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Current Events 9 April 2016



9th APRIL 2016


Solar boat makes its debut in State

An eco-friendly solar-powered boat was launched on the pristine waters of River Krishna.

There are only a handful of such boats operating on solar power in the country. The 12-seater pontoon-shaped boat can cruise at a speed of 7 knots for an estimated range of over 35 miles.

“We chose to launch the boat in River Krishna on the occasion of Ugadi festival on a trial run. While the boat may not change water travel, it is an effective and attention-grabbing demonstration of the sun’s power. We wanted to include an eco-friendly boat in our fleet of water sports operating in Krishna since Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is keen on bringing into use green energy,” said Subhakar Rao Surapaneni, CEO and Managing Director of Champions Yacht Club, a Goa-based yachting and boating service company which is launching the new facility.

The solar boat, facilitating clean and efficient cruise, has been imported from China.

Solar-powered boats get their energy from the sun. Using electric motors and storage batteries charged by solar panels fitted to the roof, these boats can significantly reduce or eliminate use offossil fuels.


Unlike conventional boats that operate using diesel engines which are fuel-guzzlers causing air and noise pollution and disturbance to the local habitat endangering the ecological balance of the surrounding areas, the solar boats are uniquely suited to transform light energy into movement,” said Sri Ranga Sai, Champion Yacht Club’s Vijayawada unit manager (Operations).

The boat will be rented out on hourly basis for kitty parties and other parties by small groups, says Mr. Sai. The first solar boat designed in India was named Surya, a 25-seater, by Kerala-based TeamSustain in 2008. It operated in the backwaters of Kerala ferrying passengers and in 2010, it was included in the Limca Book of Records as Asia’s largest solar-powered passenger boat. Yet another 75-seater solar-powered passenger ferry is taking shape at Aroor in Alappuzha district of Kerala. The boat is expected to be commissioned in a couple of months.

This boat is being built by NavAlt, a Kochi-based joint venture, in collaboration with a French company.


400-year-old ban on women at Shani temple goes

In a big victory to the campaign for gender equality, the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra lifted the 400-year-old ban on the entry of women at the sanctum sanctorum, yielding to a crusade by activists and court directions.

Soon after the temple trust announced the decision to facilitate unrestricted entry to all devotees to the core area of the shrine, some women entered the sacred spot and offered worship. Hours after the decision was announced, Bhumata Ranrangini Brigade leader Trupti Desai, who had led a sustained campaign, reached the Lord Saturn temple and offered prayers. Before Ms. Desai reached the spot, Priya Jagtap and Pushpa Kewadkar, activists who broke away from the Bhumata Ranrangini Brigade, entered the sanctum sanctorum and offered prayers, pouring oil on the deity in a culmination of the three-month agitation against gender bias at religious places.

Significantly, the removal of the gender barrier came on the auspicious occasion of ‘Gudi Padwa,’ which marks New Year across Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “Discrimination on the basis of caste and gender should be eliminated from the minds of the people in keeping with the modern times.”

Earlier in the day, 250 men jumped barricades and forced their entry into the platform, saying it had been a long tradition for the devotees to offer worship at the shrine on the Gudi Padwa day. — PTI


BRICS conclave begins April 14

The first ever three-day BRICS Friendship Cities Conclave will begin in Mumbai on April 14, with cities of the BRICS member countries namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa participating to leverage each other’s strengths and share expertise for addressing urban issues.

This initiative brings together city planners, administrators, and experts of BRICS member nations under one umbrella. It is part India’s contribution to the emerging nations group as BRICS president for a year. “This conclave will pave the way for dialogue in shaping, renewal and development of urban areas. With growing urbanisation, this will be a great platform to exchange solutions and ideas from cities from across the globe,” said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday.


Goan documentary selected for international film fest at Morocco

A Goan documentary film, Caazu , has been selected for screening at the Ouarzazate International Film Festival (OIFF) to be held in Morocco from April 18-23.

Xantaara media works, a Goan film and media company, floated by four Goans — Ronak Kamat, Ashley Fernandes, Anurag Verdekar and Mohit Sukhtankar made the 8-minute short film, which documents the process of making fenny/urrack while giving the audience an insight into the life of people involved in the process.

It has been screened at festivals across India.


India gets first train with CCTV cameras

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu flagged off the country’s first train with CCTV cameras in all coaches, to ensure improved safety for passengers.

The Shan-E-Punjab Express, between Amritsar and Delhi, has four to six cameras on all its 21 coaches and video footage can be recorded and stored for a month.

Live video stream of ladies coach will also be available on the LCD screens in rail guard’s compartment.

Crimes against women

The Railway Ministry said that surveillance cameras on coaches would significantly reduce crime against women and other crimes such as theft.

While emphasising that safety was his top priority, Mr. Prabhu said a cyber security audit would soon be conducted for all zones of the Railways.


