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'Fireball in the sky', probably a meteor March 02, 2015 12:22

Preliminary examination by scientists have come to a conclusion that the 'fireball', which streaked across the Kerala sky triggering panic in several districts a day ago, could be a meteor. Officials of the State Disaster Management Authority, which collected the samples from a plot in Karimalloor village in Ernakulam district where the object was believed to have fallen, said preliminary assessment pointed to the possibility of it being a meteor. There are also speculations that the 'fireball' could be celestial debris or a rocket or satellite debris. "Our primary assessments point to the possibility of a meteor. The objects we collected from the spot have high specific gravity. Though they are small in size, it has more than normal weight," Sekhar Kuriakose, a scientist said. "It is just a primary assessment and we cannot arrive at a concrete conclusion with this. We will hand over the collected samples to Geological Survey of India for further examination. We can arrive at a conclusion only after detailed examination," he added. He said the objects which had 'brilliant streaks' are due to iron-nickle presence, which is the peculiarity of a meteor. By Premji

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Tigers, Lions as pets March 02, 2015 12:18

Animal Husbandry, Horticulture and Food Processing Minister Kusum Mehdele, has sought a law that allows people to domesticate or keep as pets big cats like lions and tigers for their conservation. In a proposal sent to the state’s forest department, the minister has cited legal provisions in some African and South-East Asian countries like Thailand which have helped bring about an increase in the population of the big cats.  The minister said that there are various projects in the country for conservation of tigers, although crores of rupees have been spent on these projects, there has been no surprising increase in tiger numbers. In Thailand and some other nations, there is a legal recognition for people to keep tigers and lions as pets, she added that the number of such animals is increasing in a surprising way in these countries. Following suggestions from the minister, MP Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Narendra Kumar has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) seeking their comments on the proposal.  “It is surprising that such a bizarre suggestion could be made by senior minister Mehdele. She hails from the Panna region of the state, which is known for its tiger population. I denounce such a proposal and request the central government not to give its permission for domesticating the tiger,” Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said. By Premji

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Mufti credits Pakistan for peaceful election March 02, 2015 12:08

The newly sworn-in Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, credited “separatists” and “outsiders” for peaceful elections in the State, but almost all the political parties lashed out saying the statement was “most unfortunate” and “mocks the overwhelming public mandate.” The BJP, however, said that the peaceful conduct of elections in the State was due to the efforts of the Election Commission, the Army and those who believed in the Indian Constitution.  Congress leader and spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP must answer whether they stand by “such unflinching support for Pakistan, the Hurriyat and militants.” “With one stroke, the BJP-PDP alliance has taken away the credit from people of Jammu and Kashmir for participating in the historic poll and from the Election Commission and security agencies for conducting them,” he said. Refuting Mufti’s statement, BJP said, the focus of the government would be on peace, rehabilitation of flood-affected people and full development of all the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir.  Taking the opportunity to discredit BJP and PDP, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said “This is totally untrue. How can the new government forget the killing of sarpanchs and suicide attack at an Army camp in Uri in which many Army officers lost their lives?” “In fact, Pakistan and militant groups tried their best to destabilise the democratic process in the State. It is the people of the State who strengthened the roots of democracy and the newly cobbled together alliance should refrain from extending credit in the wrong direction,” he told. By Premji

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Secret of keeping your beer from spilling February 28, 2015 16:59

A new research has just revealed how the spilling can be stopped as you walk along with your mug. Scientists from Princeton University have found that just a few layers of bubbles can significantly dampen the sloshing motion of liquid. "While I was studying for my PhD in the south of France, we were in a pub and we noticed that when we were carrying a pint of Guinness beer which is a very foamy beer, the sloshing almost did not happen at all," said Alban Sauret, currently a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).  The scientists took their observations from the coffeehouse and the pub to the laboratory where they built an apparatus to test the damping power of foam. They constructed a narrow rectangular container made of glass which they filled with a solution of water, glycerol (a common substance that increases the fluid viscosity) and the commercial dishwashing detergent Dawn.  "The dishwashing foam is very stable which allowed us to conduct the experiments without the bubbles disappearing," said Francois Boulogne, another member of the team.  The foam dissipated the energy of the sloshing liquid through friction with the sides of the container. "The potential applications are much bigger than just beer," Sauret concluded in a paper that appeared in the journal Physics of Fluids. By Premji

