Tuesday, 24 November 2015

4th Finance Commission report to be tabled in Delhi assembly: HC told

Justice R.S. Endlaw was told by the government that the report along with a memorandum of action taken on the commission’s recommendations was placed before the lt. governor, who ordered it to be laid before the Delhi legislative assembly.
The court in September asked the Delhi government to inform it whether it would table in the upcoming assembly session the 4th Finance Commission recommendations on improving the financial condition of civic bodies.
Filing an affidavit in the court, the Delhi government said: “The process for placing the report before legislative assembly during the current session has already been initiated.”
The court was hearing a plea filed by BJP legislator Vijender Gupta seeking direction to the Delhi government to “immediately implement” the recommendations of the 4th Finance Commission of Delhi which was constituted in 2009 to decide the share of municipal corporations in the total revenue of the capital.

Centre launches drive to eradicate Hepatitis B

The government also launched the Hepatitis B vaccine programme in Maharashtra after the successful trial of the vaccine in other Indian states including Goa, Gujarat and Karnataka among a few others.
Speaking at the launch, union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said “Society is the main element that can help us in tackling a dreaded disease like Hepatitis. We will ensure that with the end of hepatitis, all others preventable diseases see an end.”
The country is estimated to have around 40 million HBV carriers.
Of the 2.6 crore (26 million) infants born anually in India, approximately 10 lakh (one million) run a life time risk of developing chronic HBV infections.
Stating that the government has included the HBV vaccine in the national universal immunisation programme, Nadda said the country will add four more vaccines to the existing Indradhanush vaccine programme that already has a vaccine combination of seven diseases.
Goodwill ambassador of HBV’s media campaign and megastar Amitabh Bachhan, on the occasion, said “India should take less time to eradicate hepatitis in comparison to what it took to eradicate polio which was a result of 10 years efforts of the government and the Unicef.”
“There has to be a continuity in the work of the campaign and the field workers towards awareness,” said Bachchan, who was once afflicted with HBV.
Unicef representative to India Louis Georges Arsenault said “Hepatitis destroys the liver over the time and leads to death.
“Majority of the cases go undiagnosed as it has no symptoms, which is a major problem as the chances of transmission from a pregnant mother to her child remains 90 percent,” he added.
There are over 780,000 deaths annually due to acute or chronic consequences of hepatitis B.

Young Indians falling short on fruits, vegetables intake: Survey

People below the age of 35 are consuming only 3.3 servings while the WHO recommends five servings of fruits of vegetables in a day, revealed the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) survey.
“It was found that young Indians are more prone towards consuming fast food, which is easily available and, according to them, are tastier than home cooked food,” said Arpita Mukherjee, a professor at ICRIER, New Delhi.
“The youngsters prefer processed and packaged foods which are faster to prepare and easily available. The young students and those working blamed staying away from home, busy schedule and work pressure the reasons for the diet shortfall,” she said in a statement.
The primary survey covered 1,001 respondents from Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi-NCR.
The WHO panel on diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases recommends a daily intake of at least 400 grams (or five daily servings with an average serving size of 80 gm) of fruits and vegetables.
It excluded potatoes, cassava and other starchy tubers to prevent diet-related chronic diseases and micro-nutrient deficiencies.
“While the average for all Indian upper and middle class consumers is 3.5 daily servings – which implies that they are falling short of the WHO recommendations, for those below the age of 35, it is further lower at 3.3 servings,” the survey findings noted.
“The youngsters argue that in India, there are limited options for cut and packed fruits and processed vegetables – which are ready to eat,” Mukherjee added.
Apart from juices and certain processed vegetables like peas, there are hardly any processing fruits like lichee or different types of berries.
According to Souvik Dutta, assistant professor at IIM Bangalore, young Indians are aware that there are issues related to the presence of pesticides in fruits and vegetables which stops them from eating those raw.
Some survey respondents also pointed out that they are aware that daily intake of the five servings of fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of stroke and other diseases.
“They are also aware that fresh fruits and vegetables are better than processed food,” Dutta noted.
Conducted in association with the independent Spectrum Research Group and Amway Opportunity Foundation, the survey aimed to understand the “actual” fruits and vegetables consumption patterns in India and compare this to the WHO “recommended” quantity for an adult.

Modi holds bilateral talks with Singapore PM

“Learning from the ‘Singapore Story’. PM @narendramodi and PM @leehsienloong hold official talks,” Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the external affairs ministry, tweeted.
After his arrival here from Malaysia on Monday, Modi was hosted for a dinner by Prime Minister Lee in an Indian restaurant at the Little India locality in Singapore.
Earlier on Tuesday, Modi was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Istana, the presidential palace, following which he met Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Pfizer buys out Allergan for $160 bn in mega deal

