THE POWER OF UNITY IN THE MAKING

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We have all heard about the famous statues located elsewhere in the world, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro and the Laughing Buddha statue in China. But what about the ‘Statue of Unity’? This is an unfamiliar term for all of us! The name sounds mysterious and infamous, but there is going to be a Statue of Unity, in the world’s seventh largest and the world’s second most populous country, which is our great, Mother India.

The Statue of Unity is an under construction 182 metres monument of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister and who played a crucial role in achieving India’s independence and the integration of princely states into states based on linguistic grounds. It will be created by directly facing the Narmada Dam. It will be 3.5 km away on a river island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat. This statue is planned to be spread over 20,000 square metres of project area. It will also be surrounded with a man-made lake spread across 12 km of area.

Also, It would be the world’s tallest statue, surpassing even the well known Statue of Liberty. It will also overtake India’s tallest statue, the Hanuman idol at the Paritala Anjaneya Swami Mandir in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. It currently stands at 134 metres. The project was first announced on October 7, 2010.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust(SVPRET), a special purpose vehicle was established by the Gujarat government in 2013 for the construction of the statue. The iron needed for the statue and other structures was collected from farmers of villages all around India in the form of a donation of their used farming instruments. SVPRET set up 36 offices across India to collect these iron instrumentswherein over 500,000 Indian farmers donated generously. The drive was named the ‘Statue of Unity movement’.

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During this period, over 5000 metric tonnes of iron were collectedAlthough it was initially announced that the iron collected will be used for the main statue, it later emerged that the collected iron will not be used in the construction of the actual statue and will instead be used for some other infrastructural projects in Gujarat.

The Statue of Unity is amongst the tallest statue projects in the world. According to the project’s website, it is double the height of the Statue of Liberty, five times the height of the Christ the Redeemer and one and a half times the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam itself.

The Statue of Unity Movement will also organize a ‘Suraaj’, meaning good governance wherein people can write about their ideas for the good governance. The Suraaj Petition was signed by an estimated 20 million people, which was the world’s largest petition ever signed. A marathon entitled ‘Run For Unity’ was held on December 14, 2014 in several places throughout India. The marathon had a large turnout and thousands of registrations signed up before and after the event.

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel laid the foundation stone of the Statue of Unity of the ‘Iron Man of India’ on December 31, 2014. The foundation stone was laid down on the occasion of Sardar Patel’s 139th birth anniversary. The total height of the statue from its base will be 240 metres consisting a base level of 58 metres and the statue of 182 metres.

It will be constructed with steel framing, reinforced cement concrete and bronze coating. The statue will need 75,000 cubic metres of concrete, 5700 metric tonne steel structure, 18,500 tonne reinforced steel rods and about 22,500 tonne bronze sheets for construction.

SVPRET has appointed a consortium comprising Turner Project Management India Private Limited as the lead member, Meinhardt India Private Limited and Michael Graves and Associates Inc. to supervise the project. Many of the consortium members have been involved in the making of some of the world’s tallest structures. The monumental statue is built on PPP mode and is included in the Union Budget 2014, where the project has been allotted Rs. 2 billion.

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Indian infrastructure company Larsen and Toubro(L&T) bagged the contract in October 2014 for its lowest bid of Rs. 2989 crores for the design, construction and maintenance of the project. Construction commenced in November 2014 and it is expected to be completed by 2018. In the first phase of the project, Rs. 1347 crores will be for the main statue, Rs. 235 crores for the exhibition hall and convention centre, Rs. 83 crores for the bridge connecting the memorial to the main land and Rs. 657 crores for the maintenance of the structure for 15 years after its completion.

The Gujarat government plans to develop the nearby tribal areas as well as to boost tourism around the Statue of Unity project. Therefore, there are plans to develop schools and colleges in the area, besides an education research centre and a knowledge city. The banks of the Narmada river would be developed up to Bharuch, together with development of road and railway networks, as well as other tourism infrastructural facilities.

Constructing mega projects in tribal areas have seen plenty of drama and controversies. Well, the pet project of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also no stranger to troubles brewing from the local community. The community have opposed the land acquisition for tourism infrastructural development around the statue.

They also claimed that Sadhu Bet was originally called Varata Bawa Tekri, which was named after a local deity and so it was a site of religious importance. Environmental activists wrote a letter to the central government that this project started implementation without getting environmental clearance from the environmental ministry.

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Local people of Kevadia, Kothi, Waghodia, Limbdi, Navagam and Gora villages of Gujarat opposed the construction of the statue demanding back land rights of the formerly acquired 927 acres of land for the mega project Sardar Sarovar Dam and the formation of Garudeshwar Taluka. They also opposed the formation of Kevadia Area Development Authority(KADA) and the construction of Garudeshwar weir-cum-causeway project.

However, the Gujarat government rightfully accepted their demands on time. Lastly, with the high allocation for the tall statue, several people and the political parties criticised the expenditure for the statue over other priorities like women’s safety, education and agricultural schemes. Hence, the Statue of Unity will be a symbol and power of India’s dominance over Asia, comparing itself with advanced countries like USA, China, Japan, Korea and Russia.

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WINDOWS 10 OPENS UP TO MORE GOODIES!

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Well, I had written about the new Windows 10 operating system in October last year. That time, the software giant Microsoft Corporation had just revealed some features of the new OS and, had announced that it will give more emphasis on other new consumer features after New Year 2015. Microsoft had even given ‘Technical Previews’ for the last three months, for the enthusiastic users to go through its limited features.

