It’s a practice that is widely believed to have been abandoned decades
ago. But NGOs and activists have been bringing to light accounts of young
women being initiated into the Devadasi system.
The practice of “offering” girl children to Goddess Mathamma thrives in
the districts of Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh and Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu,
forcing the National Human Rights Commission to seek report from the two
As part of the ritual, girls are dressed as brides and once the ceremony
was over, their dresses are removed by five boys, virtually leaving them
naked. They are then forced to live in the Mathamma temples, deemed to be
public property, and face sexual exploitation, according to the NHRC.
Mathammas can be found in the villages of Chittoor district, on the
border areas with Tamil Nadu but also right in the heart of Tirupati. The
system is prevalent in 22 mandals of Chittoor district.
The Mathamma system has its equivalent in other regions of Andhra
Pradesh and Telangana.
The system is called ‘Basivi’ in Kurnool and Anantapur districts,
‘Saani’ in Krishna, East and West Godavari districts, and ‘Parvathi’ in
Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. Women are unable to leave the
exploitative system due to social pressures.
Where fetching drinking water has become a threat to life
People living in several villages of Sheopur Kalan district in Madhya
Pradesh fetch water from the Parbati, a tributary of the Chambal, every day.
As runaway crocodiles from a sanctuary 5 km away have moved up the river
near the villages, lives are in danger.
Women, who bear the burden of collecting water for their homes, are the
most at risk. The Forest Department has put out just a warning sign: “Fetch
water at your own risk.”
The district administration too has failed to come up with a
solution.Drought-like conditions prevail in the region.
Water pumps and wells have long gone dry, forcing the people of Icchana
Khedi, Malarna and Dalarna Kalan to use the river water for drinking and
washing utensils and clothes.
The sanctuary for crocodiles and gharials was opened at Palighat two
years ago. The big reptiles had ventured outside the protected territory and
attacked animals, but the problem went unchecked. The people lost a few of
their cows and goats in the past year.
The crocodile problem has another social dimension. For over a year,
young men in the villages have had to postpone their marriages, with some
even facing rejection.
Neighbouring villages refuse to give their women in marriage to Ken in
the affected villages because of the crocodile threat.
Haj policy 2018-22
Abolishing subsidy for Haj pilgrims and allowing women above 45 to
travel in a group of at least four without a male member were some of the
key highlights of a proposed policy drafted by a committee appointed by the
Centre, sources said.
The Haj Policy 2018-22, by the panel headed by former Secretary Afzal
Amanullah, also recommended bringing down the number of embarkation points
(EPs) from which pilgrims could take flights to Saudi Arabia from 21 to
nine. The draft was submitted to Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar
Mr. Naqvi said the next Haj pilgrimage would be in line with the policy,
which he described as “better, transparent and one ensuring safety of
Sources in the Minority Affairs Ministry said the policy had been
drafted in the light of a 2012 Supreme Court order asking the Centre to
abolish the Haj subsidy gradually by 2022.
A Ministry source said, “The highlight of the policy is abolishing the
subsidy. Besides, it proposes another major reform — of allowing women aged
above 45 to undertake journey without male Mehram in a group of four.”
Till now, women pilgrims could not travel without a male Mehram. The
term Mehram refers to a male a woman cannot marry at anytime in her life
(i.e. father, brother or son etc).
The tank ‘Vijayanta’ tank displayed in Shillong museum
A battle tank used during the India-Pakistan war in 1971 has been placed
in a heritage museum here to instil a sense of pride among the people of the
The ‘Vijayanta’ tank had been placed at the Rhino Heritage Museum at
Rilbong crossing earlier this week, they said.
The war trophy (tank) was moved over a distance of 3,600 km from New
Delhi to Shillong under the aegis of HQ 101 Area, and is now standing
majestically on the crossroads of Shillong as a tribute to the valour and
spirit of Indian Army in protecting the sovereignty of the nation,” a
Defense spokesperson said.
