To avoid any “erosion” of the State’s autonomy, the J&K government has convened a special Assembly session on Goods and Services Tax (GST) on June 17.State Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu said GST will not apply to J&K under Article 370, which gives the State a special status. “GST was brought in under the 101st amendment Act and it does not apply to J&K. We must use the Assembly for extending the constitutional amendment to the State. The amendment will be applied in a modified form… J&K’s powers to tax will not be compromised in any way,” he said here.The ruling Peoples Democratic Party Minister said the J&K government had prepared a draft bill to be tabled for a discussion, in the wake of Opposition parties like the National Conference expressing apprehensions that the State’s autonomy would be compromised. “If we don’t extend GST, then no business can be done in J&K profitably. All businesses in J&K will then have to pay two taxes and nobody will supply to J&K because he will face two taxes. So J&K will become an isolated economy.” He said the State government will meet the July 1 deadline to roll out the new tax regime.“While all States draw their power from the Constitution of India, we draw our power from Section 5 of the J&K constitution,” he clarified.J&K being a consumer State is set to gain ₹1500 crore in additional tax. “The only issue is that of services, which we are now sharing with the Centre. It is a modified version of VAT,” he said.He claimed that tax exemptions for J&K have been taken care of by the new regimen. “For J&K, and subsequently for the northeastern States, exemptions in the form of reimbursements will continue, which is exactly what used to happen under VAT. So, it will not become an additional burden.”
Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has said that “a microscopic minority group is proving to be an obstacle in the development of Goa.”‘Lack of interest’ He was addressing the annual general meeting of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) here on Saturday. Mr. Gadkari said, “We are interested in expanding the ports but people in Goa are not interested, so I decided to go to Karnataka and Maharashtra. If you want, we will develop them. If you are not okay, we won’t hesitate to go to other States.” Mr. Gadkari said, “We have sanctioned ₹600 crore for four-laning roads from National Highway 17 to Mopa airport. I have asked my officials whether it is possible to use a river like Zuari or any other river to develop waterways up to the airport. We are working on it and it is possible. But your Captain of Ports has not been giving permission for one-and-a-half years. “We have sanctioned ₹40 crore to carry out dredging work in Zuari and Mandovi rivers, but there is apprehension among a few groups that we are going to take the rivers to Delhi.”Mr. Gadkari said transportation in the State should run on fuels of the future such as electricity, ethanol, bio-diesel, methanol and bio-CNG. He said even ships can be run on these fuels.
Students of the residential Gorakhpur ashram school have their mid-day meal, two to a plate, on the school grounds It’s a little past four in the afternoon, the time when schools ring their closing bells in the Hatsesikhal cluster of Odisha’s tribal-dominated Rayagada district. Just before Sekhal Primary School comes into view, a couple of students in blue uniforms cycle past on the concrete road that cuts through palm tree cultivations and paddy fields.Along the highway that connects the area to the district headquarters 15 km away are rows and rows of eucalyptus trees that feed JK Paper Mills’ manufacturing unit in the district.This particular school has been running since 1926. In 1987, it became a 40-seat residential school. As we enter the premises, students are busy sweeping the yard and classrooms. Some are watering the grounds with mugs filled from a large drum placed near a row of dysfunctional toilets.Hobson’s choiceAt 81, the number of enrolled children is double the sanctioned strength. All the students in its hostel belong to the villages located in the four or five Gram Panchayats in the area. The school’s apparent popularity is not due to its exceptional facilities. For most students, the fact that there are three teachers in this school, and they get three meals a day, makes up for the visible lack of infrastructure: three overcrowded classrooms for five classes, no dining hall or toilets, and a small row of damaged and abandoned rooms gaping at them dismally. But how could they possibly complain? The alternative — to stay on in their village schools — is far worse, and in any case about to disappear.Hostel superintendent Rabindra Kumar Majhi allows two Class 4 students, Santha Mandagi and Siddhanta Melaka, to accompany us to Ranaguda village, which is just a few kilometres away but not easy to access because of the Nagavali, one of southern Odisha’s major rivers that originates in Kalahandi district and flows into neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.As we wade gingerly across to the other bank, we realise we would be lost without the boys. Ranaguda is a 35-household Kondh tribe hamlet a couple of kilometres from the river. It has a primary school, but one with just two students. The teachers recently informed the villagers that the school will be closed down due to poor enrolment.RTE betrayedIn 2016-17, as many as 828 government primary and upper primary schools were shut down in Odisha for having less than 10 students each. It’s less than a decade since the Indian government displayed some political will to achieve the goal of universal and equitable education by passing the Right to Education Act. But the failure, in practically all the States, of hundreds of government-run neighbourhood schools to even stay open betrays a lack of seriousness in implementing the RTE.In Odisha, the Ranaguda case is hardly the first instance of the State government’s inability, and all too often, lack of will, to retain primary students in its neighbourhood schools. In 2014, 195 schools in the State with less than five students were served show-cause notices. In tribal areas like Rayagada and Kandhamal, which also have pockets subject to Maoist influence, the government seems to wilfully favour young children studying in residential schools, cut off from their families. Ostensibly, this is being done to make educational facilities available to those living in remote and conflict-ridden areas. The government even has special programmes to help children who missed out on early education, so that they can be ‘mainstreamed’ into regular schools. But the fact remains that Ranaguda is 15-20 km away from the district headquarters, and the only reason the children here end up going to residential schools is that the local one doesn’t function.This past year, the highest number of free government schools struck off the list, 124, is in the economically backward, though mineral-rich Rayagada district, followed by Kandhamal, which has lost 101 schools.The idea was to ‘merge’ these erstwhile schools with a primary school located within a kilometre’s distance or an upper primary school within 3 km. The state would provide transport facilities or an escort if the distance is above the prescribed limit or the terrain difficult. According to Binodini Panda, district project coordinator, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, another 