The HINDU Notes – 03rd June 2019 - VISION

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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 03rd June 2019

📰 Centre in damage control mode over anti-Hindi protests

Centre in damage control mode over anti-Hindi protests
Cabinet Ministers take to Twitter to allay concerns over draft educational policy

•The Centre went into damage control mode on Sunday, with senior Cabinet Ministers of Tamil origin taking to Twitter to allay concerns about the draft National Education Policy’s recommendation regarding the three-language formula and mandatory Hindi teaching in schools, which has sparked outrage across the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu.

•The draft policy will only be implemented after public hearings, said a tweet written in Tamil by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Central government will support the development of ancient Tamil, she added.

•The new External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted a similar message on Sunday evening, in both English and Tamil. “The National Education Policy as submitted to the Minister HRD is only a draft report. Feedback shall be obtained from general public. State governments will be consulted. Only after this the draft report will be finalised,” said the tweet. “GoI respects all languages. No language shall be imposed.”

•The tweets by the two Ministers — neither of whom deals with education issues — seems to be part of the Centre’s effort to calm the storm provoked in Tamil Nadu by the draft NEP. Current and former Human Resource Development Ministers also tweeted a similar reassurance.

•While all Tamil Nadu opposition parties including the DMK, Congress, MDMK, Left parties and Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiyyam blasted the draft policy’s recommendations, the ruling AIADMK — which is allied to the NDA government at the Centre — insisted that it would not dilute the State’s two-language formula which does not mandate the teaching of Hindi.

•The protests may be spreading beyond the State; in Kolkata, hundreds of activists associated with the Bangla Pokkho civil society group took to the streets shouting slogans against the “unfair imposition of Hindi” and burning the pages of the draft policy.

Ambitious agenda

•The draft NEP outlines an ambitious agenda with regard to language teaching, calling for all students from pre-school or Class 1 onwards to be exposed to three or more languages, with the medium of instruction until Class 5 to be the child’s mother tongue or home language.

•From Class 6 onwards, there can be greater flexibility in the choice of languages, “so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking States would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking States would include the regional language, Hindi and English,” according to the draft policy.

•It adds: “A multilingual India is better educated and also better nationally integrated.”

•“There are scientific studies showing that basic education should be given in the mother tongue,” Mazhar Asif, a professor at the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, told The Hindu.

•Dr. Asif’s “critical knowledge of the issues of development of classical and modern languages, were central to defining a comprehensive policy in this area,” according to the draft NEP’s introduction.

•“For the last 70 years, we have followed the same [linguistic] education policy. Let us now see how we can create a situation where every person can study in the language that he dreams in, and an atmosphere where all people in India can understand one common language,” he said.

•He does not believe that this one common language should be English. “…since Independence, the economic elite of India have adopted English as their language; only about 15% of the country speaks English, and this population almost entirely coincides with the economic elite (compared with, e.g. 54% of Indians who speak Hindi),” says the draft NEP.

📰 Telangana gets Hyderabad buildings in possession of Andhra Pradesh

Governor’s order follows KCR Cabinet’s resolution

•Governor E. S. L. Narasimhan on Sunday evening issued an order allotting those government buildings and bungalows in Hyderabad that are in the custody of Andhra Pradesh government to Telangana.

•The move followed a resolution of the Council of Ministers of Telangana headed by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao earlier in the day, requesting the Governor to use his good offices to prevail upon the Andhra Pradesh government and its Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to hand over the buildings which were constructed in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and lying idle.

•The Cabinet also resolved that the Andhra Pradesh government may be allotted one building to accommodate its police establishment and another for rest of its offices for their exclusive use. By his order later, Mr. Narasimhan said the contents of the resolution be put in place by initiating necessary measures.

‘Waive taxes, charges’

•He requested the Telangana government to waive all outstanding claims of property tax and public utility charges levied on AP government for keeping the buildings. There are several buildings and bungalows, including some in the Secretariat, which were transferred to Andhra Pradesh as per State Reorganisation Act on shared basis between the two States depending on population. The Andhra Pradesh government enjoyed lien on the properties till 2024 when Hyderabad will cease to be common capital of the two States.

•Although the AP government was not using the buildings as its capital had moved to Amaravati, it had kept them idle but paid power and other public utility charges. The maintenance of the buildings was badly affected as they remained idle.

