The HINDU Notes – 13th May 2019 - VISION

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Monday, May 13, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 13th May 2019

📰 Thrissur ‘Pooram’ festivities begin with Raman’s entry

Lakhs of people witness ‘Vilambaram’ ritual

•An unprecedented crowd gathered to witness the ‘Vilambaram’ ritual of the Thrissur Pooram celebrations at the Thekkinkadu maidan here on Sunday, with elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, fondly called ‘Raman’, opening the Thekke Gopura Nada of Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple.

•The ‘Vilambaram’ ritual declares the 36-hour-long pooram celebrations open.

•It was a record crowd on the eve of the pooram, almost equal to that of Kudamattam (changing of parasols) ceremony, as the ritual and the controversy over parading of the elephant drew national attention.

•The Vilambaram ritual involves bringing the idol of Naithilakkavu Temple, Kuttoor, one of the 10 participating temples of the Thrissur Pooram, to the Sree Vadakkunnathan temple and opening the Thekke Gopura Nada. As the District Collector gave permission for parading elephant Ramachandran on the temple ground only for an hour, another elephant Thechikkottukavu Devidasan, carried the idol from Naithilakkavu temple to Manikandanal on the Swaraj Round.

•Ramachandran, which was brought in a lorry to the Swaraj Round, received the idol at Manikandanal. There was Pandimelam by Kizhakkoot Aniyan Marar. Later, Ramachandran carried the idol of Neithilakkavilamma to the temple to take blessings of Vadakkunnathan.

Excited crowd

•Lakhs of pooram lovers screamed in excitement when Ramachandran opened the Thekke Gopura Nada carrying the idol of Neithilakkavilamma.

•For the first time in history, the Vilambaram ritual witnessed a sea of humanity, showing the huge fan following for Raman. Later, the idol was handed over once again to Devidasan and Raman was taken to Thechikkottukavu in a lorry.

•Tight security was arranged for the ritual. People were not allowed to come near Ramachandran. Barricades were erected 10 meters away. Police had a tough time controlling the crowd.

•The Vilambaram ritual drew attention following the ban on Ramachandran, considering its violent behaviour. The ban was later lifted. The elephant was insured for Rs. 3 crore for the one-hour long function.

•The functions on Monday, the Pooram Day, will begin at 7.30 a.m. A long list of celebrations, including famous percussion ensembles for Madathil Varavu, Chembada and Ilanjithara Melam and Kudamattam, await the pooram lovers. Fireworks lovers have to wait till early morning on Tuesday.

📰 Post-Fani, Naveen demands special category status

Says massive loss to infrastructure

•Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has demanded special category status from the Centre for his disaster-prone State, saying it faces natural calamities almost every year.

•In his first interview since Cyclone Fani ravaged the coastal districts killing 41 people, he said a special category status was the need of the hour due to the massive loss to infrastructure which may stall growth of the State.

•“In fact, this is one of the our main demands before the Union government. Odisha faces natural calamities almost every year. The assistance we get from the Centre is mostly for temporary restoration of infrastructure. We have to spend a lot from State’s own funds to work for the long-term,” Mr. Patnaik told PTI.

•“This puts too much stress on our finances. Precisely for this reason, Odisha should be considered for a special category status. In the last five years we had Phailin, Hudhud, Titli and now Fani. In addition to this, we have massive floods,” he added.

Growth rate

•Mr. Patnaik, who was sworn in as Chief Minister for the first time in 2000 and is now seeking a fifth consecutive term, said it was necessary to accelerate the growth rate of the State.

•“We are maintaining a growth rate higher than that of the country. We are doing so well in all our socio-economic indicators. Proving special category status will help us accelerate growth,” he said.

•Asked if Cyclone Fani should have been declared a national calamity considering the magnitude of the damage, he said a special category status would solve the purpose.

•Asked how challenging it would be now to bring Odisha back to normalcy, he said his government was leaving no stone unturned to do it quickly.