Suggestions and complaints from the people all over the world, including India, were gratefully accepted by Microsoft, keeping in mind the blunder committed in the Windows 8 series. Taking every suggestion seriously and building new and new features, for the ease of its traditional users, using a computer with a keyboard and mouse, was not the Microsoft’s cup of tea, taking account into the today’s ‘touch-enabled world’. The company finally revealed the new consumer features at an official event at the Redmond headquarters in San Francisco on January 21, 2015.

The first important announcement made by the MS chief Terry Myerson was Windows 10, would be a free upgrade for the first year from Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, after the new sleek OS, hits the streets later this year. By all accounts, it will be the easiest thing in the world for Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 when it becomes available. Microsoft has not said that how the final upgrade will work exactly.

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Windows 8.1 was the first time Microsoft rolled out a large update through a method other than Windows Update. Overtime, Microsoft required anyone who wanted to continue getting updates to upgrade to Windows 8.1 through Windows Update eventually, but for the first couple of months users needed to go into the Windows Store and download Windows 8.1 manually. Presumably, it might be how users upgrade from Windows 8.1 to the final version of Windows 10.

Windows 8.1 users can upgrade to Windows 10 through the Windows Insider Program. That involves signing up for the program, downloading and installation file, copying that installation file to a disc or a pen drive and getting through the setup process. Windows 8.1 devices can be upgraded to Windows 10 without a fresh install, meaning users get to keep their programs installed. Of course, during an upgradation or installation of an OS, users have to backup their files and programs.

Windows 8 users trying to upgrade to Windows 10, will find themselves in a bit of a jam. Officially, Microsoft treats Windows 8 as Windows 8.1, meaning you should have already upgraded to Windows 8.1 by now. To upgrade to Windows 10 right now, users should need to install all pending updates, including the major Windows 8.1 update and then upgrade to Windows 10 after joining the Windows Insider Program. Both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have similar hardware requirements.

Windows 7 is where upgrading to Windows 10 gets very interesting. The Desktop interface that dominated previous versions of Windows is back in all of its glory. Microsoft has upgraded the Desktop with a new design, apps from the Windows Store and some new Snap suggestions for better multitasking. Once again, the upgrade path and system requirements are the same. Windows 7 users are able to upgrade directly to Windows 10. That means users are not required to install all of their programs again. The hardware compatibility should be absolutely fine, provided a device is not running a Windows 7 Starter Edition.

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Users running Windows XP and Windows Vista will have a bit of a bad luck. Both these OS are quite worn out now. Going from either XP or Vista to Windows 10 is going to be extremely painful and time consuming. Windows Vista was the first major upgrade to require faster processors and new hardware for Windows XP. The only trouble is that both Windows XP and Windows Vista are unsupported OS by Microsoft. Upgrading to Windows 10 will require users to do a fresh install. In short, they have to install every app to the device again and again, even after the update.

The next step taken by Myerson was the DirectX 12, a graphics software, enabling users for a better gaming experience, will ship with the new OS and currently, it will be implemented as a trial and testing mode in the Technical Previews of Windows 10. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 supports DirectX 10 and 11 and can be updated to the newest version easily. It also will support the 10 year-old Vista. The CEO of XBox Phil Spencer announced all these little features.

The main doubt regarding Windows 10 and DirectX 12 has always been the graphical features. The general idea had always been that individuals will have to upgrade their graphics cards in order to enjoy DirectX 12. The reports suggest that the gamers will not be required to add to or replace their graphics cards. Although, the company is not ready to share all information about DirectX 12, but they have promised to help out the manufacturers like Nvidia and Intel in helping out to design the next generation GPUs. With the current graphic cards, DirectX 12 will not be at its full flow, but the gaming experience will be enhanced significantly.

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After Myerson occupied the centre stage for about an hour, the next one to take over was the Vice President Joe Belfiore, showing off a further number of consumer features coming to the Windows 10 Preview that are designed to make using the operating system a smoother and seamless experience. The start menu will be able to expand to fill the full screen as per the user’s requirements. The Action Center, rechristened as ‘Notification Center’ in Windows 10 has improved its functionality, such as Windows Phone 8.1’s quick action buttons that let you activate features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Brightness and so on with a single click. Also, notifications in the Action Center will be able to be expanded.

More helpfully for everyday workflow, Windows 10 will condense the Control Panel and the modern user interface(UI) PC Settings into a single interface, thereby eliminating Windows 8’s maddening insistence on dumping crucial system tools into two separate locations. Microsoft has also announced that its Continuum feature, which dynamically shifts the Windows 10 interface from the Modern UI to the desktop depending on whether a user is using a computer device or a touchscreen device, will soon appear in Windows 10 Preview builds over the next month.

The new OS will integrate Xbox capabilities deeply and seamlessly. A new Xbox app essentially looks like a more fully fleshed-out version of the SmartGlass, letting users to chat with their Xbox Live friends, view their achievement information or access game DVR clips. The app also lets you like, share, and comment on game clips, just like in social networking websites. Additionally, the games do not directly have to support the functionality as it is being overlaid directly by the Microsoft in Windows 10.

