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Greening Delhi needs more will power than wallet power

As Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are proactively supporting plantation drives, the national capital should also encourage farmers to surround the city with green walls of trees.

Indra Shekhar Singh

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What happens when the cars and emissions rise in our cities? When the silence of the trees is robbed and the radiance of the sun is fogged by flumes and honks? Would we readapt to sooty skies? Do we urban citizens have a moral imperative to save our environment? These were some thoughts that were floating as my mother and I were planting our 300th sapling this August in Delhi.

When she thought about the idea of celebrating her 50th birthday by planting trees (it was in June 2020), we had a little idea of where to plant or the money required. But we willed it and the universe did conspire to make it happen. Soon, we had some money in our tree fund but the Delhi government announced that it would be distributing free saplings to plant.

With the first problem dealt with, now where to plant? For this we chose a DDA park, took necessary permissions and began planting. Most of our saplings are alive and growing faster. What we did was a small measure to save our immediate environment and our city Delhi. This was also an act of healing and small gratitude for all the things nature gave us. How did it happen? God along with nature works in mysterious ways. If we are silent enough to hear her hums, she guides us. Our planet and our cities need human agents to heal her and support her. The Covid-19 crisis has given the world an opportunity to re-value our environment. Starting from the Big Bang, the trajectory of connected events has led to creation of the earth, and humans. Our purpose here is a simple one: To cohabit with the earth and all her beings, to nourish ourselves and them.

 But can our government embrace this quest? Yes, and for starters, RWAs should be asked to intensify plantations of native varieties and urban food gardens in their areas. DDAs and public parks need to open doors for citizens to plant trees in them. This will also decrease the budget restraints on horticulture departments. A certain time period may be notified each year for people to plant. RWAs need to set voluntary targets and be recognised by local city authorities for this work. As a block or sub-division within the city, officials need to remove non-native species and replace them with indigenous plants and trees. We need to create mini-forests in our parks, using the ‘Miyawaki’ method. This step can help increase carbon sequestration and develop mini-lungs throughout our cities.Urban gardens and rooftop gardens need to be encouraged through an urban food policy. But at city level, a lot more can be done. For example, let’s take Delhi, a city surrounded by farms and an under-utilised budget for agriculture. We begin with a plan to surround Delhi with a green-wall of trees or green buffer zones.

But how will this be made possible? The Covid-19 agri-stimulus package has already allotted budget and subsidies for plantation. For the state of Uttar Pradesh, farmers can get up to 60% subsidies, if they choose to start a plantation. In Haryana, the government is offering up to 75% subsidy in various plantation crops to the farmers. As Haryana and UP are already very proactively supporting plantation drive, Delhi should create a map of the buffer zone and encourage as many farmers as possible to surround Delhi with a green wall of trees. These can be fruit crops, etc. The Delhi government may chip in by giving farmers additional subsidies. This should be considered as assistance given by them for eco-services and not charity. This way they can phase out paddy production from surrounding areas and decrease straw burning too.

The three state governments can work in tandem to create this zone around Delhi. The produce from these zones should be branded by the government and sold to marketing co-operatives like Mother Dairy, etc. With a contract farming model in the pipeline, various governments can enter into contracts with farmers or FPOs to produce food and fruits agro-ecologically, hence not only saving the environment but also the health of urban dwellers. This will help break the dust winds entering the city too. If during the lockdown a scheme can be developed and implemented, it will go a long way in ensuring that Delhi’s and other cities’ air, water and food supply are cleaner.

The author is director at Policy and Outreach, National Seed Association of India. The views expressed are personal.

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Typhoon Talas smashes Japan, leaving thousands without water, electricity, two killed

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Thousands of people in central Japan were without running water and electricity on Sunday after Typhoon Talas dumped record rainfall on the area, causing floods and landslides and leaving at least two people dead.

According to the AFP’s published report, the body of a man in Kakegawa city, Shizuoka region, was pulled from what remained of his house on Saturday after a landslide destroyed it.

“Another male (in neighbouring Fukuroi city) was driving to his home (Saturday) when the water level rose and his vehicle apparently stopped. While the individual tried to walk home, he was believed to have died,” a regional disaster management official said.

He stated that another man was still unaccounted for in Kawanehoncho town, Shizuoka, after his car slid into a gap that appeared in the road. He also mentioned that three other people received minor wounds.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Typhoon Talas battered central Japan on Friday and Saturday as it passed by close off the Pacific coast, pouring more than 40 centimetres (16 inches) of rain in Shizuoka villages in a single day.

Before heading back out to the Pacific on Saturday morning, it was downgraded to a depression.

