Miscreants stepped up attacks on polling staff and polling stations in Kashmir’s Budgam district, a day ahead of bypolls to Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.Some miscreants tried to set ablaze a government school building, designated as a polling station, in Narbal area of Budgam district late last night, DGP S.P. Vaid said.He said the building was saved by the timely action of police personnel deployed in the area.In a separate incident, a group of youth pelted stones at polling staff, who were on their way to a polling station, in Beerwah area of Budgam this morning, a police official said.The police swung into action and chased away the accused, the official said, adding no one was hurt in the brief clashes.Meanwhile, a low intensity blast occurred inside a government school premises, which has been designated as a polling station, in Khanyar of the state capital, triggering panic in the area.The very low intensity blast took place due to mishandling of a tear gas canister by secuirty forces personnel, a police spokesman said.Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, spread over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal is scheduled to go to polls on Sunday.The by-poll has been necessitated by resignation of then PDP leader and member Lok Sabha Tariq Hameed Karra last year to protest against the “atrocities” by security forces during the summer unrest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujhaideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in July last year.
One policeman was seriously injured in a Maoist attack in Korchi division of Gadchiroli district on Friday.The Maoists opened fire at police constables Manit Harami and Ashish Madavi who were in plain clothes and were travelling to Korchi from Kotgul village on a motorcycle. Mr. Madavi was wounded in the firing and airlifted to Nagpur for treatment. In a separate incident, Maoists stopped a private bus belonging to Vishwanath Travels on Bhopalpatnam-Bareguda road, asked passengers to disembark and set it on fire in Bijapur district on Thursday night.
Maggot-infested and decomposing remains of a 64-year-old retired scientist were discovered on Thursday morning at his one-room accommodation in the PUSA Complex Staff Quarters here.Yashvir Sood’s siblings, who the Delhi Police claimed are mentally disturbed, were allegedly living with his remains for the past few days. His older sister Kamla and younger brother Harish, both in their 60s, lived with him. All siblings are unmarried.Foul smellThe body of Dr. Sood, who retired as principal scientist from the Nuclear Research Laboratory of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, was found in the cramped room on a folding bed. Suspecting something was amiss due to the foul smell emanating from Mr. Sood’s residence, the neighbours raised an alarm.“There was a terrible stench… I went to the house but Ms. Sood didn’t allow me to enter inside. So I told the security guard of the next building,” said Manju, their 30-year-old neighbour.
The Congress on Monday hit out at the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over a lathi charge on women students of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and demanded the immediate sacking of the Vice Chancellor and a judicial probe by a sitting High Court judge into the incident.Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over the “preposterous and shocking” incident, and asked what his stand was on the “atrocity” perpetrated on the students in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency.Describing the VC as “incorrigible” and “insensitive”, Mr. Tewari asked Mr. Modi if such a person could head an institute of academic excellence like the BHU.“We demand that the President of India, who is the visitor of the university, immediately take cognisance of what has happened in BHU and sack the vice chancellor,” he told reporters here.Attacks BJP rule in Uttar PradeshAttacking the BJP and its rule in Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Tewari said the government had been been a “failure” on all fronts and accused it of “shedding crocodile tears”.“We demand an inquiry by a sitting High Court judge that should go into all the facts and circumstances as to how this atrocity was perpetrated and hold all those persons who were responsible for ordering this lathi charge to account,” Mr. Tewari said.The former Union minister recalled the words of nationalist leader and BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya, saying those who set up the university created a very secular and pluralistic centre of learning that catered to all communities.He said at the time of its creation, Malviya had said, “India is not a country of the Hindus only; it is a country of the Muslims, the Christians and the Parsis, too. The country can gain strength and develop itself only if people of different communities in India live in mutual goodwill and harmony“.Questions Modi’s silenceThe Congress leader, while questioning Mr. Modi’s silence, asked, “We would like to know from the Prime Minister of India where does he stand on this atrocity which has been perpetrated on women students in his own parliamentary constituency“.He also asked Mr. Modi whether a person who is “so insensitive” to the genuine concerns of students deserved to be the university VC.“The incorrigible vice chancellor of this university, rather than being sympathetic to the students, turned around and told the girls that if you are so conscious of your modesty, why do you step out after 6 O’clock in the evening,” Mr. Tewari claimed.He said rather than empathising with them, the university “colluded in the most barbaric lathi charge”.He also took a dig at the BJP’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign and said the incident was the “perpetration of the most unspeakable atrocities” against the students who were protesting against alleged molestation and were seeking a safer campus.A number of students, including women, and two journalists were injured in a baton charge by the police in BHU where a protest against alleged sexual harassment turned violent on Saturday night.
