‘Sat Images Show Stubble Fire In Punjab, Haryana’

The Delhi government on Tuesday said that the latest images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) show a drastic increase in the stubble burning in the last 24 hours in Haryana and Punjab.

A statement from the office of Delhi’s Environment Minister Kailash Gahlot said: “Latest NASA images show a drastic increase in stubble burning in the last 24 hours. Stubble burning counts have increased from 1,654 to 2,577 in Punjab/Haryana in the last 24 hours.”

The statement said that wind direction shows stubble plume could increase from Punjab and Haryana, and Delhi facing adverse air quality despite the cleanest Diwali night in the last many years.

“The latest NASA images show a drastic spurt in crop residue burnings (stubble burnings) in the neighbouring states of Delhi, which has severely affected Delhi’s air quality. The stubble plume from north-west regions has become one of the significant factors in adversely affecting Delhi’s air quality,” said the statement.

“Today, transport-level wind direction is north-westerly, which might increase stubble plume towards Delhi. As per SAFAR-model, the stubble share may touch this year’s peak value now,” the statement said.

The statement further said that Delhi is going through a bad period with reference to ambient air quality after celebrating one of the cleanest Diwali in the last few years.

“The overall pollution level during the Diwali period in 2019 was found to be better than the past many years. Boundary layer winds speed also helped to flush out the additional load of last night,” added the statement.


PM Modi Arrives In Saudi Arabia For Two-Day Visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday arrived at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh for a two-day visit to the country.

The Prime Minister was received by Saudi officials. He inspected a guard of honour at the airport and will be staying at the King Saud Palace during the visit.

Modi is in the Kingdom at the invitation of Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and with an aim to boost bilateral ties between the two countries in key sectors, including energy and finance.

The visit would witness the Prime Minister launching the RuPay card in the country, besides meeting several ministers from the Saudi leadership on Tuesday.

Modi is also expected to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Labour and Social Development Minister Ahmad bin Sulaiman Alrajhi and Environment and Agriculture Minister Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al Fadley on Tuesday.

A lunch will be hosted by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in honour of the Prime Minister at the Royal Court.

Modi is slated to hold a bilateral meeting with the King following which an exchange of agreements will take place.

The Prime Minister will deliver a keynote address at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) which will be followed by an interaction with a moderator at the conference. The FII Forum is also known as the ‘Davos in the Desert’ which has been hosted by Riyadh since 2017 to project the Kingdom as a potential investment hub in the region.

After delivering the address, Modi will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A dinner will be hosted by the Crown Prince in honour of the Indian leader.

Modi will then depart for New Delhi in the night after wrapping up his engagements.

Prior to his departure, Modi said in a statement that he looks forward to his participation in the FII Forum where he would be speaking about the growing trade and investment opportunities for the global investors in India as the country marches forward to a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024.

In his statement, the Prime Minister noted that India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed traditionally close and friendly relations and that the latter has been one of the largest and reliable suppliers of India’s energy needs.

Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following New Delhi’s decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad has unilaterally downgraded bilateral ties and has been attempting to internationalise the Kashmir issue but to no avail.

Pollution Control

‘Pollution Control Mustn’t Be Limited To One Day – Diwali’

Amit Jain, 43, owner of Ajit Fireworks in Delhi, wonders why green crackers supply was not put firmly in place before banning regular firecrackers. He believes pollution control must not be limited to just one day of the year.

For three generations, my family has been in the fireworks business. Since 2017, the sales of firecrackers have been going down steadily. After the Supreme Court ruling regarding green crackers last year, we and many others in the business were hoping that sales would revive. However, the market is seeing a tremendous shortage of green crackers.

It is so disheartening to see children coming to our shops with expectant faces and going back disappointed because either there are no green crackers at all or even when they are available, one can only choose between phuljhadi and anaar. Clearly, the supply lines of green crackers are dry, and variety even worse.

I often wonder why people, most importantly environmental activists, try to solve any problem only at the surface level. There is no denying the fact that Delhi-NCR is seeing unprecedented levels of pollution, and the situation gets worse in early winter months, which is also the festival season. But the government and activists should work in a focussed manner towards population control.

Pollution doesn’t happen by itself, people create pollution. It is more important to educate people and give them alternatives – like ensuring proper supply of green crackers across cities – before introducing such a drastic measure. Buyers and sellers both wait for festivals to celebrate life. What good is a festival like Diwali without some fireworks?

Currently, Delhi’s population stands at 2.9 crores and the amount of waste generated is huge, creating water and air pollution. That should be taken more seriously the whole year round, rather than curbing emissions on a single day. When we provide better infrastructure to the people living in a city, people also take care of the city and try to solve its many problems. So if people really want to have an eco-friendly Diwali, may I suggest they take care of the environment the whole year round and begin preparations a year in advance for Diwali celebrations!

