,” enthused Sunil Shejal, a chartered accountant and another resident. Shejal added that the survival rate of the trees on the hill has also increased. “Tree plantation drives have been held on the hill every monsoon for the past ten years. The survival rate for these plantations used to be around 60 per cent. Since the CCT were set up and groundwater levels improved in the area, the survival rate has gone up to 100 per cent as the soil can hold the moisture, helping plants to sustain during dry periods.

Pushkar Kulkarni, an investment consultant, has been visiting the hill for the past 12 years and is delighted to see the biodiversity improving. “The number of birds visiting and nesting in the area has increased. Animals such as rabbits and peacocks have always been here, but now their presence is more visible,” Kulkarni said. He added that while nearby areas may not have become totally free of tankers, they can certainly sustain for longer during peak summer months. “The tankers are usually required during March and April. But some people have said that they can now sustain for two weeks longer. The aquifer (underlying layer of waterbearing rock) may vary across areas. This feedback certainly shows there is an increase in groundwater levels,” Kulkarni said.

Dipak Shrote, a founding member of Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan, an NGO that has been active in improving the green cover at the Pashan hill commended the initiative. “Our movement was started with locals and over a period, other NGOs, private entities, students, corporates and others have come forward to contribute, too. Citizens need to take more such initiatives, and those representing us should encourage such causes rather than politicising the water issue,” he said.

MUTP 3-A snippets

The mega Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP 3-A) worth Rs.54,777 crore, including the CSMT-Panvel elevated corridor, is set to get the government nod when it will be tabled before the cabinet for final approval. According to sources in the state government, suggestions / objections for the project along with other detailed discussions with members from the Finance and Urban Development department have already been completed. The green signal is all set to be given without any changes to all the projects proposed by the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation, the nodal agency that proposed the MUTP 3-A.

According to the detail project report submitted by the MRVC, eight of the 11 proposed stations will be elevated, while three will be on ground. This will also be connected to the proposed monorail in Wadala, Metro 2-B in Mankhurd and CIDCO Metro line in Belapur.

The DPR was sent for objections and suggestions to Central and Western Railway. “We have not received any changes for alignment or for any project to be dropped. In fact, we have already prepared the relevant paperwork and answers to the projected questions by the Niti Aayog and the various boards. It is only the approval of the state government that is awaited,” said a senior MRVC official.

Once the sanction from the state is received, the MRVC will send the proposal to the Railway Board for clearance, following which it will be sent to the Niti Aayog and then put before the expanded Railway Board. Before it finally goes to the Centre, it will undergo inter-ministerial consultations.

The point of discussion between the state government and the railways was the financing of the project. It was tentatively agreed that the MRVC will raise Rs.14,000 crore of the total cost through loans. The remaining amount will be funded on a 50:50 cost sharing between the state and the railways.

India to Become World’s Biggest Sugar Producer

Brazil, traditionally the world’s top sugar producer, is poised to cede the crown to India for the first time in 16 years.

Production in the Asian country this season may rise 5.2% to a record 35.9 million metric tonnes on increasing acreage and improving yields, the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service said in a report. Brazil’s output may tumble 21% to 30.6 million tonnes because of adverse weather and a shift to produce more cane-based ethanol.

Global production is forecast to fall 4.5% to 185.9 million tonnes, trailing the May estimate of 188.3 million, after the outlooks for Brazil, Thailand and the European Union were revised lower. Brazil is expected to remain the top exporter, followed by Thailand. The marketing season runs from April to March in the South American nation and from October to September in India. Most countries run from May to April. Global inventory is forecast to rise as “massive stock building” in India counters lower supplies in China and the EU, the USDA unit said. Raw-sugar futures have slumped 18% this year in New York amid bumper crops. In 2017, the price tumbled 22%.

