Enhancing crop productivity vital (9)
Globally, India lags behind in productivity of most crops and it is of utmost importance that the productivity per hectare is raised urgently to pull out farmers from poverty, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Friday.
“Productivity and production could not be improved till the quality of land improves. Therefore, improving soil health is one of the most important issues in agriculture especially in irrigated areas where extensive use of urea has resulted in deterioration in soil health,” he told a press conference here.
Centre had been emphasising on improving the health of soil by integrated nutrient management and had announced a programme of collection of soil samples, conduct analysis and issuance of soil health card in a time bound manner.
“Many of our farmers are not able to get the optimal yields from their fields, as they are not aware of the soil conditions. Our goal is to communicate benefits of soil health to the farmers so that they can apply appropriate dosage of fertilisers to increase productivity and profitability,” said Mr. Radha Mohan.
He said the government decided to provide soil health cards to 14 crore farmers of the country.
“Five crore farmers will be provided these card in 2015-16 and remaining farmers will be given the cards in 2016-17,” he said pointing out that under the Soil Health Card Scheme Rs. 109 crore have been released till December 2015.
The Minister said the national e-Market will be launched by March 2016 under the National Agriculture Market Scheme (NAM).
“As many as 20 States have expressed interest in linking their markets (mandis). While 200 mandis will be connected by September 2016, another 200 mandis will be connected by March 2017,” he said.
Courtesy : The Hindu
Flowers may be losing their diverse and delicious fragrances, thanks to increasing temperatures associated with global climate change, scientists say.
Flowers produce scent to attract pollinating insects to the flowers' reproductive organs, thereby ensuring the continued existence of plant species.
To do this, flowers assemble a mixture of dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of volatile substances from several biochemical groups.
Scientists have known for some time that increasing temperatures associated with global climate change have a negative effect on plant growth.
Expanding on this research, scientists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel have shown that increases in ambient temperature also lead to a decrease in the production of floral scents.
"Increases in temperature associated with the changing global climate are interfering with plant-pollinator mutualism, an interaction facilitated mainly by floral colour and scent," said Alon Can'ani, a PhD student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Can'ani studied control mechanisms that allow plants to regulate their production of smell, and is researching strategies to overcome the decrease in production of beneficial volatile substances, a process that requires a huge energy investment from plants.
He discovered that Petunia plants grown at elevated temperature conditions are significantly defected in production and emission of scent compounds.
Increasing ambient temperature leads to a decrease in phenylpropanoid-based floral scent production in two Petunia varieties, P720 and Blue Spark, Can'ani said.
This was linked to arrested expression and activity of proteins that facilitate biosynthesis of the compounds.
Can'ani also demonstrated an approach to bypass this adverse effect, by expressing the Arabidopsis thaliana PAP1 gene, which boosts the production of scent regardless of the ambient temperature.
He characterised the first gene (called PH4) that functions as a direct regulator of scent emission.
When he manipulated the expression of this gene to a halt, Petunia flowers ceased to emit scent, but continued to produce it.
This gene serves as a switch between two crucial floral traits - colour and scent.
The research was published in the journal Plant, Cell and Environment.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Smartphones and tablets may help people with intellectual disability face several challenges related to the stigma of their condition and their difficulty with living autonomously, a new study has found.
By using tools to create videos that explain their life experiences and successes, they can become more self-empowered while demonstrating and teaching their skills to peers, according to Ann-Louise Davidson from Concordia University in Canada.
Davidson worked with eight individuals with intellectual disability (ID) to co-create moving personal video testimonials. Using iPads, participants wrote and directed short videos that highlight important aspects of their lives.
They then shared rough cuts of the videos with a focus group, receiving feedback as well as praise, prior to uploading the videos to a shared YouTube channel, accessible to the public.
"The collective message we see in these videos is clearly one of people with ID being able to lead satisfying lives and feel good about living, working and playing on a daily basis. And when people with ID see their peers succeed, it inspires them," said Ann-Louise Davidson.
Video production can be extremely empowering, but videos for people with ID are almost never made by them or with them in collaboration, said Davidson.