He said the tank was first pressed into service in 1966 and phased out
::INDIA AND WORLD::
India’s is significant peacekeeper
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, on a three-day visit to India,
held extensive discussions with his counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, for the
upcoming inter-governmental commission dialogue between two sides.
He briefed Ms. Swaraj on the situation in eastern Ukraine, which has
left a part of its eastern province, Donbas, in the hands of the rebels that
Kyiv claims are backed by Moscow.
India is already a significant peacekeeper in the region and across the
globe and could definitely play a similar role in our region,” said Mr.
During last month’s debate on reform of global peacekeeping at the UN
Security Council, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked the
organisation to send a peacekeeping mission that would control the violence,
which has intensified in the last few weeks.
Mr. Klimkin said discussion on India’s participation in the peacekeeping
mission was at a preliminary level and further consultations were needed to
fine-tune the composition of the mission. “The recipe is simple — Russia
should go out of Ukraine,” he said.
He also gave details of bilateral talks on the issue and said “Indian
and Ukrainian Permanent Representatives at the UN have already met on this
issue and we need to discuss conceptual approach for the mission. After we
have convinced Russia on such an approach .. it is highly likely we will
come back to our Indian friends”.
However, an issue with this peacekeeping mission is the location for the
troops. While Ukraine insists that the troops should be stationed at the
original Ukraine-Russia border, Russian sources indicated that Moscow would
prefer the troops to be placed at the ‘Line of Contact’ between Ukraine and
the rebel held territory.
Vietnamese economy growing on foreign capital
Two years ago, a spanking new international terminal building was added
to Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport. The Japanese ensured that the elegantly designed
ultra-modern glass and steel structure would impress foreign visitors, whose
numbers were bound to grow as Vietnam opened up to the rest of the world.
Vietnam’s focus on its new terminal, which over time will service 15
million passengers, is in itself an indicator of the country’s intent to
engage with the globe.
Just like China and the ‘Tiger economies’, Vietnam has correctly
diagnosed that its prosperity will have to ride on a judicious integration
with the world economy. That means inviting foreign capital, which would
come owing to the country’s low labour costs and business-friendly rules.
A complementary focus on infrastructure — highways, railroads, ports,
airports and services — would also ensure that Vietnam soon becomes a
significant trading nation.
A short distance from the airport, the imposing Nhat Tân Bridge comes
into view. This too has been built by the Japanese and is among the largest
cable-stayed bridges in Southeast Asia. At night, the five spans of the
bridge, representing the five gates of the ancient capital, are each
illuminated in distinct colours.
The Red river begins its journey in mountains south of Dali, in China’s
Yunnan Province and enters Vietnam in the Lào Cai Province. Joined by two
major tributaries — the Black river and Lô river — it terminates at the Gulf
of Tonkin in the South China Sea.
The delta area is the heart of Vietnam’s rice production, and has been
central to its food security. The river has also been pivotal for the rise
of Vietnam’s Haiphong port.
Apart from the Japanese, the Koreans are investing big in Vietnam. In
fact, Republic of Korea is, by far, the largest foreign investor in Vietnam.
Last year, Seoul pitched in $5.5 billion, edging out Japan, which invested
Samsung is Korea’s flagship investor. It is estimated that nearly half
of its smartphones are churned out by its two factory complexes in Bac Ninh
Province and Thai Nguyen Province, near Hanoi.
India’s engagement with Vietnam has so far taken a different route, with
geostrategy taking precedence over economics. Vietnam is the centrepiece of
India’s Act East policy, which has the consolidation of its ties with the
ASEAN at its heart. However, there is now a clear recognition of the need to
impart a greater balance to New Delhi-Hanoi ties.
Indian shipping could also benefit greatly as Vietnam consolidates its
position as an international export hub serving the Indian market. Industry
specialists point out that rapid development of ports along India’s east
coast would be vital if India is to take advantage of its favourable
::SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ::
Nanomaterial that can mimick 3 major cellular antioxidant enzymes
A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc)
Bengaluru has fabricated a metal oxide nanomaterial that is capable of
mimicking all three major cellular antioxidant enzymes, thereby controlling
the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cells.