Up to 120,000 homes may have lost power on Saturday as a result of the storm’s heavy rains causing landslides, including in the isolated mountains of Shizuoka. This is because several electricity pylons fell and broke as a result.

According to the local firm Chubu Electric Power, 2,910 homes in Shizuoka and the neighbouring Gifu region were still without electricity as of Sunday afternoon.

“As for those areas where restoration crews are not able to reach due to blocked roads after landslides, we will make progress while analysing the conditions of the landslides,” the utility said.

Debris choked a water inlet in Shizuoka, leaving almost 55,000 homes without running water.

“Currently, we are working to remove debris from a water inlet. But for now we are unable to give any estimate as to when it can be restored,” the regional government said in a statement Sunday morning.

Typhoons regularly cause significant damage to Japan in the summer and fall.

Typhoon Nanmadol struck southwestern Japan this weekend, leaving 147 people injured and four dead.

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Top opposition leaders gather at INLD rally to challenge ‘Delhi Sultanate’

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Sharad Pawar, the head of the NCP, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, Sitaram Yechury, and Sukhbir Singh Badal, the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, were among the prominent opposition figures that attended the INLD’s large gathering on Sunday in Fatehabad, Haryana.

JDU leader KC Tyagi addressed the crowd and claimed that the Bihar CM has come from Patna to challenge the Delhi Sultanate at a time when eight former Congress CMs had switched to the BJP. He claimed that Kumar has no fear of the ED, the income tax, or any other organisations.

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Devi Lal, the founder of the INLD and a former deputy prime minister, a rally is being conducted.

Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar and the head of the RJD, as well as Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena, also showed up at the gathering to demonstrate the unity of the opposition.

The coming together of so many regional satraps is seen as part of efforts to forge opposition unity. Kumar and RJD president Lalu Prasad are likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the rally to take the process forward.

Veteran socialist leader Tyagi had already declared that the gathering would be historic because it would unite like-minded forces against the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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‘Resort bulldozed to erase evidence?’: U’khand girl’s family

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The family of Ankita Bhandari, a 19-year-old Uttarakhand receptionist, refused to cremate her body on Sunday, questioning the postmortem report and the government’s overnight action of bulldozing portions of the resort owned by the prime suspect, Pulkit Arya, the son of now-expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya. They claimed that this may have destroyed the evidence at the crime scene.

Ankita Bhandari allegedly rejected attempts by Pulkit Arya and two others to force her into prostitution, and as a result, she was killed. The woman’s body,  who was reported missing on September 18, was found in Rishikesh’s Chilla canal on Saturday.

Her brother Ajay Singh Bhandari questioned the resort’s bulldozer activity, speculating that it might be an attempt to destroy evidence.

In the late evening on Friday in Pauri Garhwal, the district administration used a bulldozer to demolish the suspected unlawful construction of the Vanantara resort in Ganga Bhogpur Talla. The building was later set on fire and had its glass windows broken by a group of angry local residents on Saturday.

“I am not satisfied with the provisional postmortem report. Her last rites will not be performed until we get the final detailed report,” said Ankita’s father Virendra Singh Bhandari.

The woman’s funeral was slated to take place on Sunday morning. At the Srinagar Medical College, her body is on display. The family has also urged that the accused be given a speedy trial and executed.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, she had suffered blunt force injuries and drowned to death. Ante-mortem injuries were found on the body, according to the autopsy, which was performed by a team of four doctors from the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh.

“We are making efforts to persuade the family. They have some concerns about the post-mortem report. We are taking every step possible to support the family. However, some things like post-mortem are beyond our control,” said Pauri additional superintendent of police (ASP), Shekhar Chandra Suyal.

According to officials, the final post-mortem report is expected to be released on Monday.

The government’s bulldozer action to destroy the resort has also drawn criticism from the state unit of the Congress party.

Is the government destroying the evidence by ordering the bulldozer action at the resort? Police failed to secure the custody of the accused. The Dhami government’s intention is not pure,” said party’s state chief, Karan Mahara

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Auto & Tech

Instagram to develop safety tool to protect users from filthy DMs

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Instagram is developing a new security feature that will shield users against sexually inappropriate photographs in their inboxes. According to The Verge, the “Nudity Protection” tool will work to weed out instances of online harassment known as “cyberflashing.”

Recent days have seen a significant rise in cyber-flashing incidents, which entail sending unwanted sexual messages to strangers, frequently women. By empowering users to automatically reject direct message requests containing objectionable content, this new functionality aims to combat this threat.

The report says Meta is going to use machine learning to support people to shield themselves from nude photos and other undesirable messages.

