India – based Neutrino Observatory.

India – based Neutrino Observatory. 

The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 meter. The underground laboratory, consisting of a large cavern of size 132m × 26m × 20m and several smaller caverns, will be accessed by a 1900 m long and 7.5 m wide tunnel. INO project is jointly supported by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST) with DAE acting as the nodal agency. 

The objective of INO is to conduct basic research on the elementary particle called neutrino. Presently 21 research institutes, Universities and IITs from all over the country are involved in this project. INO is expected to galvanise interest in basic science research in the whole country and particularly in and around Theni and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu. Science students across the country will have opportunity to pursue cutting edge research in the field of particle physics while being located in India. 

The observatory will be located underground so as to provide adequate shielding to the neutrino detector from cosmic background radiation. Tunnel construction is very common and will not have any impact on environment, water sources or dams in the region. The project has all the required clearances from various Central and State Government authorities. A detailed geotechnical studies was also carried out by the Geological Survey of India (GSI). 

The operation of INO will have no release of radioactive or toxic substances. It is not a weapons laboratory and will have no strategic or defence applications. Certain sections of media in the recent past have reported that the INO underground laboratory and the tunnels will be used for storing nuclear waste. Such reports are not factual and are baseless. Department of Atomic Energy strongly refutes such erroneous and malicious reports. It categorically states that no nuclear waste will be stored there at any time and INO laboratory will be used only for the purpose of basic science research in the field of neutrino physics. 


Tapan Misra Takes Over as Director of Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad 

Mr Tapan Misra, Outstanding Scientist and Deputy Director, Microwave Remote Sensing Area of ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, has assumed the office of the Director, SAC. 

Mr Tapan Misra graduated in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from Jadavpur University, Calcutta in 1984. He was awarded the prestigious Sir J C Bose National Talent Search (JBNSTS) Scholarship in 1981. 

Mr Tapan Misra began his career at SAC as digital hardware engineer responsible for the development of Quick Look Display System of X-band Side Looking Airborne Radar in the year 1984. Later, he became the lead member of the team which designed and developed C-band Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). He developed an important algorithm for real time processing of SAR data during his tenure as Guest Scientist in GermanAerospace Agency (DLR) in 1990. 

Mr Tapan Misra mainly contributed to the system design, simulation, integration, checkout and ground calibration for Multi-frequency Scanning Microwave Radiometer instrument which was carried on-board India’s OCEANSAT-1 satellite. Following this, he led the team which developed a special airborne radar system called DMSAR (SAR for Disaster Management) during 2005-2006. He also led the development of Scatterometer payload of Oceansat-2, launched in 2009 which provided valuable wind related data to global meteorological community. 

Mr Tapan Misra was the lead designer for the development of C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar of India’s Radar Imaging Satellite-1 (RISAT-1). His leadership has led to the development of critical technology elements essential to RISAT in partnership with Indian industry. 

Thus, since 1984, Mr Tapan Misra has been responsible for system design, planning and development of Microwave Remote Sensing Payloads of ISRO. As Deputy Director responsible for Microwave Remote Sensors Area, he has led the team to develop futuristic remote sensing systems including a variety of advanced Radars, millimetre wave Sounders and an advanced Scatterometer. Mr Tapan Misra is also heading the Office of Innovations Management of ISRO at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru. 

Mr Tapan Misra was awarded Hari Om Ashram Prerit Vikram Sarabhai research Award in 2004 and ISRO Merit award in 2008 for his contribution to the development of SAR technology. He was elected as Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering in 2007. He was also elected as Corresponding Member of International Academy of Astronautics in 2008. He has 2 granted patents, 6 pending patents, 5 copyrights and many research papers to his credit. 


Area Coverage under Rabi Crops 

As per Rabi Crops data released by Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, total area coverage as on today under Rabi crops moves to 617.97 lakh hectares while last year’s sowing area was at 659.31 lakh hectare. The area under sowing of Rice is at 27.04 lakh hectares this year while the last year’s figure was 31.51 lakh hectares.Wheat`s sowing area is at 306.35 lakh hectares as compared to last year’s 315.32 lakh hectares. The area under sowing of total Coarse cereals is at 57.74 lakh hectares as compared to last year’s 60.08 lakh hectares. Area coverage under Total Pulses is at 145.92 lakh hectares while the last year’s sowing area coverage was 162.21 lakh hectares. Similarly sowing area under total oilseeds is at 80.92 lakh hectares as compared to 90.20 lakh hectares last year. 