"People with ID have very few positive models of people with ID who are successful in society, and most of these models can be criticised as tokenisations - people with ID who are misleadingly high functioning," said Davidson.
She conducted the study with the eight participants as co-researchers, having them produce and edit their own videos.
"The distinction between doing research 'with,' and doing research 'on' is really important," she said.
Davidson used what is called the 'capability approach' to help participants make decisions about what aspects to highlight in their videos.
"Using that approach meant having the possibility to choose what one can do as opposed to doing only what one can do," she said.
"That is a fundamental freedom that researchers should focus on in future studies on disability," she added.
The study found that all participants provided enough information about their capabilities and no one was intimidated by the technology.
"With powerful mobile technologies so readily available and accessible, people with ID can and should produce their own educational resources," said Davidson.
The findings were published in the journal Social Inclusion.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
A Pakistani court will finally hear from Wednesday a petition to prove the innocence of legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in the murder case of a British police officer, nearly 85 years after his execution by the colonial government.
Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice Ijazul Ahsan constituted a division bench headed by justice Khalid Mahmood Khan to hear the case from February 3.
The petition was last heard by justice Shujaat Ali Khan in May 2013, when he referred the matter to the chief justice for the constitution of a larger bench.
Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Qureshi, chairman of the Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation, had in November filed a plea in the LHC for early hearing of the matter.
In the petition, Qureshi said Bhagat Singh was a freedom fighter and fought for independence of undivided India.
The case was filed against Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru for allegedly killing British police officer John P Saunders.
Singh was hanged by British rulers on March 23, 1931 at the age of 23, after being tried under charges for hatching a conspiracy against the colonial government.
He said Singh was initially jailed for life but later awarded death sentence in another "fabricated case".
The petitioner further said Bhagat Singh is respected even today in the subcontinent not only by Sikhs but also Muslims as the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah twice paid tribute to him.
"It is a matter of national importance and should be fixed before a full bench," he said and pleaded the court to set aside the sentence of Singh by exercising principles of review and order the government to honour him with state award.
In 2014, Lahore police provided the copy of the original FIR of the killing of Saunders in 1928 to the petitioner on the court's order. Singh's name was not mentioned in the First Information Report of the murder of Saunders for which he was handed down death sentence.
Eighty three years after Singh's hanging, Lahore police searched through the record of the Anarkali police station on court's order and managed to find the FIR of the murder of Saunders.
Written in Urdu, the FIR was registered with the Anarkali police station on December 17, 1928 at 4.30pm against two 'unknown gunmen'. The case was registered under sections 302, 1201 and 109 of Indian Penal Code.
Petitioner Qureshi said special judges of the tribunal handling Singh's case awarded death sentence to him without hearing the 450 witnesses in the case. Singh's lawyers were not given the opportunity of cross-questioning them, he said. "I will establish Bhagat Singh's innocence in the Saunders case," Qureshi said.
Small levels of atmospheric oxygen had already developed on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago, much earlier than previously thought, a new study has found.
Reconstructing the emergence and evolution of life on our planet is tightly linked to the questions as to when and to what extent Earth's atmosphere became oxygenated.
Most researchers agree that the oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere happened in two major steps - the first during the Great Oxidation Event about 2.5 to 2.4 billion years ago, and the second during the Late Neoproterozoic Era around 750 to 540 million years ago.
The latter is thought to have been the cause for the emergence of animals during the 'Cambrian explosion' around 540 to 520 million years ago.
Researchers, led by Robert Frei from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, found evidence for the presence of small concentrations of oxygen on Earth 3.8 billion years ago.
The researchers analysed Earth's oldest Banded Iron Formations (BIFs) from Western Greenland.
BIFs are marine chemical sediments originally comprised of alternating layers of silica and iron-hydroxides and are widely used as geochemical archives.
The reason for this is that they retain information on the composition and presence of oxygenation/reduction processes in ambient seawater and on the interaction of the atmosphere with Earth's surface.
The researchers used concentrations and isotope compositions, ie variations of the same elements with different atomic weight, of the elements chromium (Cr) and uranium (U) present in the BIFs.