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But Windows 10’s new gaming techniques and experiences is about more than merely expanding Xbox’s footprint. While users are playing traditional PC games, be it in Steam or otherwise, a new Windows key + G keyboard shortcut will bring up an interface for saving snapshots and a 30 second video clip of the gamer’s adventures, which then brings them into the Xbox app to share it. Also, they will be able to stream the Xbox One games directly to any Windows 10 device, though it will be limited to local networks only.

Another new feature added is the introduction of Microsoft Cortana, a intelligent personal assistant originally included in Windows Phone 8.1, which made its debut for the PCs. Assuming control of many of the operating system’s search features, Cortana, will get an own place next to the start button in the desktop taskbar. It can perform many of the same basic tricks, it generally does in the Windows Phone. Cortana can be interacted with via text or natural voice queries, just like on mobile devices.

Windows 8.1’s universal Bing SmartSearch features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which is activated when a user presses the search button on their device. Cortana also includes a music recognition service. Plus, ‘Concert Watch’ is a feature that helps Cortana determine which bands or musicians the users are interested in by monitoring the Bing searches. It also integrates with the Microsoft Band for Windows Phone devices if connected via Bluetooth. On the Microsoft Band, Cortana can make reminders and bring phone notifications.

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The ‘Notebook’ is where personal information such as interests, location data, reminders, and contacts will be stored for access by Cortana. Cortana will be able to draw upon and add to this data in order to learn the user’s specific patterns and behaviors. The user will be able to view this information, with the aim of offering greater control over privacy settings by allowing them to specify what information is collected. Users can also delete information from the Notebook if they deem it undesirable for Cortana to know. Most versions of Cortana takes the form of a two nested and animated circles. The circles are animated to indicate certain activities such as searching or talking.

Also new to Windows 10 is the ‘Spartan Browser’. It is a new, clean-looking and a lightweight browser built around a new rendering engine. It will not be available in the first Windows Insider builds and it is expected to only come to phones eventually. The Spartan Browser includes a note-taking mode that lets you annotate a webpage, then share a user’s marked-up, commented-on version with others using Windows 10’s native Share feature. There is also a clipping tool so that users can save portions of websites directly to Microsoft OneNote.

The browser integrates an updated version of the stellar Reading Mode found in Windows 8’s Metro Internet Explorer app. Reading Mode strips all the ads and sidebar crud out of webpages, formatting articles so that they appear similar to a book. Spartan also taps into the Windows Reading List app, so that users can save articles to read later, synchronizing the list across multiple devices. Unlike the Reading List app in Windows 8, the one in Windows 10 will let them save the content to read offline. Additionally, Cortana will be directly integrated into Spartan, resulting in a quick advanced search manner by the users.

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Next up are the innovative HoloLens and Surface Hub technological devices. Windows Holographic is an augmented reality computing platform developed by Microsoft that will be introduced in the Windows 10 operating system when it is released in 2015. With Windows Holographic APIs(Application Programming Interfaces), which are enabled in all versions of Windows 10, augmented reality features can be readily implemented on any Windows universal app, across a wide range of Windows 10 devices.

The premier device for Windows Holographic, Microsoft HoloLens is a smart glasses unit that is a cordless, self-contained Windows 10 computer. It uses advanced sensors, a high-definition 3D optical head-mounted display using holographic lenses, and spatial sound to allow for augmented reality applications, with a natural user interface that the user interacts with through gaze, voice, and hand gestures. Codenamed “Project Baraboo” initially, HoloLens had been in development for five years before its announcement in the starting of 2015.

Among the sensor types used in HoloLens is an energy-efficient depth camera with a 120° × 120° field of view. Other capabilities provided by the sensors include head-tracking, video capture and sound capture. In addition to a high-end CPU and GPU, HoloLens features a Holographic Processing Unit(HPU), a co-processor which integrates data from the various sensors, and handles tasks such as spatial mapping, gesture recognition, and voice and speech recognition. Microsoft expects HoloLens to be made available in the Windows 10 timeframe and priced for use in both enterprise and consumer markets.

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Miscrosoft Surface Hub is Surface-series device announced and developed by Microsoft itself. It will be a wall-mounted device with a 210 cm or a 140 cm multi-touch and multi-pen 4D touch screen, for Windows 10 exclusively. It is targeted for businesses to use for collaboration and video conferencing. There is Bluetooth, a camera, speakers, a microphone, Wi-Fi, and a motion sensor that detects when a person approaches. Directly from the home screen, one can make a video conference call, start a whiteboarding session and connect to personal devices like PCs, tablets and phones.

Microsoft made a demonstration of how the OneNote app takes over the Surface Hub’s launch screen. From there, whoever is driving the meeting can draw directly on the Hub with a digital ink. The annotated images can be shared via OneNote or E-mail, putting an end to the barbaric practice of taking a photo of a whiteboard and then sending them to the other persons.

It is very simple to start a video conference on the Surface Hub. Just simply tap once for a meeting and you are in the limelight. Cool, isn’t it folks? Once your attendees have joined your Hub meeting, they can see all your digital ink-driven whiteboarding and you can see their avatars off to the side. The conferencing engine is Skype For Business, which is designed to take full advantage of the Hub’s large screen and speakers.

The gigantic touch device can quickly pair with PCs, tablets and phones in the room, so that the user can cast the content directly from those devices to the large screen. Users can also draw directly on the Hub and the resulting digital ink will reflect back to the screens of the smaller devices. Once the meeting session is over, the Surface Hub will share the entire conferencing session attendees, and reset the hardware for the next meeting. Microsoft will reveal the cost and construction of the smart device later this year.

