STATE NEWS- FEBRUARY 2017

Bengaluru: 11th Aero India expo air show

  • Touted to be Asia’s premier aerospace event and held at the Yelahanka base of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the city’s outskirts, the five-day biennial event has attracted thousands flocking to the air base for the awesome flying and static display of fighters, jets, trainer aircraft and choppers by global and Indian aerospace majors.
  • More than the maneuvers of the homegrown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the daredevilry of the Russian Sukhoi, Swedish Gripen, French Rafale and American F-16 fighters in midair held the fans spellbound and had their eyes glued to the sky for more.
  • The Aerobatics of the six British Hawk jet trainers and four Advanced Light Helicopters by the IAF’s Surya Kiran and Sarang teams also thrilled the audience.
  • The maiden flight of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) prototype of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and the first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) on board the Brazilian Embraer-145 jet was also cheered.
  • The fly-past of IAF’s three MI-17 helicopters in V shape formation and solo flights of HAL’s Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Dornier-228 and HTT-40 trainer, Swiss-made Pilatus trainer and the vintage Tiger Moth had filled the audience with pride.
  • About 70 military and civil aircraft have flown into Bengaluru for flying and static display at the expo, which has also attracted about 549 firms, including 279 foreign and 270 Indian exhibitors to showcase their products and technologies for buyers and collaborators.
  • Delegations from 109 countries across the world are also participating in the event.
  • Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Chiefs of Army, Navy and IAF and Karnataka Industry Minister R.V. Deshpande were among the dignitaries who participated in the event.

Spy planes grab all attention in Bengaluru air show

  • The focus of many domestic and international firms that are taking part in the ongoing aerospace exposition Aero India 2017 is clearly on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) that are considered to be future weapons for multiple missions.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are playing a vital role in low-intensity conflicts and wars in many parts of the world are an important part of the overall strategy of the Indian armed forces.
  • UAV makers see a good market for such vehicles that are also used for destroying targets in enemy territories apart from their primary work of gathering information and relaying it to designated bases in real time.
  • Currently, Indian defence forces are operating Israeli-made Searcher Mark-I and Mark-II, Heron and Herop UAVs and the Indian-made Nishant. In the ongoing edition of Aero India, DRDO is displaying its capabilities in making UAVs.
  • Many foreign firms such as IAI, Safran of France and USA-based Textron Systems too are here with their technology and systems.

Not much business buzz this time

  • Looking back at the past five days, many air show regulars and businessmen said they found the aerobatics muted, the planes fewer and the business buzz lower. Celebrity presence was at a low while a few Union Ministers were part of the inauguration.
  • But for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s modest announcements and other MoUs with defence public sector units, business teams did not offer any significant news during the programme – a contrast from the bustling activity and frenetic interaction seen in the previous years. The number of companies on show was nearly 100 less, at around 550.
  • Indian products dominated the ‘international’ aero show, with HAL, Bharat Electronics Ltd and Defence Research & Development Organisation putting up their modest show-pieces on display (among them the new, indigenously-equipped surveillance plane AEW&CS Netra and the medium-range drone Tapas/ Rustom-2) or through elaborate exhibition stalls.
  • The Ministry estimates that around 1.5 lakh business visitors and a whopping four lakh general public visited the expo. Despite the air show ending on a Saturday, unlike on a Sunday in the previous editions, the finale saw nearly 3 lakh people and traffic chaos all around Air Force Station Yelahanka.

Will the next edition be in Goa?

  • At all earlier 10 Aero India inaugurations, the Defence Minister ended his speech with the date and venue of the next edition.
  • But this time, on Tuesday, Manohar Parrikar didn’t do so, sparking intense speculation in aviation circles that this could be the last air show in Bengaluru.
  • The Defence Minister, who is a former chief minister of Goa, is reported to have said during a poll campaign in that State on January 22 that the air show could be moved to Goa if people wanted it.
  • Last year, the ministry’s other biennial event, Defexpo 2016, was shifted from its traditional venue of Delhi to Goa.
  • Yet, the presence of Goa Chief Minister Lakshmikant Parsekar throughout the latest event and his interactions with big businesses did not escape attention.
  • However, many feel the infrastructure in tiny Goa might not be adequate for these two international events.
  • Many who went to Goa for Defexpo in March last year as exhibitors or organizers or visitors recounted harrowing experiences.

Karnataka: Govt to provide cash coupons instead of food-grains

  • Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday publicly spiked a proposal of the food and civil supplies department to provide cash coupons to BPL ration cardholders instead of food grains.
  • Speaking after launching an online application system for below poverty line (BPL) ration cards, Siddaramaiah said providing cash coupons instead of food-grains through the public distribution system would defeat the very purpose of the government’s intention of making the state “hunger free”.
  • The department had proposed to provide BPL ration cardholders the option of redeeming cash coupons for rice and other food-grains at general provision stores, if they were unhappy with the quality of ration supplies.
  • The chief minister also launched a new initiative of selling pulses under PDS. For the month of February, one kg of green gram would be issued per card at a subsidised price of Rs 33 (market price Rs 66) to BPL families.
  • Siddaramaiah reiterated that the government would enhance entitlement under PDS from the present five kg per person from April 1. The quantum of enhancement would be announced soon.
  • Siddaramaiah told officials of the food and civil supplies department to exercise caution while weeding out fake ration cards. “Identifying and scrapping fake cards is important but also ensure that genuine beneficiaries are not affected,” he said.
  • Khader said ration card issue had been included under Sakala scheme. Once scrutiny of applications is over, the cards would be delivered to the applicants within 15 days.

A pilot that came a cropper

  • The food and civil supplies department launched a pilot to test its proposal to provide cash coupons instead of foodgrains to beneficiaries under the PDS
  • According to department sources, 30 beneficiaries in Srirampura, Bengaluru, were handed cash coupons on Monday instead of their ration entitlements for February. The beneficiaries had opted for cash coupons voluntarily.
  • The officials said they had no idea that the chief minister would scrap the proposal
  • Chief Minister Siddaramaiah publicly spiked a proposal of the food and civil supplies department to provide cash coupons to BPL ration cardholders instead of foodgrains.

Yeshwantpur & B’luru Cantt to be made world-class stations

  • In the integrated Union Budget for 2017-18 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, Rs 3,174 crore has been allocated for the South Western Railway (SWR).
  • This is 19.17% more compared to the outlay for the SWR for project works in the railway budget 2016-17.
  • “We expected around Rs 2,900 crore, but we have been allocated more funds. More stress is on railway safety and development works this time,” said SWR General Manager A K Gupta.
  • SWR officials were unable to give details of specific projects mentioned in the budget, as the Pink Book was not yet tabled in Parliament.
  • The Pink Book is the official register of the Railways that lays down to the last rupee the money allotted for a project.
  • Bengaluru Cantonment and Yeshwantpur stations are among 25 railway stations which are proposed in the budget to be redeveloped into world class stations in 2017-18.
  • In the funds meant for capital and development works, a major portion for the SWR is expected for doubling of Hubballi-Chikjajur and Hubballi-Hosapete lines.

Bio Toilets

  • The budget has proposed to provide bio toilets on all trains by 2019, while the SWR has installed around 900 bio toilets, which is 33% of the total requirement.
  • Out of 2,000 railway stations where solar power is proposed to be generated, 34 stations are in the SWR zone.
  • Among 500 stations which are proposed to be made disabled-friendly by installing lifts, escalators and ramps, two A1 stations, 15 A stations and 17 B stations are in the SWR.
  • The SWR has around 350 unmanned level crossings and an announcement has been made in the budget to eliminate all such gates by 2020
  • Across the country, 3,500 km of railway lines are proposed to be commissioned in 2017-18 as against 2,800 km in 2016-17.
  • In the SWR, 231 km of new line are being commissioned in 2016-17, while the target is to commission 165 km of new lines in 2017-18.

Apple may start manufacturing in Bengaluru

  • The Government of Karnataka today said it welcomes Apple Inc.’s proposal to commence initial manufacturing operations in the city.
  • “Apple’s intentions to manufacture in Bengaluru will foster cutting edge technology eco system and supply chain development in the state, which are critical for India to compete globally,” an official release signed by Karnataka IT Minister Priyank Kharge said.
  • It said Apple’s representatives, led by Priya Balasubramaniam, VP iPhone operations, Ali Khanafer (Head, Government Affairs),Dheeraj Chugh (Director,iphone operations) and Priyesh Povanna (Country Counsel) met Ministers and officials of the Karnataka Government and had positive discussions about the initiatives in manufacturing and possible collaborations with state Government in other areas.
  • The release did not detail about what the initial manufacturing operations would be.
  • However, reports quoting highly placed government sources had earlier said that the iconic iPhones would be manufactured in Bengaluru by Wistron, a Taiwanese OEM maker for Apple.
  • “Wistron has plans for setting up iPhone manufacturing plant for domestic market in Peenya,” they had said.
  • Apple’s decision on initial manufacturing in Bengaluru has further enhanced the city’s reputation as the most preferred destination for foreign investment and further validation of State Government policies aimed at fostering manufacturing, innovation and investments in Karnataka, the release added.
  • Local manufacturing is expected to help Apple price its phones more competitively in India as it currently attracts 12.5 per cent additional duty on imports.
  • This would be Apple’s second big project for Bengaluru. In May, Apple had announced setting up a design and development accelerator in the city to grow the iOS developer community.
  • The announcement was made as part of the visit of Apple CEO Tim Cook to India.

MLA absenteeism the norm at successive Assembly sessions

  • The State Assembly Secretariat reveals a stellar performance by just three MLAs, all from the Congress S. Rafeeq Ahmed of Tumakuru city, B.M. Nagaraja of Siraguppa, and Prasanna Kumar K.B. of Shivamogga who have had cent per cent attendance in the last three years since the Congress government came to power in May 2013.
  • Interestingly, those at the bottom, with less than 100 days of attendance, are all from non-Congress parties or Independents.
  • This was the situation even as the legislature debated major issues plaguing the State, such as the Cauvery and Mahadayi water disputes; sugarcane dues to farmers; alleged scam in the Karnataka Lokayukta; among others.
  • The Legislative Assembly met for 181 days since the Congress government headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah took charge in 2013 (from May 29, 2013 to December 3, 2016).
  • Taking note of this, Speaker K.B. Koliwad said the rule to make it mandatory for every member to sign both in the morning and evening had been brought in. “Each political party should ensure that their MLAs attend sessions without fail,” he said, adding it was hard to bring in a law on attendance.
  • Among the 10 MLAs who attended the Assembly less than 100 days are Anand Singh of the BJP and Shambaji Lakshman Patil (Independent), who attended the least number of days at 60.
  • They were followed by Iqbal Ansari (JD-S, 63 days), Suresh Babu T.H. (BSRC, 69 days), Raghu S. (BJP- 70 days), former Minister and Independent MLA Varthur Prakash (83 days), Mallikarjun Sidramappa Khuba (JD-S, 83 days), Halady Srinivas Shetty (Independent, 86 days), Zameer Ahmed Khan (JD-S, 91 days), and G.T. Deve Gowda (JD-S, 97 days). JD(S) floor leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy also attended just 105 days, while his brother H.D. Revanna attended 165 days.
  • Among prominent leaders, former Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader R. Ashok attended 148 days, while another prominent BJP leader S. Suresh Kumar was part of the session for 175 days.
  • Among women MLAs, Shakuntala Shetty (Congress) was present on 138 days, Sharada Poorya Naik (JD-S): 163 days, Sharda Mohan Shetty (Congress) 155 days, Ramakka V. (BJP) 174 days, and Vinisha Nero (nominated) 140 days.
  • The data has not captured attendance of the Chief Minister and Ministers, since they don’t sign the attendance book while entering the Assembly hall. Attendance of Chief Whip, Parliamentary Secretaries, Leader of Opposition, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Opposition Chief Whip, are also not captured.

