Meghalaya’s mine rescue operations to resume today
The search for 15 miners trapped in a water-filled coal mine in
Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13 will resume on Sunday, with
divers from the Navy and experts from other agencies reaching the spot on
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State
Disaster Response Force, not equipped to undertake operations in narrow
‘rat-hole’ coal mines, had tried in vain to drain out the water from the
rectangular 350 ft pit at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district. The pumps
available with them were not powerful enough to drain out the pit that kept
filling with water to a level of about 70 ft.
The NDRF had a few days ago suspended the operation to rescue the
miners or retrieve their bodies, triggering criticisms against the Narendra
Modi government for being indifferent to the mishap. A renewed search by
multiple agencies, including the Navy, Odisha Fire Service and Coal India
Limited, was subsequently ordered.
The NDRF handed over the rescue operation to the other agencies
but will remain a part of the exercise. While the 15-member Navy team from
Vishakhapatnam has five divers, the Coal India Limited team includes a
mining and a disaster expert.
India gives aid for Bhutan’s development
India will support Bhutan’s developmental needs by providing
₹4,500 crore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday, while
visiting Prime Minister of the Himalayan country LotayTshering indicated his
government’s commitment to maintain warm ties with India.
Bhutan remains one of the key recipients of developmental
assistance from India. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India
provided ₹4,500 crore for the 11th five year plan that lasted between
2013-18. The Hindu had reported on Friday that India is committed to
supporting Bhutan’s next five-year plan to begin shortly.
Mr. Modi said that to share the benefit of the South Asian
Satellite, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is moving ahead with
plans to set up a ground station in Bhutan that will help in telemedicine,
disaster relief and climate trends.
The visiting leader thanked his Indian counterpart for reaching
out to him soon after the election victory and sought continued support in
generation of hydro power. Dr. Tshering reiterated that hydro electricity is
the main source of revenue for his country and negotiations to fix the
tariff rates on major projects continue.
The statement is significant as it comes in the backdrop of
reports of differences in the tariffs preferred by Delhi and Thimphu for the
720 megawatt Mangdechhu project, being set up with Indian collaboration.
Mr. Modi said Bhutan will soon adopt the RuPay cards introduced by
the Indian government earlier.
RBI claims Indian banks to perform well in 2019
Indian banks, especially those in the public sector, that have
been reeling under stressed assets for the last few years, may have
something to cheer about in the new year.
This is because the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its annual
‘Trends and Progress of Banking in 2017-18’ report, pointed out to the
revival in credit growth in the first half of current financial year, and
said, “overall improvement in the health of the banks is on the cards.”
In addition, the banking regulator also noted that the stressed
assets of banks had begun to stabilise, albeit at elevated levels.
These developments augur well for the banks and other financial
intermediaries in the economy as they struggle to regain the momentum lost
in the preceding six years, it said.
The report noted that the balance sheet expansion of commercial
banks between 2012-13 and 2017-18 had been slow due to an increase in
stressed assets but during the first half of the FY19 ‘growth returned to
the balance sheet bolstered by recovery in loan books.’
RBI also pointed out that recapitalisation of public sector banks
for 2018-19, which was enhanced to ₹1,06,000 crore from ₹65,000 crore, was
aimed at meeting regulatory capital requirements.
Observing that the presence of RBI officials in the boards of
public sector banks leads to ‘serious conflict of interest,’ the central
bank said there is a need to bring in legislative changes to do away with
the requirement of nominating RBI officials as nominee directors on the
boards of PSBs.
Automibile industry to grow in 2019 :study
Despite headwinds, demand for automobiles is expected to grow in
the next few months owing to enhanced economic activities, including
spending on infrastructure and rural development, said the Society of Indian
Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on the outlook for the sector.
He said since the financial sector had been a dampener in the last
few months, the authorities must “take measures to ensure flow of funds in
the financial system is restored so that the sector can play its role to
support the growth of the industry and economy.”
He said the Indian automobile industry will move to Bharat Stage
VI from April 2020 and several other regulatory compliance issues would have
to be fulfilled in the next one year.
As per SIAM data, commercial vehicle, three-wheeler and
two-wheeler segments in the period between April and November 2018 reported
double digit growth at 32%, 25% and 11% respectively. But the passenger
vehicle industry grew moderately at 5% during that period.
He said the first setback was due to the Kerala floods and
subsequently, several factors influenced the decline in demand, including
rise in interest rates and fuel prices, insurance cost hike and NBFC crisis
leading to liquidity tightening.
