India Travel News

Window on India
November 18, 2006

News Bullets


US Senate passes long-stalled Nuclear bill
The American Senate on Thursday passed the Nuclear bill with a thumping margin of 85 versus 12 votes. The Senate today rejected all the killer amendments to the bill as India had taken a very firm stand that any tampering of the original civil nuclear pact signed a year back would not be acceptable. This is a big success of the diplomacy of India's economist prime minister, who had braved a lot of political flak at home. The accord has been a long hurdle-race both in India and the US. The story of the deal could provide a drama-stuffed script for a Hollywood film. In spite of the newly acquired muscle in the Senate, the Democrats treated the issue on the merits of new world realities. Dick Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said that India was an emerging world power with an "awesome responsibility" and would exert increasing influence on the world stage. Now the joint sitting of both the houses will have to harmonise the different versions of the legislation to give a final shape to it before mid-December, if the accord is to live.

Nagpur bred millionaires fastest
In India, millionaires breed faster in smaller cities than metros. The households with an annual income of over a million Rupees grew most in Nagpur during the six years between 1996 and 2002, according to an NCEAR survey. The next fast-breeders were Ahmedabad, Chennai, Pune, Ludhiana and Hyderabad. Nagpur's million income households jumped from 1,199 to 10,417 in this period. India's economic boom has lent Nagpur in these six years a mind-boggling growth rate of 770 percent. Next come Ahmedabad (717%), Chennai (590), Pune and Ludhiana (450), Hyderabad (400), Mumbai (319), Delhi (274). After them come Bangalore and Kolkata

Farmers' suicide in Vidarbha alone cross 1100 mark
The central Indian region of Vidarbha in the eastern Maharashtra is worst hit by the virus of farmers' suicide. No financial aid package could cure or control it. Hit by indebtedness and depression, four to five farmers embrace death every day. The toll has mounted now to 1105 from June 2005, with nine deaths in the past two days. India's former minister of state for planning octogenarian Mohan Dharia has undertaken a fast unto death in Pune to highlight the woes of the dying farmers.

Schoolboys create another cricket world record
India never runs short of talent. Mumbai schoolboys B Manoj Kumar and Mohammed Shaibaaz Tumbi made 721 runs together unbeaten in an inter-school match on November 15. They broke the world record of 664-run partnership made by cricket mega-star Sachin Tendulkar with Vinod Kambli in 1987. Sachin and Vinod took three days to make those many runs. But this new pair took half of a day and just 40 overs to make it. What a cloudburst of runs it must have been! One just fails to imagine the flow of runs from their two bats. Eighteen runs per over continuously for 40 overs. Viewers apart, mind-boggling even to those who hear or read about it and heart-rending to the opposite team!

A Government Quote:


"I am innocent. I am a Brahmachari (celibate)," said President of India Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in reply to a question about people becoming corrupt mainly for the sake of their children and grandchildren, at a question-answer session with senior police officers at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi, on November 16.

A Reader's Quote on internet:


"Sadvi Uma Bharati is a confused lady. She herself doesn't seem to know what was her problem. Better let her take real Sanyas from Politics for some years and find an answer to her questions." …( Posted by Balasubramanian A. on www.ibnlive.com, on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 at 14:19 )




Scientists keen to walk Indian on moon - By Pratap Thorat

India's top space scientists are keen to undertake manned mission to the moon by the end of the year 2020. Much before that, by the end of 2014, these space scientists, bubbling with vitality and enthusiasm of a teenager, are almost sure to send an Indian astronaut into space in an indigenous space capsule. Their confidence and resolve has stirred the space over the Indian nation during the past fortnight. The atmosphere is so much charged that India's first ever cosmonaut, Rakesh Sharma, who went into the space with the help of the Soviets way back in April 1984, has rushed ahead to go into the space again. Kalpana Chawla is already a fable in India and there are far too many ready-to-go Kalpanas dreaming in the wing.

The only difficulty is that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in all his wisdom has felt a need of a national debate over such missions. The costs of these missions are almost prohibitive. Sending an Indian into space would cost Rs 150 billion. And walking an Indian on the moon would take another Rs 200 billion.

Any government that is busy pulling over 300 million people above the Poverty Line by making them available enough calories to survive is bound to think twice before releasing these mind-boggling amounts to any project. A minute scrutiny of the cost and benefit ratio cannot be avoided. India is on its way to affluence. But it has still not become rich. It is obvious that Indian lunar missions would be weighed against the decision of a rich US to abandon them way back in December 1972.

There is no novelty in walking on the moon. A dozen other humans did it long back between July 1969 and December 1972. An American also played golf on the moon on February 6th 1971. The longest moonwalk at a stretch was for nine hours.

The fantasy of the moon is over. It is just a little more thrill and challenge than reaching Antarctica, to today's technology. The unmanned spacecrafts have reached Mars, Saturn and Neptune. There is some point in walking a human on Mars. But even that is for the sake of record. It is true that before walking a man on Mars that nation must walk their man on the moon.

There is no point in becoming sentimental and doing things for the sake of notional national pride. It was all right for John Kennedy in the Sixties to declare that an American would land on the moon and would safely return to earth. In the cold-war days the US was locked in a one-upmanship game with the Soviets, who had already launched their man in the space. It was a pure political statement and its beauty was that it was not supported by technological progress. Such things make leader a Prince Charming. But American scientists worked hard and the government pumped huge money to make it a reality. India is not faced with any such dilemma.

In today's American scenario, the NASA is encouraging the private sector lunar landers by holding multi-billion dollar contests. It is the economics that counts even to the NASA.

Even Harrison Schmitt, the first professional scientist to walk on the moon, is of the opinion that it is the private sector, which would find its own reason to go back to moon - perhaps to exploit its energy resources. After returning from moon, Schmitt has devoted the rest of his life to study how lunar material could be used as a safe, clean fuel for future fusion reactors. His finding is that a ton of helium-3 extracted from the moon could provide energy equivalent to $3 billion worth of coal. His idea is to use that energy to provide electricity on Earth or to power spacecrafts.

At the moment, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing a project report for government approval and budgetary allocation in the 11th and 12th five-year plans. Moon is a financial opportunity. Romance - though scientific - or an expensive trip do not fit into it.

If India's prowess in science and technology is the question, the world has a very high opinion of it, though a lot needs to be done. Only two days back soon after returning from India, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said in London that India was a 'major scientific super power', that Britain was keen to be its partner and that 'any country which was keen to develop science and technology must consult and cooperate with India'.

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