•The possibility of the Telangana government seeking possession of the buildings was expected in view of the friendly relationship between Mr. Rao and Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy ever since the YSR Congress Party emerged victorious in the Assembly elections.

•Their ties were such that Mr. Reddy called on Mr. Rao here before he was sworn in and Mr. Rao visited Vijayawada for the swearing in. They also met at the Iftaar hosted Mr. Narasimhan on Saturday.

‘Welcome decision’

•Welcoming the Governor’s order, Andhra Pradesh State Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam said, “The Governor is resolving the issues between the two States. The order is given in the process. Probably the decision was taken in anticipation of something good towards Andhra Pradesh.”

📰 U.S. visa process needs social media profiles now

More checks to hit 15 mn applicants

•In a significant move to increase surveillance of those seeking to enter the United States, Washington will require most individuals applying for visas to provide details of their social media handles going back five years. The rule is expected to affect close to 15 million people annually.

•Online visa forms that require social media account history became operational at the end of last week and will cover all applicants except those applying for certain official and diplomatic visas.

•The rule to expand social media history data collection to all immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants was first published by the State Department in April 2018. It was an outcome of President Donald Trump’s desire to put in place a policy of “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the country, a theme articulated during his campaign and via executive orders in 2017.

•Earlier, social media information was asked of only certain individuals whose applications required further review. Now the information is required as part of all immigrant (form DS-260) and non-immigrant (form DS-160) online visa applications.

•A high volume of Indian applications is likely to be impacted by the new proposal.

📰 China defends Tiananmen crackdown

Defence Minister says the country has enjoyed stability and development due to the govt.’s action

•China on Sunday defended the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on student protesters in a rare public acknowledgement of the event, days before its 30th anniversary, saying it was the “correct” policy.

•After seven weeks of protests by students and workers, soldiers and tanks chased and killed demonstrators and onlookers in the streets leading to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

•Hundreds, or possibly more than 1,000, were killed, although the precise number of deaths remains unknown.

•“That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy,” Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe told a regional security forum in Singapore.

•Gen. Wei asked why people still say that China “did not handle the incident properly”. “The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” he said, adding that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development”.

•Inside China, an army of online censors have scrubbed clean social media, removing articles, memes, hashtags or photos alluding to the Tiananmen crackdown.

•Discussions of the 1989 pro-democracy protests and their brutal suppression are strictly taboo, and authorities have rounded up or warned activists, lawyers and journalists ahead of the anniversary each year.

Warning to U.S.

•In a wide-ranging speech that came a day after acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan addressed the same forum, Gen. Wei vowed that China will not be bullied by the United States, issuing a combative defence of its policies on Taiwan, the South China Sea and the restive region of Xinjiang.

•China will not renounce the use of force in the reunification of self-ruled Taiwan, he said, calling it “very dangerous” to underestimate Beijing’s will. “We will strive for the process of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and greatest efforts but we make no promise to renounce the use of force,” he said.

📰 Heat wave to continue for a couple of days: IMD

Churu in Rajasthan sizzles at 48.4 °C

•Severe heat wave conditions will continue in many parts over the next couple of days, especially in Rajasthan and several parts of north and central India, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Sunday. In worst-hit Rajasthan, a farmer died of heatstroke in Sikar district, while Churu recorded the highest temperature of 48.4°C.

•However, thunderstorms and dust storms are likely in some parts, including Delhi, on Monday, and they are expected to bring down temperatures marginally. “Maximum temperatures are very likely to rise gradually by 2-4°C over major parts of northwestern India in the next three to four days. They are likely to remain above normal by 2-3°C over some parts of south peninsula in the next three days ,” the IMD said in its five-day forecast.

•Maximum temperatures were 5.1°C to 1.6°C above normal on Saturday. In Odisha, Titlagarh touched 43.8°C, while in Andhra Pradesh, Nellore, Guntur and Prakasam districts recorded temperatures above 45°C. Severe heatwave conditions continued in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

•However, from June 7 to 9, the IMD has forecast widespread rain over parts of east India, northeastern and south peninsular India, with isolated heavy falls over Gangetic West Bengal, Odisha, south interior Karnataka and Kerala.