White Goods Makers to Turn Champions of Make in India

Manufacturers of refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners are set to launch a Make in India thrust, mirroring those in smartphones and televisions after the government increased import duties. Investments in excess of ₹6,500 crore in the white goods sector have already been lined up for the next two years, with more in the pipeline, industry said.

The manufacturing push follows hike in import duties on white goods and their components in September amid a decline in the value of the rupee and aimed at keeping the current account deficit in check. The government’s Make in India initiative is meant to encourage investments in manufacturing and generate more jobs.

Germany's Bosch and Siemens, Turkey’s Arcelik, China’s Midea, Haier and TCL, Japan’s Panasonic and domestic brands such as Godrej and BPL are planning investments in manufacturing and backward integration into parts.

Shanghai Hitachi Electrical Appliance Co., a joint venture between Hitachi Japan and Shanghai Highly Group of China, is expanding its compressor unit in Gujarat, while Guangdong Meizhi Compressor Co. is setting up a new plant to manufacture the devices found in cooling units, industry executives said.

The ₹30,000-crore appliances industry has typically manufactured entry- to mid-segment products locally while relying on imports for premium models and critical components such as heat exchange coils and compressors. In air-conditioners, for instance, over 50% of components are imported.

The Centre doubled customs duties on refrigerators, washing machines and air-conditioners to 20% in September to curb non-essential imports, while also increasing duties on compressors for air-conditioners and refrigerators from 7.5% to 10%. This led to a 10% increase in the price of imported appliances.

The government had increased import duties on televisions and smartphones in December last year to 20%, while those on their components were hiked this year. This led to a flurry of manufacturing investments from TV and smartphone makers.

Panasonic India CEO Manish Sharma said the company has initiated talks with suppliers to manufacture components such as AC compressors.

BSH is planning to invest €100 million (about ₹800 crore) for setting up a refrigerator factory near Chennai after having recently started making washing machines. Earlier this month, the Midea Group announced a ₹1,350-crore manufacturing investment, of which almost half will be for compressors. “This will be the Midea Group’s largest manufacturing investment outside China,” said India managing director Krishan Sachdev. China’s top appliance maker Haier has finalised plans to invest ₹3,000 crore in its new plant in Noida, thrice what it did for its existing unit in Pune. The Noida plant will manufacture components and premium models, said Haier Appliances India president Eric Braganza.

TCL Corp will start manufacturing appliances and its components from next year at its upcoming ₹2,000 crore plant in Tirupati where it will also produce televisions, said country head Mike Chen. Arcelik, which is entering India with a joint venture with Tata-owned Voltas, is investing over ₹250 crore to start manufacturing in Gujarat, which will also include backward integration, said Voltas MD Pradeep Bakshi. “The investment will go up in phases,” he said.

The white goods industry feels import duties may rise even further, as happened with televisions and smartphones, to intensify the Make in India pitch. Brands importing even from countries with which India has signed free trade agreements have realised that local manufacturing may be cheaper due to lower labour costs and not having to pay for high freight costs from overseas, said Kamal Nandi, Godrej Appliances business head and president of Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association lobby group.

Siemens, Bosch, Arcelik, Midea, Haier, TCL, Panasonic, Godrej and BPL among brands raising investments

MMRDA enlarges footprint

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has approved the detailed project report  for three metro rail corridors, besides the incorporation of more areas in its jurisdiction to push growth on the outskirts.

The DPRs were for the Rs.4,476 crore Metro 10 from Gaimukh to Shivaji Chowk in Mira Road, the Rs.8,739 crore Metro 11 from Wadala to CSMT, and the Rs.4,132 crore Metro 12 from Kalyan to Taloja. “All the three DPRs will now be recommended to the state government for approval,” a spokesperson said.

The MMRDA approved the inclusion of the Palghar, Vasai, Alibaug, Pen, Panvel and Khalapur talukas in their entirety in the metropolitan region. It said the decision would help develop these parts in a planned manner.