Insufficient women in police force – High Court

  • The number of women in the State police force is not enough to deal with crimes against women, who constitute about 50% of the total population, the Karnataka High Court on Friday asked the State to come out with data on policewomen, and an action plan to enhance their number in the force.
  • Justice A.N. Venugopala Gowda issued the direction while hearing a petition through which the court has been monitoring the process of filling up of huge vacancies, particularly in the middle and lower rungs in the State Police Department.
  • Pointing out that the number of women personnel may not be more than 5 per cent of the total strength in the police force, the court asked how the State could provide security to women in the State with such a meagre strength.
  • Referring to certain crimes against women reported on the eve of new year celebrations in Bengaluru, the court felt that such incidents could have been prevented if there was sufficient policewomen.
  • However, Additional Advocate General A.S. Ponnanna clarified to the court that what has been reported in the media about crimes against women on New Year’s eve were “incorrect” as there was a vast difference between what actually happened and what was reported in the media.
  • But the court said the damage was done to the State and Bengaluru due to non-stop coverage on the issue by the electronic media.

Karnataka: Air ambulance debuts with flight from Ballari to B’luru

  • A 25-year-old engineer with respiratory problems was the first to use a recently launched air ambulance service to rush to a hospital.
  • Sandeep was brought in a helicopter from Toranagallu in Ballari district to Narayana Health City in Electronics City, Bengaluru, on Saturday.
  • By road, Toranagallu is 325 km from Bengaluru. The heli-ambulance covered the distance in just an hour and 10 minutes.
  • Based in Belagavi, Sandeep was visiting Ballari for a plant inspection when he was exposed to toxic chemicals. He was clicking pictures when he accidently fell into a pit with chemicals and gases, a hospital official said.
  • He developed severe respiratory problems and was shifted to Jindal Sanjeevini Hospital in Ballari. The hospital is run by Narayana Health. Since he needed advanced emergency treatment, the hospital called for an air ambulance.
  • Medical staff sedated and brought him to Bengaluru in the fully equipped air ambulance.Aviators Air Rescue is a private ambulance service launched in December 2016. Capt Arun Sharma, managing director of Aviators India Pvt Ltd, said the helicopter ferrying Sandeep landed at a site next to Narayana Health City.
  • “This is the first medical case. The patient was stabilised in the heli-ambulance,” he said.
  • Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had inaugurated Karnataka’s first air ambulance service on 15th December at HAL airport in the state capital.
  • Newly built helicopters are specially designed to fulfill the requirements of the patients while transporting them from one place to another. For the time being, only three choppers are available for the service and named as H 130.
  • Aviators Air Rescue, which has collaborated with Air Medical Group Holdings and Airbus Helicopters, has also tied up with several hospitals across the country.
  • The H130 Airbus can accommodate a stretcher and seat three more attendants or para-medical staff in the cabin. It is also fitted with life support equipment like ventilator, defibrillator and cardiac monitor, suction apparatus and syringe pump.
  • Aviators Air Rescue has also started a dedicated number – 155350 – for people to call in case of a medical emergency or to subscribe for its services.
  • Ambulances getting stuck in slow-moving traffic, delaying timely medical assistance to patients, is commonplace in Bengaluru. Now, a city-based private firm has introduced a dedicated air ambulance service.

Poor response from MLAs towards e-governance initiatives

  • For the first time, the secretariat has allowed the MLAs to either WhatsApp or e-mail their questions. This facility is introduced for the session starting February 6.
  • Of the 224 MLAs, just one MLA has WhatsApped his questions, while another MLA has emailed as well as WhatsApped the questions.

What are the changes?

  • The secretariat, on January 4, issued a notification, saying that members may WhatsApp the questions they intend to raise during the Question Hour, which forms the prime official business of the House.
  • Queries could pertain to any department or work in a Assembly constituency or performance/decisions of the government. Two cellphone numbers are provided to which they can message the questions. They are also allowed to e-mail questions.
  • In addition, like in the past, they are allowed to fax the questions or drop written questions in the prescribed format in a box kept in Vidhana Soudha.

Earlier Method

  • In the conventional method, questions have to be submitted physically to the secretariat 15 days prior to the commencement of the session.
  • But there is no such restriction for submission via WhatsApp or e-mail.
  • They can be sent whenever the members feel like, except that they should reach two weeks in advance. In a day, a member is allowed to raise a maximum of five questions.

The Response

  • The MLAs, including those from Bengaluru, seem to have not bothered to find out e-governance measures taken by the secretariat.
  • This, despite the fact that the secretariat foots the phone bills of the members. A majority of the MLAs over a period have received free iPads, laptops and desktop computers from the secretariat.
  • Surprisingly, while creating the WhatsApp facility, the secretariat has neither provided cellphone nor SIM cards to the officers who have been assigned to receive messages.
  • They have been asked to use personal handsets. This has not gone down well with the officers. Instead of the members, the public has begun airing questions to the officers.

The drawbacks as per the Officers

  • Officers are insisting that a better system should be put in place, where questions are sent from MLAs only.
  • With no digital security, it is not possible to check the authenticity of the source.
  • The secretariat is in the process of developing a new online format where MLAs can communicate through e-mails.
  • This is being done under the Digital India programme. Officials say e-communication will help save lakhs of rupees on stationery.

Measles-Rubella vaccine drive launched; to cover 1.65 cr kids

  • The Union government on Sunday launched the first phase of the all India Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine immunisation campaign from Bengaluru for the four states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Goa and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
  • The campaign is a part of the Central government’s mission to eliminate measles and control the congenital rubella syndrome in India by 2020. The Centre is also making MR vaccine a part of the universal immunisation programme.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that every year 30,000 children in India are effected with the atypical measles syndromes. That is the reason why the Centre has taken the decision to make the measles and rubella vaccine as one, instead of giving two different injections to children.
  • Pregnant women should also be administered the rubella vaccine to ensure that newborns are not infected. From now on, children till be administered two doses- first for those in the age group of 9-12 months and the second for those aged between 16-24 months.
  • Karnataka Chief Secretary S C Khuntia said that the MR vaccine campaign has been planned from February 7 to 28 in Karnataka, targeting 1.65 crore children in the state aged between nine months and 15 years.
  • In the first week, children in all government and private schools will be covered and in the second week the drive will target children in anganwadi’s. In the third week the Health and Family Welfare department staff will cover children through door-to-door campaign as done under polio immunisation campaign.
  • South Indian actor Ramesh Aravind has been chosen by the state government to reach the masses and explain the importance of the MR vaccine.
  • Officials from the Health department and World Health Organisation (WHO) said vaccinating children for rubella and measles is not new. It is being given by private doctors since the last 25 years. It is now being officially launched by the government and made mandatory in the immunisation chart of children.

Netravathi River: Inflow Drop at Thumbe Dam by 50%

  • Inflow in the Netravathi to the Thumbe vented dam, which supplies drinking water to the city, has dropped by 50% in a month.
  • It might force the Mangaluru City Corporation to supply water once in two days from next month as a precaution to manage water in the next three summer months.
  • “The inflow to the dam has dropped from about 12 cusecs (cubic feet per second) in the first week of January to about 5 cusecs last week,” K.S. Linge Gowda, Executive Engineer (Water Supply) at the corporation
  • He said that the water-level at the dam now stood at 5m.
  • Whereas the vented dam of AMR Power Private Ltd. at Shambhoor on the upstream of Thumbe had water in store at about 6m level.
  • Gowda said that no decision has been taken on supplying water on alternative days to the city now.
  • If the inflow stopped completely, then the civic body might be forced to go for it.
  • Meanwhile, there are 10 vented dams of hydel power projects of different companies built across the Netravathi, the Kumaradhara and their tributaries on the upstream of Thumbe dam.
  • In addition, a vented dam across the Kumaradhara at Uppinangady supplied drinking water to Puttur and MRPL (Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd) had its pumping station just on the upstream of Shambhoor vented dam.
  • With the city facing acute water scarcity during the last summer, hostels of educational institutions, including that of medical colleges, had been forced to send some students home and some industries had been forced to stop production temporarily.
  • The corporation had to supply water in tankers to many areas.

Why there is drop in the inflow?

  • The illegal tapping of water from the two main supply lines between Thumbe and Padil has remained unaddressed for more than a decade.
  • The Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) has two pumping stations of 80 MLD capacity each at Thumbe.
  • It uses these pumps to pump 140 MLD to the City.
  • However between the the pumping station and the city’s Padil junction, there is a loss of nearly 40 MLD due to illegal tapping on the way and only 100 MLD reaches Mangaluru.
  • However within Mangaluru itself there is further loss of 30 MLD due transit and theft, leaving only 70 MLD reaching homes and establishments in the city.
  • The corporation engineers had disconnected seven such new connections in November, 2016

About Netravati River

  • The Netravati River has its origins at Bangrabalige valley, Yelaneeru Ghat in Kudremukh in Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka, India.
  • This river flows through the famous pilgrimage place Dharmasthala and is considered as one of the Holy rivers of India.
  • It merges with the Kumaradhara River at Uppinangadi before flowing to the Arabian Sea, south of Mangalore city.
  • This river is the main source of water to Bantwal and Mangalore. The Netravati railway bridge is one of the known bridges which serve as the gateway to Mangalore.
  • Earlier in the last century it was known as the Bantwal River; the important town of Bantwal is seen on its banks.
  • The train Netravati Express, passing through Mangalore, is named after this river.
  • Often Bantwal has been submerged in bygone years during the monsoon by overflowing river Netravati. Many residents left the town, settled elsewhere, and prospered.