Chromium and uranium were used as these elements weather rapidly when continental landmasses are exposed to reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as oxygen (O2).
After weathering, they are transported to the oceans by rivers, where they are deposited with chemical sediments and serve as geochemical signals of weathering by ROS.
The fact that the analyses of the BIF layers from Western Greenland show elements that require presence of oxygen in the atmosphere opens up for the possibility of evolution of the earliest primitive photosynthetic life forms as early as 3.8 billion years ago.
"It is generally believed that the Early Earth was a completely anoxic, but our study shows that the surface of the Earth was exposed to a low oxygen atmosphere already this time," Frei said.
"This has far reaching implications for how we investigate the pace of evolution of life and its biodiversity on our planet," he said
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have developed tiny 3D 'mini-brains' that mimic some of the human brain's structures and functionality and can be used to study diseases such as Alzheimer's and autism.
The creation of these 'mini-brains' could dramatically change how new drugs are tested for effectiveness and safety, researchers said.
Performing research using these balls of brain cells that grow and form brain-like structures on their own over the course of eight weeks should be superior to studying mice and rats because they are derived from human cells instead of rodents, they said.
"Ninety-five per cent of drugs that look promising when tested in animal models fail once they are tested in humans at great expense of time and money," said study leader Thomas Hartung, professor at Johns Hopkins University in US.
"While rodent models have been useful, we are not 150-pound rats. And even though we are not balls of cells either, you can often get much better information from these balls of cells than from rodents," said Hartung.
"We believe that the future of brain research will include less reliance on animals, more reliance on human, cell-based models," he said.
Researchers, including Anupama Kumar of John Hopkins University, created the brains using what are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
These are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state and then are stimulated to grow into brain cells.
Cells from the skin of several healthy adults were used to create the mini-brains, but Hartung said that cells from people with certain genetic traits or certain diseases can be used to create brains to study various types of pharmaceuticals.
The brains can be used to study Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and even autism.
The mini-brains are very small - at 350 micrometres in diameter, or about the size of the eye of a housefly, they are just visible to the human eye - and hundreds to thousands of exact copies can be produced in each batch.
One hundred of them can grow easily in the same petri dish in the lab.
After cultivating the mini-brains for about two months, the brains developed four types of neurons and two types of support cells - astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, the latter of which go on to create myelin, which insulates the neuron's axons and allows them to communicate faster.
The researchers could watch the myelin developing and could see it begin to sheath the axons. The brains even showed spontaneous electrophysiological activity, which could be recorded with electrodes, similar to an electroencephalogram, also known as EEG.
To test them, the researchers placed a mini-brain on an array of electrodes and listened to the spontaneous electrical communication of the neurons as test drugs were added.
Courtesy – Deccan Herald
The plea filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffry made Pakistan's claim over the 105-carat gem on the basis that it hailed from the territory that became Pakistan in 1947.
A Pakistani court has accepted a petition seeking direction to the government to bring back Koh-i-Noor from British Queen Elizabeth-II, overruling the objection to the plea for the famed diamond, which India has been trying to get from the UK for years. Lahore High Court Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan on Monday overruled the objection by the court’s registrar office to the petition which has named Queen Elizabeth II and British High Commission in Pakistan respondents in the case.
The plea filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffry made Pakistan’s claim over the 105-carat gem on the basis that it hailed from the territory that became Pakistan in 1947. The court directed the office to fix the petition before any appropriate bench for hearing. In December last year, the registrar office’s had dismissed the plea terming it as non-maintainable and said that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case against the British Queen.
The petitioner filed a fresh application in the high court pleading that in Britain the Queen is respondent in every case. “Why not she can be made respondent in a case in Pakistan,” he argued in the court. In the petition, Jaffry argued that Britain “forcibly and under duress” stole the diamond from Daleep Singh, grandson of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, and took it to Britain.
“The diamond became part of the crown of incumbent Queen Elizabeth-II at the time of her crowing in 1953. Queen Elizabeth has no right on the Koh-i-Noor diamond,” he said. The London-trained lawyer said that he has written 786 letters to the Queen and to Pakistani officials before filing the lawsuit.