268 such schools have already been identified for closure in Rayagada, and are awaiting formal approval.Earlier this month, a circular issued by the OPEPA (Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority) to all district project coordinators appeared to provide some relief, as it stated that geographical barriers are valid grounds to consider re-opening schools. But Panda clarifies that so far as re-opening goes, “there are no schools under consideration in Rayagada.”The Ranaguda villagers, for their part, have appealed to the CRCC (Cluster Resource Centre Coordinator) to reverse the decision. About ten students will be ready to join primary school from the Anganwadi centre next year, they say. But even if the administration agrees, the reason for the low student strength is likely to continue.Gathered together outside one of the pucca houses built under the Indira Awaas Yojana scheme, the parents say that the two teachers hardly ever make the trek here and had last come two days before this reporter’s visit. Even the Anganwadi worker has been refusing to come here, they say. Complaints to the CRCC have proved futile. In frustration, the residents have been pulling the children out of the village school and sending them away to the nearest ‘hostel schools’ for adivasi children.The majority of these kids are first generation students. Most of the Kui-speaking women in the village are also non-conversant in Odia, the medium of instruction in the schools. But the will to ensure at least elementary education to their children is high. The basic requirement, which they rightly demand, is the regular presence of teachers.Biju Kolaka is a student of Class 10. He is one of the few older students who continue to live in this village of small farmers, who grow vegetables like tomato, brinjal and chilli. He crosses the river on foot every day to reach school in Jemadeipentho. During the monsoon, when the river swells, it takes Kolaka an hour on bicycle to cross the bridge 10 km away and get to his school. Kolaka’s elder brother, though, has been sent to study at a residential high school in Rayagada city.The distrust of the education department is palpable. Even though staff strength is low, not in a single government school that we visited were all the appointed teachers present. The teachers in school had their attention divided between students of two or three classes, all sitting together in the same room. Sending students to residential schools is not uncommon here.Increasing cultural alienationThe preference for hostel schools is not from the parents’ side alone; it is a strategic decision on the part of the State in this fully Scheduled area with a low literacy rate. According to the 2011 Census, the rate of literacy among the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Odisha was 52.24% against the overall literacy rate of 72.87%.Among the communities living here, dependent mainly on agriculture for their livelihood, the SC & ST Development Department of Odisha states that “improving educational facilities through residential institutions has been an identified thrust area”.There are different categories of free schools it runs, from high schools to ashram schools for elementary education, sevashrams for primary education, and educational complexes for particularly vulnerable tribal groups. Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, a central government initiative, focusses on girl students from the SC, ST and OBC groups. Then there are institutions such as the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, a private residential school in Bhubaneswar, which claims to provide free education to 27,000 ST children within its 80-acre campus, and has plans to open more such schools in 20 districts of Odisha.Social activists have expressed concerns that this strategy has been increasing a sense of cultural alienation among the students. “They are forgetting their family culture and imbibing alien values. A child from a residential school is unable to cope with her village circumstances; he or she looks at it with disdain, has a sense of inferiority, and is always looking for a way out,” says Vidhya Das, from the NGO Agragamee that works in 10 districts of Odisha.The current policy is similar to the setting up of residential schools for aboriginal children in Australia and Canada that started in the late 19th century, with assimilation the stated reason. The physical and emotional abuse faced by children removed from their homes, the denial of their cultural heritage and history, their subsequent demands for reparation, as well as the Canadian government’s apology for the hardships they faced, are well documented.With the aim of ensuring that tribal children get their education in local schools, Agragamee has provided additional teachers conversant with the Kui language in 18 government primary schools in Rayagada district. They say that this has increased attendance. The education department also runs a similar programme of multilingual education. And yet, the emphasis on residential schools has gained momentum. Anasthesia Kerketa, assistant district education officer, points out that aside from 40 and 100-seat schools, there are now 500-seat ones too.Flourishing private schoolsIn contrast to the government schools in villages, which have been running short of students, many of these residential schools are overcrowded. Gorakhpur High School, an ashram school in Kashipur block of Rayagada, has 1,050 students, of which 220 girls and 473 boys are in residence. The 15 teachers in residence here are well below the mandated student-pupil ratio. “We end up admitting so many students due to political pressure,” says the headmaster Pitambar Bhoi. | Photo Credit: BiswaranjanRout Even as the government promotes residential schools, it has been unable to address the main issues that are driving students out of the government schools in their own locality: teacher shortage and teacher motivation.The primary school in Sana Raisingh village in Rayagada block closed a year ago. It used to have a single teacher who would come for just an hour a day, say the villagers. They have already petitioned the collector to reopen the school.When this school closed, the existing students dispersed, some to the closest government school, many to a private school in the neighbourhood. But three physically challenged ST children were left behind. Unable to walk properly, Shadin Menaka, Nimak Raja and Diksha Kolaka dropped out.Opposite the closed school in this 30-household village is a neat row of newly constructed toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan programme. The hamlet includes both Kondh tribals as well as Telugu families belonging to the general category. Some of the latter started sending their children to a private, English-medium convent school in nearby Jimidipeta, which charges annual fees starting from ₹3,000. Unlike the nearest government school, the private school sends a vehicle for the children. “There’s a bypass road here, with trucks going to Vishakapatnam. So we don’t want our children to walk to school. But if the local government school were to reopen, all the students would come back here,” says Virata Jagdishwari, who has two daughters studying at the private school.Similar trendsThis is by no means an Odisha story alone. State governments across the country are preparing the ground for the mushrooming of low-cost private schools. According to several media reports, Maharashtra has identified 4,093 schools for closure. Andhra Pradesh, which closed 9,000 schools last year, was one of the first States to experiment with public-private partnership in school education. Rajasthan, which merged as many as 17,000 schools in 2014, will adopt the same policy from the next academic session.