‘Save Kappatagudda’ campaign begins on 13th Feb

  • The State government’s delay in taking a decision on restoring the ‘conservation reserve tag’ for Kappatagudda in Gadag district has resulted in the ‘Save Kappatagudda’ campaign gaining momentum.
  • Gadag’s Gandhi Circle will see a congregation of scores of organisations participating in a three-day ‘day and night’ dharna for the cause from Monday.
  • With the seer of Tontadarya Mutt, Gadag, Sri Siddhalinga Swami taking the lead just like he did in the case of a huge movement against Korean steel giant POSCO, the support for the campaign is swelling with each passing day.

How did it start?

  • The Karnataka State Board of Wildlife cleared a proposal to declare 17,872 hectares of the reserve forest of Kappatagudda as conservation reserve under Section 36A of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 on December 19, 2015.
  • On November 4, 2016, the State government decided to withdraw the notification regarding declaring Kappatagudda as conservation reserve stating that no public consultation was held.
  • It was the environmentalists, supported by the seers of various Lingayat mutts in the region, who had fought for the tag for Kappatagudda.
  • Now, they are fighting again to get it back. Along with Sri Siddhalinga Swami, seers from various prominent mutts have joined the campaign and had even led a delegation to meet the Chief Minister.
  • In a subsequent development, a public consultation chaired by Deputy Commissioner of Gadag Manoj Jain was held in Dambal village on January 16, in the presence of various seers and elected representatives, where majority of the participants condemned the government’s decision.
  • What has irked the environmentalists and people of the region is that despite the opposition in the public consultation, the State government has not yet taken a decision till date.
  • Social activists S.R. Hiremath, Ravi Krishna Reddy, Raghavendra Kushtagi and several others will be leading the three-day dharna.

Karnataka will reserve 5% jobs in police force for sportsmen

  • Home minister G Parameshwara said that the state government has decided to provide five per cent reservation for sportspersons in the recruitments of police department.
  • The government would do everything possible to encourage sports and the sportsperson.
  • Stressing the need for providing better facilities and training for sportsmen to make them perform well in international sports events, the minister said the state government has been making budgetary provisions for creating sports facilities of international standards.
  • The state has synthetic tracks in 13 stadiums but they are not sufficient.
  • He asked the president of the Karnataka State Olympics Association Govindraj to get more funds from the chief minister and provide synthetic tracks in another eight stadiums during next financial year.

Appoint PE teachers

  • Sports activities in schools and colleges have become mere formality and students lack serious coaching.
  • Most of the schools and colleges in the state do not have physical education teachers and in the absence of employment opportunities, the youths are not opting for BPEd and DPEd courses.
  • As a result the physical education colleges are facing the threat of closure.

Karnataka: Centre plans med tech zone in B’luru

  • The Central government has planned a med tech zone in Bengaluru on the lines of Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone Limited, Visakhapatnam
  • At the inauguration of India Pharma and India Medical Device 2017, minister said that the Centre has sought land from the state government and requested the Minister for Medium and Large Scale Industries, R V Deshpande, to provide land in Electronics City.
  • He said India exported drugs to 215 countries and accounted for 20% of global exports of generic medicine.
  • Every fifth drug the world consumes is from India & also said that the Department of Pharmaceuticals would be converted into an independent ministry by March.
  • Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries, said the government had decided to include the medical device sector among the 25 flagship industries to boost the ‘Make in India’ programme and reduce imports.
  • Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said Karnataka was among the growing bio-pharmaceutical states and ranked fifth in pharma exports, contributing 10% to the Indian pharma export revenue.
  • Minister for Medical Education Sharanprakash Patil said though Karnataka was the largest consumer of drugs and medical devices, no big company took part in the tenders called by the state government and that forced it to compromise on quality.

About India Pharma and India Medical Device 2017

  • India Pharma and India Medical Device 2017 is a three-day international exhibition and conference on pharmaceutical industry organised by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
  • Delegates from 16 countries, ambassadors of seven countries and eight international regulators are participating in the event, according to Sudhansh Pant, Joint Secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals.

Karnataka: Bengaluru unable to treat waste water?

  • The Revised Master Plan (RMP) 2031 the new Plan talks about more Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and mandating apartment owners to treat their waste water themselves, they ask: Why did the old plan fail?Completion of the underground drainage (UGD) network was high on RMP 2015’s priority list.
  • But today, the UGD network on the city’s outlying areas is complete only in stretches. Implication: Huge gaps in the network, leading to direct flow of untreated sewage into the lakes.
  • This problem, as Ajit Sequeira from Whitefield Rising points out, is acutely pronounced in Mahadevapura, where the UGD lines end up in Varthur lake. There is no sign of any STP to let only treated water into the lake.

Untreated sewage inflow

  • An apartment dweller himself, Sequeira is convinced that the direct entry of waste water is the prime reason for Varthur lake’s perennial pollution. The lake attracts attention only when it froths, but the underlying reasons are ignored.
  • The RMP 2031 talks about big STPs with cursory mention of the inefficiencies of the existing plants. But why not opt for low-cost mini STPs that are energy efficient, wonders Sequeira. “Spending just about Rs 2 crore, such mini plants could be put up at every inlet into a lake. This would be more feasible.”
  • Both the Master Plan and the Bengaluru Blueprint stress on decentralising waste water treatment. They insist on plants to be installed in apartments, campuses, industries and commercial establishments. But apartment residents have been reluctant, citing problems of high maintenance costs and space.
  • The way forward, as Bengaluru Blueprint Action Group member V Ravichandar explains, is to incentivise citizens and not penalise them. “The government could encourage those with STPs through, for instance, a rebate on the water bill,” he says.

Incentive model

  • Retro-fitting older apartments with STPs can be an option if the incentives model is adopted. “They should also be allowed to sell the excess treated water, catering to neighbourhood requirements.
  • This way, the STPs will find better acceptance.
  • Acceptability could also improve if the STP maintenance costs are low. Builders, say residents, should construct STPs that are easier and cheaper to maintain.
  • New technologies are available. But most builders will not opt for them as they often require more land, points out a Mahadevapura resident.
  • But what about the existing STPs maintained by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB)? The Master Plan does hint at the inefficiency, but there is no elaboration about why it is so.
  • Here’s what it says: “As of 2015, there are 17 STPs with an installed capacity of 721 MLD against the requirement of 980 MLD. However, only three-fourth of the installed capacity is being utilised as of today to treat the waste water of the city.”

Sewers inside SWDs

  • About 35% of the sewers in the city run inside the stormwater drains (SWDs), and this is the fundamental cause, reasons former BWSSB Chief Engineer, M N Thippeswamy. “A third of the sewers, including the lateral, sub-main and main trunk sewers, are inside the SWDs. While the drains are desilted, the sewer lines are damaged,” he explains.
  • Crown corrosion of the sewer pipes is another factor. “The bio-solids in the waste water combine with moisture for form sulphuric acid which corrodes the pipes.
  • In effect, due to the leakage, the volume of sewage getting into the STPs gets reduced. The new STPs under Cauvery 4th stage are not getting adequate flow,” says Thippeswamy.

STPs in the pipeline

  • The Master Plan says 11 more STPs with an overall capacity of 339 MLD are under construction. Another eight STPs with overall capacity of 550 are under tendering process.
  • BWSSB has proposed to construct STPs of another 207 MLD capacity at 16 locations.
  • But, without a mindset of sustainability in planning, what is the guarantee that these additional capacities will address the city’s waste water problem.
  • The concept of reuse and recycling of waste water is still not integrated in the planning process.

Result:

  • Demand for recycled/tertiary treated water has remained low-key. Apartments with their own STPs use even secondary treated water for gardening and flushing. Due to the zero-discharge rule, they cannot let the treated water into the UGDs, but shift the excess water to construction sites in tankers.
  • BWSSB, despite advertising supply of tertiary treated water, had found the demand poor from even the construction industry.
  • The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) remains the only big user of this water today, although the RMP-2031 estimates the treated water availability to be 2,412 Million Litres Daily (MLD) in the next 14 years.

 Bengaluru to Expand the municipal limits

  • The decision to expand the municipal limits of Bengaluru from 225 sq km to about 800 sq km by incorporating 110 villages, seven City Municipal Councils (CMC) and one Town Municipal Council (TMC), was apparently an invitation to chaos.
  • With no proper planning and fund allocation, these villages, CMCs and TMC were merged to form the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
  • Looking back, the lack of basic infrastructure, especially sanitary lines proved the nemesis for the lakes in the city. Most of the water bodies have either been reduced to cesspools or disappeared from the Bengaluru map over the last 10 years.
  • Even today, many of these villages are forced to make do with open drains while Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are a distant dream. Sewage in these drains are directly let into the stormwater drains converting them into perennial streams of waste water.
  • Eventually, the city’s three rivers – Arkavathi, Vrushabhavathi and Dakshina Pinakini – lost their features, eventually becoming carriers of the city’s filthy water.
  • Before the merger, the municipal limits were coterminus with BWSSB’s jurisdiction. But once the unification happened, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) washed its hands off the responsibility of 110 villages, CMCs and TMC.
  • The liability to take care of water and sewerage system in the newly added areas fell on the BBMP.
  • Year after year, it has been the BBMP, which is laying the sanitation pipelines and supplying drinking water through borewells and water tankers.
  • The Palike’s Taxation and Finance committee chairman, M K Gunashekar, informs that the state government had released Rs 250 crore in 2014-15 under the special grants for the development of basic infrastructure in these areas.

A blueprint for tackling sewage

  • Invest in more sewage treatment plants (STPs); improve existing STPs’ wastewater recycling capacity and use Decentralise sewage treatment at the ward level
  • Incentivise/mandate use of tertiary treated water for non-potable purpose
  • Mandate STPs in apartment complexes and other large establishments. Prior to giving water connection, have the same inspected by BWSSB. Sanction of building plans and issuance of OC should be linked to functioning STPs
  • Explore metering of sewerage for bulk generators to track the presence and extent of treatment, pricing, costing etc.
  • Popularise public toilets designed by DRDO
  • The fund has not been fully utilised yet and it is being carried forward as spillover works for the past three years. This year, only Rs 36 crore has been utilised.
  • Sensing the difficulties of the BBMP, the state government gave administrative approval to grant BWSSB Rs 5,018.36 crore for laying water and sanitary lines in the newly added areas.
  • Last year, it allocated Rs 1,886 crore for this purpose, of which Rs 1,200 crore is meant only to supply Cauvery water from the 4th stage 2nd phase.