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10 satellites per year from 2015 February 28, 2015 16:54

ISRO Satellite Centre, Bengaluru, S.K. Shivakumar revealed that the space agency is planning to send upwards of 10 satellites every year starting 2015. Shivakumar was speaking on the topic “Indian satellites and success of MOM” at the National Science Day lecture at the All-India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH). Launching of at least 10 satellites a year means, ISRO has to double the number of satellite launches, which currently stand at 4 to 5 a year. “Currently, we are launching four or five satellites every year. The idea is to expand our space programs and set off to launch at least 10 satellites per year from 2015 onwards,” Shivakumar said. Shivakumar said that India has launched a total of 72 satellites on its own from 1975. Further two satellites were launched with the support of foreign agencies. The space scientist also revealed that as many as forty-one countries have taken ISRO’s help in some way or the other to launch their own satellites. Dr. Shivakumar told that there will be big challenges for ISRO to stick to its 10 satellite launches per year target. This will make India to commercialize its space program. By Premji

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75 crore for electric vehicles in 2015-16 February 28, 2015 15:58

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today earmarked Rs 75 crore for faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles in 2015-16. "Government is also launching a scheme for faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles (FAME) with an initial outlay of Rs 75 crore," he said while presenting the Budget for 2015-16. National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) will create a significant positive impact on the health index of country by promoting zero pollution electric vehicles and reducing the dependence on the fossil fuel. Reacting to the development, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), Director-Corporate Affairs, Sohinder Gill termed the allocation towards promoting electric vehicles and supporting charging infrastructure and R&D investments as a welcome step. "It’s like a life saver for the ailing companies who had invested into the environmentally friendly vehicles but were bleeding heavily because of the lack of government support," he added. "A clear roadmap on GST, increased investment in infrastructure, agriculture investment and reforms, increased alloaction to electric vehicles and a focus on skilled development will also support auto demand," said PwC India, auto expert and partner, Abdul Majeed. By Premji

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Bobby Jindal may run for US Presidentship February 28, 2015 15:53

Republican leader Bobby Jindal will decide on his 2016 presidential run in the next couple of months. "(Wife) Supriya and I are thinking and praying about whether I'll run - let me tell you this. I will make that decision the next couple of months," Jindal said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Anybody thinking about running for president, what is more important, forgets the polls, forget fund-raising, forget the consultants, and forget media. They need to think about what they would do if they were elected president," said the first Indian-American Louisiana Governor. "We need our next president to want to do something. Not be somebody. That's how I spent last year; I spent last year putting out policies on the foreign policy, on education reform, on energy independence, on replacing and repealing Obamacare," Jindal said. “Our best days are ahead of us as a country but we have to choose to renew those principles of freedom. This President's done a lot of damage. It's not irreversible”, Jindal said. "We need principled conservative leadership. We don't need another Republican that comes to Washington and wants to make the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Liberal Media happy. I want a leader that remembers what they promised us when they asked us to vote for them," he said. By Premji

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Budget 2015, No magic, but development oriented February 28, 2015 15:45

Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s first full budget, is it ripe for long-awaited reforms to kickstart the economy? In the maiden budget, Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley said, we have lived up to people's trust and dramatically established macro-economic stability. World is predicting, it is India's chance to fly. States are empowered more than before. Below is the gist of Budget speech by the Finance Minister. Infrastructure • Investment in infrastructure will go up by 700 bln rupees in 2015/16 over last year • Plans to set up national investment infrastructure fund • Proposes tax-free infrastructure bonds for projects in roads, rail and irrigation projects • Proposes 5 "ultra mega" power projects for 4,000 MW each • Second unit of Kudankulam nuclear power station to be commissioned • Will need to build additional 100,000 km of road • Ports in public sector will be encouraged to corporatize under Companies Act  Taxation • To abolish wealth tax • Replaces wealth tax with additional 2 pct surcharge on super rich • Proposes to cut to 25 percent corporate tax over next 4 years • Corporate tax of 30 percent is uncompetitive • Net gain from tax proposals seen at 150.68 billion rupees • Proposes to rationalise capital gains tax regime for real estate investment trusts • Expects to implement goods and services tax by April 2016 • To reduce custom duty on 22 items • Proposes to increase service tax rate and education cess to 14 percent from 12.36 percent • Plans to introduce direct tax regime that is internationally competitive on rates without exemptions • Exemptions for individual tax payers to continue • To enact tough penalties for tax evasion in new bill • Tax dept to clarify indirect transfer of assets and dividend paid by foreign firm General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) • Government defers rollout of anti-tax avoidance rules GAAR by two years • GAAR to apply prospectively from April 1, 2017 • Retrospective tax provisions will be avoided Investment • Propose to do away with different types of foreign investment caps and replace them with composite caps • To allow foreign investment in alternative investment funds • Public investment needed to catalyse investment Personal Income Tax • Health Insurance Premium deduction hiked from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000; for senior citizens to Rs 30,000 • Transport allowance exemption hiked to Rs 1,600, from Rs 800 per month • No change in tax slabs • Individual tax payer will benefit to the extent of /rs 4,44,200 1. Additional 2% surcharge on people earning over Rs 1 cr; to fetch Rs 9,000 cr 2. Wealth tax abolished 3. Direct Taxes Code (DTC) dropped 4. Rs 50,000 deduction for contribution to New Pension Scheme 5. To lower Corporate Tax to 25% over next four years 6. GAAR implementation deferred by 2 years to April 2017 7. Service Tax rate hiked to 14%, from 12.36% 8. Tax free bonds for roads, railways, irrigation projects 9. 2015-16 growth between 8-8.5%, double digit growth feasible 10. Retail inflation close to 5% by March, room for monetary policy easing 11. To achieve fiscal deficit of 3% of GDP by 2017-18 12. Fiscal Deficit target 3.9% in 2015-16, 3.5% in 2016-17 13. Revenue Deficit to be 2.8% in 2015-16 14. Current Account Deficit for 2014-15 to be below 1.3% of GDP 15. To introduce comprehensive law to deal with black money 16. Benami property transaction bill to tackle black money transaction in real estate soon 17. 100% deduction for contribution to Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga projects 18. GST to be put in place by April 1, 2016 19. Internationally competitive direct tax regime to be put in place to incentivise saving 20. Incentivise use of credit, debit cards; disincentivise cash transaction to curb black money. To read full text of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's 2015 Budget speech, Please Click here  By Premji

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Foreign Secretary to visit Pakistan February 28, 2015 13:05

India’s foreign secretary will be travelling to Bhutan on Sunday and go to Bangladesh next day before flying off from Dhaka to Islamabad on March three, as part of India's initiative to reach out to SAARC countries. India is not expecting any dramatic results from Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's visit to Pakistan. The media focus is centred on the Pakistan visit which comes seven months after India had called off foreign secretary-level talks, officials underlined that, while the basic objective of the trip was the SAARC outreach, bilateral matters may come up.  "I would be surprised if there are any dramatic results in terms of bilateral ties when Jaishankar talks with the Pakistani side. How the visit impacts on the ties was difficult to predict at this point," said an official. India cancelled foreign secretary-level talks in August last year due to that the Pakistan High Commissioner held consultations with Kashmiri separatists. Using cricket diplomacy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called leaders of four SAARC nations including Pakistan which, along with India, are participating in cricket World Cup. He had conveyed best wishes to their teams. Modi spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to tell him that Jaishankar will undertake a "SAARC yatra" soon to strengthen relationship with India's neighbourhood. By Premji

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85 million fake or duplicate names on electoral rolls February 28, 2015 13:00

About more than 85 million names on India's electoral rolls were either fake or duplicate, chief election commissioner HS Brahma said, while announcing an initiative to make the voter list error-free by linking it to Aadhaar before August 15. Aadhaar numbers will help the poll panel to weed out duplicate or fakes names from the rolls as the election commission will use it to authenticate voter identity. About 500 million of India’s 850 million voters have Aadhaar numbers. “Two months would be sufficient for electoral registration officers across India to do Aadhaar seeding into the newly-created digital database of all voters,” Brahma said. Duplicate and fake voters are a national issue, around 10-12% of the total number of voters, but the problem is more acute in some parts with over 40% names in the electoral rolls of a city in southern India found either fake or duplicate, the CEC said. Those who have an Aadhaar number can visit the National Voters’ Service Portal to feed in their unique number. Booth-level polling officers will also be visiting homes in the next few months to seek one’s Aadhaar number. The EC will also be providing an SMS service to provide Aadhaar numbers. After authenticating the number, EC officials will seed them in one’s voter identity card. By Premji

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