In Bangladesh, polling was held today to elect a new Parliament
amid tight security. At least 17 people were killed and over dozens injured
in the poll-related violence. Sources said that most of the dead were
activists of ruling party Awami League while others were workers of
opposition BNP or its allies.
Over six lakh security personnel including soldiers and
paramilitary border guards were deployed across the country for smooth
conduct of the elections. According to the Election Commission, 1,848
candidates are contesting for 299 out of 300 Parliament seats. Voting was
suspended in one seat due to the death of a candidate.
The voting took place at more than 40 thousand polling stations.
Electronic Voting Machines, EVMs were used for the first time in a general
election in the country, though only on a limited scale. Out of the 299
parliamentary constituencies that went to polls, six saw the use of EVMs.
While incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is seeking a fourth
term , her rival ex-premier and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief
Khalida Zia faces an uncertain future in a Dhaka jail. Zia, serving a
10-year prison term on graft charges, has been barred from contesting the
People still stranded due to Srilankan flash floods
The recent flash floods in Sri Lanka caught people of the Northern
Province unawares. Many in the Tamil-majority area, across Kilinochchi,
Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna, were yet to fully recover from the
harsh drought over the past few years when the unexpected, heavy showers
ravaged their villages.
According to data provided by the Disaster Management Centre on
Saturday, nearly 1,25,000 persons from 40,000 families have been affected
over the last week. Several of them were forced to leave their homes and are
staying at welfare camps. Relief work is on but the floods have left a huge
trail of destruction to homes, property and livestock that supported many
The island has become increasingly vulnerable to flash floods,
going by their recurrence in recent years. In the summer of 2017, the
southern districts witnessed one of the worst floods in Sri Lanka, setting
off landslips and claiming over 200 lives.
In the recent instance in the war-affected northern region,
Kilinochchi district is the worst affected, official figures show. Nearly
55,000 people have been badly hit and as many as 1,800 families are in
relief centres, where district authorities provide cooked meals, essentials
and basic medication.
The damage to paddy land has been significant and Chena
cultivation, or the production of ‘other food crops’ including green gram,
peanuts and potatoes that sustains thousands of small scale farmers has been
badly hit. The biggest challenge facing us is livelihoods. Over the last few
years in the drought and now the floods, they have been severely hit.
Mr. Sirisena currently helms a task force overseeing northeastern
development, while Mr. Wickremesinghe following his reinstatement as Prime
Minister after the political crisis is also the Minister for Resettlement &
Rehabilitation and Northern Province Development. They have an urgent task
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Researchers develop new algorithm to detect rare cells
Much like finding a needle in a haystack, identifying rare cells
from a dataset comprising millions of cells can be hugely daunting. Now, a
new algorithm developed by Delhi-based researchers makes it easy — it can
find rare cells from a very large pool of cells in a matter of seconds.
The algorithm Finder of Rare Entities (FiRE) assigns a rareness
score to each cell that is computed based on the gene expression profile of
about twenty thousand genes. Cells having scores above a certain threshold
are reported as rare cells. Besides being fast, initial studies show that
the new algorithm has superior sensitivity and specificity compared with
Circulating tumour cells, cancer stem cells, antigen-specific T
cells, circulating endothelial cells are a few examples of rare cells. Rare
cell populations such as circulating tumour cells can shed light on the
process of cancer metastasis (spreading of cancer to other parts of the
body) thus providing invaluable information for early detection and clinical
management of the disease.
The researchers used five data sets to test the algorithm. In the
case of peripheral blood containing 0.3% megakaryocytes, the gene expression
of about 68,000 different cells was compared, and rare cell populations with
different grades of rarity showed up. The cluster with the rarest cells
comprised of only megakaryocytes, thus validating the algorithm.
In a simulation experiment to evaluate the performance of FiRE
algorithm, the gene expression profiles of two types of cells were mixed in
vitro. And by increasing the percentage (from 0.5 to 5%) of one cell type,
the team tested the precision and sensitivity of FiRE and other existing
algorithms to correctly identify the rare cells.
Women’s national boxing championships begin
Third edition of women's national boxing championships begins in
Vijayanagara, Karnataka today. Country's top boxers will be vying for top
honours as the tournament will be held at the JSW Sports-owned Inspire
Institute of Sport till 6th of the next month.
With close to 250 entries received from 31 states and
institutions, pugilists will compete in all 10 weight categories.
World Championship silver and bronze medallists boxers, Sonia
Chahal, LovlinaBorgohain, Pinky Jangra and NikhatZarin will be trying to
upstage one another in the race to claim the top honours.