Tagged: India

Parrot detained by coppers over obscene language

Police in India said a parrot detained on allegations of shouting obscenities at an elderly woman refused to utter a single word for officers.

Chandrapur district police said the parrot, Hariyal, was detained at the police station in Rajura, Maharashtra, after Janabai Sakharkar, 85, told investigators the parrot would shout obscene words and phrases at her whenever she would pass by the home of its owner, her stepson.

Sakharkar told police she believes her stepson, Suresh, trained the parrot to shout obscenities at her because of an ongoing land dispute between the family members.

Police said the parrot did not speak in front of officers, even when confronted by Sakharkar…

Police said they decided not to return Hariyal to his owner and instead put the bird in the care of forest department officials for rehabilitation.

You have the right to remain silent…

The man who planted a forest in Kerala

Abdul Kareem, 66, of Parappa, Kasargod, Kerala had a liking to ‘Kavu’, the sacred forests of Kerala, right from his childhood. He would frequently visit his wife’s house in Puliyankulam village and it was during such visits that he noticed the barren hillside land nearby. In 1977, as if on an impulse, he bought five acres of the land for Rs 3750. The people nearby and even his family were not able to comprehend his action, and he became a laughing stock in the locality. The property had only a single well that remained almost dry throughout the year. Since it could not provide enough to water the saplings that he planted, he would carry water in cans from outside sources on his two-wheeler. This continued for three years, at the end of which, nature started responding to his unrelenting efforts and the trees actually started growing.

The change was now to be seen – birds came in flocks and helped Kareem by bringing seeds of umpteen varieties and started setting their nests in this new haven. Soon other forms of life also appeared. The ecosystem was developing at a good pace. In the meanwhile, Kareem bought another 27 acres of land and planted trees all over the place with the new-found vigour, motivated by the fruits of his efforts.

One notable feature of Kareem’s forest (that is what the Department of Tourism, Kerala Government, calls this place) which makes it a forest in the true sense is that Kareem never tried to interfere in its natural development once it started sustaining itself, rather he gamely prevented anything and everything that would interfere with the natural growth of his forest. He has never weeded the forest; neither does he sweep away the fallen leaves. There is no effort for intervention of any kind.

The forest has brought about amazing changes to the surroundings. The once dry well in the plot is now brimming with pure, fresh water. The underground water table in an area of about 10 kilometers has risen, it is said. The temperature inside the forest is markedly cooler than outside. Kareem has been living inside the forest since 1986, keeping constant vigil on his creation, which is dearer to him than anything. Visitors are allowed inside, even to stay as paying guests for a few days, provided they comply with Kareem’s regulations. Plastic is banned inside the forest; so is the use of automobiles. Wild partying, loud noises – all are a strict no-no.

Kareem has resisted various offers to commercialize the forest and to turn it into a theme park…For those who know him, the man who was once a laughing stock, has now grown colossal in stature, along with his creation – one that generations will cherish.

Inspiring.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Powering desalination with the sun — in India and New Mexico


Natasha WrightPhoto/Bryce Vickmark

When graduate student Natasha Wright began her PhD program in mechanical engineering, she had no idea how to remove salt from groundwater to make it more palatable, nor had she ever been to India, where this is an ongoing need.

Now, three years and six trips to India later, this is the sole focus of her work.

Wright joined the lab of Amos Winter, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, in 2012. The lab was just getting established, and the aim of Wright’s project was vague at first: Work on water treatment in India, with a possible focus on filtering biological contaminants from groundwater to make it safe to drink.

There are already a number of filters on the market that can do this, and during her second trip to India, Wright interviewed a number of villagers, finding that many of them weren’t using these filters. She became skeptical of how useful it would be to develop yet another device like this.

Although the available filters made water safe to drink, they did nothing to mitigate its saltiness — so the villagers’ drinking water tasted bad and eroded pots and pans, providing little motivation to use these filters. In reviewing the list of questions she had prepared for her interviews with locals, Wright noticed that there were no questions about the water’s salty taste…

Almost 60 percent of India has groundwater that’s noticeably salty, so later, after returning to MIT, Wright began designing an electrodialysis desalination system, which uses a difference in electric potential to pull salt out of water.