•“We are putting our best efforts in bringing back normalcy. Power infrastructure has been completely destroyed, especially in Puri and parts of Khurda districts where we have to re-electrify completely. Also, lakhs of houses have been destroyed in addition to serious damage to tree cover and plantation crops,” he said.

📰 Vedanta gets initial nod for 274 hydrocarbon wells in T.N., Puducherry

•The ToR for carrying out an EIA is the first in a series of steps that need to be completed and certified for setting up a project. The EIA will study the environmental impact of the project, explain the consequences and the mitigation measures to be undertaken. Approval for carrying out the EIA is no guarantee of a project being granted the final nod, but generally, it is granted clearance, unless the reasons are too difficult to justify.

•"Under the provisions of the EIA Notification 2006, as amended, the Standard ToR for the purposes of preparing the environmental impact assessment report and the environment management plan for obtaining prior environmental clearance is prescribed with public consultation," the Ministry said in a letter to Vedanta.

Commercial exploitation

•The company, while submitting details of the project to the MoEF, said exploratory drilling is a temporary project of short duration, and there could be commercial exploitation if there is a discovery of a hydrocarbon field. "Vedanta Ltd. (Cairn Oil and Gas) has planned to carry out seismic data acquisition, exploration and appraisal well drilling and well testing in the CY-OSHP-2017/2 Block over a period of 10-12 years. The estimated cost of the project is given below: physical Surveys Cost estimated to be approximately Rs. 106.63 crore. The average cost per well for exploratory & appraisal well is estimated to be Rs. 49 crore," the company said in its submission for the second block.

•In the last two months, the ONGC has been granted ToR for the EIA to carry out exploratory drilling for 17 wells in Bhuvanagiri in Cuddalore and 10 wells in Periyakudi in Thiruvarur district. The project is estimated to cost Rs. 2,450 crore for the Bhuvanagiri field and Rs. 1,300 crore for the Periyakudi field. The company also plans to drill 35 wells in Cuddalore and 5 wells in Nagapattinam.

📰 Rouhani calls for unity amidst ‘unprecedented’ U.S. pressure

‘We can move past these conditions provided we are united’

•President Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for unity among Iran’s political factions to overcome conditions which he said may be harder than those during the 1980s war with Iraq, state media reported, as the country faces tightening U.S. sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders talk with him about giving up their nuclear programme and said he could not rule out a military confrontation.

•“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period, but during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases,” Mr. Rouhani said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

•“The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution... but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united,” Mr. Rouhani told activists from various factions.

Magazine suspended

•Separately, a media court on Saturday suspended the weekly Seda (Voice), the semi-official news agency ISNA reported, after the reformist magazine published an issue that included articles warning about the possibility of war with the United States.

•“At the Crossroads of War and Peace, have moderates lost or will they again save Iran from war?” the main headline on the front page read against a photograph of U.S. Navy warships.

•On social media, hardliners attacked the magazine as “Trump’s voice”, suggesting its warning about the danger of war amounted to a call for talks with the United States.

📰 Trump could meet Xi on sidelines of G20 meet in June

There is still time to negotiate, says aide after U.S. President orders new tariffs on Chinese imports

•President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping could meet next month on the sidelines of the G20 summit to hash out their differences on trade, but no new talks are scheduled, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Sunday.

•The world’s top two economies ended two days of negotiations in Washington on Friday with no deal. While making it clear that the U.S. was unwilling to settle, Mr. Kudlow sought to tamp down concerns, insisting that the process was ongoing. “We need to see something much clearer and until we do, we have to keep our tariffs on,” he said in an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday’, adding: “We can’t accept any backtracking.”

•As for future negotiations, while there are “no concrete, definite plans yet”, Mr. Kudlow said China had invited Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to Beijing — and higher-level discussions could be on the cards. The chances of Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi meeting during the Group of 20 summit in Japan in late June “are probably pretty good,” the top White House aide said. The G20 summit is scheduled to take place in Osaka on June 28-29.