To offset silt in Tungabhadra dam: State plans to balance reservoir

  • Water Resources Minister M B Patil on Wednesday informed the Legislative Council that it would be unscientific to desilt the Tungabhadra dam, which has about 33 tmcft of silt deposition.
  • Replying to N S Boseraju (Congress), the minister said that a minimum of 66,000 acres would be required to dump the silt from the reservoir.
  • The Tungabhadra dam, near Hosapete in Ballari district, was constructed 65 years ago.
  • About 0.5 tmcft of silt is getting deposited annually. Desilting should have been planned from the time of construction.
  • He said that to offset the silt, a balancing reservoir would be constructed in Navali village in Koppal district.
  • The land required would be 18,000 acres and the estimated cost of the proposed reservoir is Rs 5,600 crore.
  • Dryland would be acquired and hence the land acquisition process would not be difficult.
  • The Tungabhadra Board would have to approve the new project, he added.
  • As per the report card of the department which was released recently, the silt deposition has severely affected water impounding and thus affected irrigation requirement of both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The proposed reservoir in Navali may be designed to hold 35 tmcft of water.
  • The cost sharing by the neighbouring state would be 35%.

Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in six districts of Karnataka

  • Fifteen primary health centres (PHCs) in six districts of Karnataka are set to get eLAJ smart clinics that will be equipped with multi-parameter monitors that enable multiple diagnostic tests and generation of electronic medical record (EMR) of patients.
  • Biocon Foundation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Health and Family Welfare to set up these clinics in order to provide affordable healthcare services in rural areas.
  • The first eLAJ clinic was opened at Mallathahalli in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
  • The eLAJ model has been designed to deliver data-based healthcare on the basis of socio-demographic and health indicators obtained from community-based screenings. Doctors, technicians and pharmacists who are trained to handle diagnostic equipment and clinic management software would be posted at these clinics.
  • The eLAJ model has been implemented at several clinics run by Biocon Foundation in Karnataka. It has also been deployed at a few PHCs in Rajasthan as part of a public private partnership (PPP) to build smart health centres.
  • Minister for Health and Family Welfare K R Ramesh Kumar said, “Through this initiative, we aim to address the myriad healthcare challenges associated with the poor public health infrastructure. I strongly believe that technology can help transform the public healthcare system in India, particularly in rural and remote areas of our state.”
  • Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon, said, “Our aim is to strengthen the present public healthcare system in Karnataka by providing solutions around primary and secondary healthcare by using technology.
  • Biocon Foundation and its partner, PacketBIO, will provide training to government doctors at PHCs and enable them to run the clinics optimally. In addition, Biocon Foundation will employ 30 technicians to support data entry and laboratory services.

Mysuru zoo gets – ‘bird flu-free’ tag – more animals set to arrive soon

  • With the reopening of the Mysuru zoo after it was declared bird flu-free, more animals are set to join the zoo’s vast collection as part of the animal exchange programme which had been put on hold owing to the avian influenza (H5N8) scare.
  • The arrival of animals from other zoos was delayed on the instructions of the Central Zoo Authority.
  • The arrival of Shaurya, a male Asiatic lion, which is being exchanged with the zoo here by Rajkot zoo for other animals, is expected soon with the zoo’s reopening following its closure for almost a month.
  • The exchange deal has been revived and the lion is likely to arrive in March.
  • They aim to step up captive breeding of Asiatic lions soon after the young male’s arrival. Also, Vandalur zoo in Chennai is giving a male and a female lion tailed macaque, a highly endangered species, in exchange for other animals. They are also expected to arrive in March,
  • Animal exchange with foreign zoos was also on the cards with a Sri Lankan zoo coming forward to give six green anacondas – three male and three female.
  • The visitors will get to see all the new collections in summer vacation since the animals will be put in quarantine soon after their arrival as per protocol.
  • Karikalan said two more exchanges were awaiting clearances and they include a Himalayan bear from Shillong zoo in Meghalaya and a pair of otters from Surat zoo. “If these deals get the nod and materialise this month, even these animals will arrive around the same time,” she said.

Rise in footfall

  • Tourist footfall to the zoo have been seeing an upward trend since its reopening.
  • Over 10,000 tourists visited the zoo on Sunday, the weekday turnout was around 5,000-6,000.
  • This shows the popularity of the zoo as the most-visited tourist destination in Mysuru.
  • The zoo’s popularity has remained intact though it was out of bounds for tourists, according to stakeholders, who also claim that tourism in Mysuru will bounce back, bringing back smiles on the people banking on it for their livelihood.

Bengaluru – Rs 7,300-crore for infrastructure works

  • Governor Vajubhai Vala on Monday said the government will take up infrastructure works worth Rs 7,300 crore in Bengaluru in the current and next financial year.
  • Addressing the joint session of the legislature, Vala said the infrastructure work included road development. However, he did not specify other works to be executed.

Namma Metro

  • Referring to Namma Metro, the governor said the BMRCL was poised to complete the 42.38-km Phase 1 by April this year.
  • The works under Phase 2 are being executed at a fast pace. He said that the government was pro-active in introducing the suburban rail for the Bengaluru metropolitan area in collaboration with the Railways.
  • The government recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Railways.
  • Noting that special emphasis had been laid on development of rail network and airports across the state, the governor said the preliminary work for constructing the second runway and second terminal of the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru was in progress.
  • Upgrading of the existing airports at Belagavi and Hubballi was being done by the Airports Authority of India. Construction of the Kalaburagi airport had commenced.

Railway Projects

  • A large number of railway projects had been taken up on a cost-sharing basis with the Railways, Vala said.
  • Out of the 10 major railway projects under way in the state, Ramanagaram-Mysuru (doubling), Hassan-Bengaluru, Bidar-Kalaburagi lines, Bagalkot-Kajjidoni section of the Bagalkot-Kudachi line and rail coach factory at Yadgir were expected to be completed during the current year.
  • The governor, referring to the newly launched startup policy, said Karnataka had retained its lead as one of the startup capitals of the world. Over 4,000 startups have received investments of over $1 billion over the past two years.
  • The governor said that under the drive to reclaim encroached government lands in Bengaluru, 4,700 acres had been recovered in the last three years.

Measles-Rubella vaccine drive launched; to cover 1.65 cr kids

  • The Union government on Sunday launched the first phase of the all India Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine immunisation campaign from Bengaluru for the four states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Goa and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
  • The campaign is a part of the Central government’s mission to eliminate measles and control the congenital rubella syndrome in India by 2020. The Centre is also making MR vaccine a part of the universal immunisation programme.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that every year 30,000 children in India are effected with the atypical measles syndromes. That is the reason why the Centre has taken the decision to make the measles and rubella vaccine as one, instead of giving two different injections to children.
  • Pregnant women should also be administered the rubella vaccine to ensure that newborns are not infected. From now on, children till be administered two doses- first for those in the age group of 9-12 months and the second for those aged between 16-24 months.
  • Karnataka Chief Secretary S C Khuntia said that the MR vaccine campaign has been planned from February 7 to 28 in Karnataka, targeting 1.65 crore children in the state aged between nine months and 15 years.
  • In the first week, children in all government and private schools will be covered and in the second week the drive will target children in anganwadi’s. In the third week the Health and Family Welfare department staff will cover children through door-to-door campaign as done under polio immunisation campaign.
  • South Indian actor Ramesh Aravind has been chosen by the state government to reach the masses and explain the importance of the MR vaccine.
  • Officials from the Health department and World Health Organisation (WHO) said vaccinating children for rubella and measles is not new. It is being given by private doctors since the last 25 years. It is now being officially launched by the government and made mandatory in the immunisation chart of children.

Karnataka: Bill passed to allow Kambala

How the bill was passed?

  • A bill to legalise traditional buffalo race “Kambala” and bullock cart races in Karnataka was passed by the state Assembly on 13th Feb with all parties backing the move.
  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, was amended in its application to Karnataka by the bill which was tabled after the clamour for Kambala grew, spurred by the success of pro-jallikattu (taming of bull) stir in Tamil Nadu.
  • Piloting the Bill, Animal Husbandry Minister A Manju said Kambala was a traditional folk sport and involved no cruelty to animals and it was a “popular will” that it be allowed.
  • A committee headed by Law Minister T B Jayachandra had recommended that Kambala, as also bullock cart race, be permitted as no betting or cruelty to animals was involved and it related to agriculture and farmers’ beliefs, Manju said.
  • The government did not want to take the ordinance route and preferred legislation to legalise them. Heeding to his appeal, the bill was supported by all parties and passed.
  • Kambala Committees and various Kannada outfits had recently held protests against the ban and demanded it be allowed.
  • The bill noted the significant role played by traditional sports events “Kambala” and “Bulls race or Bullock cart race” in preserving and promoting traditions and culture among the people in the state.
  • It also took note of their vital role in ensuring survival and continuance of native breeds of cattle in deciding to exempt the conduct of the races from the ambit of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

What happened in the past?

  • The bullock cart races are held in parts of North Karnataka and Shivamogga and Kambala in the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada.
  • To pave the way for the sports, the state Cabinet on January 28 had decided to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, (Central Act 59 of 1960), enacted to prevent the infliction of unnecessary cruelty and suffering on animals.
  • A Karnataka High Court division bench, headed by Chief Justice S K Mukherjee, had in November last year stayed holding of Kambala on a petition by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) challenging it in view of orders passed by the Supreme Court on Jallikattu.
  • On January 30 last, the High Court had said it would await the Supreme Court verdict on jallikattu case. Kambala, held from November to March, involves a pair of buffaloes tied to the plough and anchored by one person.
  • They are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins. It is believed to be held to propitiate the Gods for a good harvest, besides being a recreational sport for farmers.
  • PETA has opposed Kambala on grounds of cruelty to animals and said the agitators have taken a leaf out of pro-jallikattu protesters’ book and begun to falsely label it as ‘foreign’ and called for banning the organisation.

PETA criticises move

  • PETA, called the amended Bill “a setback to the welfare of buffaloes.”
  • The cruelty inherent in events such as bull and buffalo races violated the PCA Act, 1960, it said.
  • Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India, said three kambala events inspected by the Animal Welfare Board of India had resulted in the filing of 65 non-cognisable offence complaints and an FIR in 2014-15.

Allegation of cruelty

  • PETA said the inspection reports contained a scientific assessment of the welfare of buffaloes that were forced to participate in such events, including evidence of different forms of cruelty inflicted on the animals.
  • Many of the buffaloes frothed at the mouth, salivated heavily, and displayed increased respiration rates, demonstrating that they struggle, and are anatomically unfit to be forced to take part.

