INTERNATIONAL TRANSLATION DAY CELEBRATED!

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I wish my readers a very Happy International Translation Day! Let me tell you what it is. The International Translation Day was observed by United Nations for first time today. The observance of day seeks to recognize contribution of unsung heroes; behind international diplomacy who worked as language professionals, to facilitate dialogue and contribute to development and strengthen world peace and security.

It also recognises transposition of literary or scientific work from one language into another language as indispensable to preserve clarity, climate and productiveness in international public communication.

The International Translation Day was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in May 2017 by adopting resolution 71/288 after considering the importance of role played by language professionals in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development.

The date of September 30 was chosen to celebrate the feast of Bible translator St. Jerome, who is considered as the patron ‘saint of translators’.

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IT’S TIME FOR DELHI TO GET RID OF ITS PLASTIC BAGS!

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AToxic Links study found that after the initial initiatives in 2012 to ban plastic bags in Delhi, enforcement became lax. Almost 99% of vegetable and fruit vendors and 95% of meat and fish sellers surveyed, continued to use them.

Last week, the National Green Tribunal banned the use of lightweight plastic bags in Delhi. It was the fifth such direction in eight years.

Since 2009, when the government first restricted the use of plastic bags, the ban has been tweaked to get more specific about the thickness of these carriers, and even prohibit their manufacturing, a move which was challenged in high court. But the ubiquitous plastic “pannee” has remained in circulation, making the ban among the most poorly executed government/court orders ever.

This time though, the authorities will be bound by two such orders. The notification of the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 that also stipulates a ban on plastic bags thinner than 50 microns was due when the NGT stepped in.

But enforcing the ban will remain a challenge. Catching and fining violators, and seizing stocks are essentially policing exercises. “You can’t expect a sanitation inspector, who is otherwise monitoring collection of garbage and transportation to landfills, to be enforcing the plastic bag ban as well,” a municipal official said.

Clearly, Delhi will require officials across departments have to pitch in. But with a history of blame-game fuelled by Delhi’s multiple jurisdictional structures, coordination among agencies is always an uphill task. The courts may have to intervene frequently and even appoint their own monitors.

A ban on manufacturing flimsy plastic bags is likely to follow. But to make it work, the neighbouring states must also enforce a similar restriction. As a study by Toxic Links found, even a complete ban on the production of the plastic bag doesn’t work, if they can be imported from adjoining cities. Chandigarh, for instance, faces this challenge. Despite a ban on use and production of plastic bags, the city was consuming up to four tonnes every day. The demand was being illegally met from Mohali and Delhi.

Also, the enforcement drives have to be consistent. The Toxic Links study found that after the initial initiatives in 2012 in Delhi, which netted about 300 violators, enforcement was lax and plastic bags reappeared. Almost 99% of vegetable and fruit vendors and 95% of meat and fish sellers surveyed, continued to use them.

While strong enforcement and cutting the supply of plastic bags would be vital for implementing this ban, such initiatives also require mass awareness drives which eventually garner public support.

The 2008 ban on smoking in public places worked because citizens were on board. Even as mobile squads were constituted to fine the violators on the spot, there was a growing realization among the citizens that inhaling second-hand smoke was harmful to their health. It was not uncommon for a random stranger to rebuke smokers who lit up in a public place. Through mass messaging and awareness building, the anti-smoking drive was run more like a health campaign than enforcing a ban.

DERAILMENTS, STAMPEDES AND CONTAMINATED FOOD, AND YET ALL WE ARE TALKING ABOUT IS BULLET TRAINS!

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Coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express train after it derailed in Khatauli on August 20.  In June, quoting a report by the NITI Aayog, minister of state for Railways Rajen Gohain told Parliament that 53% of India’s train accidents are due to derailments.

The Indian Railways’ catering wing, IRCTC, had delisted a juice brand after former rail minister Dinesh Trivedi complained he was served a “contaminated” lemon drink on-board the Kathgodam-Delhi Shatabdi last week.

The incident comes soon after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on ‘Catering Services in Indian Railways revealed that poor quality food was being served to passengers and articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff and packaged items whose shelf life had run out were being sold on stations.

The flak from Mr. Trivedi has added to the woes of the Indian Railways already facing criticism for incidents such as the stampede caused by the overcrowding of the overbridge near Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road Station in which 22 people died and a spate of derailments such as the accident near Khatauli, Uttar Pradesh, on August 19, which resulted in the death of 23 passengers.

Indian Railways has one of the highest incidences of accidents owing to material, equipment and human failures. The railways witnessed 3,546 rail track fractures and weld failures in 2016-17 alone. The number of signalling equipment failures in the same period was 130,200.

In 2012, the Centre had appointed Anil Kakodkar to head a panel which would examine the safety aspects of the Railways. Among its key recommendations was investing Rs 1 lakh crore over a five-year period and the creation of a statutory railway safety authority. The authority is yet to be created.

Notwithstanding the hype surrounding the high-speed rail project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, the government will be better advised to fix the crumbling rail infrastructure in the country. The system suffers from overloading of tracks and the staff seldom get the time needed for upkeep of infrastructure and repairing of tracks.