And yes, I feel population explosion is the root cause of most social ills. Less people means there is more space for a person to express themselves in a healthy manner. When people are happy, environment is happy. I hope things will change for the better next year. Many fireworks makers from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu (the hub of fireworks business) have now been trained to make eco-friendly/green crackers that have low emission as well as low decibel levels. Next year we hope to have a better Diwali.

Can Orissa’s Mineral Wealth Reach Bottom Of Pyramid?

The challenge for Indian bureaucrats from the level of district magistrate to chief secretary, on whose shoulders rest welfare-oriented administration of a state, is to understand well “local aspirations” and then create condition for their fulfilment. Indian administrative services, inherited largely from the British Raj but with many amendments and improvements since Independence, require young recruits to spend a good number of years in districts to have a feel of the challenges facing Bharat, distinct from urban India, before they are moved to state capitals or to the Centre.

Orissa chief secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy, who remembers his days long time in the past at Rourkela, which figures prominently in the national map as a major steel producing centre, where he was additional DM, admits that “local aspirations” for jobs and economic opportunities in several mineral producing centres in the state have remained largely unfulfilled. Tripathy makes a particular reference to Keonjhar district, which “makes a significantly large contribution to the state’s iron ore production, but is still without a steel plant.”

Such a venture, ideally to be undertaken by the private sector or in its absence by a union government owned undertaking, would create thousands of jobs directly and in the tertiary sectors requiring a variety of skills. These may not be available at Keonjhar at this point. But skills impartation to the local youth is a challenge that the state is ready to undertake.

Orissa’s endowments in the form of abundant natural resources such as iron ore, bauxite, coal and chrome ore should lead to job creation outside agriculture in mining and equally importantly in their local processing. Many see in the rise in demand for local processing of industrial raw materials instead of allowing their easy movement across the country a spurt in sub-nationalist sentiment. This may not be in conformity with the idea of India. But then the challenge for state level leaders is to take care of “local aspirations” for economic opportunities. We have not as yet found way to strike a balance between the two pulls.

The gross state domestic product (GSDP) growth in Orissa in recent years has been better than many states and also higher than the country’s GDP growth rate. Commendably, the eastern state grew at 8.4 per cent in 2018-19 compared with 7.4 per cent in the previous year. Orissa will be required to advance sustainably at a high rate and ensure that the resulting benefits percolate down to weakest sections of society. Incidentally, Orissa is next only to Bihar among the country’s bigger states to have the maximum number of people below the poverty line. According to Niti Aayog SDG India Index Baseline Report, 32.59 per cent of population of Orissa exist below the poverty line against 33.74 per cent in Bihar. 

No one will grudge the state claiming credit for a higher rate of growth of 6.6 per cent over a seven year period in per capita income to Rs75,796 when the national average was 6.1 per cent. But where are the evidences except for the information provided in the state economic survey that the average monthly household income in agriculture where close to 48 per cent of workers are engaged has continued to rise since 2012-13 that the condition of the poorest of the poor is improving at a desired rate? As has been seen in many states, including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, people below the poverty line swell the ranks of Maoists.

Poverty alleviation will demand more and more mineral deposits are put to auction for opening of new mines. Mineral deposits are found in remote places where there is hardly any economic activity. Official data show the Orissa mining sector contributes 10.8 per cent to GSDP. A friendlier disposition to mining by way of giving clearances quickly and lowering state levies on the basis of discussions with miners will see in a few years the sector’s share in GSDP going up by quite a few notches. Boosting minerals production will only be half the battle won. At a recent brainstorming session in Delhi with steel industry leaders by the steel ministry, Tripathy regretted that even while Orissa government had been proactive in reserving land in abundance in places like Kalinganagar, Rourkela and Keonjhar, “land capacity utilisation” had remained low to the disappointment of state administration.

According to the latest survey by the Indian Bureau of Mines, in the country’s iron ore resources of 31.32bn tonnes, the share of Orissa is 7.2bn tonnes, largest among all states. Not only this, the state which accounts for around half the country’s production of iron ore, extracted 118.5m tonnes in 2018-19, up 12.8 per cent over the previous year. So Tripathy’s disappointment is understandable that so much ore is leaving the state instead of being processed within. But at the same time what is to be taken into account is his admission that at “about 30m tonne crude steel capacity, logistics concerning moving steel making ingredients from mines and ports to steel mills and then egression of finished steel products is a nightmare.” The primary reason for nightmarish state of logistics, as is underlined in the economic survey is the very poor rail connectivity in the principal mining and steel production centres.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik says: “The state generates revenue in excess of Rs15,000 crore for the railways. Yet the entire route length in Orissa is only around 2,500 km with a density of 16, which is much less than the national average of 20. What is more, it is hugely lower compared to adjoining states like West Bengal with density of 43.4 and Jharkhand 24.3.” The minerals and metals industries suffer the most from shortages of wagon rakes during the summer when the railways are required to give “high priority” to move coal to power plants. What kind of pressure steelmaking brings to bear upon logistics becomes understandable when what Tripathy says is considered: For every tonne of steel, three tonnes of raw materials are to be moved to mills and then finished products are to be sent out to domestic and global markets.