This type of desalination system has been around since the 1950s, but is typically only used municipally, to justify its costs. Wright’s project aims to build a system that’s scaled for a village of 5,000 people and still cost-effective…

Wright’s solution offers an alternative to grid power: She’s designed a village-scale desalination system that runs on solar power. Since her system is powered by the sun, operational and maintenance costs are fairly minimal: The system requires an occasional cartridge filter change, and that’s it.

The system is also equipped to treat the biological contaminants that Wright initially thought she’d be treating, using ultraviolet light. The end result is safe drinking water that also tastes good

Although Wright’s work is currently focused on rural villages in India, she sees many uses for the technology in the United States as well. In isolated areas, such as the ranches in New Mexico where she tested her system at full scale, poor access to water pipelines often leads to a heavy reliance on well water. But some ranchers find that even their livestock won’t tolerate the saltiness of this water.

“It’s useful to install a small-scale desalination system where people are so spread out that it’s more costly to pump in water from a municipal plant,” she says. “That’s true in India and that’s also true in the U.S.”

It’s certainly true in downstate New Mexico. We have beaucoup brackish fossil water in great quantities. Not being used for much of anything, now.

Thanks, Om

Google OOPS! of the month

top-10-criminals-search

Internet giant Google has apologised after Indian PM Narendra Modi’s photos started appearing in the image search results for “Top 10 criminals”.

“We apologise for any confusion or misunderstanding this has caused,” a Google statement said.

Mr Modi figures prominently in the search alongside images of terrorists, murderers and dictators.

Other world leaders on the list include former US president George Bush and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Other prominent Indians who come up in the search include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, lawyer Ram Jethmalani, fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who is serving a jail term in connection with deadly blasts in Mumbai in 1993.

“These results trouble us and are not reflective of the opinions of Google,” the company said in its statement released on Wednesday night…

The internet firm said the result was due to a British daily which had published an image of Mr Modi with erroneous metadata.

Cripes. Then, they can’t even blame the NSA.

Second day out, Solar Impulse 2 breaks own world distance record


Click to enlargeSetting forth from Muscat to Ahmedabad

The Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered airplane may have only just begun its attempt at a round-the-world flight, but it’s already broken a world record. By traveling from Muscat, Oman to Ahmedabad, India, it broke the Solar Impulse team’s previous record for longest solar-powered straight distance flight between predeclared waypoints.

The 1,468-km Muscat to Ahmedabad flight was the second leg of the planned 5-month journey, which began this Monday in Abu Dhabi. Pilot Bertrand Piccard took the aircraft to an altitude of 8,534 meters and maintained a ground speed of about 185 km/h, landing in Ahmedabad this Tuesday at 11:25pm. He was in the air for a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes.

This latest record-breaking flight also reportedly marks the first time that a solar-powered aircraft has flown in Asia…

The team plans to spend the next four days in Ahmedabad before heading for Varanasi, India.

Bravo! It’s like early days in flight all over again. Including the bit about breaking your own records.

Indian civil servant sacked after 24-years sick leave!

Spock will fix it
WWSD?

The Indian government has sacked a civil servant who went on leave in 1990 and never came back to work.

Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said a case of “wilful absence” had been proved against electrical engineer AK Verma.

Mr Verma had been under investigation since 1992, but had refused to co-operate, the minister said.

Correspondents say absenteeism is a pervasive problem in government-run offices in India.

Mr Naidu said in a statement that Mr Verma joined the Central Public Works Department in 1980.

He had risen to the rank of executive engineer by 1990, when he went on leave.

An inquiry was set up in 1992, but formal proceedings to dismiss him were not begun until 2007…It took a further seven years for the department to reach a decision and dismiss him.

It is not clear whether he was paid during his time off.

A report in 2012 labelled India’s government machinery the worst in Asia.

Schools have also faced problems, with teachers failing to turn up for work in huge numbers…Last August, a state school in Madhya Pradesh sacked a teacher who had been absent for 23 years of her 24-year career.