In June, quoting a report by the NITI Aayog, minister of state for Railways Rajen Gohain told Parliament that 53% of India’s train accidents are due to derailments. Going beyond symbolism, the government needs to restore the people’s confidence in the country’s lifeline, which still carries more than 8.6 billion passengers every year. Its customers, who now pay flexible fares, need to be assured that once they board a train on the Indian Railways, not only will they be served safe and hygienic food, they will also reach their destination safely.

It’s high time that the Indian Railways gets itself into a complete makeover as soon as possible. Otherwise, we would be too late by then!

WORLD’S LARGEST AIRCRAFT UNDERGOES SUCCESSFUL FIRST ENGINE TESTS

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The world’s largest all-composite airplane, Stratolaunch, in terms of wingspan successfully completed its initial engine tests. It is designed for launching for sending satellite-carrying rockets into low-Earth orbit.

The plane has the biggest wingspan ever built, measuring 118 m from one end to the other, longer than a professional football field. It weighs about 227,000 kg.

It’s another big step for the private spacecraft company, helmed by Microscoft co-founder Paul Allen. Boasting two fuselages and a wingspan wider than a football field, it is currently the world’s largest aircraft, weighing 500,000 pounds when empty and unfueled. However, the company claims it will have a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds.

Stratolaunch plane is fitted with six 747 turbofan engines. It is designed to carry nearly 250,000 kg between the two fuselages. It can hold more than 113,000 kg of fuel. It has operational range of approximately 2,000 nautical miles.

Stratolaunch plane is designed for runway-style takeoff. Once it reaches cruising altitude of 11,000 m, it can detach rockets carrying small satellites into low-Earth orbit. It is capable of delivering payloads to multiple orbits and inclinations in a single mission.

INDIA’S FIRST ELECTRIC BUS SERVICE LAUNCHED IN HIMACHAL PRADESH

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India’s first electric bus service has been launched at Rohtang Pass area in Himachal Pradesh. It is first of its kind electric bus service for any tourist spot in India and first in the world at an altitude of 13,000 feet.

The electric bus service will ply between Manali and Rohtang and there will be 10 electric buses in fleet. It was launched amid concern over environment degradation in Rohtang Pass area due to plying of diesel taxis. The initiative aim is to curb carbon emission, which is resulting in melting of glaciers in Himalayas.

The Himachal Pradesh Government was forced to introduce zero-emission transportation facility in ecologically fragile areas after National Green Tribunal (NGT) had taken stringent step of imposing restriction on entry of vehicles to Rohtang Pass.

The NGT had shown concern over melting of glaciers in Rohtang Pass area, as they were receding at an alarming rate of 19-20 meters per year. The entry of vehicles were restricted to 1,000 vehicles per day, including both diesel and petrol vehicles, however, electric and CNG vehicles are exempted.

AHMEDABAD’S WALLED CITY GETS WORLD HERITAGE CITY STATUS

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The 600-year-old Walled City in Gujarat’s commercial capital Ahmedabad was formally accorded the status of India’s first World Heritage City by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In this regard, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova handed over the certificate declaring it as ‘World Heritage City’ to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar. The status recognises heritage value of walled city’s unique heritage.

The walled city of Ahmedabad was founded in the 15th century by Ahmed Shah of Gujarat Sultanate. It is situated on the eastern bank of Sabarmati River. It presents rich architectural heritage from sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, walls and gates of Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs, as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods.

It has 28 Archaeological Survey of India’s centrally protected monuments. The 5.5 km walled city area has approximate population of four lakh living in century old wooden residences in around 600 pols or neighbourhoods.

The walled city of Ahmedabad is first city in India to get World Heritage City status and third in Asia. after Bhaktapur (Nepal) and Galle (Sri Lanka). India now has total 36 World Heritage Inscriptions – 28 cultural, 7 natural and 1 mixed site. India is second after China, in terms of number of world heritage properties in Asia and Pacific (ASPAC) region, and overall seventh in world.

It is one of six thematic programmes formally approved and monitored by World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO. It aims to assist state parties in the challenges of protecting and managing their urban heritage sites.

AFSPA EXTENDED IN ASSAM FOR ANOTHER SIX MONTHS

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The Assam Government has extended the term of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958 and declared the entire state a ‘Disturbed Area’ for six more months, under Section 3 of AFSP Act. This is the first time the state government has extended AFSPA and Disturbed Area provision on its own. In the past, AFSPA provisions in the state were always extended by the Centre.

The law and order situation in Assam continues to be a matter of concern due to violent incidents carried out by the insurgent groups. As many as 16 incidents involving these groups were reported between May and July this year. These incidents had resulted in deaths of civilians, security personnel and militants.

Assam has remained a disturbed area under the provision of AFSPA for nearly 27 years, after it was invoked by Centre for first time in November 1990, after ethnic insurgencies broke out in end of 1980s. The following incidents of violence was further carried out by ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom).

The AFSPA was enacted in 1958 to bring ‘disturbed’ areas declared under it under control. It empowers both the state and central governments to declare areas as disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

The section (3) of the Act empowers the governor of State/UT to issue an official notification in Gazette of India, following which Centre has authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months.