“Minimum RTE norms are not being achieved in government schools, from maintaining the student-teacher ratio to infrastructure to providing a support system for teachers. With the quality of education dropping, children have been leaving for private schools,” says Ambarish Rai, national convenor, RTE Forum.This is clearly the case in the Humma Gram Panchayat area of Odisha’s Ganjam district, which is also Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s home turf.In 2013, Ganjam was badly affected by Cyclone Phailin. The cyclone shelters and rehabilitation houses in its rural areas alert one to the fact that this region is prone to natural disasters. The district, which has the highest proportion of SCs living in the state, closed down 70 primary and upper primary schools in 2016-17. District education officer Sanatan Panda says that the migration of skilled workers to Surat and other places has led to the drop in the student enrolment in many blocks. The proliferation of private schools is another reason.In Baunsiapada, a village of Dalit families that make bamboo products, a primary school opened in 2004. The village, situated close to a railway crossing and a busy highway, had to fight hard for it. But the school had a short life. Since 2015, it has been merged with the primary school in Gada Humma. According to the in-charge of the school, Lingaraj Mahankuda, only two of the nine students from Baunsiapada made it to Gada Humma.In 2013, when Mahankuda joined the Gada Humma school, it had 75 students. The number has since shrunk to 42. “Educated people who can afford it send their children to private schools,” he says. Prafulla Kumar Nayak, who was the president of the school management committee of the now-defunct Baunsiapada school, has enrolled his son at the nearby Sri Sai Saraswati Vidhya Mandir. He considers it a better option for his son.Started only in 2014, this private school presents a stark contrast to the pitiful number of students in the two classrooms at the Gada Humma government school. P. Ravindra Reddy, pradhan acharya of the school, and Suresh Chandra, secretary, put the total number of students at 519, with each paying ₹1,200-₹1,800 annually.Run under the aegis of the RSS-backed Bharat Shiksha Vikash Sansthan, the classrooms of this institution turn into hostel rooms at night. Aluminium boxes containing the students’ belongings are pushed against the walls of the classrooms during the day.The State government has put its hands up, claiming to be overburdened. Of the 11 blocks of Rayagada, only four have block education officers, of whom Kerketa is in charge of two in addition to her duties as assistant director of education. Teachers, too, claim to be overworked.Battle to keep school openMahankuda of the Gada Humma school points out that apart from having to juggle several classes at the same time, they also have to be available for compulsory election duties, do survey work, and supervise mid-day meals and the distribution of iron tablets. Shiksha Sahayaks, or assistant teachers, also mention “discriminatory pay scales” as a reason for the low motivation level among government teachers.Simanchak Pani, a Shiksha Sahayak at Gabudi primary school in Subalaya panchayat, complains that though he has completed three years at his job, he will be regularised only after another three years. In the meantime, he must make do with ₹6,000 per month. “How is it possible to remain motivated?” he asks.About six months ago, the villagers of Gabudi made a forceful bid to stop the village primary school, which then had seven students, from being closed down. They decided that increasing the student numbers was the only way. Kailash Jena, a farmer, brought his son, Biswajit, back from Saraswati Shishu Mandir, and a few more children living with relatives elsewhere returned to the village. The school now has 11 students, and its future remains precarious unless the numbers increase.Several residents of the village (all of them non-SC/ST) have migrated to work in the Alang shipyards, and to seek employment as skilled workers in the textile and marble industries of Gujarat. As his neighbours laugh, Jena says that family planning has been their downfall so far as school enrolment numbers are concerned. “An SC-ST village a kilometre down doesn’t have that problem,” he jokes, “creating traffic jams on their road to school.” Clearly, Gabudi village doesn’t want its own primary school merged with that one.
(From left) Shah Satnam Ji Speciality Hospital inside the Dera has seen a drop in the number of patients and staff members since August 2017. Shah Satnam Ji Girls School, like other educational institutions inside the premises, reopened on September 18, 2017, after the 22-day curfew was lifted on September 13, 2017. (Right) Mahi Cinema and Mall. Footfall of devoteesAs opposed to thousands and lakhs of people who used to visit on weekdays and Sundays respectively, the number has reduced to a couple of hundreds and thousands.Inside the main Dera where ‘Pitaji’ used to give sermons, an old woman wearing a light grey suit sits on a chair next to the loudspeaker broadcasting a message recorded by him.Lost in her own world, the presence of a few hundreds others does not bother her. A middle-aged woman sitting on the floor says, “Auntiji comes every day and sits here for hours even though the naam charcha is only for one hour in the afternoon.”Only a couple of hundred more people attend the session now. Staff members in the meditation hall claim the number used to increase to 15,000 to 20,000 on Sundays because ‘Guruji’ used to deliver a sermon every Sunday.“For few months after August 25, people stopped coming. Those who still have faith have started coming back,” says a 36-year-old at the checking counter, who makes sure no one enters with a phone, camera, weapon or recording device.As the sun starts to set and streets of the Dera look abandoned, there are “loyalists” who still put up in the residential area.“Why will we go leaving our ‘Guru’ behind?” says a 71-year-old resident of Shah Satnam Pura, a residential colony mostly inhabited by staff members of commercial units in the Dera.A resident of Rajasthan, he recalls being asked whether ‘people still live there [in the Dera]?’Disappointed and annoyed at the question, the man responded in the affirmative. “People think the Dera has shut down completely and no one lives here anymore. But we will never leave even though we were practically forced to do it by the Army and the police in the last week of August,” he says.‘Supplies cut’There were no food supplies, water or electricity for nearly a month during curfew, recalls the 71-year-old’s wife. “No one was allowed to come inside and go out. The temperatures were soaring and we all used to sleep in the lawns outside. Neighbours helped each other with food and water. It was a very difficult time but no one budged,” she says, adding that it is business as usual now.