CIL Gearing Up For 1 Billion Tonne Coal Production Mark 

Government committed to increase coal production: coal secretary 

Coal India Limited (CIL), the Maharatna coal mining monolith had unveiled its roadmap, of strategies to be adopted, to attain the 1 Billion Tonne (BT) coal production mark by 2019-20. With the projected coal demand of the country hovering around 1,200 Million Tonnes (MTs) by 2019-20, at an envisaged growth rate of 7%, CIL is expected to chip in 1 BT, of which, 908 MTs is the expected contribution from the identified projects. This was stated by Shri S Bhattacharya, CMD , Coal India Ltd(CIL) while briefing the media here today. He further added that the process of identification of projects to share the balance quantity, to top up the 1 BT mark, is also underway. The two CIL subsidiaries Sambalpur based Mahanadi Coalfields Limited and the Bilaspur based South Eastern Coalfields Limited are expected to play a pivotal role in CIL’s quest of attaining the 1 BT production with 250 MTs and 240 MTs respectively , Shri Bhattacharya added. Earlier , Shri Anil Swarup , Coal Secretary said that coal ministry is committed to increase coal production in the country. 

Shri Bhattacharya pointed out the key issues that the coal miner is basically relying on are timely completion of three critical railway lines and timely land acquisition and green clearances. 

Elaborating further, Shri Bhattacharya said that important actions initiated are creation of Coal Project Monitoring Group (CPMG) portal for regular monitoring of project related issues with different ministries and State Authorities. To overcome the hurdle of coal evacuation, CIL had decided to purchase 2000 railway wagons from its own kitty for which a specific fund had been earmarked. The coordination with Railways for implementation has already been initiated. In a move to synergize its efforts SECL already has 2 Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) with State governments to develop rail network including last mile connectivity, involving Railways. More number of SPVS are on immediate anvil towards grounding railways infrastructure with Railways and concerned State Govt. participations, Shri Bhattacharya stated. 

Shri Bhattacharya said that the strategies for future include Technology Upgradation in Opencast Mines with high capacity equipment , Operator independent Truck Dispatch System, Vehicle tracking system using GPS/GPRS, Coal Handling Plants (CHPs) and SILOS for Faster Loading and monitoring using Laser Scanners. As far as productivity improvement in Underground mines is concerned, Shri Bhattacharya said that the steps taken by CIL will include introduction of Continuous Miner Technology in large scale, Long-wall Technology at selected places, Man Riding system in major mines and Use of Tele monitoring Techniques. 

CIL is also introducing a number of systems improvements that would help the company in realizing its challenging target. Use of ICT, remote sensing geophysical technologies and proper monitoring and evaluation methodologies will be the key features, Shri Bhattacharya added. 


Minister of State(I/C)Commerce and Industry Smt.Nirmala Sitharaman chairs the meeting of Consultative Committee of the Parliament 

The Minister of State (Independent Charge), Commerce & Industry Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman in her opening remarks stated that services play an important role in the development of many economies of the world. It is not only service sectors that are large employers in many countries; many services are critical inputs in local production and trade. 

The Minister also noted that apart from being a foreign exchange earner, services sector has a critical role in the inclusive growth paradigm of the country – in terms of providing significant employment opportunities. Thus, export of services has a direct bearing in creating more jobs locally and driving the entrepreneurial spirit as well. 

Smt.Sitharaman said India offers to the world abundant human resources including superior quality of professionals turned out by Indian system, at par with international standards. In this regard, she cited the example of her recent visit to Myanmar where India has been offered all help to set up facilities for healthcare including Indian doctors and medical professionals. She also informed that a similar request has also been received from Kenya. 

Recognising the fact that better services improve the competitiveness of manufacturing in international trade via reduced costs the Minister stressed on the role of services in the success of “Make in India” campaign. 

The Minister also questioned that when services constitute 57% of our GDP, why should our share in world exports of services remain at a low level 3.24%? She emphasized the need to focus on the service sector and to identify the key barriers faced by different types of services and then to undertake specific reforms. 

The Consultative Committee was informed about the steps being taken by the Department of Commerce to promote export of services. Besides constituting an Inter-Ministerial Group and various Sub-Groups on respective service sectors, the Department, beginning in 2013 has also been holding Services Conclave annually. Based on the discussions in the Conclave, the action points were identified and forwarded to the respective Administrative Ministries/Departments for taking follow up action to remove the barriers by making administrative and legislative reforms in the respective sectors. 