Based on in vitro test results, the nanomaterial appears a promising
candidate for therapeutic applications against oxidative stress-induced
neurological disorders, particularly Parkinson’s. The results were published
in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Reactive oxygen species, such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide and
hydroxyl radical, which are generated as part of a normal physiological
process, are essential for the normal functioning of cells. Excess of ROS
generated is usually controlled by the action of three antioxidant enzymes (superoxide
dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase).
A problem arises when ROS is generated in excess and the enzymes are
unable to control the level of ROS. Oxidative stress due to excessive ROS
causes damage to DNA, proteins and lipids; oxidative stress is implicated in
several diseases such as neurodegeneration, cancer, diabetes and
Theyhave developed a manganese oxide (Mn3O4) nanomaterial which
functionally mimics all the three antioxidant enzymes. Earlier, they had
shown that vanadium oxide (V2O5) nanowire is capable of exhibiting
glutathione peroxidase enzyme activity. This is the first time the activity
of all three major antioxidant enzymes are seen in a nanomaterial.”
The researchers tried several morphologies and found the flower-like
morphology had the best activity of all three enzymes. Pores present on the
nanomaterial play an important role as enzyme-active sites and help in
scavenging excess ROS.
The larger pore diameter and pore volume capable of accommodating all
the three ROS were found to be critical in determining the enzyme activity
of the nanomaterial.
In vitro studies using human neuronal cell lines found that the
nanomaterial caused no cellular toxicity when internalised by the cells and
hence safe. Metal-based complexes are generally toxic to cells.
The nanomaterial was found to protect against neurotoxin-induced cell
death by scavenging the excess ROS that was artificially generated inside
The superoxide dismutase enzyme has two forms and one functions in the
cytosol and the other inside the mitochondria. “Some amount of nanomaterial
gets inside the mitochondria as well and controls the ROS produced there.
The nanozymes have therapeutic potential particularly for Parkinson’s
disease,” says Prof. D’Silva.
Parkinson’s model was tested in the lab. The researchers are trying to
design an animal model in mice for in vivo testing.
With the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics going to the LIGO-VIRGO
collaboration for having directly observed gravitational waves for the first
time, black hole mergers have become a byword. The instrumentation to
differentiate and detect this faint signal from the noise was a crucial
contributions made by Nobel Laureate Rainer Weiss.
The first gravitational waves that were detected were small fluctuations
of spacetime caused by a violent merging of two black holes about 1.3
billion light years away. We know that light bends due to a change in
refractive index of the air near hot objects like a heated asphalt road.
Light also bends when spacetime curves due to the presence of massive
gravitational fields. When a gravitational wave is incident on the detector,
the laser beam behaves in a similar manner.
One main difference is the magnitude. The difference between bending of
light in cool air and hot air is about 1%, whereas the bending caused by a
gravitational wave is about one billion times smaller than the thickness of
a human hair.
The photodetectors are sensitive to the brightness of the incoming
signal. When there is no signal, the two arms of the LIGO detector are
arranged so that there is cancellation of contribution of light. There is
still some small amount of light coming through. When there is a signal,
this light shows a variation.
The electronics converts photons into electrons. Like in the human ear,
there is an electrical signal which has to be turned into sound. The
detection is in the range of frequencies from about 20 Hz to 10 kHz.
LIGO’s interferometers are a ten orders of magnitude improved as
compared to the first interferometer made by Albert Michaelson in 1881,
which was able to measure a displacement in nanometres.
Under the high degree of vacuum needed, stainless steel has the problem
that the hydrogen separates out. So a special stainless steel called
low-hydrogen stainless steel was needed. The steel tubes are also used to
house the lasers and have to be very clean. These are being made at
Institute for Plasma Research in Ahmedabad.
In all, the tubes measure 8 km in length and have a diameter of 1.2 m.