“Boards of Pfizer and Allergan have approved to merge and become a single entity under Pfizer for $160 billion in stock transaction valued at $363.63 per Allergan share,” the company said in a statement here on Monday.
Earlier, in a regulatory filing to the US Securities Exchange of Commission (SEC), both the entities jointly said Allergan shareholders will receive 11.3 shares of the combined firm for each of their shares and Pfizer stockholders will receive one share of the combined company for each of their shares.
“The proposed combination of Pfizer and Allergan will create a leading global pharmaceutical company with the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people the world over,” Pfizer chief executive Ian Read said in a statement later.
The transaction represents 30 percent premium based on Pfizer’s and Allergan’s share prices as of October 28, 2015.
“The combination of Allergan and Pfizer is a strategic, value-enhancing transaction that brings two bio-pharma powerhouses to change lives for the better,” Allergan chief executive Brent Saunders said in the joint statement.
The combination will give Pfizer financial flexibility to facilitate its discovery and development of innovative medicines for patients, return of capital to investors and investment in the US, while enabling its business development opportunities on a competitive footing in the industry.
Post-merger, Pfizer will maintain Allergan’s Irish legal domicile, while having its global headquarters in New York and its principal executive offices at Dublin in Ireland.
“Our businesses will be enhanced with the addition of a growing revenue stream from Allergan’s flagship brands in therapeutic areas such as aesthetics and dermatology, eye care, gastrointestinal, neuroscience and urology,” Read asserted.
As per the transaction terms, the businesses of Pfizer and Allergan will be combined under Allergan plc, which will be renamed “Pfizer plc”.
The companies expect that shares of the combined entity will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and trade under the “PFE” ticker.
With the addition of Allergan, Pfizer will enhance its R&D capabilities in both new molecular entities and product line extensions.
In the event that the aggregate cash to be paid out in the merger would otherwise be less than $6 billion or greater than $12 billion, then the stock and cash elections will be subject to proration.
In the event that the aggregate cash to be paid out in the merger would otherwise be less than $6 billion or greater than $12 billion, then the stock and cash elections will be subject to proration.

Mobile phone-based alerts for pregnant women launched

Called ‘M-Health Service’, the service requires the would-be mothers to register via a cellphone. Periodic text messages will convey to them necessary treatment details to take care of issues that crop up during pregnancy.
Arati Basu Sengupta, veteran gynaecologist and former president of the Bengal Obstetric and Gynaecological Society, said: With the help of this mobile health service provider pregnant women can stay in touch with the experts. They will get updates regarding the guidance and schedule of vaccine.”
Reminders would be sent if a woman fails to take adequate steps as prescribed within the specified time. Details of the registered patient will be available online and the service will cease once data on the birthplace of the new born is provided.
Sengupta, however, raised questions on the last-mile coverage of the service to remote zones.
“Moreover, it’s the pregnant mother who has to take the measures so the success depends on their initiative. In addition, there are issues concerning radiation emitted from cell phones,” the physician added.
The service has been initiated by Manbhum Ananda Ashram Nityananda Trust.

Archaeologists in Croatia discover 3,500-year-old sunken town

“We found the remains of a large settlement and a port in the sea between the islands of Ricula and Galesnjak in the Pasman Channel last year. After radiocarbon analysis finished this month, we could say that the remains were probably built around 1500 BC,” Mato Ilkic, head of the archaeological research team at Zadar University, told Xinhua.
They unearthed various findings during two research explorations in a small part of the settlement, covering a total area of nearly two hectares, Ilkic said.
The most valuable findings were the very rare wood objects from 3,500 years ago, he said.

India, Singapore sign strategic partnership, 9 deals

Modi and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong signed the joint declaration on strategic partnership to elevate bilateral relations to a “strategic partnership to deepen and broaden engagement in existing areas of cooperation and catalyse new ones ranging from political, defence and security cooperation to economic, cultural and people to people contact”, an official statement said.
“The strategic partnership is also a framework to contribute to greater regional stability and growth,” it added.
Besides this, two agreements on defence cooperation and loan of artifacts from India to Singapore, two executive programme/operationalisation documents on arts and culture, and white-shipping, and five memorandums of agreement (MoUs) on cyber security, civil aviation, knowledge exchange in the field of planning, urban planning, and combating drug trafficking were also signed.
The agreement on defence cooperation enhances cooperation in the field by providing for defence ministersÂ’ dialogue, joint exercises between armed forces, and cooperation between defence industries to identify areas of co-production and co-development, the statement said.
The second agreement “extends the loan of Indian artifacts to the Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore”.
The operationalisation document on arts and culture is on an “executive programme on cooperation in the fields of the arts, heritage, archives and library” between the Indian and Singaporean governments for the years 2015-2018.
The second operationalisation document has been signed following the technical agreement on sharing white-shipping or commercial shipping information about movement of cargo ships between the Indian and Singapore navies signed on July 21, 2015.
“Following the signing of technical agreement between the two navies on sharing white-shipping information in July 2015, both navies have established a two-way linkage. This has enhanced bilateral cooperation in the area of maritime security,” the statement said.
The MoU on cyber security was signed between the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and the Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (SingCERT),
“The MoU promotes closer cooperation and exchange of information pertaining to cyber security between the computer emergency response teams of the two countries by establishment of a broader framework for future dialogue; exchange of information on cyber-attacks; research collaboration in smart technologies; exchange of information on prevalent cyber security policies and best practices as well as professional exchanges,” the statement said.
The MoU on civil aviation “facilitates mutual cooperation in a number of mutually agreed areas of civil aviation services and airport management beginning with Jaipur and Ahmedabad airports”.
The third MoU promotes knowledge and information exchange in areas such as urban planning, waste water management, solid waste management and public-private partnerships between India’s NITI Aayog and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE).
The MoU on combating drug “facilitates and enhances cooperation by exchange of information on trends in the illicit manufacture and those arrested on drug trafficking charges and establishes direct contact points” between the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) of Singapore.
“Capacity building, skill upgrading and knowledge development are also identified as areas of cooperation,” the statement said.
The fifth MoU was signed between the Town and Country Planning Organisation of India and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise in Capacity Building in the field of urban planning and governance.
It provides for participation of government officials from India in capacity-building programmes in areas such as urban planning and management.
The documents were signed following bilateral talks between Modi and Lee here.
After the signing of the documents, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted that the two prime ministers noted the importance of culture between the two countries and encouraged more exhibitions, exchanges and interactions.
Modi and Lee noted their shared interest in furthering cooperation in the areas of science and technology, particularly in space, biomedicine and ayurveda, the spokesperson added.
The two prime ministers also released two postal stamps showing Rashtrapati Bhavan and Istana, the Singaporean presidential palace, to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Earlier on Tuesday, Modi was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Istana following which he met Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
Modi arrived in Singapore from Malaysia on Monday on a bilateral visit in the second and last leg of his four-day visit to southeast Asia.