The Minister then stated that the next logical step is to engage business and governments across the world to promote greater exchange of trade in services between India and rest of the world. With this aim, the Minister informed that the Department of Commerce in association with Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC) and CII is organizing the Global Exhibition on Services (GES) from 23 to 25 April, 2015 at ITPO, New Delhi. The main objective of the GES is to create a global platform for increased trade in services and it will be an annual event on the calendar. GES will enhance strategic cooperation and develop synergies to strengthen multilateral relationships between all stakeholders, tap the potential for services’ exports and increase FDI flow in the services sector. More than 40 countries are expected to take part in GES. The sectors of focus include IT & Telecom, Tourism, Media and Entertainment, Healthcare, Logistics, Professional Services, Education, R&D, Space and SME in Services. 

The Members of Parliament Shri Dinesh Trivedi,Shri P.R.Sundaram, Shri R Radhakrishnan, ShrI Ambeth Rajan,Dr Ashok S Ganguly, Shri Jesudasu Seelam, Shri Naresh Gujral, Shri Vayalar Ravi attended the meeting. 


Ram Vilas Paswan urges States to encourage ethanol blending to facilitate liquidation of sugarcane dues 

States urged to liberalize restrictions on ethanol supply 

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Minster of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has urged the States to liberlise restrictions on the supply of ethanol so that its blending with petrol can be encouraged to improve financial health of sugar sector and finally liquidation of cane dues of farmers. 

In a communication to Chief Ministers of major sugarcane growing states, Shri Paswan has said “in view of the challenges confronting the sugar sector and mounting arrears of cane dues owed to the farmers, the government of India, on its part, has taken several steps to restore financial health of sugar sector which include assistance as interest free loans for liquidation of cane dues besides incentive for export of raw sugar. Further in a major initiative, the Government of India has also modified the Ethanol Blending Policy (EBP) so as to facilitate achieving of 5% blend with petrol. Remunerative prices have been fixed to encourage the industry to supply ethanol to the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). The tendering process has been dismantled. However, it has been observed that the expected response to the new EBP has not been forthcoming. There are significant transaction barriers which impede smooth supplies of ethanol for blending. In several States, State not only imposes levy on molasses but also regulates the movement of non levy molasses. Inter-state movement of ethanol requires NOCs from the State Excise Authorities along with permits from dispatching and receiving States. Most States impose “Export/Import” duties on ethanol leaving and entering their boundaries. There are some instances where Octroi is levied on ethanol for entry into municipal limits.” 

Shri Paswan asserted the States would agree that such transactions barriers are impeding the successful implementation of EBP and adversely affecting the financial health of the sugar industry and the cane farmers. He urged the States to ensure that the barriers which are impeding the implementation of EBP are dismantled as the EBP can help industry to attain viability at a time reportedly surplus of sugar and facilitate liquidation of cane dues arrears of farmers. 


IAF gives Wings to Dreams 

Women Officers now in Sarang Team 

Women officers in the Indian Air Force continue to storm new bastions. The IAF’s much heralded helicopter display team ‘Sarang’ now boasts of a women pilot Squadron Leader Deepika Misra and a woman engineering officer, Flight Lieutenant Sandeep Singh in their team marking new beginnings. 

It was during her passing out parade at Air Force Academy, in December 2006 that Deepika Misra, then a Flight Cadet, first fell in love with the aerobatic displays by the ‘Surya Kirans’ and ‘Sarang’, IAF’s fixed-wing and rotary-wing aerobatic display teams respectively. 

Deepika imagined herself flying some day in either of the formation flying teams. Back then however, it seemed an impossible dream. But she never gave up hopes and prayed hard. 

She was commissioned in the helicopter stream and was posted to a Chetak/Cheetah helicopter unit. Women short service commissioned pilots were only permitted to fly these single engine helicopters then. 

In a major policy shift in 2010, IAF allowed conversion of women pilots to twin-engine category of medium to heavy-lift helicopters. Deepika felt extremely lucky. 

Having notched up nearly 1,600 hours on Chetak and Cheetah helicopters after her two stints at Bareilly and Udhampur, Deepika was more than ready when the opportunity came. 