Founded 20 years ago by editor Amit Danait, A&i Digest has been organising the exhibition for 15 years. Mr. Danait says the intent is “to bring architecture and interior design trends, worldwide and ethnic, to the masses.”This year’s edition features exhibitors from 100 architecture and interior design studios, with design solutions from around the world, and a window to innovative trends across residential, commercial, landscape & urban planning projects, covering the gamut from natural stone materials to integrated automation systems, ergonomic kitchen countertops and stretchable ceilings, laser-cut metal and acrylic lighting solutions, HD veneer prints, brick cladding available at less than ₹125/sq.ft. and hybrid surfaces like a combination of acrylic and aluminium trihydrate (ATH). The hybrid acrylic-metal hydroxide composite created with micro-machining process technology by Infini includes 36% acryclic, 63% ATH, which is a fire retardant, and 1% colouring agents. “This is a really good opportunity to interact with different customers,” Ms. Shah says. “We’re happy to be showcasing our designs here.” For visitors, and especially design students like Utkarsha and her friends, the exhibition provides a great way to explore what contemporary design can offer.A&i Digest’s Design Exhibition: Ishanya Mall, Pune, up to January 7. The trending home and office solutions seems to be automation, with prices ranging from as low as ₹30000 for Belgian designer switches by TENSE to ₹1,50,000 for automation solutions by CasaDigi & Texecom. On show are individual items like touch panels, motion sensors, and biometric identification devices, as well as companies like CasaDigi and Elan who are showcasing the possibilities of a centralised automation interface. The CasaDigi interface allows differently branded electronic items to be integrated using a combination of compatible hardware similar to an amplifier for integrating sound inputs, and proprietary software and enabling centralised control, such as switching electronic appliances on and off and lights that can change colour. With the exception of solar panels, the green buyer looking for sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials will find displays focused more on design rather than eco-friendly design solutions such as natural building materials or biocomposites and a lot of stalls featuring importers of furniture and lighting solutions. Nidhi Jaju, of architecture and design firm Exclusiv, says customers are looking for products not easily available in India such as certain furniture designs. Deepti Shah, an interior designer for 15 years who runs her own firm, Mud House, says the consumer is more aware in terms of design preferences, with functionality at the top of the priority list for working professionals, which has resulted in minimalist designs. But, she says, fusion designs are also currently trending, such as ethnic patterns with functional lines. “We got to see new stone materials, and design possibilities,” say Utkarsha, who does not give a second name. She, Shivani Methi and Bhumika Ostwal are excitedly exploring the range of new materials available. They are part of a group of 50 interior design students from the Institute of Fashion, Media & Allied Arts, Aurangabad, here in Pune on a field trip to see A&i Digest’s Design Exhibition.
Union minister Jitendra Singh said on Tuesday that the Centre had no objection to the handing over of the Kathua rape and murder case to the CBI if the state government referred it.“As far as we are concerned, we don’t have any problem or objection to hand over the case to the CBI. If the state government comes out with a reference, we will hand over the case to the agency today itself,” Mr. Singh told reporters on the sidelines of a function in Jammu.He added that the court was another option through which the case could go to the CBI. “As per my knowledge, a petition (for a CBI probe) is pending there,” he said.Mr. Singh is a member of Parliament from Udhampur in Jammu region and is also the in charge of the ministry of personnel, the controlling authority for CBI.On Tuesday, Chowdhary Lal Singh, one of the two BJP ministers who resigned last week, took out a rally at several places in Kathua to demand a CBI probe into the incident.The case was handed over to the J&K Crime Branch on January 22. The victim went missing on January 10; a week later her body was found in a forest near her house.The girl was allegedly confined in a devasthan (temple), sedated and raped thrice before being suffocated and bludgeoned to death. Eight persons, including a juvenile, were arrested in connection with the crime and their trial began in a court on Monday, where they pleaded not guilty and sought a narco analysis test.Many people in Kathua, including the families of the accused, have been demanding a CBI probe into the incident, which was, however, rejected by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last month after the two BJP ministers, Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, met her and raised the demand.