The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “These areas have tremendous development potential and are prone to fast unplanned growth if left as it is,” he said. “This decision will now see these regions ... sustain development on their own.” There will be emphasis on development of “growth centres”, which is expected to work as a catalyst for development.

The MMRDA decided to establish the Mumbai Metro Operation Corporation Ltd as it expects to throw open the Metro 7 from Dahisar (east) to Andheri (east) and the Metro 2A from Dahisar to DN Nagar next year. “The corporation will be an autonomous body and will deal with operation and maintenance of Metro Lines as also Monorail,” the spokesperson said.

Fadnavis launched the MMRDA green policy for metro lines to optimise energy use.

The MMRDA decided to integrate Bandra-Kurla station on the Bullet train corridor and the proposed International Financial Services Centre.

J&K guv dissolves assembly

J&K governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday evening dissolved the assembly in a move intended to nip efforts by PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti to form an unlikely alliance with rival National Conference and old partner Congress which, the Centre believes, would deepen instability in the state.

The dramatic turn of events came after Mehbooba, who quit as chief minister after BJP withdrew support to her in June, and J&K People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone declared that they would stake claim to form a government and seek revival of the assembly that has been in suspended animation.

Home ministry sources said the state governor conveyed he that had no evidence of numbers from either side and did not see prospects of a stable government.

In the event, a decision was taken to advance the dissolution of the assembly ahead of the earlier plan to do so around mid-December.

The decision was brought forward even as sources said the option of timing fresh polls with the Lok Sabha elections remained.


nterstate migration rates in India doubled during 2001­-11

India is home to some of the world’s largest internal population movements, alongside China, and during 2001 to 2011, interstate migration rates doubled in the country, according to the 2019 Global Education Monitoring report by UNESCO.

In the period between 2001 and 2011, interstate migration rates doubled in India. Also, an estimated nine million people migrated between states annually from 2011 to 2016. But many people are also moving for seasonal work. In 2013, 10.7 million children aged between 6 and 14 lived in rural households with a family member who was a seasonal worker. This is particularly common within the construction industry: a survey of 3,000 brick kiln workers in Punjab found that 60% of kiln workers were interstate migrants.

The report, however, indicates that 8% of migrant children across seven Indian cities did not have access to education near worksites. Among young people aged 15 to 19, who have grown up in a rural household with a seasonal migrant, 28% were identified as illiterate or had an incomplete primary education. The report also says up to 40% children from seasonal migrant households are likely to end up in work, rather than school, “facing exploitation and abuse”.

The report, however, also acknowledges that India has taken steps to respond to the migrants’ education needs. The Right to Education Act in 2009 made it mandatory for local authorities to admit migrant children. According to the report, while several states have taken initiatives focused on migrant children, not all were a success.

A pilot programme in brick kiln sites from 2010-2011 in Rajasthan to track the progress of out-of-school children did not improve learning in any substantial way, the report claimed. Teachers on the sites cited differences related to culture, language, lifestyle, cleanliness and clothing as major barriers between them and the labour community, it said.

Another major challenge presented by large-scale internal migration is the growth of slums and informal settlements, where schools are often scarce.

Globally, the report estimates that there will be an additional 80 million children living in slums by 2030. In Mumbai, between 100 and 300 families were arriving to look for work every day, it added.

India’s OTT Market has the Potential to Touch $5b by 2023

Access to affordable data, mobile penetration into rural markets, rising affluence and adoption of the services across demographic segments including women and older generations are some of the key drivers that will help the Indian over-the-top industry to unlock its potential and reach a market size of $5 billion (₹35,730 crore) by 2023, a latest Boston Consulting Group study found.