“The police still come and harass people, question them and pick them up,” alleges the couple.Pointing at the photograph of Mr. Singh, the residents end the conversation at, “We don’t care about anything. Earlier he used to bless us from Sirsa. Now he blesses us from Rohtak”. Impact on businessThe impact of ‘Guruji’s’ incarceration can be seen outside the hospital, schools, colleges and shops. In place of the scores of autorickshaws parked to ferry people inside and outside the Dera premises earlier, barely a handful remain. The autorickshaw drivers were among the worst hit after the August incident.Ankit, an autorickshaw driver who claims he is not a devotee, says his monthly income has dipped from ₹2,000 to ₹500 per day.“There used to be lakhs of visitors before he was arrested and hundreds of autorickshaws. Now you will only find 20-30 in the area because there is no work,” he says.Shopkeepers and restaurant managers on the premises have similar tales to tell.Sitting inside his empty shop, 39-year-old Naresh who sells watches in ‘Sach Market’, says the shop remained closed for three months after the incident and his earning have been meagre ever since.“The streets used to be full of people then. Now you hardly see 10-15 of them on a daily basis,” he says.The manager of a medical shop, however, says his business is recovering. “For the first few months, the income per month was a couple of thousands but it is better now,” says 29-year-old Kuldeep.Manager of Kashish Restaurant, 44-year-old Ramesh says he was forced to lay off nearly 10 people because of the meagre sum the revolving restaurant has been making over the past three months since it opened.However, all shopkeepers claim they are not paying rent to the Dera management. “The entire area belongs to the Dera. We used to pay rent but now that there is no income we are not paying rent. They have not asked for rent either,” says Mr. Naresh.All of them unanimously claim that they are holding on because “business will come back to normal and will become even better once he is back. That’s what we all hope will happen”.Mr. Singh’s arrest has had a visible impact on the number of devotees who used to visit the Dera religiously to attend the sessions they call ‘naam charcha’. Over six months have passed since Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to jail on charges of rape. The once deserted streets of Dera Sacha Sauda are slowly limping back to life. On a sunny afternoon, students, staffers and shopkeepers can be seen making their way inside slowly.Wearing light brown suits with white dupattas, girls walk out of Shah Satnam Ji Girls School after writing an exam. They are followed by teachers.“We were told in the first week of September that the school will reopen soon. Our parents were scared initially as it was the middle of the session but everything is fine now,” says a Class XII student.Educational institutions inside the Dera premises reopened on September 18, 2017, after the 22-day curfew was lifted on September 13, 2017.Though ‘Pitaji’ is still in jail, his “vision and preaching” continue to find a place inside Dera’s schools and colleges. Mr. Singh’s life-size posters with “Papa Coach #1” written on them are hard to miss.Talking about the image of two airplanes on the glass façade of the school, Saint MSG Glorious International School Principal Poonam Insan calls them “Guruji’s vision”.“He never wanted brain drain. He wanted to give the children the same educational standard as students are given abroad,” says the 35-year-old.Ms. Insan, who has been a Dera devotee since childhood, claims “the powers of Guruji saved her life once”. Hospital hitWhile educational institutions remain largely untouched by accusations against Mr. Singh save for approximately 10%-20% students dropping out because of “societal pressure and fear”, the hospital inside the Dera premises has been affected adversely.With plush green lawns on both sides of the entrance and a rather small reception, the hospital wears a deserted look. Doctors have quit due to non-payment of salaries and very few patients come in these days, making it difficult for the hospital to run.Over 1,000 patients would come in daily at Shah Satnam Ji Speciality Hospital before August 2017. Now, the hospital gets barely 100-150 patients.A staff member says most patients at the hospital comprised outstation devotees and labourers who lived here. “The labourers left the Dera due to lack of work and many devotees either stopped coming here due to fear or because they no longer have faith,” he said.Acting Chief Medical Officer Gaurav Aggarwal claims to have taken a 75% pay cut because the accounts are seized and the only source of cash flow is the money paid by patients.“We had a staff of 50 doctors. It has reduced to 20 now. Some left because any association with the hospital would not look nice on their CV and the others because of salaries,” he says, adding that for the first three months after August 2017, doctors and staffers were not paid a penny.He adds that the number of staffers has come down from around 500 to about 200. The hospital can admit just 50 patients at present as opposed to 300 earlier because of lack of funds.A woman staff member claims she earned ₹10,000 per month for maintaining a doctor’s ledger but now her salary has come down to ₹7,000. However, she does not want to leave because of her “faith”.“I have been living here for the past 10 years. I support my two sisters, a brother and mother. I am satisfied with whatever little I get. Once Pitaji is back, everything will be back to normal,” she says.The teaching staff too has taken a pay cut. In fact, some of them are not being paid at all. A teacher said, “The teaching and non-teaching staff of the educational institute have all taken a pay cut. Some of them have also volunteered to work without pay.”Most people working for the commercial units of the Dera are being paid in cash because the accounts are seized.“At the hospital, schools and colleges, the staff members are paid in cash with the help of accountants in each commercial unit,” says a hospital staff member. The principal and 10 others went for sightseeing in the hills above Manali when their vehicle met with an accident. ‘Pitaji’ was in the hotel at the time of the incident. She claims “a stone prevented the vehicle from rolling down the valley”.“All of us escaped unhurt. No one could believe it. How should we not treat him like our god?” she says.Ms. Insan’s colleague Vipin, who is sitting next to her, recalls a play based on a similar incident enacted by students a couple of months agoMr. Vipin claims the protagonist was a man diagnosed with blood cancer and that “city doctors had given up on him a few years ago”. He says, “The man approached Guruji, who gave him prasad. A few days later, his blood group changed and he is absolutely fine now.”Claiming that students have the freedom to believe or not believe in ‘Guruji’, the Principal adds, “We have a lot of teachers and students who are not devotees of Guruji. For instance, if we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, it does not mean we ask students to become Mahatma Gandhi. It is their choice.”At the exit, where phones and cameras of “outsiders” are confiscated, a worried parent asks the security guard if police vehicles are doing the rounds.“Sab theek hai na? Koi darne wali baat to nahi hai [Is everything all right? Is there anything to be scared of?],” says a mother who has come to drop off her daughter’s belongings at the school.