“So it’s quite a large empty space, and it’s all one piece. No one had made
such a large vacuum chamber earlier, so this is the largest empty space in
the world,” Prof. Adhikari smiles.
The GST’s issue
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) rolled out across the country on July
1. Since then, a number of teething issues have emerged — some more serious
The most pressing problem is to do with the availing of input tax
credits by exporters.
The problem, according to exporters, is that they have to wait an
inordinate amount of time before the refunds are processed and paid. As a
result, they say a large part of their working capital — estimated at about
Rs. 65,000 crore — is stuck, rendering their businesses untenable.
Another pressing problem is the capacity of the GST Network portal for
filing tax returns. Since the rollout, the portal has fared poorly in the
face of peak traffic. According to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the portal
can process 1 lakh returns an hour, which translates to 24 lakh returns in a
The third issue being faced by the government is that taxpayers are
missing the deadlines to file returns and so it cannot accurately estimate
how much revenue GST is yielding.
Input tax credits offset the taxes paid for inputs from the tax payable
on the final output produced. The procedure is that a company pays the tax
on both inputs and output and then applies for a refund for the tax paid on
the inputs. The refund process, according to exporters, takes many months
and so results in a large part of the working capital being locked up.
According to Mr. Jaitley, the problem of the online portal crashing is
in large part due to the fact that businesses are waiting till the last
moment to file their returns.
Tax experts, however, say that uncertainty over GST rules and rates is
such that companies are using all the available time to make sure there are
no errors in their returns.
The missed deadlines, according to the GST Suvidha Providers, are due to
a variety of factors, including poor taxpaying habits, a clashing of
deadlines, and the fact that the government has so far been lenient about
The exporters’ input tax credits being locked up is an issue because a
large number of Indian exporters are small companies which cannot afford to
have a significant portion of the working capital unavailable.
Two days later, the GST Council met and took a slew of decisions to ease
the compliance burden on exporters and small businesses. First, the Council
announced that it would expedite the pending input tax credits payouts — the
payment for July is to be completed by October 10, and for August by October
Exporters will have to pay a nominal 0.1% tax on exports until March 31,
2018. The government is planning to roll out a system of e-wallets that
would ease the input tax credit refund process.
Companies with a turnover of up to Rs. 1.5 crore a year can also file
returns and pay taxes once a quarter.
USFDA approves Zydus Cadila’s tablet for treating depression
Drug firm Zydus Cadila has received final approval from the United
States Food and Drug Administration to market Amitriptyline hydrochloride
tablets, used for treatment of depression, in the American market.
The company has received final approval to market the tablets in
strengths of 10 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg and 150 mg, Cadila
Healthcare, the listed entity of the group, said.
The drug, used in treating depression, will be manufactured at the
group’s formulations facility at SEZ Ahmedabad.
Exports picking up a positive sign in textile industry
Exports of textile machinery are expected to pick up this fiscal, after
a year of marginal growth due to tepid international demand in 2016-2017.
According to data available with the Textile Machinery Manufacturers’
Association, machinery exports in 2016-2017 were worth Rs. 2,438 crore
compared with Rs. 2,351 crore the previous year. Total production of textile
machinery in the country was to the tune of Rs. 6,650 crore, including
spares and accessories.
S. Chakraborty, secretary for the association, said the international
market did not see much growth last year. Further, for exports to grow in a
particular market, the manufacturers needed to have local facilities to
provide after sales and service support.
This year, export of equipment for spinning, spinning accessories,
weaving preparatory and of other accessories was likely to see an increase
in the range of about 15-20%, he said. The association data also showed that
only about 32% of domestic demand was met indigenously. Imports amounted to
Rs. 10,098 crore in the last fiscal year.
Demonetisation and GST had hampered domestic investments, he said.
However, this was expected to correct in five to six months and investments
would pick up, he added.
Textile industry sources said the Centre should promote local
manufacturing of machinery through foreign direct investment or joint
ventures. While spinning and processing machinery were mostly available in
the country, machinery for weaving and garment sectors were largely