The OTT content market in India is at an inflection point, BCG said in a report, titled ‘Entertainment Goes Online’. And, while there are various business models, including SVOD (subscription-based platforms), AVOD (advertising-based platforms) and TVOD (transaction-based platforms), the market is still at a nascent stage with lots of promise, it said. There are over 30 OTT apps and the study shows that over 80% of users don’t use more than three apps, so breaking from the clutter becomes the biggest challenge. But what we are seeing is that consumers are lapping up to the medium, and while India is a price-sensitive market, many of the consumers are willing to pay, if they see value. Even as the market is largely advertising-led, consumers are willing to pay as well, the report pointed out.

Incidentally, rural India will play a big role in OTT consumption. The report said that 48% of India’s Internet users (about 650 million by 2023) are expected to be from rural areas.

Additionally, with development of regional content by various players, the rural market is poised to become a significantly large opportunity. OTT, which is riding the wave of increased data consumption and Internet access in rural India, has opened a new distribution channel that is viable for regional and niche content.

The report also noted that OTT players with Indian content had the potential to tap into the international markets too, where there was a large diaspora paying higher average fees for content.

However, a big challenge will always be the stickiness on the platform, for which OTT players will not only have to invest in content, but also in marketing as well as subscriber acquisition and retention strategy.

Death for 1984 Sikh riots accused

Nearly 34 years after the anti-Sikh riots shook Delhi, a city court, in a “rarest-of-rare” judgment on Tuesday, sentenced a 55-year-old man to death and sent another to prison for life after having held them guilty last week of killing two Sikh youths, and other heinous crimes during the 1984 violence.
“The case of this kind breaks the entire fabric, trust and harmony amongst communities, thereby severely affecting the assimilation of different religious and social groups,” additional sessions judge Ajay Pandey observed.

In an unprecedented move, the order sentencing Yashpal Singh to death and Naresh Sehrawat to life imprisonment, was pronounced inside Tihar Jail due to security concerns. Earlier, the court had held the duo guilty of killing Hardev Singh, then 24, and Avatar Singh, 26. Three other men, Sangat Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Surjeet Singh, were injured in the mob attack. “The culpability of both convicts falls within the category of rarest of rare cases,” the judge held, adding that both were influential neighbours of the victims. They committed the “horrendous” crime of murder and loot to eliminate the victims without any provocation, merely on the basis of the latter’s faith, community and religion.

This was the first conviction secured by the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team, formed in 2015 to reopen Sikh carnage cases. The court also imposed fines of Rs.35 lakh each on the convicts.

The 1984 riots had led the Sikh community being “severely prejudiced” with regard to their life and livelihood, and had led to large scale migration, the judge said.

One of the grounds for Yashpal’s death penalty was the suppression of his financial status. The judge also agreed with the submission of public prosecutor S K Kain that the convicts could not now claim that they had been reformed after having escaped justice for 34 years.

Yashpal had disclosed in court that he ran a transport business in 1980s, which was shut in 2000. Ever since, he said he was dependent on his son, who had inherited ancestral property, for his livelihood. The court did not buy his claims and said, “His conduct sufficiently reflects that he does not have any repentance and is averse to the idea of grant of compensation to the helpless victims...” “He appears to be purposely hiding his income... He did not repent for the last 34 years and his mentality did not reform when he was at large. He attempted to mislead the court in order to escape his liability. His chances of reformation now are almost negligible,” the court observed.

Naresh, on the other hand, claimed to be earning Rs.1 lakh in income from rent of his immovable properties. He also showed the judge a huge surgical cut on his abdomen after a liver transplant and submitted a bunch of medical papers. The court found him “considerate” about victim compensation and took into account his health condition while deciding his sentence.

Deciding on the compensation, the judge was of the view that there was no space in hospital for accommodation and proper treatment of the victims in 1984. Kain had also pressed for “maximum financial penalty” on both convicts.

Accordingly, the court imposed a fine of Rs.35 lakh each. Out of this sum, the court directed Rs.20 lakh each to be given to the families of the two dead men and asked for the remaining Rs.30 lakh to be given to the three injured.


