ASI has begun extensive repair work on Taj Mahal minar begins

 The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has begun extensive repair work on one of the four minarets of the iconic 17th century monument of love, the Taj Mahal.

The ASI has undertaken the exercise after reports of damage and cracks in the stones and rusting of iron clamps.

ASI chief in Agra, Vasant Swarnakar told IANS that this was a “special exercise” and not a routine one. Soon scaffolding would soon be erected and the area fenced to keep visitors at a safe distance.

Officials said this repair work to replace damaged stones and fix lining in black stones that had peeled off was being undertaken after almost 90 years. Around two dozen marble slabs of the stairs would be replaced.

The dome of the main mausoleum will also be given mud pack treatment to contain “discolouration” and cleanse the yellow stains. This “beauty parlour treatment” is now a regular feature, to ensure the world heritage monument appeared sparkling white.

Meanwhile, the greenish patches on the white marble stones at the rear, towards Yamuna, have appeared again as bacterial colonies have developed in the highly polluted water of the river. Tiny insects identified as Goeldichironomus, feeding on pollutants, leave their poo on the surface, giving a green look, according to experts.



Centre to start devlopment work on Sultanpur Lodhi: Punjab CM

The Centre will initiate work on the infrastructure development of Sultanpur Lodhi town as proposed by the Punjab government at the earliest, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday.

The Chief Minister had called on Puri, the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, here to press for early approval for the Rs 321 crore infrastructure development projects proposed by the state government for Sultanpur Lodhi town.

The town holds historical significance due to its association with Guru Nanak Dev, whose 550th Prakash Purb is being celebrated this year.

Puri said he had already instructed the department to immediately vet the proposals and secure the necessary approvals to start work on priority, an official spokesperson told IANS after the meeting.

To the Chief Minister’s request for inclusion of the three Municipal Corporation towns of Patiala, Bathinda and SAS Nagar in the Smart Cities Project being assisted by the Central government on a sharing basis, Puri assured to consider the same as and when the project is expanded to cover new cities.

The Union Minister said he was committed to helping Punjab in any way he could and would look into the demands of the state.

He later told mediapersons that he would ensure maximum flights from Punjab to cater to the demand for global travel.

The Chief Minister said, in response to media queries after the meeting, that the Union Minister had promised to look into the state’s demands related to urban development and aviation.

Earlier, during the meeting, Amarinder Singh said Patiala, besides being an old heritage city, had also been declared a Counter-Magnet Town to the national capital region (NCR) by the NCR Planning Board.

Strengthening infrastructure in all the Counter-Magnet Towns would also help in reducing migration to Delhi, he pointed out.

The Chief Minister also urged Puri to approve early clearance for a NCR Planning Board loan for the Patiala Nadi Hydrology project, for which the state government would soon submit a formal proposal.

Bathinda, he said, was a fast growing and principal town in southern Punjab while SAS Nagar (Mohali) was a satellite town of Chandigarh with the highest growth potential in Punjab.

To strengthen the state’s global connectivity, the Chief Minister sought inclusion of Chandigarh under the Open Skies Policy for Asean countries, while asking for an urgent review of the current policy of bilateral spots to facilitate more international flights out of Chandigarh, especially to the Gulf countries and Turkey, thereby enabling greater connectivity with the rest of the world.

The Chief Minister also asked the Union Minister to consider the proposal to name Adampur Airport as Jalandhar Airport for easy booking of flights by tourists and NRIs.

On the occasion, Puri presented his book “Delusional Politics” to the Chief Minister.



Goa CM visits Amethi, Congress says he’s avoiding work

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Saturday visited Baraulia village in Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh to pay condolences to the family of a BJP party worker who was shot dead in May, soon after the Lok Sabha polls.

Criticising the visit, the Congress in Goa accused Sawant of running away from pressing issues in the state, while at the same time promising to undertake developmental works instead in Amethi constituency, which was formerly represented by Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Sawant on Saturday arrived in Baraulia, a village adopted by former Defence Minister late Manohar Parrikar as part of a Parliamentary scheme, along with Union Minister for Textiles Smriti Irani, who is Lok Sabha MP from Amethi.

“We definitely feel like contributing something in the areas of education or development sector, especially to do with the youth… The (local) authorities should decide. If they allow us, we will do something in the memory of Manohar Parrikar,” Sawant told reporters in Baraulia.

The Chief Minister also said that he had worked as a party worker in Amethi in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and had come in contact with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker Surendra Singh, who was shot dead soon after the 2019 general elections.