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Along with the PC version of Windows 10, Microsoft has also released the mobile operating system side by side. It is simply named as Windows 10 and not Windows Phone 10, compared to the previous versions of the mobile OS, succeeding Windows Phone 8.1. Its primarily aim is to bring tighter integration and unification with its PC counterpart, and provide a platform for both smartphones and small tablets with ARM(Advanced RISC Machines – RISC is a system which stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing) system-on-chips.

Most smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 will be capable of being upgraded to Windows 10. In 2014, Microsoft’s then new CEO Satya Nadella explained that the company was planning to streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into a single converged operating system for screens of all sizes, unifying Windows, Windows Phone, and Windows Embedded around a common architecture and a unified application ecosystem.

The Action Center has been redesigned to match the version adopted by Windows 10 for PC and notifications can be synced between devices, and certain types of notifications allow inline replies. The home screen resembles that of Windows Phone 8.1, except that the wallpapers are now displayed as the background of the screen rather than within the tiles. The messaging app adds support for internet-based Skype messaging alongside SMS.

The camera app has been updated to match the Lumia Camera app previously exclusive to Lumia products. The on-screen keyboard now contains a joystick for manipulating the text editing cursor, and can be dragged around the screen. The Office Mobile suite has been updated, and a new cross-platform Outlook app also has been added. The Mail and Calendar functionality now provides support for additional third-party services such as Gmail.

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The new Photos app aggregates content from local storage and OneDrive, and will be able to perform automatic enhancements to the pictures, intelligently removing duplicate and blurred pictures. A revamped universal People app will collate a person’s contacts, while the Music app is also receiving a universal overhaul. As rumoured, Microsoft will add support to put a user’s music collection in OneDrive within the next month or two, so that he/she can listen to music anytime and anywhere.

With all these consumer features demonstrated and announced, Microsoft will be hoping to regain the golden run it had for Windows 7, Windows XP and the previous editions of Windows. After failing miserably in Windows 8, the software giant are keeping their fingers crossed for the grand and tech-savvy OS to be a huge success all over the world and dominate the technology industry. So, the new OS proves it all – it is multi tasking, more comprehensive, unified, more seamless and above all, hassle free.

HIGHLIGHTS OF UNION BUDGET 2014-2015

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The Union Budget of India for 2014-2015 was presented by the Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley on July 10, 2014 at precisely 11 am at the Sansad Bhawan in the national capital. This was the first union budget of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. The Wholesale Price Index(WPI) of consumer goods fell considerably from 4.5 percent in August 2014 to 1 percent in October 2014. It further depreciated to the zero mark in November and -0.2 percent in December 2014, paving the way for fears of deflation.

In an developing economy, neither inflation nor deflation is good, which leads to financial burden on a country’s economy. At this, the central government modified some policies, owing to the brief deflation period. However, the WPI increased marginally to 0.4% in January this year, due to the falling of crude oil prices globally. Keeping in mind, the topsy-turvy nature of the Indian economy, the budget is also a continuation of the interim budget announced by former finance minister, P. Chidambaram in 2013, which was the Congress-led UPA government’s rule at the Centre at that time.

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Many prominent leaders were not satisfied with the presentation and contents of the budget. However, various business personalities and global leaders appreciated the budget and quoted that – ‘The Economy of India was moving at the right path.’ The highlights of the Union Budget have been jotted down below which are as follows:-