As water levels in reservoirs across Gujarat are dipping rapidly, the State government has decided not to take any chances with vagaries of monsoon. It is going to organise “Parjanya Yagna”, which, it believes, will ensure good rains. These rituals will be performed at 41 places in 33 districts and eight major cities on May 31. The ‘yagna’ will mark the culmination of the government’s water conservation drive ‘Sujalam Sufalam Jal Abhiyan,’ said Water Supply Minister Parbat Patel.“The government has decided to perform Parjanya Yagna so that we get good rains this time. Ministers will also take part in this endeavour, aimed at filling up the water bodies de-silted during the Jal Abhiyan,” said Mr. Patel. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said a yagna is an invite to the rain god. “As we have deepened several water bodies during this drive, we will now invite the rain god through this Yagna to fill them up,” Mr. Rupani told reporters at Dwarka. The Jal Abhiyan was launched on May 1, during which silt was removed from around 13,000 lakes and ponds and 32 rivers.Opposition Congress said the BJP government was seeking refuge in religious rituals to cover up its mismanagement.“Gujarat is reeling under acute water shortage because of the BJP government’s mismanagement. Like the Jal Abhiyan, this Yagna too is aimed at diverting people’s attention from the failures of this government to conserve water,” state Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
For the first time in West Bengal, the Election Commission (EC) will use Braille-enabled signboards carrying instructions for visually challenged voters. It will be introduced at all the polling stations in the Maheshtala Assembly by-election on Monday.“The decision to use Braille-enabled signboards is a State-specific measure and will be used for the first time in West Bengal to ensure hassle-free polling experience for visually impaired voters,” a senior EC official told The Hindu. He also said that the initiative was part of the drive to make elections more accessible to persons with disabilities (PWD).The Braille-enabled signboards will be put up at the entrance of all the 283 polling stations in the Maheshtala Assembly constituency in South 24 Paraganas district. Apart from the conventionally displayed instructions for voters on how to use the electronic voting machine and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, the signboards will also display such instructions in Braille.The official also said that the EC held consultations with officials of the State government departments such as Women, Child and Social Welfare, Youth Services and Sports to frame strategies on how to involve physically challenged voters in the polling process.Nearly 2.48 lakh voters will cast their votes in the Maheshtala Assembly by-election at 283 polling stations in 111 locations in the constituency. Several companies of Central forces have been deployed for the bypoll. Three-way contest The bypoll will witness a three-way contest between the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress has not fielded any candidate due to an informal understanding with the Left Front. The result will be declared on May 31.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat assured tour operators of Uttarakhand on Saturday of protecting their interests even as all District Magistrates were asked to implement a High Court-imposed ban on water sports in the State in their respective areas.“All aspects of the High Court order regarding the ban on adventure tourism activities are being studied. The next step will be taken after that. The interests of entrepreneurs associated with the trade will be protected,” he said in a statement here.Mr. Rawat also directed Tourism Secretary Dilip Jawalkar to look into all legal options available in the case and take appropriate action.He said effective steps were being taken by the State government to promote adventure tourism, “which is crucial to tourism in Uttarakhand.”Keeping in view the interests of the people involved in the trade, the Chief Minister said the ‘Uttarakhand Rafting, Kayaking Manual’ has been framed, adding that manuals for paragliding and other adventure tourism activities would be prepared soon.Comprehensive policyHe said a comprehensive policy would be prepared to further promote the industry so that it strengthened the economy of the State.Mr. Jawalkar wrote to all DMs on Saturday asking them to strictly implement the High Court order.The Uttarakhand High Court had on June 18 put a ban on white water river rafting, other water sports and paragliding across the State till a transparent policy was framed by the State government on adventure sports, giving the latter two weeks’ time for the purpose.Devendra Rawat, former president of Rafting Association of Uttarakhand, said the ban would affect 40,000 people associated with the trade.A total of 281 companies are associated with the rafting trade, which together own 600 rafts and transact business worth over ₹20 crore every season. The season lasts nine months from October to June, he said.With the ban coming at the peak of the season, there will be heavy losses, he said.Vaibhav Kala, director, Aquaterra Adventures, said majority of outfits cannot be penalised for the errors of a few. Mr. Kala said the State needs to weed out outfits that do not meet the global benchmark.