Tiruvanthapuram to have Kerala's first Miyawaki model urban forest

Kerala will have its first Miyawaki model ‘urban forest’ in the capital city. A multi-layered forest with trees, bushes and creepers, spread over five cents near Sooryakanthi Auditorium on Kanakakunnu Palace premises, will be a reality in three years from now.

The state tourism department has shown green flag for a proposal from Nature’s Green Guardian Foundation, a non governmental organization headed by environmentalist V K Damodaran in this regard.

Sponsored by Invis Multimedia, the department’s IT solution provider, the project has been under consideration for the past several months. The state government had directed all departments to identify land for growing miniature forests in urban areas using the method of afforestation introduced by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, which has been successfully implemented in different parts of the world for more than four decades.

Around 800 to 1,000 indigenous medicinal trees and plant saplings (of around 150 species) will be planted in the first week of December. It will be primarily a medicinal forest with banyan trees, fig, ashoka, koovalam (wood apple), palakappayyaani malaveppu elanji (west Indian medlar), kanjiram (Nux vomica), karingali (cutch), nenmeni vaka (east Indian Walnut) poovarashu or sheelanthi (portia tree), punna (alexandrian laurel), chamatha or plashu (flame of the forest), kadukkai (harithaki), marotti (chaulmoogra), nelli (amla) and veppu (neem).

Based on its success, the tourism department would identify spots across the state to grow similar urban forests. A 10-15-year-old forest grown using Miyawaki method will have the characteristics of a 150-year-old forest. The initial result will be visible within 12 months. Also, no maintenance is required after three years, and the growth rate is very high.

As per the Miyawaki method, one can develop a complete natural forest in an area as small as 100 sqm and there is no ceiling on the upper limits.

The advantages of the method, according to the proposal, are 10 times fast growth rate and 30 times higher density that allows a greater quantity of carbon dioxide to be absorbed. Also, the biodiversity within the forests would be 100 times higher, thanks to the high density of vegetation that does not allow people to access the forest. The capital district already has a successful Miyawaki model vegetation on a private land at Puliyarakonam, which is now 9-months-old and is already documented by directorate of environment and climate change.

Delhi's WPE opens today

Finally, Delhi will get a ‘Ring Expressway’ that will work as a bypass for vehicles not destined for the national capital. Almost 15 years after it was first conceived, the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal stretch, also known as Western Peripheral Expressway, will open for traffic and bring down travel time from Sonipat to Manesar to about 45 minutes on this signal free corridor.

The 83-km Sonipat-Manesar stretch was the last leg of the peripheral expressways, with a combined length of 270 km, to be completed to make the entire corridor seamless. The Eastern Peripheral Expressway was opened in May and, together with the WPE, will decongest Delhi and take 50,000 vehicles off the capital’s roads.

The expressways will not only help vehicles travel from one part of the country to another without entering Delhi and congesting its roads, the links from the expressways to different state and national highways will improve traffic flow in the NCR.

The completion of the entire network comes at a time when the environment watchdog and government authorities are mulling drastic options to cut vehicular traffic on Delhi, roads including a ban on diesel vehicles on days when air quality becomes severe.

Though the WPE was originally designed as a four-lane expressway with limited access, Haryana government decided to make it a six-lane one on a par with the EPE after taking over the work from the earlier concessionaire, KMP Expressway Ltd. While the EPE built by National Highways Authority of India is a concrete road, the WPE has used bitumen for surfacing.

Cars can travel at a maximum speed of 120 kmph on the WPE. Like the EPE, the WPE has closed tolling system, which means commuters will pay for the distance they travel. Toll plazas have been built at every entry and exit point. Work on all interchanges have been completed for smooth entry and exit of vehicles.

Toll charges on both expressways will be 25% more than that on national highways. Parity in charges was brought after several controversies during the UPA government so that commuters have the option of choosing which road they want to take to bypass Delhi. Both expressways take off from Kundli in Sonipat and end at Palwal in Faridabad.


