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Sources : The Hindu, Indian Express
Drones to help gauge crop damage
The Centre has decided to use satellite and drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) over farmers’ fields to collect crop yield data and to assess damage from natural calamities.The high resolution imagery of crop assessment from drones will be collated with satellite imaging and other geospatial technology to get accurate data to enable crop insurance companies to give proper compensation to affected farmers. The experiment will help develop index-based data for insurance companies.Launching the new programme called “Kisan” (Crop Insurance using Space Technology and Geoinformatics), Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan told journalists on Monday that the scientific data collected by drones and collated with satellites imagery will be matched with traditional crop cutting experiments to arrive at a foolproof data. Among the drone companies active in India are SkyMet, Amigo Optima, Precision Hawk, Quidich and Techbaaz.“The crop insurance claim is calculated on the basis of crop cutting experiments. However, there has always been a problem in getting timely and accurate data, due to which payment of claims to farmers were getting delayed. A new programme "Kisan" is being launched on a pilot basis to address this issue,’’ Mr. Balyan said.At the same time, the Minister launched an Android mobile phone application to assess large-scale damage to crops from hail. Farmers with Android and smart phones will download the application which will allow them to immediately send photos of their crop damage to officials concerned for immediate relief. This will cut the red tape in reaching assistance to farmers, the Minister said.Initially, "Kisan" will be tried out as a pilot study in identified districts in Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Studies will be done during the ongoing kharif season in rice crop in Kurukshetra (Haryana), Shimoga (Karnaraka), Seoni (Madhya Pradesh) and in cotton in Yavatmal (Maharashtra).Next rabi, pilot studies will be carried out in wheat yields in Hissar and Karnal (Haryana), Ahmednagar (Maharashtra) and Vidisha and Hoshangabad (Madhya Pradesh). Studies will be done in sorghum in Gulbarga (Karnataka) and Solapur (Maharashtra) and in rice in Raichur (Karnataka).The programme will be jointly conducted by Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, India Meteorological Department, State Agriculture Departments and Remote Sensing Centres, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
Nuclear energy not viable, says German economist
India will do better to invest in solar and in wind power than in nuclear energy, said German green economist Ralf Fücks. Nuclear energy was economically unsustainable and needed government subsidies to survive, he added.“We should not consider nuclear power as green. We are even more confident that nuclear energy is the wrong path, and that we don’t need it. It is inherently high-risk. If something goes wrong then it can be catastrophic like Chernobyl and Fukushima,” Dr. Fücks, president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, said.There was also the problem of nuclear proliferation, he added, saying there was a very thin wall between civil and military nuclear applications.The most important issue with nuclear power, Dr. Fücks said, was the cost of plants. “The cost is growing. Nuclear power will not be able to survive without government subsidies. If you let the market decide, then nuclear is out,” he said. Dr. Fücks said this in answer to a question on India’s increased trade in civil nuclear equipment with France.
Regarding the Narendra Modi government’s plan on smart cities, Dr. Fücks said they were a promising development but that they should not be limited in scope. “Self-sufficient smart cities are a very promising development. However, they should not be limited to data management and smarter technology, but must also include high-tech urban farming, powered by solar and wind energy, so as to increase employment in the cities, reduce fertilizer and pesticide usage and put a check on water consumption,” he said.According to Dr. Fücks, smart cities must also be made more accessible for commuters who choose to walk or cycle. In addition, urban transport must be based on alternative, renewable energy.Dr. Fücks lauded the Indian government’s National Solar Mission. “This is quite a promising task. Globally, you see a dramatic reduction of cost in this sector. Solar module costs have come down by 80 per cent. It is becoming cheaper every month, and the energy is virtually unlimited. For developing countries, renewable energy provides great opportunities for all those not connected to the central grid,” he said.However, India was experiencing a contradiction in policy. “India is trying to increase its coal capabilities as well as its solar. This can work in the short term, but they are fundamentally different energy systems and India will have to choose in the longer term,” Dr. Fücks said.
In the light of the Volkswagen scandal surrounding the company’s cheating on emission tests, Dr. Fücks said companies must be responsible for not only their revenues but also their environmental impact. “The company’s environmental footprint must be included in the accounting system, and so this requires a change in regulation.” ‘If something goes wrong then it can be catastrophic like Chernobyl and Fukushima’.
Germany won’t sign MLAT, cites death penalty
Germany has expressed its inability to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with India, citing its provision for “death penalty” for heinous crimes and terror activities.India has signed MLAT with 39 countries, including the United States. This is perhaps the first time a country has refused to sign the treaty on grounds of the death penalty provision.Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju signed a memoran-dum of understanding (MoU) with Gunte Krings of the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Germany on security cooperation and disaster management. Dr. Krings is part of a delegation which has come to India with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.An MLAT is an agreement between two or more countries for gathering and exchanging information to enforce public or criminal laws.Mr. Rijiju is learnt to have told the German officials that the two countries had been negotiating on the MLAT in criminal matters since 2007 and it had not progressed on account of differences on the issue of “death penalty”. “We informed the delegation that death penalty is only handed in the rarest of the rare cases in India,” he said.India also discussed “violent extremism” with Germany and the activities of the Islamic State (IS). The Minister told Germany that individuals linked to terrorist organisations, particularly Sikh extremists based in Germany, often used their places of worship to support extremist organisations in India through propaganda and financial help.“The flag of Khalistan and photographs of armed terrorists are openly displayed in many Sikh religious places in Germany to incite hatred and anger against India,” he said.The two countries also signed an MoU for deployment of armed marshals on flights operating between the two countries.Mr. Rijiju requested his German counterpart to establish a mechanism for real-time cooperation in the area of “cyber security.” The Foreign Ministries are holding Cyber Dialogue next week.