A change in structure from three-tier to two-tier has delayed the panchayat elections in Arunachal Pradesh.The five-year term of the last elected panchayat in the Frontier State expired on April 13.Arunachal Pradesh’s chief election commissioner, Hage Kojeen, said on Friday that the State Election Commission (SEC) is awaiting the approval of the Pema Khandu government to the draft panchayat notification sent in February. The SEC needs the go-ahead for financial and manpower support to conduct the rural polls.The SEC had proposed May 14 as the date for holding the panchayat polls. But on April 13, the State government said it would not be proper to conduct the rural polls since the Assembly had passed the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayat Raj Amendment Bill 2018 in March to change the structure of the grassroots governance.The change in structure meant doing away with the Anchal Samiti, the intermediate level of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system, to set up a two-tier system involving Gram Panchayats and Zilla Parishads.The government referred to sub-clause 2 of Article 243 B of the Constitution and its 73rd Amendment that allows a State with a population of less than 2 million not to have the intermediate level. The population of Arunachal Pradesh is 1.38 million.Panchayat Minister Alo Libang defended the structural switch. “Rs 5 crore is spent annually on honorarium for 1,779 Anchal Samiti members. This money will now be available for development work at the Gram Pancyahat level,” he said.Mr. Kojeen said the SEC was not consulted before the Bill was passed. “The government should now come out with the date for the panchayat polls,” he added.
The security forces gunned down eight alleged members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh on Friday. The rebels were killed near Ipenta village on the border of Chhattisgarh and Telangana.The operation was led by the Greyhounds, Telangana police’s elite anti-Maoist unit, with the support of Chhattisgarh police and the Central Reserve Police Force.D.M. Awasthi, the Special Director General, Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) unit of Chhattisgarh police said there were six women among the dead Maoists.“The bodies have been brought to Bijapur. This success was achieved due to a collaboration of various security agencies. The Greyhounds and Telangana SIB (State Intelligence Bureau) played a special role in this operation. Without their help, this operation would not have been successful. This was the first encounter in this area of Chhattisgarh. The forces had never ventured in this area before,” Mr.Awasthi said. The security forces recovered one Self Loading Rifle, six rocket launchers, three HE-36 hand-grenades, revolvers, other weapons and ammunition from the site.
The Uttar Pradesh government is planning to shift gangster Sunil Rathi out of Baghpat jail days after he allegedly shot dead don Munna Bajrangi inside the prison. The district administration of Baghpat and the district jail authorities have written to the State Home Department requesting for Rathi’s transfer.Orders imminentConfirming this to The Hindu on Thursday, U.P. Additional Director General (Prisons) Chandra Prakash said while Rathi is still to be shifted out, “the file is under process”.“I don’t think it will take much time. In a couple of days, I should get the orders,” Mr. Prakash said.Asked if the inmate was being moved due to security reasons, Mr. Prakash said: “One major incident has already taken place [in Baghpat jail], so the security reason is also there.”It is, however, not clear where Rathi, who is serving life sentence in a double murder case, will be shifted even as speculation is that he could be moved to a bigger prison, perhaps in Lucknow or Allahabad. Several jails are being considered, Mr. Prakash said.Shortage of wardersAccording to sources in the prison department, Uttar Pradesh has an acute shortage of warders in jail — out of a required strength of 9,000, the State has only 4,000 across its 70 jails. Moreover, while the sanctioned total capacity of prisons in U.P. is 58,000, almost twice that number are lodged behind bars, said an official.After Bajrangi’s murder, the State government suspended four jail officials including jailor Uday Pratap Singh and deputy jailor Shivaji Yadav.Rathi allegedly shot dead Purvanchal gangster Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi inside the Baghpat jail early on Monday. A 7.62 calibre 32 bore weapon was used to commit the crime and police also recovered 10 used cartridges, 22 live bullets and two magazines from a drain inside the jail.While police said an altercation broke out between the two leading to the shooting, Bajrangi’s family has alleged the murder was premeditated and planned by his political and mafia rivals in eastern U.P. in collusion with the State government.Enjoys cloutRathi not only enjoys clout inside Baghpat jail due to his criminal record, which extends to neighbouring Uttarakhand, his mother Raj Bala is a three-time Nagar Panchayat chairman and even contested Assembly polls from Chaprauli in 2017 on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket.Rathi had previously been shifted to his home district Baghpat from Roorkee jail in Haridwar.Bajrangi was brought to Baghpat from Jhansi jail, where he was lodged, on Sunday to appear in a local court in the western U.P. district in connection with the extortion of former BSP MLA Lokesh Dikshit.