The available logistics in the form of rail and road transport is not found good enough to support steel capacity of 30m tonnes. One then wonders how will Orissa, which is supposed to have a share of 100m tonnes in the country’s projected 300m tonne steel capacity build up by 2030-31 support that big an industry with the available infrastructure. Till now, signs are not there of rapid development of infrastructure. Tripathy sees in building of “multimodal transportation in which the state’s two major rivers Brahmani and Baitarani will pay a major role” the answer to logistical challenges emerging from the steel industry. River transportation much in use in the US and Europe to move dry bulk cargoes is cost effective and environment friendly. At the same time, Orissa’s railway network for movement of goods needs rapid beefing up.

European Parliamentarians To Visit Srinagar On Oct 29

A delegation of European Union Members of Parliament (MPs) will visit Srinagar on Tuesday and meet Jammu and Kashmir administration officials, sources said on Monday.

The delegation will also call on Governor Saya Pal Malik and meet local residents in Srinagar during the visit, sources added.

Speaking to ANI after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, BN Dunn, a member of European Parliament, said: “Yes, we are going there (Jammu and Kashmir) tomorrow, though unfortunately only for 24 hours.”

Dunn said while he was briefed about the Indian government’s move to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution, he wants to see the ground situation following the move, and talk to local people in this regard.

“The Prime Minister explained to us about it (the abrogation of article 370), but I want to see on the ground how it actually is and talk to some local people,” he said, adding that he hopes to find normalcy and peace in the region.

The Prime Minister, while welcoming the delegation at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg today, had expressed hope that they will have a fruitful visit to various parts of the country including Jammu and Kashmir.

The delegation comprised Poland’s Joana Kopcinska, Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Ryszard Czarnecki, Kosma Zlotowski, Bogdan Rzonca, Elzbieta Rafalska; Italy’s Silvia Sardone, Gianna Gancia, Fulvio Martusciello, Guiseppe Ferrandino; France’s France Jamet, Nicholas Bay, Virginie Joron, Julie Lechanteux, Maxette Pirbakas, and Thierry Mariani.

The other members included Germany’s Bernhard Zimniok, Lars Patrick Berg, Spain’s Hermann Tertsch, Belgium’s Tom Vandendriessche, UK’s David Richard Bull, Bill Newton Dunn Alexandra Phillips, James Wells, Nathan Gill, Czech Republic’s Tomas Zdechobsky, and Slovakia’s Peter Pollak.

During his interaction with the delegation, Modi underscored that there should be zero tolerance for terrorism, adding that urgent action must be taken against all those who use terrorism as state policy.

“We had a very good meeting with Modi. I thought he was a very impressive, intelligent, calm, and thoughtful man,” Dunn said.

National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval also addressed the delegation during the visit. (ANI)

Devender Fadanvis And Uddhav Thackeray

NDA Allies Concerned Over BJP-Shiv Sena Bickering

Expressing concern over the tussle between BJP and Shiv Sena over the chief ministerial post in Maharashtra, Janata Dal (United) general secretary Pavan Varma has said that the two parties need to resolve their issues if they want to remain in power in Maharashtra.

“Who is the TV and who is the remote control? This kind of language indicates there are some obstructions in communication. Both the parties have to sit down and maturely agree on a solution if they wish to be in power in Maharashtra,” Varma told ANI on Monday.

The JDU leader said that the BJP-Shivsena equation need to be sorted out.

“Some given take has taken place but there are still some problems. We wish them well but Shiv Sena remains adamant on getting a place of dignity within the alliance,” said Varma, JDU Rajya Sabha MP.

The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won an absolute majority in the recently concluded Maharashtra assembly polls with the former emerging as the single largest party in the state with 105 seats. Shiv Sena, on the other hand, bagged 56 seats in the elections.

However, earlier this week, Thackeray raised questions over the chief minister’s seat in the state.A poster was also recently put up outside the Bandra residence of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray saying: “Chief Minister of Maharashtra only Aaditya Thackeray”.

The Shiv Sena had, on Sunday, said that it now has the “remote control of power” in Maharashtra despite getting fewer seats in the recently concluded assembly polls as compared to the year 2014.

