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Showing posts from February 15, 2014

Managing false smut disease in rice

Also known as Lakshmi disease, it is caused by a fungus and was believed to be an indication of a bumper crop in the year.False smut infestation in rice has been reported from many places in the State in an alarming proportion. In Cauvery delta zone, the disease has been reported to an extent of 10-20 per cent during kharif and rabi seasons.Another name
Also known as Lakshmi disease, it is caused by a fungus and was believed to be an indication of a bumper crop in the year.Due to the infection, individual grains of the panicle get transformed into greenish spore balls of velvety appearance. Spore balls are small at first growing gradually to reach one cm or more in diameter.They are slightly flattened, smooth, yellow and are covered by a membrane. The membrane bursts as the result of further growth and the colour of the ball turns orange and later yellowish-green or black.Under congenial conditions like high moisture or rainfall accompanied by cloudy days during the period between flo…

Farmers upset as budget offers them nothing

Lack of announcement on drought-relief in the budget has come as a huge disappointment to the people of Pudukottai.The entire district has been reeling under severe drought and farmers’ associations have been urging the State government to declare the district as drought-hit and launch relief measures expeditiously.Due to the continuous crop failure, fodder too has become scarce, forcing farmers to resort to distress sale of cattle.The report on the district’s drought condition sent to the State government had evoked great expectations in the farming community and they were pinning their hopes on the budget to come to their rescue. Farmers, however, are hopeful of government coming out with some announcement on draft relief at least during the rest of the session.M.Madavan, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, said that farmers’ hopes had been belied. “We are totally disappointed,” he said, referring to the poor or nil disbursement of indemnity. M.Sebastian, district pre…

Dealing with new lows

Even for a country with a long and unedifying history of parliamentary pandemonium, nothing can be as shameful and disgraceful as the use of pepper spray by a member on his peers to disrupt proceedings. Vijayawada MP Lagadapati Rajagopal, one of six Congress lawmakers expelled for disorderly behaviour earlier, wielded this weapon in the Lok Sabha in a desperate bid to stall the introduction of the Telangana Bill. The Speaker herself was affected by the lachrymatory substance, and quite a few members required medical attention. Mr. Rajagopal’s claim that he used pepper spray in self-defence is absurd. Another member has been accused of brandishing a knife, but he has denied it, claiming what he was holding was a microphone, probably one wrenched from its fixture. Parliamentary security was perhaps prepared for what many saw as the final battle for Telangana as the time came to introduce the contentious Bill that will pave the way for the reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh. One MP had thr…

Amma canteens and Eco Park in Madurai get ISO certification

Four ‘Amma’ canteens in the city have been awarded ISO 9001:2008 Certification by the International Organization for Standardization.Apart from the Amma canteens, three other public places, including Corporation Eco Park, in the Corporation area too have been certified.Addressing media persons here on Friday, Mayor V.V. Rajan Chellappa said the Amma canteens at K. Pudur, Sandhaipettai, Tirupparankundram and Melavasal had got ISO certification.The Corporation would take efforts to ensure that the seven other ‘Amma’ canteens functioning in the city too continued to serve quality food to the public.“The certifications say a lot about how well we have been maintaining the canteens, and it is an honour for the entire district,” he said.There are eleven Amma canteens in the city, including the one declared open at Government Rajaji Hospital this week.Mr.Chellappa said three public places in the city too had been certified by the international organisation. “The Corporation Swimming pool on …

Nancy Powell likely to meet Mamata on February 21 or 22

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell is likely to meet West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee later this month.The party website said on Friday that Ms. Powell “has sought a meeting with Ms. Banerjee. A letter from her office reached Nabanna, the State Secretariat. The West Bengal government has sought a formal clearance from the Union Ministry of External Affairs.”The meeting is likely to take place on either February 21 or 22.The Ambassador met BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday.Ms. Powell had earlier met Ms. Banerjee on September 23, 2012, at Writers’ Buildings, four months after the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, met her at the same venue.Though the meeting with the Ambassador was termed “routine,” it came just days after the Trinamool Congress withdrew support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government against foreign direct investment in retail. Ms. Powell had invited Ms. Banerjee to vi…

India may vote against Sri Lanka again

India is most likely to vote against Sri Lanka when its human rights record comes up for evaluation before the United Nations Human Rights Council in March, according to a senior official who did not want to be named.Sri Lanka had an opportunity to highlight elections to the Tamil-majority Northern Province as one concrete attempt at political reconciliation. But Colombo seems to have “squandered it by locking horns” with the newly elected provincial government.The provincial elections apart, Sri Lanka does not appear to have done enough to make countries like India that voted against it last year to change their minds.