6 HCs get 34 judges

The Centre appointed 34 judges to six high courts taking the tally of appointments this year to more than 100, with the Allahabad HC getting 28 judges in one stroke and a tribal from Arunachal becoming the first from the community to be appointed as a HC judge.

Of the 28 judges appointed for Allahabad HC, 15 were lawyers and 13 judicial officers. Two lawyers were appointed as judges in Gauhati high court, one of whom became the first from a tribal community of Arunachal to be become a HC judge. Gauhati HC has a separate Arunachal Pradesh bench. The appointments also included a judge each to the high courts of Meghalaya, Delhi, Orissa and Madras.

The Allahabad HC with a sanctioned strength of 160 judges, had only 89 judges and with the appointment of 28 more, the number would be 117. Other HCs with large vacancies are — Telangana and AP HC (61 sanctioned strength but with nearly 50% vacancies); Delhi HC (60 sanctioned strength with nearly 45% vacancy); and Calcutta HC (72 sanctioned strength with over 50% vacancies). Over 43 lakh cases are pending.

Saturday’s appointments were in sync with the trend set for three consecutive years by the NDA after almost zero appointments in 2015 because of the executive-judiciary faceoff over National Judicial Appointments Commission. With the Centre sulking over a five-judge bench striking down NJAC, which was unanimously passed by Parliament and ratified by 20 states, appointment of judges came to a trickle in 2015 and the HCs faced vacancy of over 40% of the sanctioned strength. Since then, appointments have picked up despite embers of the conflict impeding the process. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had in 2016 claimed that the NDA government had set a record of highest appointment of judges to the HCs as their numbers touched 126 that year. In 2017, the Centre had processed the SC collegium’s recommendations and appointed 117 as HC judges.

In contrast, the number of judges appointed to HCs every year since 1989 till 2014 hovered between 75 and 89. If the vacancies in the HCs had crossed 40% of the sanctioned strength in 2016, it has now come down below 25% with a steady increment in the number of judges.

The gap in appointment of HC judges in 2015 started after an SC bench struck down the NJAC but admitted that the collegium method of selecting persons for appointment as judges to constitutional courts required infusion of transparency. It had in December 2015 asked the Centre to firm up a Memorandum of Procedure for streamlining appointment of judges, power for which was snatched from the executive by the judiciary through two judgements of constitutional benches in the 1990s. Till date, the MoP has not been finalised, despite three CJIs retiring.


Somewhere in Mumbai....

Cyclone Gaja rips through TN & Pondy

Cyclone Gaja that made landfall near Nagapattinam in the early hours of Friday ripped through many districts in Tamil Nadu, claiming 13 lives. Unconfirmed reports, however, put the toll at 30 in the storm-battered delta districts.

Almost all the deaths occurred in areas that were assessed as safe zones and not evacuated. Deaths were caused by uprooted trees falling on houses and wall collapses. The worst affected districts were Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Cuddalore. Karaikal and Puducherry were also hit.

Among the worst hit were the salt pans in Vedaranyam, the second-largest salt-producing pans in the state after Tuticorin. The salt yield harvested and stocked near the pans was blown away in the winds that touched 120 kmph.

While officials are unsure about the extent of damage caused by cyclone Gaja, salt manufacturers claimed that close to 2 lakh tonnes of salt had been destroyed. Power infrastructure in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts and Puducherry was damaged. More than 12,000 electric poles were destroyed and 102 sub-stations damaged. Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts are in the dark. The electricity department said it will take at least two days to restore power in these districts.

The government has launched rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures in the affected regions. Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami expressed grief over the deaths and announced Rs.10 lakh as compensation to the families of those killed. PM Narendra Modi spoke to the CM, and later tweeted, “Assured all possible help from the Centre. I pray for the safety and well-being of the people of Tamil Nadu.”

No fisherman was stranded at sea as the fisheries ministry had taken measures to ensure the safety of fisherfolk and protect their boats and equipment.