  • Rs. 70.6 billion will be provided for the development of 100 smart cities of India by 2025.
  • Establishing five New IITs(Indian Institute of Technology) and IIMs(Indian Institute of Management) and four new AIIMS(All India Institute of Medical Sciences) in various cities of India.
  • Establishing a new airport scheme for Tier I and Tier II cities in India.
  • New schemes will be introduced for development of sports across the country.
  • FDI(Foreign Directive Investment) in Defence and Insurance Sector has been increased to 49% from 26%.
  • FDI in real estates needed for low cost housing for the poor.
  • No changes in personal income tax slabs. But tax exemption limit has been increased to Rs. 250,000 from Rs. 200,000 for those below the age of 60.
  • Income Tax exemption limit for senior citizens has been raised to Rs. 300,000.
  • Housing Loan interest rate deduction limit has been increased to Rs. 200,000 onwards.
  • Two years of sub-five per cent growth has led to challenges to the Economy of India.
  • Slow decision making has resulted in loss of opportunities of the people.
  • The government will usher in new policy regime and ensure lower levels of inflation within the next financial year(2015-16).
  • It is aimed to achieve 7-8 percent economic growth rate in next 3-4 years and will leave no stone unturned to create a vibrant India.
  • Budget proposes Plan Expenditure of Rs. 5.75 trillion for the current fiscal year of 2014-15.
  • New anti-poverty programmes will be enforced. Some UPA policies will continue to function as it is.
  • There is a need to revive the growth particularly in the manufacturing sector and its infrastructural development. Also, there is urgent need to generate more resources for continued mass production.
  • The current Finance Minister will emphasize on fiscal prudence wholly.
  • The ISIS menance in Iraq and Syria has created a crisis on rising crude oil prices, which is hampering the economy.
  • The problem of black money will be fully resolved and every penny of it will be returned back to India.
  • A new Expenditure Management Commission will be constituted to look at expenditure reforms.
  • Overall subsidy regime will be reviewed, especially food and oil. Marginalised sections of the society will be protected and benefitted.
  • A new Urea Policy will be formulated for agricultural boost.
  • The government will not ordinarily change policies retrospectively which creates a fresh liability.
  • All future indirect transfers under the retro tax regime will be scrutinised with immediate effect.
  • Government committed to providing a stable tax regime which is investor friendly.
  • Government will set up a high-level committee to interact with the industries to bring about changes in tax laws, if required.
  •  Proposal to enhance the scope of Income Tax Settlement Commission.
  • Government proposes to strengthen authority for advance ruling in tax.
  • Our domestic manufacturing is still at nascent stage. Also, manufacturing units will be allowed to sell their products through retail and e-commerce.
  • Our banking system needs to be further strengthened and there is a need to infuse Rs. 2.4 trillion in our banks.
  • Bank capital will be raised through retail sale of shares and government will continue to hold majority in PSU banks.
  • E-visas will be introduced at nine airports in the country.
  • Rs. 50 crores will be set aside for indigenous cattle breed and Blue Revolution for inland fisheries.
  • The ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ will be enforced and the government pledges for total sanitation under this programme by 2020.
  • Rs. 10 billion will be reserved for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Seechai Yojana to improve irrigation facilities for agricultural boost.
  • National multi-scale programme ‘Skill India’ will be introduced to provide training and support for employment opportunities.
  • The ‘Deen Dayal Upadhaya Gram Jyoti Yojana’ will be be launched to augment uninterrupted power supply in rural areas.
  • Rs. 2 billion set aside for Statue of Unity(Sardar Patel’s statue) project in Gujarat, to be completed by 2017.
  • EPFO(Employees Provident Fund Organisation) will launch a unified account scheme for portability of Provident Fund Accounts.
  • Proposal to set up committee to examine how to utilise large funds lying unused in postal schemes.
  • Government proposes to set up 15 new Braille press and revive 10 existing ones for disabled persons.
  • Rs. 143.89 billion will be provided for the ‘Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana’.
  • Rs. 1 billion set aside for the launching of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Scheme.
  • Crisis Management Centres for women will be set up at all government hospitals in the National Capital Region of India.
  • Rs. 36 billion will be provided for safe drinking water in 20,000 habitations in villages facing problem of impure drinking water.
  • Budget proposes the ‘National Housing Banking Scheme’ and allots Rs. 80 billion for it.
  • Rs. 2.29 trillion will be allocated for the Defence Budget.
  • Government proposes to add 12 more medical government colleges.
  • A ‘Kisan TV Channel’ will be aired by the Doordarshan and Community Radio Stations will be developed for Rs. 2 billion.
  • Rs. 5 billion set aside for establishing the National Rural Internet and Technology Mission for high Internet penetration.
  • Metro Rail services will be launched in the cities of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Faridabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Nagpur and Lucknow.
  • Budget proposes to set up agri-infrastructure funds and two more agri-research institutes in Jharkhand and Assam at a cost of Rs. 1 billion.
  • Government announces Rs. 5 billion for modernisation and upgradation of all madrasas.
  • Rs. 1 billion will be allotted for providing soil cards to every farmer.
  • Government committed to achieve 4 percent farm growth and to use new technologies to boost crop yields.
  • Education-cess for all taxpayers including corporates will continue.
  • Restructuring Food Corporation of India to be taken up on priority basis.
  • Budget proposes Rs. 200 billion for setting up 2000 producers’ organisations across the country.
  • Kakinada port and its adjoining areas will be developed smartly.
  • Trade facilitation centres will be set up at a cost of Rs. 500 million to help the handloom development.
  • India has emerged as the largest PPP market in the world.
  • Rs. 300 crores provided for 6 more textile clusters in Rae Bareilly, Lucknow, Surat, Bhagalpur, Mysore and Madurai.
  • Government sets aside Rs. 500 million for Pashmina Production programme in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • 1620-km Ganga inland waterway development from Haridwar to Haldia will be completed in 6 years at a cost of Rs. 42 billion.
  • New airports to be developed through PPP mode and coal linkages will be rationalised to reduce power cost.
  • Rs. 42 billion set aside for Jal Marg Vikas project on river Ganga connecting Allahabad to Haldia.
  • Rs. 5 billion will be provided for ultra modern solar power plants in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