 

Pollution sets a new mark; Bengaluru’s Bellandur Lake catches fire

  • A fire broke out at this lake, considered to be one of the biggest in the city, on 16th Feb evening sending out huge cloud of toxic smoke causing panic among locals.
  • Known for its toxic pollutants and foam that spills on the adjoining road, it has now become a common sight to see the lake on fire.
  • The flames raged for a while, and the area was enveloped in smoke. Fires are often sparked by deadly effluents in the lake, but this time, it was a pile of burning garbage that caused the scare.
  • Karnataka State Pollution Control Board Chairman said that notices had been issued to the BBMP, Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Board and other agencies to stop the dumping. He also said that the board is in the process of inspecting sewage treatment plants in the area
  • Toxic chemicals, garbage from small factories are dumped regularly in Bellandur and Varthur lakes in the city rendering these water bodies useless. The Bengaluru Development Authority has been under pressure to restore the lakes but no action has been taken so far.

About Bellandur Lake

  • Bellandur lake, which is one of the oldest and largest lakes in Bengaluru, was the lifeline for surrounding 18 villages a few decades ago.
  • Old time residents of Bellandur village recall the good times when lake was full and the land next to it fertile (till 1970s).
  • People used to cultivate paddy, grow vegetables like cauliflower and tomatoes in abundance and also do fishing. Apparently, over 400 fishing families were living in this neighbourhood.
  • The lake water then was used for irrigation as well as for drinking purpose. People of Bellandur and nearby villages used to celebrate annual ‘Theppotsava’ (boat festival) on this now infamous lake.

How did the lake get polluted?

  • Multiple problems such as rampant water pollution, large-scale encroachment of land adjoining the water body and negligence of the administration in maintaining the lake for the past last three decades, according to local people.
  • Alteration of storm-water drains, disappearing canals and dumping of waste is probably the highest at Bellandur or Yamalur lake compared to any other lake in the City
  • The encroachment of lake-bed and storm-water drains (SWD) by realtors, government agencies and private individuals has also contributed to the sorry state of affairs.
  • It was found that the SWDs, which once were 33-foot wide, had shrunk to three-four feet.
  • Several villas, software parks have come up on SWDs. Once the 15-foot wide SWDs, according to the villagers, have been reduced to just three feet.

What causes foam?

  • The foam is from toxic sewage runoff, and is caused by the high content of ammonia and phosphate.
  • In the last few months, far end of Bellandur lake has constantly witnessed the phenomena of foam formation.
  • The stinky froth that irritates skin has been a matter of concern for people residing in Bellandur area.
  • This lather forms specially during monsoon, when large volume of rainwater mixed with sewage enters the lake. It happens when detergent and other chemicals present in the sewage mixes with lake water.
  • The phenomenon is prominently seen at the far end of Bellandur lake and in Varthur lake, though there are reports of other lakes such as Kaikondarahalli witnessing lather when it rains

Who owns Bellandur Lake?

  • The lake falls in BBMP limits. However, Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) is the present custodian of the lake with regard to rejuvenation.

Who is responsible?

  • Government agencies, elected representatives and people are equally responsible for the current state of affairs at Bellandur lake.
  • BWSSB is largely blamed for the mess, as its failure to manage sewage in the city has led to the lake pollution.
  • Due to defunct STPs in several apartment complexes and absence of ETPs in industries, the lake continues to get filthy. BDA too is responsible.
  • Though the government has allotted Rs 3.30 crore for fencing the lake, the BDA is yet to complete the work, due to which lake land continues to be encroached.
  • According to lake activists, only 2/3rd of the lake is fenced, while 918 metres area has remained open.
  • LDA is partly responsible. A CAG report in 2015 has blamed Lake Development Authority for its inability to restore and conserve Bellandur lake, despite allocation of funds.
  • KSPCB has a role to play in the mess. Had KSPCB been strict in its monitoring, the situation wouldn’t have been worsened.
  • This apart, the people of the city have largely contributed:-  Unmindful of the laws, people have encroached the lake land and storm water drains adding to the trouble.
  • Though constructing a sewage treatment plant is must for all apartments, many of the apartments in the catchment areas of the drains that lead to the lake have no STPs.
  • This makes sure untreated sewage enters the lake.
  • There are people who leave their sewage to the storm-water drain though they have sewage line connections.

Karnataka: B’luru to get Centre of Excellence in Aerospace & Defence

  • The Karnataka government has entered into an agreement with French multinational software company Dassault Systems to impart both short and long-term courses in aerospace and defence sectors using 3D design and 3D digital mock-up software programmes.
  • A Centre of Excellence in Aerospace and Defence, to provide specialised training to students and engineers in industrial design among others, will begin functioning from Bengaluru in three months.
  • India is ranked number one in the world in defence imports and there is great opportunity to increase the manufacturing and innovation activities in this sector towards gaining self-sufficiency.
  • There is an acute shortage of skilled engineers and professionals in the aerospace and defence sector.
  • The Center of Excellence in Aerospace and Defence will act as a catalyst of growth by making world-class skilled professionals available to the sector.
  • Minister of State for Information Technology and Biotechnology Priyank Kharge said that the courses will be offered for engineering students and also for practising engineers to take up industry specific job certification courses as an add-on to their careers.

Where will it be offered?

  • Initially, the courses will be offered in a few Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU)-affiliated engineering colleges (venues not finalised) in Bengaluru and later shifted to Vivesvaraya Institute of Advanced Technology campus coming up at Muddenahalli on the outskirts of Chikkaballapur town.
  • VTU will also contribute in the form of providing necessary infrastructure such as class rooms, meeting rooms, meeting the operational cost of administration and other maintenance charges.
  • IT and BT Additional Chief Secretary V Manjula said the Centre will offer multiple levels of training programmes ranging between three-months and two-years and around 1,600 people will be trained each year.
  • Online courses will also be offered.
  • The course content and fees are being worked out by the VTU in association with Dassault Systemes, Kharge said.

Cost of the project

  • The total cost of the project is Rs 288.68 crore with Dassault Systemes contributing Rs 250.93 crore in the form of software package, software updation, licence charges, faculty and training.

MOU

  • The IT and BT department also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Institut Aeronautique et Spatial (IAS), a non-profit organisation based out of Toulousane, France.
  • As part of the understanding, IAS will design high-end training and skill development programmes for professionals in aeronautics and space sector, which will be imparted at the Centre.

Karnataka: Aadhaar enrolment crosses six-crore mark

  • The Aadhaar enrolment in Karnataka reached a milestone on 15th Feb as it crossed the six-crore mark, after over six-and-a-half years after the exercise began.
  • The registration in the State now stands at 6,00,04,819, covering nearly 93% of the population.
  • Karnataka also became the second State after Tamil Nadu to reach this mark. Tamil Nadu, which currently has 6.83 crore Aadhaar enrolment, reached this figure in January 2016.
  • The enrolment in Karnataka started in the first week of October in 2010 in Mysuru and Tumakuru districts, which were identified as pilot districts.
  • Aadhaar enrolment, which in February 2012 had been stopped after a directive from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) when the national enrolment figure reached the original proposed figure of 20 crore, was resumed in a few months to cover the entire population, said UIDAI sources.
  • Sources said the process was also slow during that period due to confusion over enrolment under the National Population Registry done by the Ministry of Home Affairs and enrolment to Aadhaar managed by the Planning Commission.
  • Enrolment picked up after 2014 when the State government took keen interest in covering the entire population. Several permanent centres were established,” said another official in Karnataka.
  • The official said that 99% of the adult population in the State has been covered already, and most of the 46 lakh population that is yet to be covered are children.
  • Meanwhile, the official said to cover children, enrolment kits have been provided to anganwadi workers and trained staff in hospitals to capture the data of newborns, and camps are being held in schools.

Karnataka: Cabinet approves 5,912-cr Mekedatu reservoir project

  • The Cabinet on 15th Feb gave in-principle approval for implementing the long-pending Mekedatu multipurpose project utilising the Cauvery river water at a cost of Rs 5,912 crore.
  • The project will help Karnataka utilise excess river water that, otherwise, goes waste to the sea.
  • A balancing reservoir with 66.50 tmcft capacity will be built across the river near Mekedatu in Ramanagaram district. A 400 megawatt-capacity hydro-power unit will also come up as part of the project.
  • The government has plans to utilise water stored in the proposed Mekedatu reservoir for supplying drinking water to citizens in Bengaluru and nearby towns.
  • About 4,900 hectares of forest land have to be acquired for the project. But the government can implement the project only after obtaining permission from the Cauvery Supervisory Committee and the Central Water Commission.
  • The project has failed to take off with Tamil Nadu opposing it stiffly. The neighbouring state had petitioned to the Centre in the past, urging it to stop the project.
  • Besides, the Tamil Nadu legislature had passed a unanimous resolution opposing it. But Karnataka government has been arguing that it would use only the excess water after releasing 192 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu as stipulated by the Cauvery river water disputes tribunal.
  • Jayachandra said the project will be beneficial to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “A lot of water goes waste every year in the absence of a balancing reservoir in a normal year,” he said.
  • Karnataka ends up releasing excess water to Tamil Nadu from its four reservoirs. And there is no scope for expanding the KRS and the Kabini reservoirs. Hence, it is important to take up this project,” he stated.
  • The Cabinet also approved a proposal to regularise illegal residential houses built on government land measuring up to 30×40 square feet each in buffer zones under Section 94cc of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act.
  • But within the limits of urban local bodies, houses built on plots measuring up to 30×20 square feet will be regularised
  • The Cabinet approved a proposal to set up an aerospace and defence centre of excellence at Muddenahalli in Chikkaballapur district.
  • Dassault System will set up the centre with the assistance of Visvesvaraya Technological University. The centre envisages imparting training in aerospace sector, he added.

What is the Mekedatu project?

  • The dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the sharing of Cauvery waters is decades old. For many years, both the states have been maintaining differences over the sharing of water.
  • Karnataka intends to build a reservoir across river Cauvery near Mekedatu in Kanakapura taluk.
  • It was first proposed along with Shivanasamudra hydro power project at Shimsa in 2003 with an intention to use the water for a hydro power station and supply drinking water to Bengaluru city.
  • However, Tamil Nadu objected saying Karnataka had not sought prior permission for the project. Its argument was that the project would affect the flow of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
  • According to experts, Mekedaatu, located about 110 km from Bengaluru, could address the city’s growing thirst in the near future provided neighbouring Tamil Nadu does not spoil Karnataka’s plans.
  • Following the green signal from the legal experts, the state government has decided to develop a ‘Balancing Reservoir’ or ‘Mini KRS’ (Krishna Raja Sagar reservoir near Mysuru) near Mekedaatu for supplying potable water to Bengaluru and parts of Mysuru region in the near future.
  • It is estimated that after supplying 192 tmc ft water to Tamil Nadu as per the agreement between the two states, another 250 tmc ft water flows to Tamil Nadu, which further joins the sea.
  • The Karnataka government wants to tap this additional water and use it for drinking water needs of Bengaluru. It could either build one reservoir or two reservoirs with 25 tmc capacities each.