Five persons have been arrested and several, including five policemen, were injured at Pakur in Jharkhand when a clash broke out between villagers and policemen on Wednesday over cow slaughter during the Id-ul-Zuha festival. The situation is said to be tense but under control.Police officers said villagers at Dangrapahra under the Maheshpur police station limits in Pakur district bordering West Bengal attacked the policemen when they reached there on a tip- off that cow slaughter was being done on the Id-ul-Zuha festival. Since 2015, cow slaughter is banned in Jharkhand and on August 18, the Jharkhand government had also issued a directive for deputy commissioners of all districts to make sure that cattle were not slaughtered on Id-ul-Zuha.Situation under control“The villagers attacked the policemen…and five policemen, including the Maheshpur police station officer in-charge Umesh Prasad, were injured while some villagers too were injuried in the clash…the situation is under control now,” Pakur Superintendent of Police Shailendra Prasad Barnwal said. Both the SP and Deputy Commissioner of Pakur, Dilip Kumar Jha, are camping at Maheshpur, said R.K. Mallick, Jharkhand police spokesperson. “Deputy Inspector General, Raj Kumar Lakra has also been sent along with additional forces to bring the situation under control,” he added.The police had resorted to baton-charge and used tear gas against protesters. However, local people said the police also opened fire on them in which at least seven persons were injured. Later, the police also imposed Section 144 of the India Penal Code in the area which prohibites the assembly of four or more people at a place. Medical treatmentMeanwhile, many injured villagers crossed the Bengal border for medical treatment at Rampurhat government hospital in Birbhum district, 45 km away from Pakur.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s faction in Punjab led by Sukhpal Singh Khaira on Tuesday constituted a five-member committee to resolve internal differences within the State unit.Former Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Mr. Khaira said that members will hold discussions with other members to resolve differences over autonomy for the State unit and other matters.Five membersThe five members are Kanwar Sandhu, Nazar Singh Mansahia, Baldev Singh, Jagdev Singh (all MLAs) and Suresh Sharma. “The talks, if any, with our party colleagues will be on the basis of the six resolutions passed at the AAP volunteers’ convention at Bathinda on August 2,” said Mr. Khaira.He said the party will hold a ‘peoples’ march’ from Kotkapura to Behbal Kalan to Bargari on October 7 to ensure justice on the basis of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report.Open letter to CMKanwar Sandhu, spokesman for the party, released copies of the open letter the AAP had written to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh demanding a special session of the State Assembly to discuss issues of farmers and farm labour, including suicides, debt relief and State policy for them.
Over 30 girls of a government school in Bihar were beaten up brutally by a group of villagers for resisting harassment by some boys. Some of the girls have been admitted to the primary health centre for treatment. ‘Beaten with sticks’The students of the Kasturba Gandhi Residential School in Daparkha village in Supaul district, some 250 km from Patna, were beaten up by a group of people from the neighboring village when they protested after they were teased. The incident happened on Saturday evening when the girls were playing at the school ground. Some local boys from the next village had allegedly been harassing the girls regularly by passing lewd comments and writing obscene words on the boundary wall of the school. The girls had complained about it to the school administration.Police said on Saturday some girls had caught some boys trying to write a vulgar comment on the school wall and scolded them. But, after some time a group of about two dozen people, including parents of some of the boys, attacked the girls playing in the school ground and some staff members. “The girls were kicked and beaten up with sticks”, said Ms. Reema Raj, warden of the school. Many girls sustained injuries, and 12 of them had to be admitted to the PHC. An FIR was later lodged in the case but no one has been arrested yet. “Action will be taken against all those found involved in the attack on the girls,” said Baidyanath Yadav, District Magistrate of Supaul. Meanwhile, the local Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan visited the PHC. Education Minister Krishnanadan Prasad Verma said in Patna “no one will be spared.”
