Rupee falls to record low of 64.13 against dollar

indianrupeeThe rupee slumped to a record low of 64.13 against the dollar, this morning. It made a steep fall against the British Pound as well when it crossed the 100 mark. It hit a new low against the Pound early on Tuesday morning at 100.35.

The sharp decline in the Indian economy has seen the rupee decline against all major global currencies, like the Pound Sterling, the Euro and the Dollar. On Monday the rupee experienced a devastating fall of 148  paise, and it continued to fall a further 98 paise this morning. Early on Monday, the government decided to ban duty-free imports from out of the country to curb economic expenditure.

The economic crisis has raised concerns about whether this is the right time to bring in the Food Security Bill, keeping in mind the shaky economic status of the country.

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(With inputs from Dyanne Coelho)

Railway tragedy claims 37 in Bihar

Khagaria, Bihar- The Saharsa-Patna Rajyarani Express of Bihar, ran over 37 people in Bihar on Monday. The horrific accident occurred at 8:40 am at the Dhamara Ghat station in Khagaria.

The people killed were pilgrims heading towards a Shiva temple to pray on the last Monday of Srawan. The train was not scheduled to stop at Dhamara Ghat, but the pilgrims thought that they could stop the train that would take them to the temple by standing in the middle of the tracks. The train drivers were given a green signal to pass through the station when they saw the mob of people on the tracks and pulled the emergency breaks. Even with the emergency breaks 37 pilgrims, including many women and children, lost their lives and about 24 sustained grave injuries.

For more information, click here. 

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Rajyarani Express| Image courtesy: The Indian Express

Managing water one ‘step’ at a time

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Pradeep Pawde: ” Everyone supported the idea. Half of the financial help came from the villagers only.”

The relationship between droughts and Kumbharwadi in Ahmednagar district goes back to the 1970s where the village suffered immense hunger and poverty. But today, the story of Kumbharwadi is completely different as it religiously follows ‘water-budgeting’ that helps the villagers in keeping a track of the amount of water being used every week.

In a small chat with Pradeep Pawde, the manager of the village’s water-budgeting, acquaints us with what prompted them to opt for it, the villagers’ contribution and the change it has brought in their agricultural activities.

Q. Why did the village decide to go for water-budgeting system?

A. The watershed development programme initiated by WOTR treated the shallow soils of the village. So, water would get stored easily. But due to less rainfall, the water levels started decreasing. On top of it, we were using the water injudiciously. Last year, when we experienced drought again, WOTR suggested this system.

Q. Who financed this programme?

A. After suggested we go for water-budgeting system, I immediately called for a village meeting to get everyone’s opinion. Luckily, everyone supported the idea. Half of the financial help came from the villagers only and the other half from WOTR.

Q. How does this programme work?

A. See, this is a special programme which happens only after the watershed development program has been implemented. Here, that started in 1998 and ended on 2002. The water-budgeting table shows total area of the village, availability of water, temperature, pressure, wind intensity and speed, rainfall measurement of Kumbharwadi. It is updated every week. So, we know how much water is being used. Borewells and open wells are also being measured to find out the groundwater level.

Q. How has this new programme affected the villagers?

A. People are now using water more carefully. They now realize the value of water more.

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The water-budgeting table: Painted on the outer wall of a village house

Q. How are the farmers managing?

A. Crops like tomatoes and onions that require flood irrigation are not being grown anymore. Instead, pomegranates are being grown. They are also using water saving devices like sprinkles. This year, about 30 farmers installed drip irrigation of one hectare each.

Q. So, have they earned any profits yet?

A. It’s been just one year. I can’t say. Initially, only four farmers started drip irrigation. This year, the number reached 30. Next year, who knows? Before water-budgeting, there was no mechanism. Now they can assess rainfall and thus groundwater available after the rains. Accordingly, crops to be planted in the winters can be planned. If there is surplus, summer plans can also be planned. 