“Koh-i-Noor was not legitimately acquired. Grabbing and snatching it was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law or ethics. A wrong is a wrong. It does not become righteous or right by passage of time or even acquiescence,” he said in the petition. Claiming that the diamond was cultural heritage of Punjab province and its citizens owned it in fact, he sought direction to the government to bring the diamond back to Pakistan from the UK.
The Koh-i-Noor is one of the Crown Jewels and is now on display in the Tower of London. India has made regular requests for the jewel’s return, saying the diamond is an integral part of the country’s history and culture. India says that Koh-i-Noor was illegally acquired and demands that it should be returned along with other treasures looted during colonial rule.
The Koh-i-Noor was mined in medieval times in the Kollur mine in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district. The diamond was originally owned by the Kakatiya Dynasty, which had installed it in a temple of a Hindu goddess as her eye. Reportedly, in 1849, after the conquest of the Punjab by the British forces, the properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated.
The Koh-i-Noor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore. The properties of the Sikh Empire were taken as war compensations. It passed through the hands of various invaders and was finally appropriated by the British in 1850 during the Raj.
India has been long demanding the return of Koh-i-Noor which was owned by several Mughal emperors and Maharajas before being seized by the British. When Queen Elizabeth II made a state visit to India marking the 50th anniversary of independence in 1997, many
Indians in India and Britain demanded the return of the diamond. British Indian MP Keith Vaz had called for the return of ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond to India ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in November last year.
Britain has, however, consistently rejected India’s claims on the gem and during a visit to India in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron had said in an interview on Indian television: “What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, then you would suddenly find the British Museum empty.”
Courtesy - Indian Express
Much of the health benefits associated with mindfulness meditation training is due to the changes that this form of meditation causes in the brain, suggests new research.
In mindfulness meditation people make a conscious, focused practice of attending to their current state and sensations.
“We have now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,” said lead author David Creswell, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, US.
Published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the new study showed that mindfulness meditation training, compared to relaxation training, reduces Interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed community adults.
For the randomised controlled trial, 35 job-seeking, stressed adults were exposed to either an intensive three-day mindfulness meditation retreat programme or a well-matched relaxation retreat programme that did not have a mindfulness component.
All participants completed a five-minute resting state brain scan before and after the three-day programme.
They also provided blood samples right before the intervention began and at a four-month follow-up.
The brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation training increased the functional connectivity of the participants’ resting default mode network in areas important to attention and executive control, namely the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Participants who received the relaxation training did not show these brain changes.
The participants who completed the mindfulness meditation program also had reduced IL-6 levels, and the changes in brain functional connectivity coupling accounted for the lower inflammation levels.
“We think that these brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience, such that mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health,” Creswell said.
Courtesy - Indian Express
There are four years left for the government target of ensuring all Indians use toilets, but in urban India alone, no more than 30 percent of sewage generated by 377 million people flows through treatment plants.
The rest is randomly dumped in rivers, seas, lakes and wells, polluting three-fourths of the country's water bodies, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of various data sources.
An estimated 62,000 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage is generated in urban areas, while the treatment capacity across India is only 23,277 MLD, or 37 percent of sewage generated, according to data released by the government in December 2015.
Further parsing of this data reveals that of 816 municipal sewage treatment plants (STPs) listed across India, 522 work. So, of 62,000 MLD, the listed capacity is 23,277 MLD but no more than 18,883 MLD of sewage is actually treated.
That means 70 percent of sewage generated in urban India is not treated.
While 79 STPs don't work, 145 are under construction and 70 are proposed, according to the Central Pollution Control Board's Inventorization Of Sewage Treatment Plants report.
No improvement over the years; towns, cities pollute their own water
India's towns and cities contaminate their own water, with no improvement over the years.
Sewage generation in India from class-I cities (with a population more than 100,000) and class-II towns (population 50,000-100,000) is estimated at 38,255 MLD, of which only 11,787 MLD (30 percent) is treated, according to the Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) report by Water Aid, a safe-water and sanitation advocacy, quoting a 2009 CPCB report.