At least 1,000 livestock have been saved from the cyclone in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Cuddalore districts.


Work starts on Mumbai's 12,000-crore coastal road

Mumbai's ambitious coastal road project is finally starting to see the light of day. Jetties are being constructed at Breach Candy and Worli Sea Face for mobilisation of resources for the Rs.12,000-crore coastal road. Full-fledged work on the road is expected to start next month.

Officials said that all material and machines that will have to be brought to the city for the work will be transported by sea to ensure they do not add to traffic chaos in the city. BMC has appointed contractors to construct the 10-km coastal road connecting Princess Street in Marine Lines to the Worli-end of Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

The state government will construct another part of the road, connecting the Bandra-end of BWSL to Versova.

Mohan Machiwal, chief engineer of the coastal road said that, as part of the preliminary work, rock samples are currently being collected from the locations in the sea where the pillars will come up. The plot of land where the jetty has been constructed at Breach Candy belonged to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation but has now been handed over to the BMC for the coastal road.

The BMC standing committee cleared the Rs.12,000-crore coastal road proposal by a majority in September. The road is going to be a mix of many features, such as tunnels, bridges, interchanges, elevated stretches and roads on reclaimed land, along with pedestrian underpasses and foot overbridges.

The contract for the stretch of the road from the Worli end of the Sea Link to Haji Ali was awarded to a joint venture of Hindustan Construction Company and Hyundai Development Corporation. Larsen and Toubro was selected to construct the stretch from Priyadarshini Park on Napeansea Road to Haji Ali. L&T has also been awarded the contract to build the southernmost part — Princess Street flyover to Priyadarshini Park, which includes twin tunnels.

The BMC said the project would now cost Rs.12,721 crore owing to the rise in the rates of fuel and steel, cost of labour and material in Mumbai. Of the total cost, BMC officials said ₹4,302 crore in taxes will come to the civic body, including Rs.10 crore to build a butterfly park as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The BMC has paid consultants Rs.246 crore for the project. As per the contract, the project needs to be completed within four years. The BMC claimed that the road would save 70 per cent travel time and 34 per cent fuel every year.

Mahindra Brings Jawa Back to Life

Reviving an iconic brand of yore, Mahindra and Mahindra’s two-wheeler subsidiary Classic Legends launched three Jawa-branded motorcycles, breathing life into a defunct Czech brand in India.

Named ‘Jawa’, ‘Jawa Forty-Two’, and ‘Perak’, the motorcycles will be powered by 300-cc single cylinder engines and will have a base price of ₹1.55 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi.

This puts them bang in the middle of the highly lucrative 200-500 cc capacity segment, which is currently dominated by Eicher-owned Royal Enfield, which enjoys a 90% market share.

Unveiling the three bikes, Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra, explained the thinking behind Jawa: “We want to be a company that wants to tell a story. It fits the Mahindra 2-wheeler business.”.

The sales prospects of the mid-capacity motorcycle segment have attracted a lot of interest lately. Legacy brands such as Harley Davidson and Triumph have plans of launching products in this range to boost their portfolios. Overseas brands such as UM Motorcycles and Benelli and homegrown Bajaj Auto also have motorcycles in this segment.

This is the Mahindra group’s second attempt at cracking the two-wheeler market in India. “This is the two-wheeler business. If we have a BSA brand, it will be (under) Classic Legends. This company will now be our two-wheeler business for India,” said Mahindra. BSA is an out-of-business British motorcycle brand that is now owned by Classic Legends with similar plans of bringing back to production.

At the helm of the Jawa project was Anupam Thareja, founder of Classic Legends, who had prior experience in reviving legacy motorcycle brands. “He was instrumental in resurrecting the Enfield brand,” said Mahindra.

The company has plans to open 105 Jawa showrooms across the country. While 64 of these will be operational from December 5, deliveries will only begin early next year.