Are you refusing to be reformed, SC asks BCCI

The Board of Control for Cricket in India charged the Supreme Court with crossing judicial limits by interfering in its private affairs, like internal management, flow of finances earned from distributing media rights for matches and membership patterns, prompting the court to ask the BCCI if it is “refusing to be reformed.

The hearing before a Bench of Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and F.M.I. Kalifulla witnessed a face-off between the apex court and the BCCI.

The BCCI’s aggressiveness in court came on top of weeks of underlying tensions following sweeping changes recommended by the Supreme Court’s committee headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha in the membership patterns of the Board, its structure, elections, eligibility for office-bearers like 70-year age cap and bar on Ministers in cricket administration to usher in transparency and accountability in Indian cricket. The BCCI, represented by senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, said any interference in its basic character and functioning was a violation of its fundamental rights under Article 19 (1) (c) (right to form associations) of the Constitution.

“This is a private body and can arrange its matters in whatever way it wants. Memberships are part of internal management. In case of complaints, approach the Registrar, Co-operative Societies or the police station or the court. There has been no instance of malfeasance to trigger interference which will change the very character and functioning of the Board,” Mr. Venugopal submitted.

He said it was all very well to say the court was intervening for the sake of cricket and for the millions who watch the game.

“If that is the case, please consider intervening in the case of badminton, football, etc.,” he said.

Chief Justice Thakur shot back, saying the Supreme Court was not interested in controlling table tennis or football or kho kho or kabbadi. Every single penny you hold in trust is for the benefit of the game and for those who play and for the millions of cricket lovers who pay you to watch the game.you are accountable to them. You are refusing to be reformed asked Chief Justice .

The Chief Justice asked why the Board was against the Lodha committee’s recommendation to have a nominee from the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s office on board.

Court also pointed that BCCI had goverment ministers on board,then why not CAG nominee.

The court said the Lodha panel’s recommendations were not meant to shrink the stature of the BCCI but to help it perform its public functions in the best way.


China, Sri Lanka eye new infra road map to anchor ties

Looking beyond the current difficulties in reviving a stalled multi-billion dollar project, Sri Lanka and China are now defining a new blueprint, based on rapid infrastructure development, to rail their growing ties for the future.

“Our visit today is an important visit because it will discuss and finalise the framework of future cooperation between our two countries,” said visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his opening remarks during talks with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang .

On Friday, Mr. Wickremesinghe called on Chinese President Xi Jinping. Following talks with Prime Minister Li, both countries affirmed that the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City project had their support, but “technical details” needed to be ironed out before construction could resume.

On the Colombo port, both sides agreed to further speed up the overall and comprehensive resumption of work on this project. The announcement to resume the work has been made by the Sri Lankan side, but now we will go into further technical details,” said Xiao Qian, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asia Department, in a brief interaction with the media.

This is an important project and both countries have a strong desire to further enhance and advance this project. On the Chinese side, we hope to see the earliest possible resumption. We believe we won’t have to wait too long.”

New plan

Chinese officials also made it plain that they were now engaged in a dialogue with the Sri Lankans to carve out a new plan that will steer Beijing-Colombo ties.

The opportunity to advance the relationship has arisen following the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war and China’s adoption of its 13th five-year plan along with its Going Abroad strategy.

Ahead of his visit, Mr. Wickremesinghe has pledged that his government would generate one million jobs in five years, mainly based on foreign investments from China, Japan, Singapore, India and European countries.

In tune with Colombo’s aspirations, the two Prime Ministers agreed to prioritise the construction of an industrial park at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. Xinhua quoted Prime Minister Li as saying Chinese companies would be encouraged to develop industrial parks, special economic zones, and engage in the processing and manufacturing sector in Sri Lanka.

The two countries will also concentrate on the construction of ports, airports, roads and railways along with fostering a stronger collaboration in the fields of finance, science and technology and culture.

The focus on infrastructure has resulted in the signing of a preferential buyer credit loan agreement for the construction of an extension of section two of the Southern Highway.

The Southern Highway is a 126km-long expressway that runs from Colombo to Matara on the southern coast of the island.

Both sides have also agreed to advance their FTA negotiations, with the year-end as the target to achieve tangible results.

During his stay, Mr. Wickremesinghe is slated to meet representatives of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) — the 57-member lender which has been geared to develop infrastructure along the Asian leg of the Belt and Road, China’s giant oceanic and land connectivity project.

Previously, officials from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have expressed their willingness to co-finance projects with the AIIB in Sri Lanka. Mr. Wickremesinghe has already met Liu Liange Liange, the head of the China’s powerful Export Import (EXIM) Bank.

Chinese officials said Sri Lanka is “very willing” to participate in China’s Belt and Road initiative so as to re-establish Sri Lanka’s position as the trade hub in the Indian Ocean.