For many nights over the past month, Manipur has been witnessing torch light processions in the valley districts, with the mostly women marchers demanding among other things an end to mob violence directed at those accused of crimes. Over the last few years, at least three persons in Manipur, and two in neighbouring Nagaland, have been victims of mob lynchings. The apprehension of local mobs rendering vigilante justice has even forced the police to spirit away a woman and a man from Manipur. The duo, who are accused of killing a police inspector in order to steal his vehicle, have been placed in the custody of the police in Nagaland, at an undisclosed location, while they await trial. Pishakmacha, a middle-aged woman activist said, “We demand an end to mob crime in this State.” Renubala, a young housewife from Thoubal district who is also participating in the marches said, “A man is not guilty unless a court says so. The government should prevent such mob trials and the beating to death of people. The family members of the accused persons also end up being banished from the locality for ever.” ‘Missing’ wife Chaoba Laishram’s case is an example of the extent to which mob justice has hurt the lives of common people in Manipur. In 2010, when he was 25 years old, he married Naobi Konthoujam in Thoubal district. However, after just eight months she was reported “missing” on April 18, 2011. Accusing Chaoba of murdering Naobi and clandestinely disposing of her body, Naobi’s parents, relatives and other local residents decided to take the law into their own hands. Ignoring Chaoba’s protests of innocence, the mob ransacked and pulled down his tin-roofed house and banished him and his parents from the village, a common form of mob punishment given to those accused of murder in Manipur. On September 21, 2011, a highly decomposed body of a young girl was found by the Bishnupur district police at Ithai barrage. Kunjarani Konthoujam, the ‘missing’ Naobi’s mother, promptly “identified” the body as that of her daughter.The angry villagers brought the mortal remains to the ransacked remnant of Chaoba’s house, piled up wood from the demolished structure and cremated the body in the courtyard.And the following month, a local court remanded Chaoba and his parents to judicial custody.Police, however, subsequently learned that Naobi’s mother had been frequently visiting a house in Thoubal district’s Tekcham belonging to one Sanayai, who it was discovered had secretly married Naobi. Police also found Kunjarani often providing care for an infant. Interrogation established that the baby was the child of her “missing daughter” Naobi and that from the very beginning Kunjarani knew that her daughter was not missing but had been living in Ukhrul district with her new husband.Police arrested Naobi, her mother Kunjarani and the new husband and Chaoba was subsequently acquitted by the court.However, Chaoba’s house had already been destroyed. Importantly, the possible homicide of the unidentified woman who had been cremated was never investigated.On September 19, Manipur’s cabinet decided to introduce ‘The Manipur Mob Violence Control and Prohibition Bill, 2018’ in the Assembly. Chief Minister N. Biren has said that mob violence will never be tolerated or condoned. He disclosed that five persons had been arrested and some policemen suspended in connection with the lynching of Farooque Ahmed Khan, an MBA student, at Tharoijam in Imphal west district on September 13.While villagers claimed that three persons had come in a car to steal two wheelers and that two people had managed to escape, activists demanding justice for Khan said that had been no car and that the victim had likely gone to the village to meet a friend there. Jogeshchandra Haobijam, Imphal west district SP said: “Nothing much can be disclosed since the matter is under investigation”.People recall that on May 3, 1993, a riot had been triggered by a rumour resulting in the loss of 103 innocent lives including those of women and children. The protest marches, according to the participants, are aimed at preventing such rumour-mongering and the recurrence of mob violence. Shymasakhi, a housewife from Bishnupur district, pointed out that in many instances the police “fails to protect the accused persons.” ‘Contempt of court’A. Romenkumar, a retired IPS officer who is now a high court lawyer, told The Hindu that mob violence had reached even into court precincts. He referred to increasing incidents of persons accused of rape or murder and other heinous crimes being thrashed in the court premises, acts which he said amounted to contempt of court.“Adequate security measures should be taken so that the potential trouble makers are not allowed inside the court compound,” he added.Chief Minister N. Biren, who also holds the Home portfolio, had recently said that the State government had set up a fast track court keeping in mind “the gravity of the issue.” The aim was to ensure that persons accused of rape-cum-murder were convicted within a few months. He cited the case of a tribal youth in Manipur’s Senapati district, who had been convicted in July for raping and murdering a young girl and sentenced to death.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly defended the idea of demonetisation after a period of time, arguing that demonetisation has made “so much development possible” in a short period.He targeted the Congress for failing to develop the State over decades in his half-an-hour speech in an election meeting in Bilaspur in north Chattisgarh on Monday.Mr. Modi was in Chattisgarh to campaign for the second phase of polling on November 20 when 72 of State’s 90 constituencies will vote.Mr. Modi said that the speed at which his development projects are progressing is possible due to ‘notebandi’ or demonetisation.“People often ask me how do I deliver so much work in so many fronts — from road construction, electricity distribution, electrification of railways to building of schools or raising IIMs and IITs — where do I get so much money from. I say this money was there earlier also…”“This is not the money of Modi, but you people; earlier it was kept below the bed or in large jute bags…because of demonetisation it all came out and that is why there is so much of work,” the Prime Minister said.Targets Sonia, Rahul He then targeted the Nehru-Gandhi family for poor distribution of money for projects and corruption. He argued that during Congress’ rule money used to “disappear.”“One of Congress’ Prime Ministers — third generation prime minister as everything belonged to Congress – said that if ₹1 is released from Delhi only 15 paisa reaches people. Now, what is that ‘hand’ that used to make 85 paisa disappear? I would say, this demonetisation has brought the 85 paisa out.”Targeting Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Modi said that when the “mother and son are out on bail in a money laundering case they are giving me the certificate of honesty.”They are asking for the “accounts of demonetisation” when it is for “demonetisation that the fraud these people [Sonia and Rahul] could be caught,” Mr. Modi said.