China to build world’s longest underwater tunnel

China plans to build the world’s longest underwater tunnel beneath the Bohai Sea by 2026, connecting the port cities of Dalian in Liaoning province and Yantai in Shandong province.The blueprint of the ambitious project is expected to be submitted to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China in April, the China Daily reported on Friday.“Once approved, work could begin as early as 2015 or 2016,” Wang Mengshu, a tunnel and railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who has worked on the plan since 2012.Wang said that the 123-km underwater tunnel will cost around 220 billion yuan ($36 billion).The length of the tunnel will be more than the combined length of the world’s two longest underwater tunnels – Japan’s Seikan Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France.Saving time“Using the tunnel, it will take only 40 minutes to travel from Dalian to Yantai,” Wang said. At the moment it is a 1,400-km drive and it takes eight hours by ferry.Wang, however, emphasis…

Spectrum of success

After the two relatively unsuccessful attempts to sell 2G spectrum in November 2012 and March 2013, it was a case of third time lucky for the government as it hit pay dirt with the latest round of auctioning that ended on Thursday. With all the spectrum on offer in the 900 MHz band sold out and 80 per cent of that offered in the 1800 MHz band sold for a total of Rs.61,162 crore — which is substantially higher than the reserve price — the government is patting itself on the back for what it calls a big success. Yet, this has to be viewed in the backdrop of a couple of issues. First, this auction was critical for two of the biggest telecom operators in the country, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, because their licences are set to expire later this year, and to continue in business they had to pick up spectrum irrespective of the price. So, an element of desperation was built into the bidding from the moment it began, pushing up valuations. With a new entrant in the form of Reliance Jio Info…

Totalising history, silencing dissent

The agreement by Penguin Books India to destroy all existing copies of Wendy Doniger’s book represents the destruction of the very fabric of Indian cultureThe agreement by Penguin Books India, a unit of Penguin Random House, to withdraw as well as destroy all existing copies of its 2009 book titled The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger, a professor of religion at the University of Chicago, within six months, is both disturbing as well as foreboding. The lawsuit filed against Penguin India by Dina Nath Batra, the head of Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a fringe Hindu right-wing group dealing with education and text books, objected to the pluralistic representation of Hinduism and its references to the esoteric and heterodox practices that constitute the tradition.In the lawsuit filed in 2011 under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of a religious community, the group claimed that the book insulted mi…

Belgian lawmakers extend euthanasia to children

Belgian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to extend the country’s euthanasia law to children under 18.The law empowers children with terminal ailments who are in great pain to ask to be put to death by their doctor if their parents agree and a psychiatrist or psychologist certifies they are conscious of what their choice signifies.It has wide public support, but was opposed by some paediatricians and the country’s Roman Catholic clergy. As House of Representative members cast their ballots and an electronic tally board lit up with enough green lights to indicate the measure would carry, a lone protester in the chamber shouted “assassins!”The 86-44 vote in the House, with 12 abstentions, followed approval by the Senate last December.Laurent Louis, an independent House member who opposed the legislation, said the majority of his colleagues were violating the natural order.“A child is to be nurtured and protected, all the way to the end, whatever happens,” Mr. Louis said. “You d…

A pragmatic engagement

The U.S. decision to end the boycott of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is part of a recognisable pattern of pragmatic State Department engagement with politicians or political groups it perceives as carrying heft on the national scene. Consider for instance how it swallowed its anathema toward the Muslim Brotherhood to engage with the group when it took power in Egypt; or its “outreach” to the Taliban in Afghanistan. There are many other examples from across the world. With India’s political churning ahead of the elections, it was only a matter of time before the U.S. decided to buy itself some insurance for any post-election possibilities. This is the context to Thursday’s meeting between U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell and Mr. Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. The State Department holds that its 2005 decision to refuse him a visa remains unchanged. Mr. Modi’s then existing tourist/business visa was revoked under sections of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act that…