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  • Use of piped cooking gas will be promoted on a trial basis initially.
  • CRT(Cathode Ray Tube) TVs exempted from customs duty to help the needy.
  • Basic custom duties on LCDs and LEDs below 19 inch have been reduced to zero from 10 percent.
  • Changes in the Mines and Mineral Regulation and Development Act will be introduced. Also, royalty on minerals will be reviewed to enhance revenue for states.
  • Government proposes to develop 15,000 km additional gas pipeline through PPP mode.
  • Clarification on tax treatment of foreign funds will be announced.
  • Banks will be permitted to raise long term funds without regulatory hindrances.
  • RBI(Reserve Bank of India) will frame a policy for licensing of small and differential banks.
  • Rs. 1 billion technology development fund has been proposed in the budget.
  • Government sets aside Rs. 22.5 billion to upgrade the weather monitoring infrastructure.
  • Rs. 1 billion will be allocated for War Memorial and War Museum at Princess Park, near the India Gate in New Delhi.
  • Rs. 500 million will be provided for setting up of a National Police Memorial.
  • Rs. 1 billion will be allocated for preserving heritage characters of cities like Mathura and Agra.
  • Government announces Rs.1 billion for development of archaeological sites. Gaya will be developed as world class tourist spot.
  • Rs. 500 million set aside for modernisation of Ghats in places like Varanasi and Patna.
  • NRI fund for conservation of river Ganga will be set up shortly.
  • Rs. 2 billion allotted for upgrading indoor and outdoor stadiums in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Budget proposes to set up a sports university in Manipur and Mizoram.
  • Rs. 1 billion set aside for training on sportspersons for the Asian Games 2018.
  • Rs. 5 billion will be provided for rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri migrants.
  • Rs. 1 billion set aside for development of organic farming in the North-Eastern region of India.
  • Government will provide Rs. 10 billion for linked rail connectivity in the North-East.
  • Government will launch an ‘Arun Prabha’ channel, which is a 24X7 Channel for the North-East.
  • 10-year tax holiday will be extended to companies that start power generation by March 31, 2017.
  • Concessional rate of 15 percent on dividends will continue as such.
  • Government will review revised Direct Taxes Code taking into account comments from stakeholders.
  • Government will enforce a new scheme known as the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’, which will help poor farmers to open a bank account and get subsidised offers of goods and services.
  • The Planning Commission of India, will be replaced by a new planning body known as the ‘NITI Aayog'(National Institution for Transforming India Aayog) for holistic and overall economic development of the country and along with the states and union territories of India, with effect from January 1, 2015.

COMPOSTING TOILETS – THE ANSWER FOR A CLEAN SANITATION

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We all dream and feel satisfied of living in a pure and clean environment. So, to stay healthy and fit, we need to be aware as well as to make people aware of our surroundings. Say for instance, if a passer-by sees an empty cold drink can or a plastic bag lying on the road, park or a pavement. Then, we should react accordingly. We should throw all these waste materials into the nearby dustbins to keep that place hygienic and clean.

In the same way, what would we do if we sense a foul smell coming from behind the bushes in the park or next to the public toilets? Obviously, we will wither away from that horrible smell and the place. So, a basic question arises – How do we ensure a clean sanitation along with the environment continuously and everytime? Our political analysts and environmentalists thought and debated about this critical issue and ultimately, they came out with a unique alternative – Toilets, of course, but its usage without using water.

Hence, came an invention developed by the environmentalists all over the world – the Biological Composting Toilets or simply Bio-Toilets. A composting toilet is a dry toilet that uses a predominantly aerobic processing system that treats human excreta, typically with no water or very small volumes of flush water, via composting or managed aerobic decomposition. Composting toilets may be used as an alternative to flush toilets in situations where there is no suitable water supply or sewer system and sewage treatment plant available, or to capture nutrients in human excreta as manure.

This system can be used successfully, if implemented properly in drought prone areas of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, parts of South-East Asia, along the Andes mountain ranges of South America and the tropical deserts of Australia and North America. Currently, bio-toilets are in use in many households of North America, Europe and Australia.

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Composting toilets should not be confused with the pit latrine or a tree bog, all of which are forms of less controlled decomposition, and may not protect groundwater from nutrient or pathogen contamination or provide optimal nutrient recycling. They should also not be confused with urine-diverting dry toilets(UDDTs) where pathogen reduction is achieved through dehydration and the faeces collection vault is therefore kept as dry as possible. These toilets are usually set up without urine diversion but can also include urine diversion sometimes. Offering a waterless urinal in addition to the composting toilet can help keep excess amounts of urine out of the composting chamber.

Before the flush toilets became universally accepted in the late 19th century, there were inventors, scientists, and public health officials who supported the use of “dry earth closets”, a type of dry toilet with some similarities to the modern composting toilets. However, the collection vessel for the human excreta was not designed to achieve composting at the toilet level. Dry earth closets were invented by the English clergyman Henry Moule, who dedicated his life to improving public sanitation after witnessing the horrors of the cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1854 in England.

The model he made is depicted in the starting of the article. He invented what he called the ‘dry earth system’. His system was adopted in private houses, in rural districts, in military camps and in many hospitals extensively in many British-colonised countries, including India. But, it failed to gain public support and attention as the water-flushed toilet connected to a sewer system.

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Composting toilets are generally built step by step with precision and care taken. It consists of four parts:-

  1. a reactor which is the storage or composting chamber.
  2. a ventilation unit to provide air to ensure aerobic conditions, to allow carbon dioxide and water to evaporate and to reduce odour.
  3. a leachate collection system to drain excess liquid.
  4. an access door for withdrawing the mature product.

They use the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste. Waste entering the toilets is over 90% of water, which is evaporated and carried back to the atmosphere through the vent system. The small amount of remaining solid material is converted to useful fertilizing soil by natural decomposition. The correct balance between oxygen, moisture, heat and organic material is needed to ensure a rich environment for the aerobic bacteria that transform the waste into fertilizing soil.

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This ensures odour-free operation and complete decomposition of waste. When human waste is properly composted, the end product does not contain any pathogens or viruses as these are destroyed by bacterial breakdown. This nutrient-rich fertilizer can then be used on plants or around the base of trees, as part of the natural cycling of nutrients, reducing your need for commercial fertilizers and preserving local water quality.