“I am glad that I could meet Surendra Singh’s family. I felt bad about what has happened. The party lost a good worker. This loss cannot be made good. But at least we can condole his death. The party organisation is with its workers and their families,” Sawant said after meeting members of Singh’s family.

The Congress in Goa has however lashed out at Sawant, accusing him of running away from critical local issues like unemployment, contamination of fish with formalin and the mining ban.

“There is unrest everywhere in Goa. Chief Minister cannot find time for Goa and he has the time to go to Amethi to solve their problems. Our Chief Minister should first focus on solving issues which Goa is facing,” Goa Congress President Girish Chodankar said.




Our governments must work together, Kejriwal tells Modi

In a dramatic role reversal of his earlier confrontationist attitude, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said both the city and central governments must work together.

“Assured full cooperation of Delhi government to develop Delhi, (the) capital city of India. It is important that Delhi government and Centre work together,” Kejriwal tweeted after the meeting.

“Met Modi and congratulated him for LS (Lok Sabha election) victory,” he said.

Kejriwal also assured “full cooperation” of the Delhi government for the city’s development and sought Modi’s support in the storage of rainwater in Delhi.

He said the Delhi government planned to store the Yamuna water during rainy season.

“One season’s water (is) sufficient to meet one year’s Delhi’s water needs. Requested Centre’s support.”

The Chief Minister invited the Prime Minister to visit a Mohalla Clinic and a Delhi government school.

The city’s Mohalla Clinics and Delhi’s transformed government schools are the Kejriwal government’s pet schemes that have won wide acclaim.

Kejriwal said the Ayushman Bharat, the Modi government’s health scheme, was briefly discussed.

He said he told Modi that Delhi’s health scheme “is much bigger and wider in scope. However, assured him to examine if Ayushman Bharat scheme could also be integrated into our scheme”.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Modi government have been at loggerheads over a string of issues since Kejriwal became the Chief Minister in February 2015.



‘Need to work together for peace in region’, Modi tells Imran

Following weeks of heightened tension between India and Pakistan triggered by the Pulwama terror attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday told his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan that it was time for people of the subcontinent to work together “for a peaceful and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.”

Khan confirmed receiving Modi’s message on the eve of Pakistan’s National Day.

“Received msg from PM Modi: ‘I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that ppl of Sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence,” tweeted the former cricketer-turned-politician.

While the Pakistan National Day will be celebrated across the border on Saturday, the Pakistan High Commission here celebrated the occasion by organising events on Friday.

However, India didn’t send any representative to the Pakistan High Commission for the event.

“The decision was taken after the Pakistan High Commission decided to call Hurriyat leader to the reception. In February we were very clear, any attempt by Pakistan High Commission or Pakistani leadership to engage with Hurriyat leaders will not be taken lightly,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

In fact, none of the separatists from the Kashmir Valley attended the programme at the Pakistan High Commission following the major crackdown on them by the government ever since the February 14 Pulwama attack which killed 40 CRPF troopers.

In its latest move on Friday, the government outlawed the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) led by Muhammad Yasin Malik, alleging that it was responsible for promoting terrorism and secessionism in the state.

The Pakistan Day is celebrated on March 23 every year to mark the Lahore Resolution.




Ind, US to work to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

India and US have reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors.

The two sides exchanged views on a wide range of global security and non-proliferation challenges during the ninth round of the India-US Strategic Security Dialogue held in Washington on Wednesday.

The Indian delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale while the US delegation was led by Andrea Thompson, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

“The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors,” an External Affairs Ministry statement said.

It said the two sides committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India.

The US reaffirmed its strong support of India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Earlier, on Tuesday, Indra Mani Pandey, Additional Secretary for Disarmament and International Security Affairs and Yleem D.S. Poblete, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, co-chaired the third round of the India-US Space Dialogue, where they discussed trends in space threats, respective national space priorities and opportunities for cooperation bilaterally and in multilateral fora.



India, Saudi Arabia to work for credible steps against terrorists

India and Saudi Arabia on Monday agreed to take “irreversible, verifiable and credible” steps against all terrorists without any discrimination, in an apparent message to Pakistan, which has been linked by New Delhi with last month’s Pulwama terror attack.

The development came during the visit of Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir here, as a follow up of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s India visit last month.

Al Jubeir met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in his over four-hour working visit.

He conveyed the greetings of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince to Prime Minister Modi.

Modi thanked the Saudi Arabian leadership for expressing solidarity with India’s fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The Saudi minister also briefed the Prime Minister on the follow up of the outcomes of the historical visit of the Crown Prince.