Six-time Independent MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Kunda constituency Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya is likely to announce a new political party on November 30, one of his aides said on Saturday. Raja Bhaiya is completing 25 years in politics and is expected to announce a new party on November 30 at a public rally in Lucknow, Independent MLA from Babaganj constituency Vinod Kumar Saroj said.Social media campaign The supporters of Raja Bhaiya had launched a social media campaign to seek public opinion on the political course he should take, he said. Almost 80% of the people suggested that he should float a new political party, Mr. Saroj said. In accordance with the people’s views, the process to launch a new party is underway, he added. A controversial strongman hailing from Pratapgarh, Raja Bhaiya has served as a Minister during the regimes of Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta, Rajnath Singh and Akhilesh Yadav. He wields considerable clout among the Thakur voters.
Security forces on Friday surrounded a group of hiding militants in Pulwama’s Tral, triggering an encounter. A police official said an exchange of fire is on between the security forces and militants in Darganaie Gund village of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama. Security forces are responding to an intermittent firing, said an official.The operation was launched after a specific input about the presence of militants in the area was received. The Army’s 42 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), CRPF’s 180 Battalion and the police are carrying out the operation. Preliminary reports suggested two or three militants of the Jaish-e-Muhammad may be hiding in the area. However, there is no official confirmation on the number of militants hiding or their affiliation. Authorities suspended Internet service in parts of Pulwama. The area has been sealed.
Seven persons died and 16 others were hospitalised on Wednesday after allegedly consuming illicit liquor at Nrisinghpur village in the Shantipur area of West Bengal’s Nadia district. According to reports, a group of people had consumed the liquor on Tuesday evening and took ill in the early hours of Wednesday. West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, who holds charge of the State’s Excise Department, confirmed the deaths and said a CID inquiry into the incident has been ordered. “As per the directions of the Chief Minister, who holds charge of the State’s Home Department, the officer in charge of the area has been removed,” Mr. Mitra told journalists on the West Bengal Legislative Assembly premises, referring to Shantipur excise head. Ten other excise officials have also been suspended, he said. The Minister said there were reports that something was mixed with the illicit liquor and a proper inquiry will reveal precise details of what caused the poisoning. The State government has announced Rs.2 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased. The State leadership of the BJP targeted the Trinamool Congress government over the deaths. “The State government has an insurance policy for those dying after consuming illicit liquor, but it is not taking steps to contain the problem,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha. West Bengal witnessed one of the worst illicit liquor tragedies in recent times when more than 170 persons died at Sangrampur in South 24 Parganas district in December 2011. (With PTI inputs)
The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP on Monday expelled its former MLA and senior leader Gagan Bhagat for indiscipline and anti-party activities. In August, Mr. Bhagat was suspended for three months on the recommendation of the disciplinary committee of the J&K BJP for his role in the alleged abduction of an ex-Serviceman’s daughter. Going against the party line, the MLA had on December 3 moved the Supreme Court challenging the dissolution of Assembly by the Governor calling it “unconstitutional and undemocratic”. “In view of his continued indiscipline, anti-party and anti-Jammu activities, J&K BJP president Ravindra Raina has expelled Gagan Bhagat from the party with immediate effect,” party spokesperson Sunil Sethi said.
Alleging that laxity on the part of the Uttar Pradesh government led to a large number of deaths after consumption of spurious liquor, Opposition members on Monday created chaos in the Assembly which led to adjournment of the entire Question Hour. Opposition members demanded resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the wake of the hooch tragedies that struck Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts. As soon as the House met, SP, BSP and Congress members tried to raise the matter terming it one of utmost importance. Anti-govt. slogansSP and BSP members trooped into the Well of the House, raising anti-government slogans. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna said the State government has taken stern action in the matter and those involved will not be spared. The Opposition members also raised slogans, “CM istifa do” (CM should resign). Speaker Hriday Narain Dixit repeatedly pleaded with the angry Opposition members to resume their seats, but they did not relent. He then adjourned the House for 30 minutes and later extended the adjournment till 12.20 p.m. as a result of which the entire Question Hour was wiped out. The State government on Sunday night announced a probe by a Special Investigation Team into the twin tragedies.
Union Minister and BJP Lok Sabha candidate Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday questioned actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha’s commitment to the Congress, his new party, for favouring SP leader Akhilesh Yadav as the prime ministerial candidate.Mr. Prasad, BJP nominee for the Patna Sahib parliamentary seat, also claimed that the “opportunistic alliance” of the Opposition parties in Bihar has disintegrated as RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav did not share stage with Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his rallies. The Union Minister is now in direct contest with Mr. Sinha, the two-time BJP MP from Patna Sahib, who is a Congress candidate this time. Talking to reporters, Mr. Prasad said he would not name his rival during the entire campaigning. To a query about Mr. Sinha favouring Akhilesh Yadav as the PM candidate, Mr. Prasad said, “You better ask this question to the Patna Sahib MP. He has been an MP for 22 years. He has now gone to a new party. He should tell you what is the yardstick for commitment in the new party.” Mr. Sinha, despite being a Congress candidate, had said in a TV interview that he sees the SP leader as the prime ministerial candidate. Mr. Sinha’s wife Poonam Sinha had on April 18 filed her nomination papers from Lucknow as a Samajwadi Party nominee against BJP candidate and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
No floaties required. Researchers now have the first video evidence that apes can learn to swim and dive. Like humans, wild apes exposed to deep water will fumble and flail. Our uncoordinated movements bear little resemblance to the tried-and-true doggy paddle that most other mammals use instinctively. But a chimpanzee named Cooper and an orangutan named Suryia, both raised in captivity and regularly exposed to bathtubs and swimming pools, developed unexpected underwater skill. Reassured by the presence of a safety rope, Cooper became increasingly adventurous over a period of days: He could tread water, submerge himself (with eyes shut tight), and propel himself with a kick reminiscent of the human breaststroke. Suryia (shown in the video above) also opted for a breaststroke-esque kick, but took his skills a step further, opening his eyes underwater and traveling up to 4 meters while submerged for as long as 15 seconds. In a report this week in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers offer an evolutionary explanation: When an early ancestor of modern apes took to the trees, they say, innate swimming ability likely lost its advantage, and the trait disappeared. The fact that our muscles and brains adapted to graceful swinging movements in the air and upright walking on the ground might account for the lengthwise reaching and pulling movements that define Cooper and Suryia’s aquatic style.