Alessandro Pauzzi, a Meta developer, also shared a sneak peek of the new feature on Twitter.

In a tweet, he shared the screenshot of the possible feature and wrote, “Instagram is working on nudity protection for chats. This technology covers photos that may contain nudity in chats. Instagram CAN’T access photos.”

Confirming this, a Meta spokesperson told The Verge they are working closely with experts to assure these new features maintain people’s privacy while also providing them to control over the communication they receive. The technology won’t let Meta view the actual messages or share them with third parties, the spokesperson mentioned.

When the feature is released, Meta said, users will have the option to enable or disable it at their choice. The feature is currently in the development phase.

A control system for parents of minors using the social networking site owned by Meta in India was recently developed. This function is now considered to be the next development in ensuring users’ privacy and security.

In addition to the current Hidden Words function, which was first launched in 2021, this feature will be available. Users can automatically filter problematic words, phrases, and emoticons into a protected folder using the Hidden Words function. Even DM inquiries that are presumably spammed are filtered out by this tool.

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Prime Minister Modi to inaugurate 5G services on October 1

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5G

The 5G services will be launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 1 at the India Mobile Congress.

In October, the Prime Minister will open a four-day conference where top telecom providers including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea will outline their 5G plans for the nation.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, “the 5G services will launch in India at the India Mobile Congress on October 1.”

The department of telecommunications (DoT) and the cellular operators association of India jointly organise the India Mobile Congress (IMC), one of the major telecom, media, and technology events in Asia (COAI).

This news comes about a month after Reliance Industries Ltd. announced it would invest 2 lakh crore to build out its 5G services in important cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata by Diwali and throughout India by December next year.

The Reliance Jio intends to launch Jio 5G by this Diwali 2022 in a number of significant locations, including the megacities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai.

Within the next two months, by Diwali, we will launch Jio 5G across multiple key cities, including the metropolises of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. By December 2023, which is less than 18 months from today, we will deliver Jio 5G to every town, every taluka, and every tehsil of our country,” Ambani told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on August 29.

By March 2024, Bharti Airtel, a competitor of Reliance, intends to roll out its 5G services in 5,000 cities and towns.

“By December, we should have coverage in key metros. After that, we will expand rapidly to cover the entire country,” Gopal Vittal, the chief executive officer of the second largest telecom operator, said earlier this month.

Even though Vodafone Idea purchased spectrum in 17 circles across the nation during the auction month, it has not yet made any announcements regarding its plans for 5G services.

The government’s airwave auction saw Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd emerge as the biggest buyer, spending 88,078 crore, more than twice as much as Bharti Airtel Ltd, which came in second.

By selling 51,236MHz of spectrum at the week-long auction, Ambani’s acquisitions assisted the government in earning a record-breaking 1.5 lakh crore. Wireless operators purchased 71% of the available airwaves in the 72,098MHz band, including 5G spectrum, with the sale of spectrum in the 3.3GHz band generating the highest revenue of 80,590 crore. A total of 39,270 crore, 14,709 crore, and 10,376 crore were generated from the sale of airwaves in the 700MHz, 26GHz, and 1,800MHz bands, respectively.

“We understand that the spectrum purchased is good enough for covering the entire country. So, there’s good reason to believe that in the coming two to three years, we’ll have very good coverage of 5G in the entire country,” telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had said after the auction.

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SIT chief on Uttarakhand girl murder: Every resort staff called for investigation

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The chief of the special investigation team (SIT) has stated that they have called up every employee of the resort where the 19-year-old was employed as a receptionist to the police station as part of the investigation into the murder of the young woman in Uttarakhand, which has sparked intense public outrage.

DIG PR Devi said that they are taking everyone’s statements and running a full background analysis on the resort.

The body of the minor, who was allegedly killed by Pulkit Arya, the son of expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya, and two employees of a resort he owned in Rishikesh, was found in the Chilla Canal on Saturday.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, the victim died from drowning and had suffered blunt force trauma. Antemortem injuries found on the body were also included in the report. The girl was being pressured to enter prostitution, according to the police. WhatsApp conversations that support the claim are in the possession of the police.

According to reports, the woman told some of her friends and coworkers about those chats, which incensed the accused. According to the authorities, during the confrontation that took place on Monday night between the three accused and the woman regarding the matter, the accused hurled the latter into the Chilla Canal. In an apparent attempt to deceive the authorities, Pulkit Arya filed a missing person’s report after that. The three suspects have been arrested by police amid considerable outrage over the suspected murder.

Meanwhile, the BJP removed Vinod Arya and the accused’s brother, Ankit Arya, from the party on Saturday with immediate effect.

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