📰 Singapore transport has an electric future with a hybrid twist

The city state is working with Volvo Buses on a technological leap that will lead to the roll-out of driverless buses

•Singapore is famed both for its car-lite approach that discourages ownership of personal vehicles, and the steady expansion of its public transport system over the past three decades. The city state is now working on the next big technological leap that will potentially lead to the roll-out of driverless, fully autonomous buses in partnership with Volvo Buses.

•The first trials in this race to autonomy are taking place on the smooth macadam of CETRAN, a comprehensive test centre for autonomous vehicles operated by Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore). Here, a Volvo 7900 series electric bus equipped with light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARS), stereo-vision cameras to capture 3D images, and a global navigation satellite system moves along test ‘roads’ with ‘hands-free’ technology in the driver’s seat. It effortlessly turns at curves, and stops at traffic lights.

•There are two Volvo autonomous electric buses in the trials conducted by NTU scientists. The second one is undergoing tests at a bus depot managed by local transport operator SMRT.

Smart nation status

•The quest to develop autonomous vehicles is global. NTU President Prof. Subra Suresh told journalists invited by Volvo in Singapore that the country is working to be a leader in the development of autonomous vehicles, and is best placed to do so because of its goal to be a smart nation, its advanced infrastructure and commitment to smart technologies.

•The NTU president said many companies were actively working on autonomous vehicles. “Mercedes Daimler, BMW, Tesla have sophisticated technology, and there is Waymo [Google’s project]. There are even discussions about Apple in this technology. Many universities do research. Uber and Lyft are both developing technologies for autonomy,” said Prof. Suresh.

•Akash Passey, senior vice president, Region International, Volvo Buses, said “Volvo is proud to have launched the world’s first full-size autonomous electric bus. It represents the future of mobility.”

•Volvo’s partnership with NTU and SMRT to test AV technologies stands out because it is a setting far from Sweden. It was made possible by the seamless links that exist in Singapore between academic institutions and the country’s Land Transport Authority. There is also a strong electricity grid and an Information Technology backbone.

•“There are significant challenges to the development of fully autonomous vehicles not just from a technological viewpoint, but on questions such as liability, insurance and social consequences for countries with large disparities and inequalities,” according to Prof. Suresh.

•For Volvo, Singapore offers not just the test bed for new autonomous vehicle technologies but represents a market for development of the entire transport core.

Hybrids shine

•“While the bus undergoes trials in Singapore, we have also delivered hybrid buses in keeping with Singapore’s well-thought out e-mobility journey,” Mr. Passey said.

•The company has delivered 50 hybrid buses that run on both electricity and diesel, bringing down emissions and noise, cutting operating costs and raising efficiency.

•Singapore has a 198.6 km urban rail network and an organised taxi fleet of 23,410 vehicles.

•Its Land Transport Authority is looking ahead with Transport Master Plan 2040. New generation buses made up of a mix of clean diesel single and double deckers and e-mobility is expanding with a small fleet of hybrid buses. Electromobility, comprising full electric and, potentially, autonomous vehicles is on the cards.

•India is evolving its own public transport system, and Singapore provides a comparison at some levels. Here, Mr. Passey thinks there is an opportunity to dramatically expand India’s infrastructure using urban bus systems: using clean diesel BS VI buses, hybrid buses that run on both electricity and diesel, and full electric buses as islands of excellence.

•Welcoming the outlay under the FAME-II plan (Faster Adoption and Manufacture of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles), which, among other things, would help acquire over 7,000 full electric buses using the outlay of Rs. 10,000 crore, he said the right outcomes would come with a roadmap in place.

•“From experience, I think [the shift to] BS VI fuel is good. We should not write off hybrids, because there is no infrastructure required for hybrids. While Singapore has recently inducted hybrid buses, many countries including India want to skip hybrids, and everybody wants to jump to electric. In India we are still going for BS VI and electric, but in many countries they don’t have even Euro 3 but they say we will put in an electric bus. You cannot jump from 0 to 100,” Mr. Passey said.

•The economics of hybrid buses make them comparable to those running on clean diesel.