The Assam Police are ascertaining the role of extremist groups in the ongoing protests in the State against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.Addressing a press conference with Chief Secretary Alok Kumar on Saturday, Director-General of Police Kuladhar Saikia, however, said security forces did not have specific inputs about the involvement of extremists in the movement. “Eight cases have so far been registered over stray incidents of violence, and several people arrested. We can ascertain the involvement of underground outfits only after a thorough interrogation,” Mr. Saikia said.Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday said the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent was remote-controlling the protests. He claimed that the Bill was needed to save the State from “going Jinnah’s way.” Appeal for restraint Appealing for restraint, Mr. Alok Kumar said, “The State is passing through a challenging phase, although the law and order situation [arising out of the protests] is under control. The people have a right to protest, but there have been certain deviations.” Mr. Saikia said the police were overburdened with cases of social media abuse. Such cases, he felt, were taking up much of the time of police personnel.“Police stations are flooded with cases in connection with social media posts that people find objectionable or abusive. The police need some space to look into theft and other cases of crime,” he said.Many cases of alleged social media abuse turn out to be frivolous, the DGP added.The social media monitoring cell of Assam Police has been on overdrive since the lynching of two Guwahati-based youth in Karbi Anglong district last year.
The representatives of various political parties who interacted with the visiting Election Commission of India team, led by Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, here on Thursday underlined the need to make the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State free and fair. Talking to journalists after their meeting with the ECI team, the leaders said they requested the commission to strictly implement the rules for conduct of peaceful elections in the State.While the Congress and the BJP urged the commission to prevent alleged misuse of government machinery by the ruling Biju Janata Dal, the BJD appealed to the team to take all measures to prevent violence during the elections.Senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra alleged that both the BJD and the BJP were using money, muscle and government machinery to lure the voters. Strict vigil demandBJD leader Amar Patnaik, who led his party’s delegation to the meeting, said they urged the commission to keep a strict vigil on petrol pumps which were allegedly being used to stock and transfer cash during the bypoll in Bijepur Assembly seat of the State last year.The BJD also drew the attention of the ECI team towards the violence allegedly perpetrated by the BJP during the Bijepur bypoll, Mr. Patnaik said. Alleging that the BJD was using State government employees for its work, Bhrugu Baxipatra of the BJP expressed apprehension that members of the Biju Yuva Vahini formed by the State government may be used by the BJD to rig polls.CPI leader Narayan Reddy said his party urged the commission to use ballot papers instead of EVMs.The ECI team, which arrived in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday night, later discussed the State’s poll preparedness with the district election officers, police IGs, SPs and three revenue divisional commissioners of the State.The ECI team is scheduled to discuss the law and order situation with the State Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and other officials concerned on the last day of their visit on Friday.
Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday launched a programme to seek suggestions for the party’s manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State.The launching of the “Ghare Ghare Sankha: Matamata Dianti Apana, Palana Karanti Naveen” (Conch in every house: You suggest, Naveen acts upon it) programme coincided with the birth anniversary of former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik, which is also observed as the Panchayati Raj Day by the State government. Conch is the party’s symbol since its inception in December 1997.Govt. performanceMr. Patnaik launched the initiative in the Jatani Assembly segment in Khurda district. Members of the BJD’s women wing will visit households and hand over a sticker of the party symbol along with a form and collect people’s views on the State government’s performance and expectations. The party is also seeking suggestions on what demands it should put forth before the Centre.
A six-year-old boy in Mizoram has won the Internet after his photo with a dead chick in one hand and ₹10 in the other was posted on social media.The boy, identified as Derek C. Lalchhanhima of Sairang near Aizawl, had accidentally run over a neighbour’s chick with his bicycle a couple of days ago. He rushed home asking his parents to take the chick to the hospital without realising that the fowl was dead. The boy’s father, Dhiraj Chhetri, said he told his son to take the chick to the local hospital. The boy left with ₹10, his pocket money. He offered the money to the hospital staff and begged them to treat the chick.The hospital staff told him it was too late. Unconvinced, he went home and complained that the doctors took his photo instead of treating the fowl. “He also sought more money, probably thinking the treatment was costlier,” the boy’s father said.On Thursday, his school awarded him a certificate of recognition for the “kind act”.