Road Safety Bill will give govt power to order recall of vehicles: Gadkari
In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday underscored a clause in the pending Road Safety Bill that allows the government to direct a manufacturer to recall motor vehicles if a defect in that particular type of vehicle may cause harm to the driver or occupants or road users.“The government is committed to removing faulty designing in road projects and is identifying black spots to prevent accidents. The Bill has provisions for automobile sector too in view of the safety concerns to prevent accidents,” Mr. Gadkari said, while speaking at a conference on road safety organised by the International Road Federation.
According to the Bill, a manufacturer can be ordered to recall a particular type of motor vehicle if a specified number of users complain about a defect that can cause harm to them, their passengers, or any other road users. Mr. Gadkari added that there were vested interests opposed to the passage of the Bill.
“Despite our best efforts the Bill which we made could not be introduced in Parliament. This is a difficult problem for us. The Act falls in the purview of concurrent list and both state governments and the Centre have rights. Different lobbies are there who are opposing the Bill,” he said.He added that the government was committed to increasing road safety and is targeting an ‘accident-free India’. India accounted for one of the highest numbers of road accidents with 5 lakh road accidents a year and 1.5 lakh fatalities. The initial target is to reduce the number of road accidents by half.“We need to educate our children to create safety awareness. We are preparing lessons for school children besides cartoon films. Celebrities also have been requested to come forward for the noble cause,” he said.The Bill, he said, proposes strict fines of up to Rs.3 lakh along with a minimum 7-year imprisonment in the case of the death of a child in certain circumstances. It also proposes a fine of Rs.50,000 per vehicle and up to 3 months of jail time for the head of a company for manufacturing and selling faulty vehicles.
World Bank estimates show fall in India’s poverty rate
12.8 per cent of the global population live in extreme poverty. The World Bank has revised the global poverty line, previously pegged at $1.25 a day to $1.90 a day (approximately Rs. 130). This has been arrived at based on an average of the national poverty lines of 15 poorest economies of the world. The poverty lines were converted from local currency into U.S. dollars using the new 2011 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) data.In its latest report ‘Ending Extreme Poverty, Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies’, authors Marcio Cruz, James Foster, Bryce Quillin, and Phillip Schellekkens, note that world-wide poverty has shown a decline under these new estimates.The latest headline estimate for 2012 based on the new data suggests that close to 900 million people (12.8 per cent of the global population) lived in extreme poverty.With the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September, seeking to end all forms of poverty world over, the World Bank Group has set itself the target of bringing down the number of people living in extreme poverty to less than 3 per cent of the world population by 2030.
The report also notes that the global poverty line does not currently take the multiple dimensions of poverty into account. There are many non-monetary indicators — on education, health, sanitation, water, electricity, etc. — that are extremely important for understanding the many dimensions of poverty that people experience.The 2015 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) counts 1.6 billion people as multi-dimensionally poor, with the largest global share in South Asia and the highest intensity in Sub-Saharan Africa.These multiple indicators are an important complement to monetary measures of poverty and are crucial to effectively improving the lives of the poorest, the report notes. However, the recently-established Commission on Global Poverty is currently assessing how we measure and understand poverty and how to improve this going forward. According to a WB spokesperson, the CGP recommendations are expected in April 2016.
India poverty figures varies with method
Though home to the largest number of poor in 2012, India's poverty rate is one of the lowest among those countries with the largest number of poor, the latest World Bank report notes. Also in the case of India, with large numbers of people clustered close to the poverty line, poverty estimates are significantly different depending on the recall period in the survey, the authors note.Since 2015 is the target year for the Millennium Development Goals, the assessment of changes in poverty over time is best based on the Uniform Reference Period (URP) consumption method, which uses a 30-day recall period for calculating consumption expenditures, as per the report. This method, used to set the baseline poverty rates for India in 1990, shows India’s poverty rate for 2011/12 to be 21.2 per cent.By comparison, the Modified Mixed Reference Period (MMRP), which contains a shorter, seven-day recall period for some food items leads to higher estimates of consumption and therefore lower poverty estimates. “We expect that the MMRP-based estimate (currently at 12.4% for India) will set the baseline for India and global poverty estimates, going forward,” a World Bank spokesperson told The Hindu.More country specific details will be available once the Global Monitoring Report, using the new estimates, is launched in Washington DC on October 7.