Get Wired 11/6: Doubling Farmer Suicides, SAIL Chief Waved By, New HIV Sensors and More

Maharasthra’s farmer suicides double in two months

Agriculture in India. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Maharashtra, between January and March, the state government had reported 601 farmer suicides, but by May 2015 the figures had risen to 1,088 cases. However, one out of four cases had been found ineligible for assistance due to legal loopholes such as the land not being in the victim’s name or absence of physical proof of indebtedness. The government has announced several relief packages since the beginning of the year but also dismissed the opposition’s demand to waiver loans. The cotton belt of Vidarbha – from where Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails – reported the highest number of farmer suicides in the state.


NITI Aayog Vice Chairman’s position hangs in balance

Five months after his appointment, NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya is waiting for clarity from the Prime Minister, the chairman of the Aayog, on his status and that of his member colleagues, who were earlier recognized as Ministers of State. Panagariya’s initial appointment did accord him Cabinet Minister rank, but his pay was fixed at the Cabinet Secretary level, making it a ceremonial position. There has also been confusion regarding the functioning of the Aayog with no specified plan of action, division of labour amongst constituents, and loss of a say in resource allocation, which now rests with the Finance Commission.

SAIL chief shown the door by NDA

Credit: SAIL

Credit: SAIL

The Center did not renew Steel Authority of India Ltd., chairman C.S. Verma’s term. PSU chairmen are appointed for a term of five years or until superannuation whichever is earlier. If after five years, there is still time left until superannuation, the government has discretion to extend the term, and the trend has been to do so. Verma has become the second high-profile PSU head to be denied extension after the UPA denied Subir Raha in 2006, when he was head of ONGC. Verma was appointed by the UPA, and the denial has shifted focus on NTPC chairman Arup Roy Choudhury and GAIL chief B.C. Tripathi, both of whose terms are going to be under review soon.

“Bullets don’t differentiate”: Jharkhand DGP after Maoist encounter

Twelve alleged Maoists, including four minors, were killed in an encounter in what was a joint operation between the Jharkhand police and the CRPF in Palamau district in Jharkhand. The police claimed to have received information regarding Maoists passing through the area in two Scorpio cars. After failing to stop the first car, the police stopped the second Scorpio, leading to the resistance by the group, which in turn resulted in the encounter. Anurag alias Doctor, a zonal commander, was among those killed, the police said.

Of the 12 dead, only seven have been identified yet and six among them have no previous cases registered against them. The four minors have not yet been identified. The families of the deceased are calling the act a murder. Meanwhile, Jharkhand DGP has defended the killing of the minors, saying “the bullet does not differentiate”, and calling the operation “a great success”.

Somnath Bharti’s wife alleges he tortured her, set his dog on her

Somnath Bharti. Image from Twitter

Somnath Bharti. Image from Twitter

Lipika Bharti, wife of Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti, has filed a complaint against her husband in the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW). Bharti alleged that her husband tortured her and their children, and that they had been living under the constant threat of violence from the lawyer-turned politician and his supporters. Giving an example of the violence, she said that Somnath had set his dog upon her when she was seven-months pregnant. DCW Chairperson Barkha Singh said that there were bruises on Lipika’s body to indicate the violence, and that she could have been tortured physically, mentally and verbally. A notice has been sent to Mr. Bharti to appear before the commission on June 26.


Israel to crack down on NGOs

Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party is looking to pass legislation that will crack down on NGOs receiving foreign funds in the form of donations. The Minister said that the NGOs are “eroding the legitimacy of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.” Human rights groups are afraid the legislation would result Israel becoming a state that struggles to accept internal criticism. “What we have here are many years of intense efforts to discredit Israel’s human rights community, primarily related to our work exposing human rights violations,” said Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for a 25-year old NGO B’Tselem, which works on flagging human rights abuses in occupied Palestine and has been under successive governments’ scanner.

Fall in Indian Universities in Asia’s top 100, only 9 make it this time

The Times Higher Education University Asia Rankings 2015, released on Wednesday, included nine universities from India, down from ten last year. The Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, with rank 37 upstaged Panjab University (rank 38) as India’s top university. Five IITs, led by IIT-Roorkee (joint 55th) dominated the country’s representation while branches from Kanpur and Guwahati, in the list last year, lost out. Other rankholders were Aligarh Muslim University (90th) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (96th). Japan’s University of Tokyo still maintains the premier position in the rankings worldwide.

New sensors to detect cancer and HIV early

Researchers from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have developed a highly sensitive nanomechanical sensor that can detect cancerous tumours as well as viral disease markers for HIV, hepatitis and herpes. The sensor could allow for diagnosing diseases long before they can be detected by any other method, which would pave the way for a new-generation of diagnostics, researchers said.

Yellow-busted bunting numbers in steep decline

A yellow-busted bunting. Source:

A yellow-busted bunting. Source:

The numbers of one of Eurasia’s most commonly found songbirds, the yellow-busted bunting, is in steep decline, with a report claiming that the bird’s numbers have now fallen by 90%. A study conducted by UK’s BirdLife International and the Bombay Natural History Society, and published in the journal Conservation Biology, has said that the disastrous drop can be attributed mostly to unsuitable rates of hunting of the bird, chiefly in China. The bird is a winter migratory bird in India and is sighted in the Northeast and West Bengal, and less frequently in the Terai region of UP and Bihar.