The untreated sewage is dumped directly into water bodies, polluting three-fourth of India's surface water resources, the FSM report said. Up to 80 percent of water bodies could be polluted, the report said.
Operation and maintenance of existing treatment capacity is below par, with 39 percent plants not conforming to environmental rules for discharge into streams, the CPCB report said.
An estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of water pollution is from domestic sewage, discharged untreated into local water bodies.
A general, growing shortage of (working) sewage-treatment plants
Of the 522 working STPs across India, the maximum are in the northern state of Punjab, which has 86. But no more than 38 work.
Uttar Pradesh has the most working STPs, 62, followed by Maharashtra (60) and Karnataka (44).
About 85 million in urban India lack adequate sanitation - more than Germany's populationAbout 17 million urban households lack adequate sanitation facilities in India, with 14.7 million households without toilets, the FSM report said.
If you consider five people per family, that means about 85 million people - or more than the population of Germany - are without adequate sanitation in urban India.
In terms of rural households, only 48.4 percent (87.9 million) have toilet facilities as on December 7, 2015, according to a reply in the Lok Sabha.
Around five million (7.1%) urban households having pit latrines that have no slabs or are open pits, and about 900,000 toilets dispose off faeces directly into drains.
Only 32.7 percent of urban households that have sanitation facilities use toilets connected to an underground sewage network.
As many as 30 million urban households (38.2 percent), of the 79 million households with septic tanks, have no clear method for sewage disposal.
Open defecation remains a major challenge
About 12.6 percent of urban households defecate in the open. This number is higher for slums, with 18.9 perceent of households defecating in the open.
Around 1.7 percent of households across India defecate in the open despite having toilets, the government informed the Lok Sabha in a reply last month, based on a 2012 National Sample Survey report.
In Madhya Pradesh, around 22.5 percent urban households defecate in open spaces, followed by Tamil Nadu (16.2 percent), Uttar Pradesh (14.8 percent), Gujarat (8.7 percent), Maharashtra (7.7 percent) and Delhi (3 percent).
A staggering 55 percent of rural households defecate in the open, according to data tabled in the Lok Sabha on May 7, 2015. Odisha tops list, with 86.6 percent of rural households defecating in the open. In Kerala, no more than 3.9 percent of households defecate in the open.
The global story: Open defecation has fallen by half over 25 years The proportion of people practising open defecation globally has fallen almost by half, from 24 percent in 1990 to 13 percent in 2015.
About 68 percent of the world's population had access to improved sanitation facilities, including flush toilets and covered latrines, in 2015, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, nearly 2.4 billion people across the world lack basic sanitation facilities, such as toilets or latrines. Of these, 946 million defecate in the open, according to the WHO.
Will building toilets address the issue? The jury is out The Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission, launched by the National Democratic Alliance government on October 2, 2014, aims to make India open-defecation-free by October 2, 2019.
The government plans to construct 2.5 million individual household toilets in urban areas by 2015-16, of which 882,905 were constructed upto December, 2015, according to latest data available.
As many as 32,014 out of 100,000 community and public toilets have been built under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The rural sanitation program, in its first year, saw the construction of 8.8 million toilets, against the target of 6 million.
Courtesy - Deccan Herald
Bose had also left a letter addressed to his brother and asked Emilie to take photographs of the same and send copies to (Sarat Chandra Bose) if anything happened to him
NETAJI SUBHAS Chandra Bose saw his daughter Anita only once, when she was four weeks old. He was about to pay another visit to her in Vienna in 1943, but his “sudden departure” prevented this.
The 64 files made public by the West Bengal government on Friday showed that while Bose never returned to Europe to his daughter and wife Emilie Schenkl, they continued to write to Netaji’s family after his disappearance.
An intercept, recorded in the Calcutta Police Security Control’s Weekly Survey — dated May 4, 1946 — refers to Schenkl as a person who “claims to be the widow of Subhas Chandra Bose”.
Courtesy – Indian Express Web Desk