Human excreta and food waste do not provide optimum conditions for composting. Usually the water and nitrogen content is too high, particularly when urine is not separated and is mixed with the other material in the vault. Additives or “bulking material”, such as wood chips, bark chips, sawdust, ash and pieces of paper, are used to absorb moisture. The additives also improve the aeration of the pile and increases the carbon to nitrogen ratio by adding carbon-rich material. Bulking material also serves as cover of the fresh faeces and reduces access of flies and other insects. If sufficient bulking material is not added, the organic matter in the composting vault may get too compact and form impermeable layers, which leads to anaerobic conditions and odour.

Maintaining bio-toilets is not at all an easy task. The emptying frequency of the composting container depends on the size of the container, the amount of material added per day and the composting conditions. Frequency of emptying will depend on the speed of the decomposition process and capacity, from a few months to years. With a properly sized and managed unit, a very small volume of a humus-like material results, which can be suitable as soil amendment for agriculture, depending on local public health regulations.

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Maintenance of composting toilets, whether they are in private or in public settings, is critical to ensure they operate well and without odour. Maintenance tasks include – Cleaning, checking of technical components of the composting toilet as well as safe treatment, handling and use of the compost and its waste products, if produced. Composting toilets require greater management efforts than urine-diverting dry toilets due to the need to maintain a consistent relatively high moisture content. Thus, it is quite tedious and expensive to maintain such toilets even today.

Now coming into the India’s context, bio-toilets have been implemented only in some urban areas. As mentioned before, though the first composting toilet came into being during the British Raj, it quickly withered away from India, due to its inefficiency to clean up the solid waste materials into the sewer system with lack of water, which is a necessity. Hence, it lost popular public support and instead, water-flushed toilets were put in use.

Even after installing plenty of public water-flushed toilets for the poor since independence, many of them still do not have access to it, due to non-awareness of using public toilets. Hence, about 55% of the Indian population have practised open defecation, leading to deadly epidemics, which have jolted both towns and villages of India ever since. Sanitation facilities in India continue to be inadequate, despite longstanding efforts by the various levels of government and communities at improving coverage. The level of investment in water and sanitation, albeit low by international standards, has increased in size during the 2000s. Also, access to water has also increased significantly.

For example, in the 1970s rural sanitation coverage was only a mere 0.5% that time, which reached 34% in 2014. Also, the share of Indians with access to improved sources of water has increased significantly from 67% in 1980 to 93% in 2014.  At the same time, local government institutions in charge of operating and maintaining the infrastructure are seen as weak and lack the financial resources to carry out their functions. In addition, only two Indian cities- Trivandrum(Kerala) and Kota(Rajasthan) have continuous water supply and clean sanitation facilities and an estimated 45% of Indians still lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

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Banka BioLoo Private Limited, a firm committed to environmental betterment and social uplift, is supporting to eradicate the malaise of open defecation. By providing eco-friendly bio-toilets, the enterprise is helping meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG-7) and actively supporting the government’s vision of an open defecation free society.  Banka’s solutions address the following needs of the end-users:-

  • Meet the need for basic, easy-to-install and hygienic human waste disposal mechanism in areas with no infrastructural facilities.
  • Address the need for a cheaper and easy-to-operate alternative to the traditional waste disposal system.

The bio-toilet consists of an easy to install super-structure, a multi-chambered bio-tank that holds the bacterial culture and supports the treatment of human waste. The system does not need external energy for treatment and rather gives out pathogen-free effluent water, that is apt for gardening and biogas, that could be used for cooking or heating. The system meets all regulatory and environmentally compliances and enhances the socio-environmental fabric of India.

Moreover, the bio-digester technology was initially developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) for the defence personnel. The enterprise is pioneering this, in an integrated approach, and taking this effective and innovative sanitation solution to the civil population with varying applications. Today, the DRDO are helping many public and social sectors and NGOs for adapting and installing bio-toilets in drought-prone areas of peninsular India.

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Bio-digester is a consortium of anaerobic bacteria, which have been screened and gradually adapted to work at temperatures as low as -5 degrees Celsius. These convert the organic waste into water, methane and CO2. The anaerobic process inactivates the pathogens responsible for water-borne diseases. Bio-digesters serve as reaction vessels for bio-methanation and provide anaerobic conditions and the required temperature for the bacteria.

The waste is either treated centrally or dumped in the ground. The former consumes energy in transportation and treatment, whereas the latter contaminates the environment and ground water. Septic tank retains the human waste, and is also periodically emptied and cleaned, emits foul smell and any leakage harms the groundwater. The other major practice is of hugely built sewage treatment facilities(commonly called STPs). The human waste is transported via sewer lines to the central facility and treated using colossal amounts of energy.

Bio-toilets, in contrast, treat the human waste at source, obviating the need to transport the faecal matter, no spoiling of environment or groundwater and do not need any energy. With no heavy infrastructure required, the composting toilets eases the burden on government bodies. The system leaves pathogen-free water as effluent that can be re-used. For large bio-tanks, methane can be collected and used. These can be installed anywhere, without specification of land type, terrain, distance, etc. Many experts foresee bio-toilets as a true panacea to many of India’s sanitation woes.

With a lot of awareness generated and hardwork put in, the government’s first bio-toilet was installed in the national capital, New Delhi on June 1, 2014, near the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Delhi’s first bio-digesting toilet was installed by the Delhi Urban Arts Commission(DUAC) chairman, Raj Rewal, who is better known for designing iconic spaces and structures such as the Parliament Library, Asiad Village, Metro Bhawan and Visual Institutional Arts Campus in Rohtak.