World Radio Day 2017 – ‘Radio is You’! – 2017 edition

About World Radio Day

  • World Radio Day is observed on February 13 to celebrate radio as a medium to promote and access information.
  • After originally proposed by the Kingdom of Spain, UNESCO in its 36th General Conference proclaimed World Radio Day on November 3, 2011
  • World Radio Day is about celebrating radio, why we love it and why we need it today more than ever.
  • A day to remember the unique power of radio to touch lives and bring people together across every corner of the globe. It was proclaimed on 3 November 2011 by UNESCO’s 36th General Conference after originally proposed by the Kingdom of Spain.

World Radio Day 2017

  • The theme for the 2017 edition of World Radio Day is “Radio is You!” As part of the 2017 celebrations, a signature event will also be held in Shanghai, China with the support of the Shanghai Media Group and the European Broadcasting Union.
  • The theme is a chance to look at all of the different ways that radio engages audiences, not only on-air but through “listening to listeners” in the planning and policy of radio.
  • Events will include a full day of radio-related discussion with some of the leading figures in Chinese and global media. A special Chinese New Year concert dedicated to the Day will also be held.
  • Last year, the UNESCO’s theme for World Radio Day is “Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster”.
  • This year the radio community calls for greater participation of audiences and communities in the planning of radio broadcasting.
  • On this day, radio stations can register for World Radio Day on their official website and promote World Radio Day events on the UNESCO map of activities.

Karnataka: Make in India meet concludes

  • The Make in India – Karnataka conference concluded in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
  • Aimed at re-energising the industry and boosting the manufacturing sector, the conference saw the participation of more than 5,000 delegates from India and abroad.
  • Minister for Large & Medium Industries & Infrastructure Development R.V. Deshpande expressed his thanks to Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion for partnering with Karnataka to conduct the event.
  • Over 500 B2B meetings were held across different focus sectors with international and national business houses and corporations.
  • More than 50 world-class companies showcased their manufacturing prowess at the Exhibition Centre of the Make In India – Karnataka Conference.
  • The Make in India-Karnataka conference is the perfect platform for Karnataka to showcase its potential and capabilities in manufacturing.
  • The previous Make in India conference outside Delhi was held in Mumbai last year.

$4 billion FDI in a year

  • Karnataka had attracted $4.1 billion in FDI only in the year 2015-16, the fourth highest among Indian states.
  • But inflows in the year 2016 were three times higher than that of Gujarat.
  • The Make in India-Karnataka conference will also help brand and market Karnataka as one of the most progressive and industrialised states in the country.
  • The capital city of Bengaluru is a globally renowned knowledge hub and houses the largest number of R&D centres, technical and medical institutions and startups in Asia.

Focus on nine sectors

  • The two-day conference had a total of 10 sessions  while one was on Make in India, nine others were focused  on sectors such as aerospace and defence; biotech and pharma; textiles, apparel and leather; heavy engineering and machine tools; electronics and electricals; agri and food processing; auto and their components; manufacturing startups and plastics and chemicals.
  • At the sessions, sectoral issues, including regulatory hurdles, will be deliberated on, and an action plan to maintain Karnataka’s lead in them will be drawn up.
  • An exhibition area, with participation from 55 world class companies was set up and this will help in showcasing state and nationally competitive organisations.

About Make in India

  • Make in India is an initiative launched by the Government of India to encourage multi-national, as well as national companies to manufacture their products in India.
  • It was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 September 2014.
  • India emerged, after initiation of the programme in 2015 as the top destination globally for foreign direct investment (FDI), surpassing the United States of America as well as the People’s Republic of China. In 2015, India received US$63 billion in FDI.

MRPL’s Kaushal Vikas Kendra to train 60 youth in first batch

  • MP Nalin Kumar Kateel inaugurated MRPL’s Kaushal Vikas Kendra (KVK) on 12th Feb.
  • He emphasized the need to light the lamp of prosperity and knowledge in every home and every village, drawing from the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda who pointed out that every person is a unit for nation-building.
  • Complimenting MRPL on launching the kendra, he said this is a wonderful opportunity for talented youth to build their career.
  • It will generate more job opportunities for unemployed youth in the region.
  • The Govt will help in sanctioning 10 acres of land for setting up the MRPL KVK for the benefit of the people of Dakshina Kannada district & the youths can avail benefit of training provided at the centre and thereby, give their contribution to nation building.
  • The first batch of 60 youths will be trained in partnership with NTTF in two trades industrial electrician and CNC operator-turning.
  • In this batch, youth in the age group of 17-25 years with an eligibility of 12th/ITI will be trained in industrial electrician and those with 10th pass/12th pass or failed will be trained in CNC operator-turning. MRPL KVK will bear all course related expenses of trainees.
  • On successful completion, certification at level 3, under Capital Goods Sector Skill Council, will be issued and candidates with no mobility constraint will be placed by NTTF.

About Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana

  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is a skill development initiative scheme of the Government of India for recognition and standardisation of skills.
  • The aim of the scheme is to encourage aptitude towards employable skills and to increase working efficiency of probable and existing daily wage earners, by giving monetary awards and rewards and by providing quality training to them.
  • Average award amount per person has been kept as Rs 8,000 (US$120). Those wage earners already possessing a standard level of skill will be given recognition as per scheme and average award amount for them is Rs 2000 to Rs 2500.
  • In the initial year, a target to distribute Rs 15 billion (US$220 million) has been laid down for the scheme.
  • Training programmes have been worked out on the basis of National Occupational Standards (NOS) and qualification packs specifically developed in various sectors of skills.
  • For this qualification plans and quality plans have been developed by various Sector Skill Councils (SSC) created with participation of Industries.
  • National Skill Development Council (NSDC) has been made coordinating and driving agency for the same.

About Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL)

  • MRPLis an oil refinery at Mangalore and is a subsidiary of ONGC, set up in 1988.
  • The refinery is located at Katipalla, north from centre of Mangalore city. The refinery was established after displacing five villages of Bala, Kalavar, Kuthetoor, Katipalla, and Adyapadi.
  • The refinery has a versatile design with high flexibility to process crudes of various API gravity and with high degree of automation.
  • MRPL has a design capacity to process 15 million metric tonnes per annum and is the only refinery in India to have two hydro-crackers producing premium diesel (high cetane).
  • It also has a Polypropylene unit with a capacity of 4,40,000 MT/annum. It is also the only refinery in India to have two CCRs producing unleaded petrol of high octane.
  • Currently, the refinery is processing about 14.65 million tonnes of crude per year and had a turnover of US$ 9 billion during last year.
  • MRPL, which was a joint sector company, become a PSU subsequent on acquisition of its majority shares by ONGC.
  • As on 1 April 2007, 71.62% shares are held by ONGC, 16.95% shares are held by HPCL, and remaining shares are with public and financial institutions. MRPL has also been declared as Miniratna, a mini jewel, by Government of India in 2007.
  • Before acquisition by ONGC in March 2003, MRPL was a joint venture oil refinery promoted by M/s Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), a public sector company and M/s IRIL & associates (AV Birla Group).
  • MRPL was set up in 1988 with the initial processing capacity of 3.0 million metric tonnes per annum that was later expanded to the present capacity of 15 million metric tonnes per annum.
  • The refinery was conceived to maximise middle distillates, with capability to process light to heavy and sour to sweet crudes with 24 to 46 API gravity. On 28 March 2003, ONGC acquired the total shareholding of A.V. Birla Group and further infused equity capital of Rs.6 billion thus making MRPL a majority-held subsidiary of ONGC.
  • The lenders also agreed to the debt restructuring package (DRP) proposed by ONGC, which included, inter alia, conversion up to Rs. 36554884 core of their loans into equity. Subsequently, ONGC has acquired equity allotted to the lenders pursuant to DRP raising ONGC’s holding in MRPL to 71.62 percent.

Karnataka: ArcelorMittal plans solar farm in Ballari

  • World’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal may set up a solar farm on land allotted to it for a steel plant in Ballari district of Karnataka, in view of excess global steel capacity and delays in securing raw materials.
  • The company had entered into a pact with Karnataka government for setting up a 6 million tonnes (MT) steel plant with a captive 7,50 MW power plant at an estimated investment of USD 6.5 billion.
  • In view of excess capacity of steel world-wide and uncertainty in iron ore availability locally, the company is also exploring the possibility of utilising the land in Karnataka for the establishment of a solar farm for generating solar energy.

Land for setting up

  • ArcelorMittal India has received possession certificates for 2,659 acres of private land following the acquisition of 1,827 acres and 832 acres in December 2011 and October 2012, respectively.
  • A balance of 136.33 acres owned by the Karnataka government is being processed for allocation, it said.
  • In this regard, the company has sought the state government’s permission to set up a solar farm of up to 600 MW.
  • The government is considering ArcelorMittal’s proposal and the company is hopeful of receiving a favourable response to the proposal
  • NRI billionaire Lakshmi Mittal-led company in June 2010 had signed an MoU with the Karnataka government to set up a 6 MTPA greenfield project at Kuduthini in Ballari district.
  • After failing for over a decade to set up plants at Odisha and Jharkhand, ArcelorMittal had signed the pact with Karnataka government for the plant but it is yet to take off.

Everything you need to know about Bandipur Forest Fire

Fire in Kalkere Range

  • Thousands of acres of forest cover burnt down in forest fire in Bandipur tiger reserve on Saturday and a forest guard succumbed to burn injuries while preventing the flames from spreading.
  • The fire which engulfed Kalkere range swiftly spread to Hediyala range and several forest watchers and volunteers have rushed to douse the fire.
  • T Heeralal, conservator of forests and executive director of Bandipur tiger reserve have deployed entire fire watchers team on the ground to fight fire.
  • Besides, the department had also dispatched teams from Chamarajangar and other places to help the Bandipur staff.
  • This is the first time a forest guard died while dousing the fire. Victim Murigeppa Tammangol was trying to contain the fire in Kalkere range when he was completely charred to death
  • The fire that ravaged Moleyuru, Kalkere and Hediyala forest ranges in the north western parts of the reserve had threatened to spread to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. But timely intervention by the officials from both states had averted a major ecological disaster.
  • Thought the extent of devastation will be known after a thorough investigation, it is believed that the fire has damaged precious flora and fauna.
  • The 87,400-hectre Bandipur Tiger Reserve and 32,000-hectre Wayanad Wildlife Sancturay, along with Nagarhole National Park (64,300 hectares) and Mudumalai National Park (32,000 hectares), form the Nilagiri Biosphere Reserve, one of the most ecologically sensitive regions in India. It is the largest habitat of wild elephants in South Asia.