Despite those overwhelmingly favorable odds, the 5-year-old program doles out only one-fifth of what some senior NSF officials think the foundation should be spending on EAGER grants. At a time when scientists are turning over every rock in search of federal funds, ScienceInsider wondered why the program was so undersubscribed. The answer seems to be the absence of outside peer reviewers—generally considered the gold standard for awarding federal basic research grants. Many NSF program officers seem to be uncomfortable with that alteration to merit review. And so a mechanism designed to encourage unorthodox approaches is languishing because it is seen as going too far.“Outside your comfort zone”NSF’s website describes EAGER as a vehicle for “untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches.” Such “high risk-high payoff” research, it explains, often entails “radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives.”That’s an apt description of Telang’s response to a “Dear Colleague” letter inviting EAGER proposals under NSF’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) initiative. “It forces you to go outside your comfort zone,” he says about the solicitation. “So I went out of my way to create a partnership [with a CMU colleague, computer scientist Artur Dubrawski]. I had been thinking of the problem, but not specifically as something that would involve others outside my discipline.”Heng Xu, program director for the SaTC initiative with NSF’s division of social and economic sciences, is glad he did. “It’s the first time a team has ever had access to such a longitudinal database with transactional data as opposed to self-reported behavior or computer simulations,” she explains. “The project is unique.”“Unique” is an important word for NSF program officers who must weigh an EAGER proposal. The exploratory research the program hopes to fund, they confess, isn’t always easy to define. “We don’t really know what it is, but we can recognize it when we see it,” one veteran staffer says.Then-Director Arden Bement launched EAGER in 2009 as one of two programs that would rely on in-house reviews. (The second, much smaller, program, called RAPID, allows scientists to respond quickly to research opportunities afforded by disasters or other unexpected events.) He urged NSF program officers to spend up to 5% of their budgets on them. But last year EAGER’s share was 0.9% of all NSF-funded research, or $64 million, and the foundation-wide total for both programs has never topped 1.1%.Although success rates are uniformly high, the program’s popularity varies widely across NSF’s seven research directorates. At the bottom is NSF’s social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) directorate, which received only 11 EAGER proposals last year—and funded 10 of them. In contrast, the computing and information sciences directorate (CISE) topped the list by reviewing 171 proposals—all but six of which were funded.Erwin Gianchandani, deputy director for the division of computer and network systems (CNS) within CISE, which teamed up with SBE on the SaTC letter, says EAGER gives NSF a way to test the waters before deciding whether to issue a full solicitation on any particular topic. “We use it to gauge community interest before we launch a formal program,” he explains.It can also be used to nudge researchers in a particular direction. “We’re a relatively young, rapidly evolving discipline,” Gianchandani says about CNS, “and EAGER lets us try out new research threads.”“It has to be exceptional”The EAGER mechanism is not for everybody. With a $300,000 cap and a 2-year duration, the awards are one-third smaller and 1 year shorter than the typical NSF grant and, thus, insufficient for scientists looking to maintain their core research program. They also can’t be renewed. Instead, any follow-up research must be funded through one of NSF’s regular programs.At the same time, EAGERs offer some advantages. The applications are shorter—some five to eight pages instead of the usual 15 to 20 pages for a standard grant. They also feature a quicker turnaround time, as program officers don’t have to convene an outside panel and wait for its judgment on the value and soundness of the research proposal. Instead, a group of NSF staffers vets the application and moves it up the chain of command.Outside reviewers would have been superfluous on his EAGER proposal, Telang believes. “I’m not sure they would have had much to contribute,” he says. Unlike with a standard proposal, he says, “this is not a case in which we had already done 25% of the work, and they could evaluate it. I didn’t have the resources to start working with the data set.”But the absence of outside reviewers may also be the program’s Achilles’ heel. Because NSF’s current merit review system is so highly regarded, program officers are inherently skeptical of anything that takes the broader scientific community out of the equation, notes Jeryl Mumpower, division director for the social and economic sciences.