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This prototype uses aluminium sandwiched honeycomb panels with stainless steel veneering for durability. The fluids discharged are treated by bacteria that converts it into water and a negligible amount of odourless non-toxic gas. It takes place in an underground chamber within a duration of three days. The water is fit for horticulture, a DUAC source explained. The unit has been manufactured at Mohan Rail Components in Kapurthala, Punjab.

The source also added that while the initial cost of a twin-toilet – one each for women and men was Rs.2.3 lakh, if mass produced, a single unit could cost Rs.1 lakh. The DUAC plans to install 200 such units all over Delhi. The chairman further added- “The NDMC(New Delhi Municipal Council) has given us two more sites. These include one at Safdarjung Hospital and one near Lady Irwin College. We are in talks with all the three municipal corporations.” Hopefully, the dream project, initiated by the Pradhan Mantri Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in October 2 last year, should be of great success. The programme aims to install 30,000 bio-toilets in selected places of India by 2018.

HIGHLIGHTS OF MY WORDPRESS BLOG 2014

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The WordPress.com Statistics Helper “Monkeys” prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Check it out, my readers!!

Here’s an excerpt given below:-

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2014!! If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people!!

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Click here to see the complete report.

A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR SMART COOKING ANYTHING, ANYWHERE AND ANYTIME

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The Digital Revolution, also called the Third Industrial Revolution, is the change from analog, mechanical and electronic technology to digital technology which began from the late 1940s to the late 1980s with the adoption and proliferation of digital computers and digital record-keeping that continues to the present day. Implicitly, the term also refers to the sweeping changes brought about by digital computing and communication technology during(and after) the later half of the 20th century.

Analogous to the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution marked the beginning of the Information Age. Central to this revolution is the mass production and widespread use of digital logic circuits, and its derived technologies, including the computer, digital phone, and the Internet. All these have been referred to as ‘Digital Transformation’, which the scientists have given a third term for Digital Revolution.

Digital Transformation refers to the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society. Today, digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support the traditional methods. In a narrower sense, digital transformation may refer to the concept of ‘going paperless’.

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Keeping in mind the advent and modifications done during the ‘golden era’ of this revolution, it has also affected our basic cooking skills. Basically, cooking means the process of preparing food for consumption with the use of heat. The basic items needed for cooking are utensils, woks, pans and many more. But in this ever changing digital world, we would no longer have to cook traditionally. With great discoveries, inventions and upgradations of certain machines, it is possible to cook delicious food items in ‘one-touch mode’. Amazing to hear all this, isn’t it folks?

Well, everybody including me, are surprised to hear that cooking techniques today, have undergone plenty of changes as a result of better and quicker technological methods, which are also scientifically proven and good for human health too. It can also actually check whether a particular fruit, vegetable or any food item is edible for human beings. The Digital Revolution continues to have a huge impact on all aspects of modern life and home cooking, which is no exception. Cutting edge innovations are transforming our behaviour in the kitchens everywhere. Here are the six proven technologies and tools that are turning people into super-smart cooks, which is given below:-

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  • Google Glass is a piece of wearable tech spectacles, developed by the company giant Google and could really shake things up in the kitchen. This smart eyewear has the ability to put users in the shoes of their all-time favourite chefs, watching live or filmed tutorials as they cook new recipes. It also allows users to find and share recipes instantly. The device is hands-free, making it ideal for the kitchen use perfectly.
  • Today, tablets, laptops and smartphones are offering endless number of new recipes for people to try it out by using new cooking techniques. Even in televisions, various cookery channels have been launched. While we all love the feeling of buying and beholding a brand new cookbook, the wealth of recipes and cookery tips that can now be accessed online. Savvy chefs and publishers are ensuring that their recipes are available online in mobile and tablet friendly formats, appealing to today’s ‘always on’ consumers.
  • Social media have really changed our lives today in this rapid changing world. The proliferation of social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook have unleashed our sharing culture, making it easier to share recipes, foodie news and top hints and tips. In addition, social channels are making it possible for the public to interact with professional cooks and industry experts, in a more direct and immediate manner than ever before.

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  • YouTube videos are being used by chefs as a way of bringing recipes to life and bridging the gap between cookbooks and cookery classes. It’s now also possible to join in with live cookery demonstrations using Google Hangouts, allowing for even greater interaction between the pros and their audience at home.
  • With more and more people following recipes on tablets and phones, the ‘iSpoon Kitchen Stylus’ is a must for any contemporary kitchen. Cooks can now scroll through recipes and photos without getting their tablets dirty.
  • Described as a kitchen nutritionist, ‘Prep Pad’ is a smart food scale that connects with the iPad over Bluetooth to show the nutritional value of food. It offers a breakdown of calories, fat, protein, carbs and vitamins, helping users to create balanced meals.

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  • The super-flexi saucepans are a recent modern invention in the cooking world. It consists of Flare with Fin-X technology, which is the name of a new range of saucepans that claim to cook 40% faster than traditional pans, thus saving both time and energy. Also, as the name goes, they are quite flexible, thus, allowing the food to cook evenly and quickly too.

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There are a few number of devices, which also helps to enhance our cooking techniques. However, most of them are still in the developing stage. While some of these have been overdesigned, others serve a real purpose and are already becoming a common place in homes and restaurants. The important thing is to ensure that we are using new technologies and tools as a way of enhancing the cookery experience and not as a way of replacing the skill and fun of cooking. If they are used in combination with our natural senses and instincts, then they are certainly a recipe for success.