•Mr. Trump ordered new punitive duties, which took effect on Friday, on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, raising them to 25% from 10%. He then ordered a tariff hike on almost all remaining imports — $300 billion worth, according to Mr. Lighthizer — from China.

•But Mr. Kudlow insisted it would be months before such punitive measures take effect, and that there was still time to negotiate.

•In his own comments on Saturday, Mr. Trump struck a more belligerent tone, urging China that it would be “wise for them to act now”. “They know I am going to win... and the deal will become far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term,” he tweeted.

📰 Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaidó seeks Pentagon’s help

Asks Venezuelan envoy to establish a ‘direct relationship’

•Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said on Saturday that he has asked his envoy to the United States to meet with Pentagon officials to “cooperate” on a solution to the South American country’s political crisis.

•Mr. Guaidó added that he had received word from China that the country would join a diplomatic effort between European and Latin American countries, known as the International Contact Group on Venezuela, to negotiate an end to the crisis.

Building pressure

•“We have instructed our Ambassador Carlos Vecchio to meet immediately... with the Southern Command and its admiral to establish a direct relationship,” Mr. Guaidó said at a rally in Caracas on Saturday. “We have said from the beginning that we will use all the resources at our disposal to build pressure.”

•The Southern Command had said in a tweet on Thursday that it was prepared to discuss “how we can support the future role” of Venezuelan armed forces leaders who “restore constitutional order,” when invited by Mr. Guaidó.

•Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino separately said on Saturday that a U.S. Coast Guard ship had entered Venezuelan territorial waters, which he said “we will not accept.” A Southern Command spokesman had said on Friday that a U.S. Coast Guard vessel was conducting a “counterdrug detection and monitoring mission” in “international waters” in the Caribbean Sea on May 9.

•Mr. Guaidó was speaking at a rally in support of Opposition lawmakers who have been arrested, taken refuge at foreign Embassies in Caracas, and been threatened in recent days amid a broad crackdown by Nicolás Maduro against Congress after the April 30 uprising.

📰 Assam produces an orchid link to the Orient

The parasitic bloom, found by forest officer Jatindra Sarma, is a variant of a Japanese orchid

•An Assam forest officer’s chance discovery has given India one of its smallest orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom to be recorded botanically.

•Lecanorchis taiwaniana, which the Japanese Journal of Botany has published as a “new record for the flora in India” in its latest issue, is a mycoheterotroph, one of two types of parasitic plants that have abandoned photosynthesis.

Studied, classified

•“We took time to classify this orchid as it appeared close to the nigricans species while bearing 90% similarity with the taiwaniana species named after Taiwan. The vote went in favour of the latter as the slight morphological differences were found to be due to local conditions,” Jatindra Sarma, a Conservator of Forests, told The Hindu.

•Mr. Sarma, also the Member Secretary of the State Medicinal Plants Board, co-authored the study on the new orchid with Hussain A. Barbhuiya of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Santanu Dey of Nagaland University’s Botany Department, and Kenji Suetsugu of Kobe University in Japan.

•Lecanorchis taiwaniana adds to the orchid wealth of northeast India, which has 800 of some 1,300 species in the country.

•About 300 species are found in the Western Ghats and 200 in the northwestern Himalayas.

Herbal value?

•The orchid, discovered earlier in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos, was found to have a maximum height of 40 cm and a blossoming period of five-six days.

•“We are yet to ascertain the herbal value of this orchid that flowers and fruits from July to September. But as it derives its energy and nutrients from fungus, it may be of herbal importance,” Mr. Sarma said.

•The forest officer has a few other botanical discoveries to his credit. These include the rare, ginger-like Amomum pratisthana named after his daughter, and the Smilax sailenii named after Prof. Sailen Borah, one of Assam’s best known botanists.

•Mr. Sarma has also published the two-volume Medicinal Plants and Mushrooms of India with special reference to Assam.