A genetic investigation into the illegal trade of sailfin dragons has unearthed a surprise: a new species of the rainbow-colored lizards that resemble small dinosaurs. The finding highlights just how little is known about these mysterious and threatened animals.Sailfin lizards (genus Hydrosaurus) look like they were pulled from a child’s coloring book. As the water-loving reptiles mature, their faces, dorsal crests, and saillike tails shift from a drab green and gray to vibrant shades of neon purple, cyan, and harlequin. That’s made them a popular target for an illegal pet trade which—along with destruction of their habitat in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, and New Guinea—has decimated their numbers. In the wild, only juveniles remain in most populations, says Cameron Siler, the curator of herpetology at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.To learn more about the enigmatic animals, Siler and his colleagues swept the black markets of Manila, a trade hub, collecting DNA samples from the toenails and scales of 20 sailfin dragons between 2011 and 2012. They then compared these specimens to the genetic material of 80 animals whose origins traced across the sailfins’ four major island habitats: the Philippines, Sulawesi, Halmahera, and New Guinea.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)When the researchers determined the evolutionary ties between the lizards based on their DNA, they discovered that the three accepted Hydrosaurus species are actually four. Sailfin lizards from Sulawesi in Indonesia were originally grouped with the species from New Guinea more than 140 years ago, but the genetic survey suggests that Sulawesi dragons are a separate lineage, the team reports in the January issue of Biological Conservation.The study has solid geographical sampling, and the team’s statistical analysis of two DNA genomes—mitochondrial and nuclear—shows pretty good evidence for the new species, says Bryan Stuart, a curator of herpetology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, who was not involved in the work. “We don’t very often see forensic studies like this.” Additional specimens from New Guinea are needed to fully confirm the new species, but the findings are convincing, he says.According to the team’s genetic comparisons, all the smuggled dragons seem to have come from a single location in the Philippines: the Bicol Peninsula on Luzon Island. The area is home to large swaths of sailfin habitat, Siler says, but this could change because very few coastal habitats are protected. Protected regions in the Philippines are mainly concentrated in the mountainous highlands where a high density of primary forest remains, he notes. Although this benefits many species, including several endangered birds, it leaves hydrosaurs and other coastal fauna exposed. Siler and colleagues found that current laws in the Philippines protect less than 10% of existing habitats that are suitable for sailfin dragons. The native Philippine species, Hydrosaurus pustulatus, is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.The genetic forensics used in the current study could aid conservation efforts for reptiles and amphibians across Southeast Asia, especially turtles, which Stuart says are poached and smuggled from every country in Asia. When large shipments are caught, officials often face the dilemma of what to do with animals confiscated far from their home range. “You don’t want to start mixing genetic lineages in the wild or captivity that might not normally breed with one another,” he says. This study provides a blueprint for responsibly incorporating them into captive breeding programs, he says, or very carefully reintroducing them back to their area of origin.
Over the next 6 months, physicists will cool the ring to superconducting temperatures and test its magnetic field. Until then, they can’t be sure if the delicate ring survived the journey intact. The team hopes to begin taking data in March 2017. Fermilab Fermilab After waiting out a storm near Norfolk, Virginia, the ring made it safely to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway north of Mobile, Alabama. The team decided to move Muon g–2 to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. But they knew they couldn’t do without the experiment’s delicate storage ring, which was capable of producing an exceptionally uniform magnetic fie Fermilab Brookhaven National Laboratory Once it reached Lemont, Illinois, the ring was loaded back onto a truck for a 3-night journey across shuttered roadways to Fermilab. Brookhaven National Laboratory The Muon g–2 ring began its life at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, New York, where it was part of an experiment that ran from 1999 to 2001. The project produced tantalizing hints of new physics, but to be sure, scientists needed to repeat the experimen Brookhaven National Laboratory The ring left Brookhaven in the wee hours of 24 June 2013, traveling by truck down Long Island’s William Floyd Parkway to the Smith Point Marina. The ring passed the St. Louis arch as it traveled through Missouri. Three thousand people turned up to see the ring arrive at Fermilab on 26 July 2013. It had traveled 5000 kilometers by land, sea, and river. Brookhaven National Laboratory The Muon g–2 ring began its life at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, New York, where it was part of an experiment that ran from 1999 to 2001. The project produced tantalizing hints of new physics, but to be sure, scientists needed to repeat the experimen Brookhaven National Laboratory Over the next 6 months, physicists will cool the ring to superconducting temperatures and test its magnetic field. Until then, they can’t be sure if the delicate ring survived the journey intact. The team hopes to begin taking data in March 2017. Brookhaven National Laboratory Darin Clifton/Ceres Barge Fermilab A little more than 1 year ago, the Muon g–2 (pronounced “g minus two”) storage ring set out on an epic journey. Beginning at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, it traveled 5000 kilometers down the Atlantic coast, up three rivers, and across several highways to reach its new home at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. The ring is a key part of an experiment to measure a property called magnetic moment in muons, much heavier subatomic-particle relatives of electrons. Scientists saw tantalizing hints of new physics during Muon g–2’s first run at Brookhaven from 1999 to 2001. But to be sure, they need to run the experiment again with Fermilab’s more powerful muon beam—which is why they moved the 15-meter-wide ring halfway across the country by truck and barge. Science talks to Chris Polly, Muon g–2’s project manager, about some highlights of the trip and what’s in store for the ring at its new home. For more about Muon g–2’s journey, check out the slideshow above.Q: What’s happened at Fermilab since the ring arrived last year?A: Since the ring got here, we’ve been constructing the new home for the magnet. It needs a building with very special temperature and floor stability requirements, and there wasn’t any place here that would accommodate it. After the ring was successfully transported, the work to construct the experimental hall got going at 100%.