“Program officers are often faced with making very difficult judgments about a proposal,” he says. “Is it sufficiently exploratory? Is the research high-risk? Is the idea really novel? These are tough decisions, and we have a system that we know works well. So there’s a tendency to be pretty conservative.”That attitude sets a very high bar for alternative approaches, Mumpower and others say. “Program officers are very reluctant not to involve the community,” he says. “It has to be an exceptional case. Maybe the right answer isn’t 5%. The empirical results suggest that it’s a much smaller number of cases that are appropriate for this special approach.”Don Rice, a 20-year veteran in the division of ocean chemistry within NSF’s geosciences directorate, says that “peer review is the absolute foundation for determining the best investment of our limited funds.” EAGER awards should be reserved for situations, he says, in which “a PI [principal investigator] has a brilliant new way to tackle a problem, but lacks the resources to collect the preliminary data needed to show that it’s possible.” The relative scarcity of EAGER awards within the directorate—51 proposals, of which 49 were funded—reflect that narrow definition, he says. Bement, who left NSF in 2010 and returned to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he is now director emeritus of its Global Policy Research Institute, agrees that such views are widespread among NSF staffers. “We promoted it while I was there, but we didn’t get many takers,” he acknowledges. “The purpose of EAGER is to encourage high-risk research at the frontier, and there may be more opportunities to do that in some disciplines than in others. At the same time, frontier research is in the eyes of the beholder.”Those eyes may actually be more discerning than NSF’s statistics suggest. The 90% success rates don’t include ideas floated by PIs that program officers have nipped in the bud. In fact, there’s much more back-and-forth between researchers and NSF program staff on EAGER proposals than on regular submissions. Scientists thinking about submitting an EAGER proposal are required to talk first to a program officer, for starters. Some NSF programs go even further, requiring a brief description of the proposed research and then weeding out those ideas deemed not a good fit.NSF doesn’t keep any statistics on that give-and-take, however, so it’s impossible to know what proportion of initial EAGER pitches are ultimately successful. That’s also true for the much smaller RAPID program, which reported a nearly perfect 98% success rate last year on 123 proposals. (RAPID awards, which have a $50,000 cap, are even more narrowly defined; they are meant to give scientists a chance to collect data for a suddenly available research opportunity, like the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.)One step at a timeA breach of financial data may not seem to have much in common with an exploding oil rig. But they do share one feature that makes them appropriate for NSF’s special funding mechanism: Each represented a tabula rasa for curious researchers. And the EAGER award allowed Telang to start the clock.“Once I received the grant, the first step was to hire a student and have him look at the data,” Telang explains. “Then we’ll ask if we can survey these consumers. And that will depend on the willingness of the financial institution to provide us with access.“What’s so useful about these data,” he continues, “is that they will tell us how customers reacted after being notified about a breach. Did they close their account, or reduce how often they used it? Or did they decide to stop doing mobile banking?”Such a data-driven approach is well-suited to the goals of the EAGER program, says NSF’s Xu. “They may be able to use the data to develop a theory in behavioral economics and cybersecurity, which are relatively new fields,” she explains. “That’s why we thought it was appropriate for an EAGER award.”The award’s shorter duration also gives Telang more leeway to chart the course of future research, an important consideration for an academic scientist. “I’m hoping that it will end up in a nice paper. But until we are done with this first phase, it’s hard to say whether I will want to follow up.” How do consumers react after learning that an online bank account has been hacked? Do they take their business elsewhere? Do they limit their online activities to reduce their exposure to such invasions?Those were some of the questions that intrigued Rahul Telang, a professor of information systems and management at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who studies the economics of information security. With data breaches an increasingly common problem, he suspected the behavior of hacked consumers could be having a significant impact on global commerce. But Telang didn’t have enough preliminary data to win a grant to study the issue from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which last year funded only 22% of the nearly 50,000 proposals it received.Fortunately for Telang, NSF offers a funding mechanism that supports the type of exploratory research he wanted to conduct. And this spring Telang received $200,000 to analyze how customers of one major financial institution actually responded to real data breaches. (The firm agreed to share a vast amount of anonymized data with the researcher.)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(*)Telang’s research is being funded by NSF’s EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program, which eschews the agency’s usual reliance on outside peer reviewers and puts the agency’s program staff in the driver’s seat. It’s one of the easiest paths to NSF funding, at least on paper, with success rates topping 90%, according to a recent NSF analysis. Last year, for example, 399 of 441 EAGER proposals were funded. In recent years, the program has had an even higher batting average—95% in 2011 and 91% in 2012.