Drones, satellite mapping to enhance GAIL pipeline security

“In 10-15 days, we will issue a tender for drones to monitor our 200-km long pipeline in Madhya Pradesh’s Chambal area,” Ashutosh Karnatak, director (projects), told IANS.
The senior official of India’s largest natural gas pipeline operator was here to address a three-day CORCON 2015, an international conference on corrosion, that concluded recently.
Karnatak said once successful, the drone experiment would be implemented in other parts of the country.
He said satellite imagery of GAIL’s pipeline network would also be obtained for effective monitoring.
The company’s pipeline network is already monitored through closed-circuit cameras at a cost of around Rs.25 crore.
As for threat of terror attacks, Karnatak said the company’s Sahyogi scheme would also act as a safeguard against terror attacks, apart from detecting and preventing encroachment.
“We will soon roll out Sahyogi scheme across the country. Our pipes are laid along several villages. Under the Sahyogi scheme, villagers concerned are enlisted to inform us about encroachment along the pipelines,” Karnatak said.
Currently, the scheme has been implemented in Andhra Pradesh.
“We remove the encroachment with police help. Petty shops or small eateries on our land are relocated after payment of a small compensation,” he said.
“In case encroachment cannot be removed in such manner, we safeguard ourselves through a legal process, making it clear that encroachers can’t claim compensation in case of any untoward incidents,” the GAIL official added.
There are around 500 encroachments on GAIL land at present, but 30 encroachments at different places have already been removed.
The company has built a large network of natural gas pipelines covering more than 10,900 km, apart from two liquefied petroleum gas pipelines with a total length of 2,040 km.
About laying the pipelines along the highways where security monitoring would be better compared with pipes criss-crossing through farmland, he said: “The company is not averse to laying pipelines along the highways.”
“Overseas, separate ducts are provided along the highways for gas pipelines. We have to see the safety aspects as well, while deciding on pipelines along the highways,” Karnatak said.
The Tamil Nadu government and state farmers had opposed the company’s plan to lay Kochi-Mangalore natural gas pipeline through farmland in seven districts of Tamil Nadu. The state government maintained that GAIL could lay pipeline along the national highways and not through farmland.
“Let the Tamil Nadu government decide the route where the pipelines are to be laid,” Karnatak said.
With GAIL pipelines having a lifespan of 25 years, the company has hired external experts for monitoring their internal and external corrosion.
In June 2014, an explosion in GAIL pipeline in Andhra Pradesh due to internal corrosion killed 29 persons.
He said the quality of gas was monitored to prevent internal corrosion in pipelines.
As to the new projects, Karnatak said the first phase of the Rs.10,000 crore Jagadishpur-Haldia pipeline has begun. The project is expected to be completed by December 2018.
The official said the company could deliver a project in 24 months, irrespective of the length of pipeline to be laid.
“If all things are in place, we can lay 1-1.5 km of pipeline per day,” he said.

Mindshare wins global media agency mandate for Unilever

The case in Meizhou city was confirmed on Monday, Xinhua quoted Guangdong provincial health and family planning commission as saying.
The patient, a farmer in his 70s, is in hospital. The transmission is being investigated.
All poultry markets in the township suspended operation on Monday for one week.
H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in March 2013 in China. It is most likely to strike in winter and spring.
Last winter, human cases of H7N9 were reported in several Chinese provinces and municipalities, including Guangdong, Shanghai, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guizhou and Zhejiang.
Health specialists advised that people steer clear of live poultry to reduce infection risks.