•It contains information on 1,400 medicinal plants and mushrooms, including Costus pictus or the insulin plant used in treating diabetes mellitus, and Ophiorrhiza mungos used in treating cancer because of the alkaloid Camptothecin present in it.

📰 New protocols for managing disasters

Government approves disaster management authority’s updated document

•Picking up valuable lessons from the Cyclone Ockhi disaster and the 2018 floods, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has updated standard operating procedures (SOP) and adopted new protocols for disaster management in the State.

•The State government has approved KSDMA’s updated ‘Orange book of disaster management — Kerala — SOP and emergency support functions plan’ and a new, separate document, ‘Monsoon preparedness and emergency response plan.’ The revision is meant to enhance the capacity of government departments to handle emergencies effectively.

•Named so for its orange-coloured outer cover, the orange book was earlier known as the ‘Handbook on disaster management — Volume 2 — emergency operations centres and emergency support functions plan.’ It describes incidence response mechanisms to be adopted at the State, district and taluk level.

Space debris too

•Containing information on emergency response assets available across the State, the orange book explains the SOP for rainfall, flood, cyclone, tsunami, high waves (swell waves, storm surges, ‘kallakadal’), landslip, petrochemical accidents and even mishaps caused by space debris (meteorites, falling spacecraft parts, etc.).

•On the other hand, the ‘Monsoon preparedness and emergency response plan’ is season-specific. It is meant to be strictly complied with during the south-west and north-east monsoon seasons (June to December).

•Earlier, directives on monsoon preparedness were issued in the form of government circulars. According to KSDMA, no single document spelt out the responsibilities of individual government departments.

Role of govt. depts.

•The new document, published in Malayalam, lists the roles of the State emergency operations centre, central agencies, district disaster management authorities, and 29 departments.

•“This plan will be a season-specific dynamic sub-plan of the Orange book of disaster management - Kerala. This plan will be updated every year after receiving the first Long Range Forecast of the India Meteorological Department,” the government said in a May 9 order approving the two documents.

📰 Odisha set to introspect on post-disaster communication

After Cyclone Fani, Puri remained cut-off for 48 hours; VHF communication used by the police for disaster mitigation had very limited reach

•Puri remained cut-off for 48 hours after cyclone Fani made landfall in the district on May 3 and the State control room was not able to establish regular communication with the district headquarters, resulting in utter confusion in relief and rescue operations.

•Experts now blame it on breakdown of post-disaster communication while the State disaster managers are all set to introspect how it failed for the first time since Super Cyclone in 1999.

•Two teams of HAM radio operators from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal came to the rescue of the State which takes a lot of pride for its pioneering efforts in disaster management. HAM radio was the chief mode of communication for the first several hours.

Expert opinion

•“When disaster comes, communication becomes the first casualty. Communications are of two types – terrestrial and satellite-based. Telephone, FAX, HAM radio and VHF are part of terrestrial communication which requires infrastructure – tower for mobile phones, cable for land phones and antenna for VHF or HAM radios. For satellite communications, handheld phone is enough as it does not depend on terrestrial facilities such as power, tower and antenna,” said an expert.

•For a brief period, the State control room was able to talk to Suresh Mohapatra, State Forest and Environment Secretary, who was stationed in Puri, over satellite phone. But the communication could not be carried on. A messenger had to be sent physically on May 5 to Puri to find out the status. Even the Odisha State Wide Area Network (OSWAN), which was set up to connect the State with 30 district headquarters and 284 block headquarters and 61 horizontal offices through data, video and voice communications also failed.

•The VHF communication being used by the police administration had very limited reach during the disaster.

•The expert emphasised that the disaster communication should have been multi-layered – if one fails, there should be an alternative channel to fall back upon.

•“The State did not have any problem with pre-disaster communications. But, when it came to post-disaster communication, it faltered especially after Fani struck the State,” he said.

•Asked about the failure of communication, State Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi admitted “there was temporary failure in establishing communication with the Puri district administration.”

•“We have to think of having fail-safe communication after the disaster.”

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