Between caste system remnants and leftovers from the British colonial bureaucracy, I think India has further to go to be economically reclassified as Developing rather than a Third World nation.

When it comes to investing any tiny portion of my meagre fixed income in the BRIC nations – the only parts that get my attention are China and Brazil.

Hindu Right proceeds with rewriting Indian textbooks

You cannot blame Bhavana Vaja, 12, for telling you that the first aeroplane was invented during the mythical Dvapara Yuga, when the Hindu God Ram flew from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in India with his wife Sita and brother Laxman in a Pushpaka Vimana – a swan­-shaped chariot of flowers.

By claiming that they familiarise students with India’s ancient heritage, some books printed by the education department of western Gujarat state teach children that aeroplanes existed in India since Lord Ram’s era. And that is just a sample of how religious content is included in science, history, environment, and mathematics books…

The Gujarat government has introduced nine new books this academic year for classes 1 to 12. These books, written by Hindu nationalist ideologues, have been delivered to 42,000 elementary schools across the state free of cost.

Eight out of the nine books have been penned by Dina Nath Batra, founder of the Hindu nationalist organisation, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. Batra was responsible for forcing Pengiun India Publishers to withdraw all copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus in February this year.

Enthused by its success, Batra went on to force two other publishers – Aleph and Orient Blackswan – to withdraw books that he deemed “hurtful to Hindu religious sentiments“.

Good thing we have intellectual freedom here in the United States. We don’t have to confront theocrats like this more often than, say, once or twice a week. :)

Taking a leaf from Batra’s book, India’s prime minister and former chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, last week said that genetic science existed in ancient India.

In fact, Modi wrote a foreword in Batra’s books saying his “inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers”…

There is already some talk of changing the school and college curriculum at the national level.

In Indian political context, “saffronisation” is used to refer to the policies of right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations, which, according to critics, are divisive. The term refers to the saffron-coloured robes worn by Hindu sages.

Barely four days after India’s new right-wing government was sworn in this May, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, a former TV actress, issued her first statement saying the Vedas, the Upanishads and other ancient Hindu texts should be introduced in the classrooms.

Consequently, in July, a consultative body called The Bharatiya Shiksha Neeti Ayog (Indian Education Policy Commission) was constituted by the Hindu nationalist organisation, RSS and is mandated “to study the present education system and suggest corrective steps to make it Bharat-centric.” Bharat is the Hindi word for India.

And so it goes. In nation-states led and controlled by politicians whose ideology is infused with the supposed benefits of theocracy, school books and laws begin to be distorted a little at a time until the intellectual freedom of thought, speech and education we take for granted as modern standards – are made subservient to religion. Whether it be India, Turkey – or Texas.

India is first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit

India became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet when its indigenously made unmanned spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on Wednesday — and the first nation in the world to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt.

The spacecraft called “Mangalyaan,” or “Mars-craft” in Hindi, which was launched last November, slowed down just enough to reach orbit early Wednesday, securing India a place in the elite global space club of Martian explorers…

The official Twitter account of NASA’s Curiosity Rover — which has been on the Martian surface since Aug. 6, 2012 — tweeted, “Namaste, @MarsOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.”

To which MOM’s Twitter account replied, “Howdy @MarsCuriosity ? Keep in touch. I’ll be around…”

Over the next six months, India’s Mangalyaan will study the mineral composition on Mars and also look for the presence of methane, a chemical key to life on Earth.

India has launched 75 satellites since 1975, and its space program has over the years worked on collecting weather data, predicting natural disasters, feeding television and radio stations and also teaching children in remote villages without schools.

“We have seen the report and congratulate India on the Mars satellite entering the orbit successfully,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing…This is pride of India and Pride of Asia and also is a landmark progress in humankind’s exploration of outer space. So we congratulate India on that,” she said.

Questions of economics and priorities will be asked – properly – but, congratulations are in order more than anything else. Another standard of modern society achieved by an Asian nation.

An old-timey sci-fi geek like me has to be thrilled.

Thanks, Mike