Combined Effort

  • The neighbouring Wayanad Wildife Sanctuary had put all its 168 forest guards on high alert immediately after news broke about the Bandipur fire.
  • Many of them joined the fire fighting operation, venturing deep into the forest with just fire beaters. “Fire tenders from Wayanad too joined in the operation later,” said P Dhanesh Kumar, wildlife warden of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Surendranforest guard at the Vandikkadavu Forest Station in the Kurichiyad range of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, said he had never seen such a ferocious fire in his 16 years in the department.

Wildlife Dsrupted

  • Forest officials have already warned that wild animals may leave Bandipur and cross human settlements en route to new habitats.
  • Animals and birds may move towards places less affected by the fire, but they will return to their home when the situation becomes normal.
  • Dhanesh Kumar said animals from Bandipur have already begun to travel to Wayanad, which is not affected by the fire.
  • With the animal movements set to increase in the coming days, the forest department has decided to close the Muthanga and Tholpetti eco-tourism zones for visitors from February 22.

How did it happen?

  • According to sources in the department, some miscreants on the Kerala border allegedly lit the fire which in no time reduced large swathes of forest cover to ashes.
  • Forest Minister B Ramanatha Rai said  that a committee of higher officials will be constituted to probe into the wildfire in Kalkere forest range under Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Another fire in Karighatta forest

  • Over 100 acres of vegetation was destroyed in the fire in the Karighatta forest in Srirangapatna taluk of Mandya district on 24th Feb even as wildfire resurfaced in the Bandipur National Park.
  • Hundreds of eucalyptus trees were destroyed in the Karighatta wildfire as firefighters couldn’t reach the forest on time.
  • The fire also destroyed two huts adjoining the forest and damaged food-grain, poultry, a bicycle, a television set and clothes.
  • Forest officials tried to contain the fire on one side but strong winds quickly spread it to the other.
  • People living in the nearby village of Chinnayakanahalli complained that firefighters did not arrive even two hours after being informed.
  • As if the major wildfires were not enough, eucalyptus trees on a 30-acre grove and a sericulture unit were destroyed in a blazing fire at Anedoddi village near Koppa in Maddur taluk of Mandya district
  • Forest officials said that the fire which started at seven places in Chikkaiahanagiri and spread up to Jodigere was an act of arson.
  • Strong winds had quickly spread the fire. Officials from K Gudi and Byluru forest ranges struggled for almost 24 hours before the blaze could be contained by 4 am

How did it happen?

  • There were reports that uncontrolled growth of lantana and rubbing of dry bamboo caused the fire.
  • Some officials also suspect that the decaying elephant dung piles could have caused the fire.
  • There has been lobbying in and around the BTR for the rights over forest produce.
  • This has led to a tussle among locals who could have set the forest ablaze in a fit of rage, some opine.

Forest dept seeks food donations for Bandipur firefighters

  • The Forest Department has urged people to donate food items for its staff, local residents and other volunteers engaged in putting out the major wildfire in the Bandipur National Park in Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts.
  • People can donate food items that have longer shelf life such as bread, buns, biscuits, fruits and other snacks along with bottled water.
  • These items can be deposited at the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens in Mysuru. A truck will leave the zoo every day for Bandipur to transport the food items.
  • The department said that even though hundreds of people were involved in putting out the wildfire, providing food and water was a difficult task as there were no eateries near the affected places.
  • Water, too, has become scarce in the forest. The department is supplying water from bore wells to the affected areas.
  • Forest officials had considered feeding animals fruits and vegetables but dropped the idea for practical reasons.
  • The department is also looking for volunteers to mitigate the blaze. B J Hosmath, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said 200 people had sought to volunteer in Bandipur

Four new farm pests found in Karnataka

  • Four new plant-eating insects that may turn out to be a potential threat to agriculture in several states have been found in Karnataka.
  • These pests, reported for the first time in India, could threaten economically important plants like mangoes, guavas, pepper, coffee, tea, potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Collectively known as coccids, they were spotted by researchers from the National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources, Bengaluru during an Indian Council of Agricultural Research-backed survey in 11 districts of Karnataka between 2012 and 2015.
  • “Though we are seeing these soft-scale insects for the first time, they are potential threats to agriculture in India. Two days ago, I spotted them on a different plant (Ashoka tree) in Maharashtra.
  • We need to have more studies to find out their prevalence and their counter measures,” NBAIR scientist Sunil Joshi, who led the team.

About the Pests

  • One of the insects Kilifia acuminatawas found on an ornamental fern in Bengaluru, but may threaten mango trees in future, as seen in Egypt.
  • India ranks first among the world’s mango-producing countries, accounting for about 50% of mango production.
  • Southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have a large area under mango cultivation, and the pest can easily spread from Kerala to other states if left unchecked.
  • Reported from 35 countries around the world, it is also a threat to litchi, jamun, guava, pear, lemon and coffee plants.
  • Another insect called Protopulvinaria longivalvatawas found on a pepper climber grown in a kitchen garden.
  • The scientists describe it as a serious pest as the vine was killed by the insects.
  • Joshi and his colleagues reported in the journal Current Science that they collected this insect in large numbers from Vittal, Karnataka which is near the major pepper-growing area of Kasargod in Kerala.
  • The insect can easily spread to such areas in Kerala and become a serious pest, they said.
  • The third species Trijuba oculatawas also reported from Bengaluru and Mandya. It could be a threat to custard apple trees and grapevines in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • The fourth species Pulvinaria urbicola, Joshi said, was a notoriously destructive one that can be a big threat to potato, tomato, brinjal, bell pepper and capsicum.
  • This too was spotted in Bengaluru.

Bhoomi software upgrade project stuck over cost escalation

  • The Karnataka government’s move to take up the much-needed upgrade of the award-winning Bhoomi software has come to a grinding halt.
  • The government and the contractor – Accenture Services Pvt Ltd – have locked horns over the cost of the project – Namma Bhoomi.
  • The project envisages not only upgrading the 15-year-old land records software, but integrating it with all nationalised banks and government departments, including Stamps and Registration.
  • The Bhoomi project was launched in 2001 for digitising land records. It enabled farmers to obtain Record of Rights, Tenancy and Crops (RTC) without much ado. It won the national e-governance award in 2005, and many states later adopted it.

Software upgrade

  • Windows-based software has since become outdated, and needs to be upgraded. Maintenance of the software is becoming increasingly difficult due to non-availability of tools. However, the software is still functioning, the sources pointed out.
  • The project, among others, involved creating a central database of land records in Bengaluru.
  • For this, a backup server has to be set up.
  • Besides, it involved incorporating security features to prevent hacking. The sources said Accenture came up with a request to increase the project cost by about Rs 10 crore after the award of the Rs 17-crore tender.
  • The company told the government that it would incur huge losses if the cost is not increased.
  • But the government turned down the request.
  • Currently, the issue is before the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) headed by Additional Ch­ief Secretary K Ratna Prabha.

No Provision

  • Special Deputy Commissioner of Bhoomi Monitoring Cell (BMC) Harish Kumar said there is no provision in the agreement to increase the project cost beyond 25%.
  • The company appears to have failed to properly assess the cost of work involved despite the BMC clearly spelling out all the work involved.
  • The project, the tender for which was awarded in 2014, was scheduled to be completed in 2016. But it has not taken off yet
  • BMC has also informed the government that it is capable of upgrading the software in-house.
  • But the government will be able to take a call in this regard only after DRC takes a decision on resolving the issue.
  • The project, once implemented, is expected to prevent fraudulent land transactions.
  • Banks will be able to verify land record details using the upgraded software before sanctioning home loans.
  • Similarly, the Stamps and Registration Department can examine the records before allowing registration of properties.

Karnataka Draught: Krishi Mela called off

  • Krishi Mela, the annual event organised by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru (UAS-B) at Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK) has been called off this time because of extreme drought situation prevailing across the state.
  • This is just the second time that the Mela has been put off since its first edition in 1960.
  • The event is usually organised in October or November. According to top sources, the University took the decision to call of the event to avoid any confrontation with farmers in a situation where over 160 taluks have been declared as drought affected.
  • During Krishi Mela, farmers from across the state are given demonstrations on growing crops and irrigation methods. Farmers are also provided information on new scientific techniques.
  • This year, with severe rainfall defecit, the UAS-B has not had enough water to even cultivate crops on small patches of land on its campus to display them to farmers.
  • The sprawling campus of the UAS-B, which would otherwise have patches of lush green crops, is now a barren land.
  • While in north Karnataka, crops are relatively better, south Karnataka is witnessing the worst-ever situation, according to experts.
  • South Karnataka is predominantly dependent on borewell irrigation while north Karnataka depends on rains and water stored in reservoirs.
  • Krishi Mela, however, took place in Shivamogga, Raichur, Dharwad as they had better rainfall.
  • The four-day event here would see a footfall of over 20 lakh farmers, according to Dr Jagadeshwara, director (Extention), UAS-B.
  • He said that this time, a one-day event was held which saw the participation of only those farmers who were given the annual awards.

The main objective of organzing Krishi Mela

  • To expose and train farmers on various aspects and to new technologies, like drop irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, food processing, soil quality, agri finance and insurance, marketing, contact farming, post harvest management, rural retailing etc.
  • Converge the Indian agro based community at the event
  • To showcase innovative and cutting edge agro technology
  • To provide a platform to farmers where they can interact with industries for technology and better yield
  • To educate farmers to adopt alternate sources of revenue generation

Karnataka : Food production set to fall 35% below target

  • Food production in Karnataka is set to fall short of the stated target by a whopping 35% in the current financial year on account of successive years of drought.
  • The state will produce only 91.45 lakh tonnes of food grain against the target of 140 lakh tonnes, Minister for Agriculture Krishna Byre Gowda said on 22nd Feb

Reason for the shortfall

  • The drastic reduction in food grain production has been caused by the failure of southwest and southeast monsoons.
  • As many as 139 out of 177 taluks were declared drought-hit in the kharif season. In the rabi season, this figure went up to 160.
  • Rice, maize, jowar and ragi crops will be the worst affected.
  • Production of oil seeds and cotton is also estimated to come down.

‘Krishi Bhagya a success’

  • The minister said that the government’s flagship Krishi Bhagya scheme had helped farmers double their yield.
  • Beneficiary farmers have made a profit of Rs 15 on investment of every Rs 100.
  • The crop yield has doubled in many instances. This is despite drought in almost all parts of the state,” he said, quoting the survey.
  • Under the scheme, the government provides financial assistance to farmers to build farm ponds with polythene linings (to prevent percolation), instal pumps and sprinkler irrigation systems (for efficient water utilisation).
  • The minister said the government would build 30,000 more farm ponds in the current financial year given the demand from farmers.
  • He also said the government would provide shade nets at 50% subsidy to cover farm ponds given the increasing accidents.
  • The decision to cover farm ponds was taken as cases of farmers and cattle drowning in them were reported from across the state

Where targets missed?