On the political side, Sri Lanka’s United National Party is set to reinforce ties with Communist Party of China following Mr. Wickremesinghe’s talks with Song Tao, the Minister of the CPC’s International Department.


U.S. says China’s Internet censorship a burden for businesses

The U.S. has labelled China’s Internet censorship a trade barrier in a report for the first time since 2013, saying worsening online restrictions are damaging the business of U.S. companies.

Since Xi Jinping became China’s President that year, the U.S. had not listed China’s so-called Great Firewall as a trade impediment despite widespread outcry that the online blocks limit access to crucial information, email and search services such as those found on Google’s platform.

Outright blocking
“Outright blocking of websites appears to have worsened over the past year, with eight of the top 25 most trafficked global sites now blocked in China,” the U.S. Trade Representative wrote in its annual report on foreign trader barriers.

“Over the past decade, China’s filtering of cross-border internet traffic has posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers, hurting both internet sites themselves, and users who often depend on them for their business,” the USTR said in the report, released last week.

The move could push the issue beyond a sticking point in bilateral ties over human rights and security, though with a litany of trade disputes already on the table, the degree to which it will feature in talks remains to be seen. China has long operated the world’s most sophisticated online censorship mechanism known as the Great Firewall.

The websites for Google’s services, Facebook and Twitter are all inaccessible in China. Officials say web controls help maintain social stability and national security in the face of threats such as terrorism.

Under Mr. Xi, the government has implemented an unprecedented tightening of internet controls, and sought to codify the policy within the law.

According to data from the anti-censorship group GreatFire.org, almost a quarter of the hundreds of thousands of web pages, domains, encrypted sites, online searches and IP addresses that it monitors in China were blocked as of early April.

That was up from 14 per cent at the time Mr. Xi assumed the presidency. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing that a country’s independent choice for internet governance should be respected.

“China’s Internet is vigorously expanding and providing vast space for companies from other countries to grow,” Mr. Hong said. “China’s policy to attract foreign investment will not change.”

The Cyberspace Administration of China did not immediately respond to faxed questions, while the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment.

Foreign business lobbies have long complained that Chinese internet restrictions go beyond inconvenience and actually limit business competitiveness.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China said in its most recent report on China’s business environment that its members faced “severe challenges competing in China's telecommunications and internet sectors due to investment restrictions, security controls and a range of protectionist measures”.

Negative impact
The lobby’s 2016 business climate survey showed 79 per cent of its members reported a negative impact on business due to internet censorship.

The USTR report said much of what China blocked online did not seem to fall within the realm of what was necessary to maintain social stability and national security.

“Much of the blocking appears arbitrary. For example, a major home improvement site in the U.S., which would appear wholly innocuous, is typical of sites likely swept up by the Great Firewall,” it said.


Dashboards to monitor Make In India, rank States

The government unveiled two dashboards to dynamically monitor progress made in its ‘Make In India’ (MII) initiative as well as rank States on a real-time basis based on ‘Ease Of Doing Business’ (EODB).

Progress update

The MII Dashboard will allow ministries to update on the progress made by them in short and medium-term targets, facilitate timely delivery of identified action points and allow for monitoring and identification of delays in implementation.

The EODB Dashboard will allow States to report their progress on the reforms they need to undertake under the State Level Business Reforms Action Plan as well as in validation of responses received from the States/Union Territories (UTs) by the DIPP.


The cost of poor health

Non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes and cancer can cost the Indian economy a whopping Rs. 6.2 trillion during the 2012-2030 period, a UN report has said, warning about the spread of such diseases in rapidly urbanising countries such as India and China.

“Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) present not only a threat to human health in cities, but also have significant economic implications,” said the ‘Global Report on Urban Health: Equitable, Healthier Cities for Sustainable Development’, jointly released by the WHO and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).


It said increasing urbanisation pose a unique set of health challenges and the lifestyle and working patterns of urban residents have the potential to fuel an increase in NCDs in cities.

The report added that it is no surprise that the cost of NCDs is substantial in urbanising economies, particularly China and India.


Between 2014 and 2050, China is expected to add an additional 292 million people to its cities, while in India that figure is estimated at 404 million.

The report warned that inadequate planning for the “inevitable increase in urbanisation” in India is creating a socially and environmentally “unsustainable” situation.

Diabetes and cancer

The cost of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental health conditions has been estimated at $27.8 trillion for China and $6.2 trillion for India during 2012-2030,” it said.

In China and India, cardiovascular disease and mental health conditions present the greatest economic threats, followed by respiratory diseases and cancer.

China’s losses exceed those of India’s as the impact of lost labour and physical capital is greater in higher-income countries, the report said.

For India, the economic implications of cardiovascular diseases during the period is pegged at $2.25 trillion, the same as that of diabetes. The cost of mental health is estimated at $2.28 trillion.

The report added that the key barrier in upgrading and maintaining cities in India is “political”. — PTI



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