Both the countries have taken significant steps to boost trade and investment and to achieve $100 billion investment from Saudi Arabia into India, which was announced during the visit of the Crown Prince.

During his meeting with Sushma Swaraj, the third between the two leaders in about a fortnight, Al Jubeir took note of the “significant developments” after the visit of the Crown Prince.

She reiterated that “immediate irreversible and verifiable action” was essential to to dismantle terror infrastructure.

“It was agreed that Saudi Arabia and India should work together for irreversible, verifiable and credible steps against all terrorists without any discrimination,” an official release said.

India and Saudi Arabia have close and multifaceted relations underpinned by historic, cultural, religious and economic linkages which have been elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

The two countries have agreed to set up the Strategic Partnership Council at the earliest.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner and second largest supplier crude oil to the country.


Science & Technology

Apple could be developing AR-headset to work with iPhone

Apple could be planning to develop an Augmented Reality (AR)-based headset that would work alongside an iPhone to enable users experience an environment where computer images are overlaid on the real world.

The development came into notice when the iPhone-maker published an update titled, “Systems, methods and graphical user interfaces for interacting with Augmented and Virtual Reality environments”, as part of an existing patent filed in August 2018, CNET reported on Thursday.

“The iPhone-maker is exploring building an AR headset, something that sources told CNET the company is hoping to release in roughly the next year,” the report said.

The patent suggests a headset would wirelessly communicate with a separate computer and the iPhone. The company wishes to add a “touch-sensitive surface” as a way to interact with that environment.

“Sources said Apple’s prototypes included a cordless device that would wirelessly communicate with a separate device powered by a custom Apple processing brain,” the report added.

Apart from Apple, other major tech giants are also trying their hands on advanced AR/VR technologies.

Earlier last week, software giant Microsoft announced $3,500 “HoloLens 2” — a new version of the company’s three-year-old mixed-reality headset during the MWC 2019 event at Barcelona. The device would enable direct manipulation of holograms with the same instinctual interactions users would use with physical objects in the real world.




Networked freezers at stores, work places at hacking risk

Using default passwords on internet-enabled temperature control systems has exposed freezers at grocery stores, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms to the risk of being hacked, the media reported.

Security researchers at Safety Detective found over 7,419 networked thermostats manufactured by Scotland-based electronics manufacturer Resource Data Management (RDM) to be suffering from the vulnerability, Engadget reported on Friday.

On hijacking these devices, the hackers are able to adjust temperatures, change alarms and obtain floor places of facilities where the freezers are located.

The issue with RDM products comes from users failing to follow the necessary steps to secure their products.

“When approached by Safety Detective about the issue, RDM said the issue is related to the use of default passwords and users are encouraged to change them,” the report said.

Earlier this week, cameras from US-based manufacturer of smart home products Nest were also reported to have been taken over by hackers who were broadcasting potentially terrifying messages.



Over 20 lakh UP government employees strike work

Over 20 lakh Uttar Pradesh government employees went on a strike on Wednesday to demand restoration of the old pension scheme.

The employees are protesting against the state’s new pension scheme under which the share of the government has been raised from 10 per cent to 14 per cent.

This also means a four per cent increase in the employee contribution, which they are opposed to.

The government, after failure of talks with various employees unions, invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) banning all protests but the strike has begin, a union leader said.

Many government offices in the state capital wore a deserted look or remained locked as union leaders gathered outside to strategise and protest.

More than 150 government employee unions are participating in the statewide strike.

The Convener of the umbrella group of unions, Hari Kishore Tiwari, told reporters that the strike will go on till February 12 if their demands are not met. He, however, said that in the initial days of their protest, the health and power sectors would not be involved.

“This is being done on compassionate grounds so that people are not affected, but at a later stage we will include health and power services,” he added.

Late on Tuesday, Chief Secretary Anoop Chandra Pandey directed all the district magistrates through video-conference to slap ESMA on the striking employees.

Bracing up for the situation, the government has asked officials to ensure maximum attendance in offices.

Shiv Baran Singh Yadav, Chairman of the striking employees union, said they will not be cowed down by threats of disciplinary and penal action.

“We gave the government enough time to think over our demands but things have come to this stage only due to their lethargy,” he said, adding that the government cannot rob the employees of their democratic right to strike against wrong policies.

The Karmachari Shikshak Sanyukt Morcha, a teachers’ union, has decided to stay away from the strike.

Morcha President V.P. Mishra said: “We welcome the new pension scheme as it is in the interests of the employees.”