•“Till about four years ago, the hybrid bus also had to be subsidised. Today, around the world, the hybrid is a commercial success. Fuel efficiency, based on how you drive, is 35-40% over diesel, and the price can be 1.5 times that of a conventional bus, or 30 to 50% higher. But it pays back early because of the fuel efficiency. An electric bus is still an expensive proposition and is not a business model in itself without significant government subsidies. Almost 50% or more can be the cost of the battery. Meanwhile, the scope for buses running on clean diesel as per BS VI norms continues to be significant,” according to Mr. Passey.

•Volvo launched hybrids over a decade ago and has sold more than 4,000 electrified buses globally. E-mobility requires a collaboration that includes the government, traffic authorities, bus manufacturers, operators and charging system providers, besides the real estate sector and academic experts, he added.

•Singapore operates over 19,000 buses, of which about 6,000 are public, each averaging 227 km per day. This represents the second highest fleet utilisation worldwide. The small nation with distances that do not exceed 40 km has 2,200 double deckers, the majority of them supplied by Volvo, including its newest B8L model.

📰 Coffee Board takes tech route to help growers boost yield

Apps fed with data help forecast weather, predict leaf rust

•For the 3.5 lakh coffee growers in India, 98% of whom are small-scale, challenges affecting production include labour shortage, climate change and pest attacks.

•One way to manage these is by adopting technology, which the Coffee Board is trying to bring about for the growers.

•Last year, Eka Software Solutions took up a pilot project for the Coffee Board of India on machine-learning based applications. According to Shuchi Nijhawan, vice president – agri business for Eka Software, the Board and the company took up three areas to try machine learning based apps. One was addressing the white stem borer problem, another was weather forecasting, and the third, predicting leaf rust.


•“Based on the data, photos provided, we created a machine learning algorithm to forecast each of these issues (for a grower). We worked with 20 liaison officers of the Board and they coordinated with the growers.

•“The success of the app depends on the data fed in. In the case of white stem borer, the growers and the Board have validated 90% accuracy,” she says. Eka’s digital platform for agriculture aggregates data from different sources and applies the algorithm to provide insight to the coffee growers.

•Srivatsa Krishna, chairman of the Coffee Board, adds that though there is no exact data, it is learnt that in the last 10 to 15 years white stem borer would have brought down Arabica production by 25-30%. “The growers do need solutions for such issues.”

•“Despite the Coffee Act having been around for more than seven decades, farmers have zero technology. The only way to increase productivity is by bringing in technology,” he says. Even before smartphones became popular, coffee growers had checked prices on the London and New York exchanges almost on a daily basis.

•Hence, adopting technology should not be difficult for them. The Board has plans to scale up the analytics technology for adoption by more farmers.

•Currently, 90% of the estates depend on labourers for most of the work and there is not much technology adoption among coffee growers in cultivation or to increase production.

•“If someone is ready to do it [technology] for us, we will adopt it. It will help increase yield,” says Sundar Subramanium, executive director of Mother Mirra Coffee Plantations. Ms. Nijhawan says the company is exploring partnerships for other crops too.

📰 Immunotherapy boosts survival chances for lung cancer patients

Patients who took Pembrolizumab without chemotherapy had better results

•An immunotherapy treatment helped significantly boost survival rates among patients suffering from advanced lung cancer, according to the results of a clinical trial cited by researchers on Saturday.

•Almost 25% of patients who received the drug Pembrolizumab and had not previously received chemotherapy were alive after five years, said the study which was presented at annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

•The figure dropped to just over 15% for patients who had previously received chemotherapy.

•“The uniformly negative outlook that has been associated with a diagnosis of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is certainly no longer appropriate,” said lead author Edward Garon, an associate professor at UCLA.

•The five-year survival rate was 5.5% in the pre-immunotherapy era.

•Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy works by leveraging the body’s own immune system to fight disease.

More effective T-cells

•In this case, the drug acts by turning off a brake in the immune system, a protein called PD-1, which then allows cancer-fighting T-cells to attack faster and more effectively. “I describe it as sort of changing the thermostat, in terms of how willing the immune system is to tolerate something versus reject it,” Mr. Garon said.

•David Graham, an oncologist at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, who was not involved with the study, said: “It’s truly remarkable that for more patients than ever before, we no longer have to count survival in months.”

•According to Mr. Garon, the trial proved there are groups of patients “who do have long-term survival prospect, and that does change the way we talk to our patients about the disease.”

•Moving forward, his team would like to identify other biomarkers to further improve survival rates.