“I have only heard about the watershed management”

The lush green hills you pass as you approach the small village of Dolasane , in Ahmednagar district will make you wonder if this was the same place which was under severe drought last year. The area reflects the success of the watershed management programme initiated here. But when you enter the dreary village of  Dolasane you realize that the grass is not all that green in reality.

Waiting In Hope: Suganda Lokhande is still to reap the benefits of the watershed programme
Waiting In Hope: Suganda Lokhande is still to reap the benefits of the watershed programme

The village is yet to recover from the shackles of the drought. Fifty-five year old Suganda Lokhande has been trudging to and from the nearest water body daily for as long as she can remember. Her day starts early as early as 5.30 in the morning. She has no tap in her house and is forced to walk for miles daily to get water for drinking.

“I have only heard about the watershed management,” she says adding that it hasn’t really benefitted a landless villager like her. Widowed two years ago, she is left to fend for her son and two daughters.

Suganda Lokhande is not alone. With water hard to come by, the women of the region invariably have to make the rounds of the village well to fetch water for their families. Finding enough water for family chores in the dry summer months was even harder. They have to depend on tankers for water.

Due to the shortage of water, Suganda is forced to seek employment outside the village.” I work as a daily wage labourer in the neighboring villages,”  she says adding that she earns Rs. 150 for an entire days  work. As the other villages are 30-40 km away from Dolasane, Suganda pays the pick-up  van Rs. 40 daily  for transportation.

Outside the village saw a small shop selling Idea SIM cards. Strangely we live in world where people have more  access to mobile phones than to  safe drinking water.

Curiosity’s birthday bash on Mars

An illustration of the rover | Image: nasa.gov
An illustration of the rover | Image: nasa.gov

Amidst “Happy Birthday” chimes echoing through a barren, red desert, Mars rover Curiosity celebrated its birthday, on the night of August 5 using an on-board instrument to beep out the tune. NASA’s most expensive space rover landed on the neighbouring planet on August 6 last year to explore Gale Crater which once home to flowing water.

In the last 12 months, this $2.5 million project has belted out a string of discoveries for the world. Curiosity has not only travelled 1.6 kilometers across the red planet but has also collected 190 gigabits of data and sent back more than 36,700 full images, 35,000 thumbnail images and more than 75,000 laser shots of Mars’ crude surface, thereby helping the NASA scientists in their studies.

One of the initial photographs that Curiosity sent back home was a picture of its shadow and undoubtedly, that sent electric waves all across the world since the world could view Gale Crater for the first time. NASA specifically worked on making the two-ton car-sized rover land on Mars in one piece. For that, a sky crane and a supersonic parachute were used.

The first marvellous revelation made by the rover was that Mars is red on top and gray at the bottom. This discovery was made possible due to Curiosity’s drilling; making it the first robot to drill Mars’ surface.The drilling bits were even enough for the scientists to announce that the planet’s environment was once habitual. The surface particles had chemicals important for life in it, including elements like nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.

The rover’s drilling also resulted in confirming that water too once flowed on the planet. The Mast Camera spotted evidence of water-carrying minerals in the Yellowknife Bay area where Curiosity first drilled. It was later found that this area was formed out of debris left by a river that once flowed into the crater.

Another feather in the cap was when the scientists determined that the planet’s atmosphere hasn’t changed much in the last 4 billion years. NASA confirms that it has been thin and inhospitable to life as always known.

The date collected by the rover regarding the radiation levels on Mars also revealed that the radiation in deep space is several hundred times as compared to what is on Earth and is extremely harmful for machines on Mars.

Currently, Curiosity is on its way to record geological history of Mars on Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high structure made of layers. NASA hopes to get the rover there by next summer. During the journey, rover will continue to fire back home whatever photographs it takes and measurements it records.

Curiosity’s latest tweet (@Mars Curiosity) read, “I would drive 500 meters and I would drive 500 more. Another kilometer closer to Mount Sharp! Total odometry on Mars: 2 km.” Looks like it’s already very excited about the trip.

