Get Wired 6/6: Soil Toxins & Maggi, Ishrat Cop Back, Joshi Takes Dig at Modi Project and More

1. Industrial toxins behind Maggi’s lead content?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has alleged that high lead content in the soil being used to grow the onions used in making the Maggi ‘tastemaker’ may be behind the high lead content in the product. FSSAI  chief YS Malik said that high lead content was only found in the tastemaker, thus leading to this conclusion. Industrial waste being disposed into rivers without treatment is the primary reason for this situation. The rivers, laden with industrial waste, deposit heavy metals into the soil, from where it is absorbed by the plants. Lack of effective environmental regulation regarding release of waste results in high contents of harmful substances, not only in Maggi, but in a lot of the food that Indians consume, environmentalists say.

2. Cop who fired at Ishrat reinstated

Ishrat Jahan

Ishrat Jahan

Narendra K Amin, key accused in the fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and Ishrat Jahan, has been reinstated as a police officer by the Gujarat government. After a suspension of nearly 8 years, Amin will be posted as Deputy Superintendent of Police in the State Crime Record Bureau. Though Amin was not a part of the Anti-terrorist Squad that is alleged to have committed the encounters, he is alleged to have been a key player, having been in constsnt touch with then minister of state Amit Shah, and ATS members D G Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian in connection with the Kauser Bi encounter. Amin, named by the CBI as one of the officers who had fired at Ishrat Jahan with his service revolver, has also asked for three promotions for his time under suspension.

3. SEBI fines NDTV, channel to appeal

NDTV plans to appeal against the penalty of Rs. 2 crore imposed on it by the Securities and Exchange Board of India for ‘non-disclosure of a material event’. According to SEBI rules, listed companies are supposed to disclose all materially relevant information to the exchanges immediately. The case relates to the IT department demanding Rs. 450 crores through an assessment in February last year, in lieu of what the department has termed a ‘sham transaction’ between NDTV, NBC Universal and Universal Studios International. While NDTV appealed the imposition of the IT demand in March last year, it only informed market regulators in May 2014, leading to the SEBI fine.

4. MM Joshi cleans off ‘Namami Ganga’ optimism


In happier days: Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi (PTI)

Sidelined BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, addressing a function organised by the Sankat Mochan Foundation at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi on the eve of World Environment Day, critiqued Narendra Modi’s pet Clean Ganga Project, calling it a ‘far fetched dream’. He said that Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari’s plans to open the river to cargo vessel movement without understanding its dynamics would prove unsuccessful, as it “barely has enough water for big boats to ferry”. Unsurprisingly, Joshi’s criticisms have raised eyebrows in BJP circles. Last year, he reluctantly gave up his Varanasi constituency to Modi, and was unhappy at his exclusion from Modi’s cabinet on the grounds of being over the prescribed 75 years age limit.

5. India to ‘track’ its way to China border

R S Virdi, general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway revealed that the Railway Board has cleared the proposal for a final location survey of railways in Arunachal Pradesh from Tezpur to Tawang, right up to the international border with China. According to Virdi, “It will be a major national project both because of its strategic importance as well as because of the daunting task of negotiating the steep Eastern Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh”. The ‘sensitive’ nature of the project also explains why the railways is expecting the defence ministry, a major beneficiary of the project, to release funds for the survey.

6. No e-visas for Bangladeshis but work permit may be on anvil

Prime Minister Modi promised electronic visas on arrival (eTVs) to China on his visit there last month. But Bangladesh, hosting him from today, may not be as lucky. Including Bangladesh in the list of 150 countries that will be extended the facility of eTV has been an old proposal of the Ministry of External Affairs. According to this report, however, the government has decided the visa-on-arrival policy should not be ‘blindly’ extended to India’s neighbours. Instead, India may provide long-term visas to persecuted religious minorities, which also includes the Chakma tribe living in the Chittagong Hill Tract areas. Bangladesh, on the other hand, is ready with a concrete proposal to respond to the contentious issue of undocumented migration through “special permits” for Bangladeshi nationals who want to work in India.

7. Auto-makers win in India, with both cheap labour, cheap robots

The auto industry in India is seeing an increase in the use of robots, with most factories clocking 30 per cent automation of production; many body shops are automated up to 90 percent. The increase in India is not as steep as in Europe, however, owing to the cheap labour available in the country. That could change in the near future though, with robotic technologies getting cheaper and cheaper. For the present, however, India remains a cheap auto-manufacturing destination, where companies can have cheap labour, and cheap robots too.

8. Europe gets ‘high’ on Indian psychoactive substances

It seems industry isn’t the only one taking Modi’s ‘Make in India’ seriously. According to the Europe Drug Report 2015, released on Friday, India has emerged as a major production hub of new psychoactive substances or ‘legal highs‘ that are flooding European cities. These are chemicals designed to replicate the effects of illegal substances. India is the centre of production of cathinones such as mephedrone, pentedrone and MDPV — available as powders or tablets that are not controlled under existing anti-narcotic laws. These then get imported in Europe, where they are packaged and sold in illicit drug markets.

9. Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s top aide, dies

File photo from 1984 of Tariq Aziz with Ronald Reagan

File photo from 1984 of Tariq Aziz with Ronald Reagan

Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s loyal lieutenant and easily the most personable face of the otherwise reviled regime on the world stage has died of a heart attack in an Iraqi hospital. He was 79. During Saddam’s reign he served as foreign minister, deputy prime minister and was a close advisor till the end. He is most notably remembered as a remarkable foreign diplomat on behalf of Iraq during the Gulf wars of 1991 and 2003. He had surrendered to US troops in April 2003 and thereafter suffered from ill health in prison.