Between 1995 and 1999, the first Sena-BJP government in the state, the term ‘remote control’ was regularly used by the late party patriarch Bal Thackeray to explain the chain of command in the state.

Meanwhile, BJP state chief Chandrakant Patil had, on Saturday, asserted that Devendra Fadnavis will continue to lead the state.


NCR Reels Under ‘Severe’ Air Pollution Post Diwali

Most of the national capital region (NCR) on Monday morning was seen reeling under ‘severe’ pollution as a layer of haze covered the area forcing the people to cough despite putting their masks on.

The spike in pollution comes the day after Diwali celebrations, which witnessed masses bursting firecrackers to celebrate the occasion.

“The air in the area is so polluted that most people are having trouble breathing. I have also developed an allergy and cough. Government officials have totally failed in preventing bursting of firecrackers,” Raghunath Singh, a resident of Indirapuram told ANI on Monday.

According to the Air Quality Index, primary pollutant PM 10 was recorded at a ‘severe’ 418 in Ghaziabad at around 9 am on Monday.

“People are forced to wear masks due to pollution. We are having a problem in breathing,” said another local, DP Singh.

As per the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) the overall air quality of Noida is at ‘severe’ level while the same at ‘very poor’ in Gurugram. Primary pollutants PM 10 and PM 2.5 were recorded at 638 and 668, respectively, in Noida and 250 and 379 respectively in Gurugram.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.


ISIS Chief Baghdadi Killed In US Special Forces Operation

President Donald Trump on Sunday said that Islamic State (IS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “died like a dog, died like a coward” in operation conducted by the US special forces in Syrian province of Idlib.

Speaking at a press conference, Trump confirmed the death of the IS chief saying that “al-Baghdadi died inside a tunnel with three of his children, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

President Trump said the DNA tests proved it was al-Baghdadi.

Trump also thanked many countries including Russia and Turkey for their indirect co-operation in intelligence that helped the military operation leading to the elimination of the Daesh (IS) chief.

“We knew we were travelling in dangerous territory, going in and going out was not easy” he added.

The US President further said that from his first day at the White House, he wanted to get hold of Baghdadi.

Earlier in the day, President Trump without divulging details had tweeted that “something very big has just happened.”

Following the tweet, the White House had announced that Trump is scheduled to make a major announcement on Sunday at 9 am (local time).

US Special Operation Commandos on Saturday carried out a risky raid in northwestern Syria against Baghdadi’s hideouts in the Idlib province.

US defence officials on Sunday said that final confirmation regarding the death of IS terrorist would come only after the DNA and biometric tests are conducted.

Baghdadi, the most notorious IS leader, had been in hiding for the last five years.

He last appeared in 2014 during a sermon at the Great Mosque in Mosul.

The United States had earlier announced a reward of USD 25 million for information leading to Baghdadi’s death or arrest.


Modi Spends Diwali With Soldiers Near Line Of Control

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday celebrated Diwali with personnel of Indian Army in Rajouri district along the Line of Control (LoC).

Clad in army colours, the Prime Minister, accompanied by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and Northern Army Commander Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh greeted the soldiers and served them sweets on the auspicious occasion.

The prime minister shared pictures from the celebration with jawans on his social media accounts, including Instagram.

“Celebrated #Diwali with the brave soldiers of the Indian Army in Rajouri, Jammu and Kashmir. It is always a matter of great joy to be able to interact with these courageous personnel,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi also addressed the soldiers, thanking them for their service and talked about major steps being taken by the government for their welfare.

“While interacting with our soldiers, I thanked them on behalf of the people of India for their monumental service. Their vigilance and valour keep our nation safe! I also spoke about the major steps our Government is taking for the welfare of soldiers,” Prime Minister Modi said in another tweet.

Modi also exchanged Diwali greetings with the Indian Air Force Personnel at Pathankot Air Force Station.

“On the way back from Rajouri, also interacted with air warriors and personnel of the army at Pathankot Air Force Station,” tweeted Modi.

Earlier in the day on his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended Diwali greetings to everyone.


Khattar Sworn In As Haryana CM, Duhsyant Deputy CM

Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday took oath as Haryana Chief Minister for the second term after the recently concluded polls in the state.

While BJP-ally Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) chief Dushyant Chautala took oath as Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh.

Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya, BJP working president JP Nadda, former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhbir Singh Badalamong others were also present there.

In the Assembly polls, BJP fell short of six seats to get a majority in 90-member Haryana Assembly. Later, the party stitched an alliance with Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) which has 10 seats and managed to get the support of seven independent MLAs.

Khattar along with JJP chief Chautala met Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya on Saturday and staked the claim to form the government with the support of 57-MLAs.