 Sources: CNN.com, Washington Post

Kerala crisis: Chandy forced to order judicial probe

Kerala Chief Minister: Oommen Chandy. PTI
Kerala Chief Minister: Oommen Chandy. PTI

The Left Democratic Front have finally decided to withdraw its massive siege of the Kerala state secretariat  following the involvement of the state Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, in the Solar Scam after he was forced to order a judicial probe into the matter.

As figures from television news channel NDTV suggest, there were nearly 70,000 people on the streets on the very second day of the siege thus tensions rising and situation turning towards an unruly and hostile atmosphere. Though the probe has been ordered, but with protests getting larger with every passing hour, speculations are such that the paramilitary forces have also been brought into the city as back-up. Schools and colleges are closed till tomorrow. 3000 policemen along with 10 companies of the paramilitary force have been kept on stand-by.

The Left, who had missed out on the majority by just falling short of 4 seats than the UDF, has already expressed their disgust towards the present government demanding an immediate resignation of Chandy. An agitated Prakash Karat described the situation saying that the Congress was setting a “shameless” standard of not accepting responsibility for “what is happening right under its nose”

Mr. Chandy has though stated that he would discuss things out with the LDF regarding the probe, but has almost terminated the thought or chances of him submitting a resignation during the probe. “We had to do this because the LDF had threatened a complete breakdown of the system by blocking all possible entry or exit points to the secretariat. This is a democracy. Everyone has the right to protest but we cannot afford a systemic breakdown. But because protests were peaceful, there was no need to use force. This was what I had assured,” Mr Chandy later explained.

Follow this story here.

(With inputs from Bihan Sengupta)

The Season Starts Here

english_premier_league_trophy__5_It’s been a week short of three months since Bayern Munich held the UEFA Champions League trophy aloft on the Wembley turf, bringing an enthralling club season to a close. The weeks that followed saw plenty of international match action, but it just wasn’t the same. And now finally, after weeks of tedious transfer speculation, the season is upon us at last. There have been personnel changes a-plenty, making pre-season predictions for the top 4 finishes a tad tricky. Here goes anyway –

1st –  Chelsea

Image: santabanta.com

Much as it pains me to admit it as a Manchester United fan, Chelsea seem like the team most likely to take the title this season. Despite returning to England after a six year gap, Jose Mourinho knows his way around the Premier League, and has done reasonably well in the transfer window so far. With plenty of players returning from loan, the squad will also have more depth this season. With that many players at his disposal, Mourinho will no doubt also look forward to a decent cup run.

2nd – Manchester United

Image: football.ru

Even as the defending league champions, the changes at United may just prove to be a hindrance. David Moyes is clearly more of a long-term option, and fans will just have to make their peace with that. The club has not had much luck in the transfer window either, with the midfield still looking very light. However, much of last season’s squad still remains, and the winning mentality won’t go away overnight. The very least United could expect is a good run in one of the domestic cups, and I firmly believe that Moyes will deliver at least one trophy.

3rd – Manchester City

Image: bbc.co.uk

City’s disappointing title defence last season led to the replacing of Roberto Mancini with Manuel Pellegrini. While Pellegrini doesn’t have the most incredible trophy haul, he has a vast amount of experience in the game, and will surely pose a serious challenge to the rest of the top 4. However, despite signing several players, City don’t really seemed to have massively improved their squad, save for their depth. For some reason, City don’t look likely to break into the top 2, they look like they’ll get 3rd with some ease.

4th – Tottenham Hotspur

Image: telegraph.co.uk

This may seem like a fairly ambitious claim, but Arsenal look like they might finally lose out on a top 4 spot. Arsenal fans won’t like to hear it, but their aura of invincibility has long since faded. With Tottenham making several very clever signings in the window already, they look they will have enough about them to finally get another shot at Champions League football. It may be a bit of a scrap, but Andre Villas-Boas has shown that he isn’t one to shy away from a fight. If the club manage to hold onto Gareth Bale, getting into the top 4 might end up being even easier.