  1. 45 lakh tonnes (target: 140 lakh tonnes)
  2. Rice: 30.4 lakh tonnes (target: 45.76 lakh tonnes)
  3. Maize: 31.21 lakh tonnes (target: 45.76 lakh tonnes)
  4. Jowar: 6.47 lakh tonnes (target: 15 lakh tonnes)
  5. Ragi: 6.37 lakh tonnes (target: 14.65 lakh tonnes)

Karnataka: Govt to prepare state’s youths for Army

  • A pre-recruitment training programme proposed by the Karnataka government for those aspiring to get into the Indian Army is all set to be launched.
  • The admission process for the programme will begin on March 3.

For whom?

  • The training programme for those aspiring to join the military and para-military forces was first announced in the budget proposals for 2016-17 and since then there have been thousands of enquiries from across the state seeking details about the course.

Where will it happen?

  • The newly reconstituted Karnataka Skill Development Corporation (KSDC), which has been entrusted with the task of implementing the programme, has decided that 1,000 youths will be trained at two camps – at Belagavi and Madikeri – to prepare them to face the rigorous recruitment rallies conducted by the Indian Army.

Why was it needed?

  • It is seen that very few candidates from Karnataka get selected at recruitment rallies conducted by the Army.
  • While candidates, by and large, pass the medical test, they somehow fail to get through the physical fitness test.
  • Govt has decided to start a two-month course, the first of its kind, to bridge this gap.
  • Application forms for the course titled “Kannadiga in Indian Army” will be issued at all district employment offices from March 3.
  • Govt expects a good response to the programme as there were not less than 11,000 queries on the course when the corporation conducted awareness workshops on skill development in colleges across the state.
  • If the number of aspirants exceeds the intake of 1,000, then a selection process will be held to pick the best of the lot.
  • Most of the candidates who fail to get through the recruitment rallies, end up as security guards.
  • The Army conducts rallies on a regular basis to recruit sepoys or soldiers (general duty) for youths in the age group of 17.5 to 21 years.
  • Pass in Class X/II PU is a must and aspirants will have to undergo a physical fitness test, physical measurement test, medical test and a written test.
  • Selected candidates get a minimum salary of Rs 14,000 a month onwards, social security benefits and several perks.
  • At the two-month training programme (11 hours a day), the candidates will be trained in all aspects with a focus on physical fitness.
  • The course will be conducted by former army personnel among others.
  • Based the success of the first batch, KSDC plans to expand the intake to 5,000 next year.

Karnataka: Five waste segregation units to be set up

  • The Vijayapura civic body will set them up at an estimated cost of Rs. 70 lakh
  • To deal with the rising garbage issue in Vijayapura city and to reduce the transportation cost of dumping the waste away from the city limits, the city corporation has decided to decentralise the solid waste management system.
  • Under the plan, the city corporation is establishing five segregation units in different parts of the city where the garbage will be segregated and also sent for recycling.

Why was it needed?

  • At present, Vijayapura city has only one landfill site which is around 15 kilometres away.
  • This 32-acre land is already being filled with the garbage dumped everyday.
  • The city generates around 110 tonnes of waste every day of which only 85 tonnes is being lifted, the idea behind the units was to provide a lasting and effective solution to the issue.

Cost Savings?

  • The opening of the five units in different parts of the city will not only help in lifting most of the garbage but will also save cost of transport to the landfill site, according to the official.
  • The five units are coming up at the cost of Rs. 70 lakh in ward 20, 35, 13, 22 and near M.G. Circle, while one of the units would also have plastic bailing system at Rs. 35 lakh.
  • These units will start functioning from early morning when the waste will be dumped .
  • Biodegradable and non-biodegradable such as plastic and glass will be segregated.
  • The plastic would be sent to bailing unit.
  • The bails would be later sold to industries that need plastic for reuse.
  • The biodegradable could be used for preparing manure which will also be sold to farmers. Both these works would help in generating additional revenue to the corporation.
  • Informing that these units would start functioning within the next three months

Karnataka: Govt may stop supplying PDS sugar

  • Food and Civil Supplies Minister U T Khader on 27th Feb said that the state government will have to discontinue supply of sugar through PDS if the Centre does not restore its share of the subsidy component.
  • Khader said the Centre was providing the states a subsidy of Rs 18.50 per kg of sugar sold through fair price shops.
  • However, in the Union Budget proposals for 2017-18, this subsidy component was withdrawn, indicating that the entire burden of subsidised sugar will have to be borne by the states.
  • Khader said the Karnataka government has written to the Centre to restore its share of subsidy immediately.
  • At present, 10,000 tonnes of sugar a month is distrubuted through PDS at a cost of Rs 15 per kg.

Kerosene for BPL card holders

  • BPL ration card holders in rural areas will get one litre of kerosene a month even if they have LPG connections, Khader said.
  • As many as 40 lakh card holders with LPG connections will benefit.
  • They will have to enrol at the respective gram panchayats stating that they are interested in availing kerosene.
  • The fuel will be charged at Rs 25 a litre and provided from March.
  • Supply of kerosene to households with LPG connections was discontinued in 1995.
  • Food and Civil Supplies Department Principal Secretary Harsh Gupta urged all ration card holders to link their cards to Aadhaar at the earliest.
  • Aadhaar seeding of ration cards has been mandatory and ration supply will be cut if it is not done within the next few weeks.
  • As many as 50,000 applications have been received online for new APL cards since January this year and 30,000 of them have been processed, Khader said.

IMD urges govt to encourage farmers to register on portal

  • The officials of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) met the state government officials and urged them to speed up the process of making farmers register on M-Kisan portal.
  • Union Science and Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had written to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on January 5 urging him to draw farmers to register on the the portal (which was launched in 2013 to disseminate accurate and regular weather updates to all Indian farmers).
  • The IMD officials said that there has been no response to the letter from the state government so far.
  • Registering farmers to the portal is the need of the hour, especially in wake of the changing weather conditions.
  • The IMD aims to register the farmers before the onset of monsoon, so that they can get the maximum benefit of this. Vijay Bhaskar said that he would look into the matter and ask the officials to reach out to the farmers.

How does the portal works?

  • The portal plays a vital role in communicating with the farmers.
  • Everyday the head and regional IMD offices get calls seeking weather details.
  • The number of calls increase during monsoon and pre-monsoon season, when weather is changing.
  • But once farmers are registered on the portal, they will get periodic weather updates which include maximum and minimum temperatures, rainfall details and warning alerts.
  • The portal is being managed by IMD-Pune office

Step taken by Minister

  • The ministry has asked the state government to actively involve its 10 agro climatic zone units (the agro- meteorological field units) of Karnataka.
  • The IMD has also sent letters to agricultural universities of Bengaluru, Raichur, Dharwad and other districts asking them to reach out to farmers and urge them to register on the portal.

IMD Open Day

  • The Open Day at IMD, Bengaluru, received a good response.
  • A team of around 90 people (doctors, patients and others associated) from Nimhans visited the IMD head office on the occasion of World Science day.
  • Metri said that they took keen interest to learn how weather is recorded

No PDS supplies if Aadhaar is not linked with ration card by April 1

  • Below poverty line and above poverty line families will not get their monthly ration under the public distribution system from April 1, if they fail to link Aadhaar number with the Food and Civil Supplies Department.
  • The Centre has set June 30 as deadline for linking Aadhaar with ration cards to avail themselves of food items at subsidised prices.
  • So far, 3.45 crore Aadhaar cards have been linked to the department in the past few months. At least another 50 lakh cards are yet to be linked.
  • Food and Civil Supplies Minister U.T. Khader said that ration cards that have not been linked with Aadhaar would be considered bogus.
  • However, the department would supply ration in March to families who have not shared their Aadhaar with the department
  • Following instructions from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the department has decided to supply one litre kerosene per month to all BPL families even if they have LPG gas connections.
  • However, only families residing in rural areas are eligible to obtain this at a cost of Rs25.
  • The department has stopped supply of kerosene to families having LPG connections since the Centre does not reimburse the subsidy amount. Mr. Khader said families not having LPG gas connections continued to get three litres of kerosene per month.
  • In the recent past, a large number of legislators and Congress workers submitted petitions to the Chief Minister stating that families having LPG connections too should be given kerosene since there was delay in supply of LPG cylinders by private companies.

About Public Distribution System

  • PDS is an Indian food security system. Established by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and are managed jointly by state governments in India, it distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor.
  • This scheme was launched in India on June 1997. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene, through a network of fair price shops (also known as ration shops) established in several states across the country.
  • Food Corporation of India, a Government-owned corporation, procures and maintains the PDS.
  • In coverage and public expenditure, it is considered to be the most important food security network.
  • However, the food grains supplied by the ration shops are not enough to meet the consumption needs of the poor or are of inferior quality.
  • The average level of consumption of PDS seeds in India is only 1 kg per person / month. The PDS has been criticised for its urban bias and its failure to serve the poorer sections of the population effectively.
  • The targeted PDS is costly and gives rise to much corruption in the process of extricating the poor from those who are less needy.
  • Today, India has the largest stock of grain in the world besides China, the government spends Rs. 750 billion ($13.6 billion) per year, almost 1 percent of GDP, yet 21% remain undernourished.
  • Distribution of food grains to poor people throughout the country is managed by state governments, as of date there are about 500,000 Fair Price Shops (FPS) across India

Reason for Fallouts of PDS

  1. Growing instances of the consumers receiving inferior quality food grains in ration shops.
  2. Deceitful dealers replace good supplies received from the F.C.I (Food Corporation of India) with inferior stock and sell FCI stock in the black market.
  3. Illicit fair price shop owners have been found to create large number of bogus cards to sell food grains in the open market.
  4. Many FPS dealers resort to malpractice, illegal diversions of commodities, holding and black marketing due to the minimum salary received by them.
  5. Numerous malpractices make safe and nutritious food inaccessible and un-affordable to many poor thus resulting in their food insecurity.
  6. Identification of households to be denoted status and distribution to granted PDS services has been highly irregular and diverse in various states. The recent development of Aadhar UIDAI cards has taken up the challenge of solving the problem of identification and distribution of PDs services along with Direct Cash Transfers.
  7. Regional allocation and coverage of FPS are unsatisfactory and the core objective of price stabilisation of essential commodities has not met.
  8. There is no set criteria as to which family is BPL and which is APL .This non ambiguity gives massive scope for corruption and fallouts in PDS systems because those who are actually meant to be benefited are not able to taste the fruits of PDS.