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Just last week, we rolled the magnet out once again. We had [hauling company] Emmert International come out and help us with the final leg of the journey. They brought it out on Saturday morning around 8 o’clock and towed the ring about a mile to the new building.Then, of course, they needed to get it into the building. We were clever enough to remember to design a hole big enough for it to fit through. There’s no door that you could possibly make that would accommodate it, since it’s 50 feet [15 meters] wide. It kind of looked like a giant CD player, when the whole ring just went sliding into the side of the building on a rail system. Inside, it still looks like the ring is levitating, because it’s on some scaffolding as they slowly lower it down to the experimental floor, which is about 16 feet [5 meters] below ground level.Q: What was the hardest part of the moving process?A: From my perspective, one of the hard parts was finding the right vendor for the job: a transportation company that could safely move this magnet and would have the political skills necessary for all the hurdles when it comes to trying to move a 50-foot-wide thing through areas where nothing that wide has ever been transported before. That was quite a task, but Emmert International was fantastic to work with. In fact, we’re going to meet their crew at the bar in about 2 hours for a beer.Q: What was the scariest moment?A: When the barge was coming up Cape Hatteras, there was a storm blowing up and the wave data started getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. And we’re like, “Oh, man.” Cape Hatteras is well known as a shipping graveyard. So we made the decision to pull up into Norfolk and wait out the storm before we continued.Q: The most exciting?A: Truly the most exciting moment by far was the reception the ring received when it arrived at Fermilab. We invited the public to come out and see it when it arrived. Three thousand people showed up. The lab eventually had to close the gates because there wasn’t any more room. To have the ring roll down by Fermilab’s reflecting ponds, and a crowd of 3000 people cheering—I don’t know how we’ll ever rival that moment in a science experiment, it was just amazing.Q: The ring is so delicate. Do you know yet if all its systems survived the journey?A: We’ve done all the tests we can on the ring while it’s warm and not hooked up to a cryogenic plant. You can measure the electrical resistances, put a voltage on it, make sure it’s not leaking current, check the piping systems that will hold liquid helium to make sure they’re intact. We’ve done all those basic tests and everything looks good so far.But this is a superconducting magnet, and for it to operate, it has to be cooled down to liquid helium temperatures. That’s the name of the game for the next 6 months. We will be rapidly trying to build the superconducting systems and connect the cryogenic wires and get the power supply operational so we can do the ultimate test, which is to cool and power the magnet.Q: When will the experiment start running?A: You can get it cold in about 6 or 7 months. But it’s not just good enough to have a strong enough magnetic field. It also has to be an extremely uniform magnetic field. So after the magnet is powered, that immediately begins a phase where we spend 9 months to a year iteratively changing little pieces of steel, adding little pieces of wire with currents flowing through them, where we effectively try to “shim” the magnetic field—applying corrections to make it very, very uniform.And then you still have to be able to see the muons somehow. They’re not visible to the naked eye or anything—it takes a very sophisticated set of detectors and electronics and a data acquisition system. There’s a lot to the experiment beyond just the magnet. So all those systems are being prepared.By the time that’s all done, that’s still about 2, 2-and-a-half years from where we are today. The current start date is March 2017, but we’re hoping there are a few tricks we can play along the way that might make it go a little faster. Of course, you never know—it’s science. At the marina, it was lowered by crane onto a waiting barge. It would be carried by boat down the Atlantic coast, around Florida, and up three rivers to Illinois. Fermilab Fermilab Building a new ring at Fermilab would have cost $25 million, whereas moving the existing one from Brookhaven cost $3 million. Heavy-haul transport company Emmert International designed a 40-ton transport fixture to hold the ring steady during its journey. Fermilab spent the next year building a new home for the ring. It finally moved in on Wednesday, 30 July 2014. Spectators came out to see the ring at several points during its 1-month journey. Many compared the sight to a UFO. Fermilab Slideshow: Muon g–2 ring takes final steps to new home ‹› By Lizzie WadeAug. 1, 2014 , 5:45 PM
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are getting plenty of good press today, thanks to this morning’s Nobel Prize announcement, but a new study finds that they may be bad news for insects. Moths, flies, and other insects are drawn much more strongly by the spectrum of light from LEDs than the yellow glare of sodium-vapor bulbs. New research, published in the current issue of Ecological Applications, shows that traps placed near LEDs captured 48% more insects than traps near sodium-vapor lights. In all, the researchers caught and identified more than 20,000 bugs; moths and flies were the most common. The allure can be fatal, throwing off insect navigation and exposing them to predators. The larger ecological effects could include the disruption of food webs. One particular concern: LED lights near ports could attract flying pests that are accidentally transported by ships. An example is the gypsy moth (pictured), an invasive species that has devastated forests. Unfortunately, the tests showed that simply tweaking the spectrum of LEDs did not reduce their attractiveness to insects. It’s possible that certain filters or combinations of red, green, and blue LEDs could lessen the visual appeal, but that might raise the cost and energy consumption.
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