IAF had meanwhile also sought volunteers from amongst women helicopter pilots to join the Sarang Team. Sqn Ldr Deepika had no hesitation and promptly volunteered for the new challenge. She was among the first to be inducted into the indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopter while a few others joined the Mi-8/Mi-17 class of helicopters. 

Sqn Ldr Deepika joined the Sarang Unit last July. Her prayers were now answered. In the process, she also became the first IAF woman pilot ever to join a formation display team. 

Incidentally, Deepika’s husband, Sqn Ldr Sourabh Kakkar, an aeronautical engineering officer was already posted to the Sarang unit and the couple would now be a team. 

Deepika would not remain the only women officer in the Sarang outfit for long. Flt Lt Sandeep, a lady engineering officer would soon join her in the Sarang unit. Both Deepika and Sandeep now share a rare camaderie as among the first and the only two lady officers in the Sarang team. 

Incidentally, ‘Sarang’ is the only second military helicopter display team in the world after ‘Blue Eagles’, the British Royal Army Corps helicopter display team. 

Having begun her conversion in right earnest, Sqn Ldr Deepika is nearing completion of her operational conversion before beginning her flying as a Sarang formation member. She is training hard and understanding the nuances of formation flying, which was always among her most favourite flying profiles. 

Sarangs are the show-stoppers at the ongoing Aero India 2015. For the present, Sqn Ldr Deepika is happy doing her role as the ‘Safety Officer’ of the team. She is required to monitor the formation display and debrief the team members after the sortie. “It is a great learning process,” she says. 

Meanwhile, an onerous responsibility rests on the shoulders of Flt Lt Sandeep. Keeping the metal birds serviceable at all times is her responsibility along with six other engineering officers. Having another lady officer in the team as a flying member is a great source of inspiration, she says. 

Both Deepika and Sandeep are, however, sure of one thing. They have a great responsibility to uphold the highest standards expected of them and are hopeful that someday there will also be an all-women team in one of the ALH in the Sarang quartet. 

As she steps out for her day’s flying job, Sqn Ldr Deepika feels happy to tell Aalya, her bewildered four-year old daughter that she will look out for her from the sky. It seems only a matter of time when little Aalya will get used to seeing her mother perform aerial ballad. Perhaps someday she too may just follow into her mother’s role. 


Announcement of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra-2015 by External Affairs Minister and Minister of Overseas Indian affairs Smt. Sushma Swaraj 

The External Affairs and Overseas Indian affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj in a ceremony on February 19 launched a dedicated website for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra-2015 ( The External Affairs Minister also inaugurated a new Yatra Helpline number (011-24300655) for the Yatris. 2015 is a watershed year for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. For the first time since its resumption in 1981, the Yatra will be conducted through two routes.

During External Affairs Minister’s visit to China from January 31 to February 3, 2015, the two sides formally exchanged notes on modalities for Yatra via Nathu La which has made it possible for Yatra to commence via Nathu La beginning June 18, 2015. This new route does not involve trekking by foot except for the Kailash Parikarma. It would help many old age pilgrims to fulfil their desire to undertake the Kailash Manasarovar pilgrimage.

This year the Yatra will be conducted during the period from June 8 to September 9, 2015. There will be 18 batches of 60 pilgrims each on the existing route through Lipulekh Pass in Uttrakhand. Five batches of 50 Yatris each will be able to utilize the newly opened route via Nathu La in Sikkim.

The dedicated Yatra website is bilingual in Hindi and English and has an integrated online application registration, submission and tracking system in-built. Beginning this Yatra season, the Yatris will get a unique Yatra registration number through SMS and email. The Yatris would also be able to access status of their applications at any time through the website. The helpline is based on Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS). It will address queries of the Yatris in both Hindi and English. The IVRS has a feature for Yatris to request a call back facility from the Helpline officials. The Yatra Helpline and the new dedicated Yatra website have been developed and maintained by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

The Yatra is organized in close cooperation with the Government of the People`s Republic of China. State Governments of Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Delhi, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited (KMVN) are other major Indian partners of the Ministry in organizing the Yatra.

With the launch of the website, the application process for the Yatra has commenced. The last date for submitting applications through the website is 10 April 2015. The selection of the Yatris will be done through an open, fair, random, gender balanced, computer generated draw of lots. Priority will be give to first time applicants, senior citizens, doctors and married couples. On the Nathu La route, priority will be given to old age pilgrims.
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