Citizens' Issues
Over 350 return home from Yemen, wary of future
Over 350 Indians were safely airlifted from strife-torn Yemen, but the returnees on Thursday were apprehensive about their future and hoped they would land jobs.
 
India sent its biggest plane, the C-17 (Globemaster), to evacuate its nationals, 190 of whom landed in Mumbai on Thursday while another 168 went to Kochi in Kerala.
 
Fighting has been going on in Yemen since January 22 when the government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted by Shia Houthi forces. This has provoked the recent military campaign by a coalition of 10 countries led by Saudi Arabia.
 
India has initiated a highly coordinated operation to evacuate its nationals and around 350 people stranded in Yemen's port city of Aden were brought out by Indian Navy Ship INS Sumitra.
 
The returnees were happy to be back home, but were concerned about their future.
 
"We are really happy to be with our near and dear ones," said a nurse who was elated over her safe return in Kochi.
 
"The bigger question is what will happen to our future... We want a job, but do not know where it will come from, as we have families to look after," said the nurse.
 
The number of Indian nationals in Yemen, which was estimated around 14,000 in 2010, declined to an estimated 5,000 by June 2011 following political instability and violence in the country. However, only around 3,000 Indians are registered with the embassy in Sana'a. 
 
Most of the Indians living in Yemen comprise nurses, hospital staff, university professors, professionals, white collar workers, IT professionals and managerial and clerical staff in the private sector. A vast majority of them hail from Kerala but a few belong to other states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
 
Kerala's Minister for Diaspora K.C. Joseph told IANS that they are in constant touch with the ministry of external affairs in Delhi and with the Indian officials in Yemen and Djibouti.
 
"Diplomatic efforts managed to break ice with Saudi Arabian authorities to clear the way for a free air zone to ensure our flights land in Yemen and then return through their air space.
 
"But talks with Iranian authorities are on as their permission is also required. There are another 2,500 Keralites including nurses and teachers," said Joseph.
 
The Kerala government has given a token amount of Rs.2,000 to each of them.
 
Recalling the horror, a returnee said: "The situation in Yemen is getting worse day by day as there are frequent bombings. Bombs were dropped around 200 metres from where I stayed. The most affected are the children." 
 
Another returnee said: "Communications are also breaking down and then it becomes tough for Indian Embassy officials to get in touch with Indians." 
 
Joseph said the state government will press the central government to ensure that diplomatic talks are held to ensure the return of Indians.
 
"Another tough ask is that nobody knows how many Keralites are there in Yemen. But the Kerala government will do its best to see how best we can help the nurses," Joseph said.
 
He said his government will look into providing jobs to the nurses who have returned.
 
"There are practical difficulties to find jobs for around 2,000 nurses, but our government will do everything possible," said Joseph.
 
India has also agreed to requests from neighbours Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to assist in evacuation of their nationals from Yemen.

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COMMENTS

Naveen gowda

4 months ago

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Unseasonal rains take a toll on wheat, fruit crops; farmers take a hit
The wheat procurement process in Punjab and Haryana, which officially begins on April 1, is likely to be delayed as the crop has still not ripened for harvesting
 
The damage caused to the standing wheat and fruit crop by unseasonal rains in the past four to six weeks has started to hit home, with farmers in these states saying that they will not be able to recover from the loss any time soon.
 
As if the fury of the rainfall in February and early March was not enough, another spell of rainfall in late March, coupled with strong winds and hailstorms, has added to the damage caused to the standing crops in states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
 
While the wheat crop in Punjab and Haryana that was to be harvested later this month has been damaged, the mango and strawberry crop in Maharashtra and the apple crop in Himachal Pradesh has been severely affected.
 
The wheat procurement process in Punjab and Haryana, which officially begins on April 1, is likely to be delayed as the crop has still not ripened for harvesting.
 
In Haryana and Punjab, agriculture experts feel that the damage to the crop could be up to 25 percent till mid-March itself. The rainfall and strong winds in March-end have added to the woes of farmers.
 
"The crop that has been damaged cannot be recovered. The crop, which is still standing will also not be of much use as it will have a higher moisture content and procurement agencies will be unwilling to purchase it," agriculturist Amar Singh Sandhu of Moga district told IANS.
 
Scientists at the Haryana Agriculture University (HAU), Hisar, and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, have said that the quality of grain in the wheat crop this season will be poor.
 
"The grain will have high moisture content. It will not be good for long-term storage," a senior scientist at HAU told IANS on the phone from Hisar.
 
And there will be no respite from the unfavourable weather conditions in the coming days too.
 
Weather department officials in Chandigarh said that western disturbances could lead to more rain over the northern region in the next few days.
 
The worries for the farmers - and the affected states - are that the central government, as per existing rules, does not chip in with compensation for the damaged crops if it is less than 50 percent.
 
"In case of Punjab and Haryana, the damage was up to 25 percent till mid-March. Fresh assessment is being done to find out the extent of damage to crops," a senior officer of the Punjab agriculture department, told IANS in Chandigarh, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
 
In Maharashtra, the two fruits of pride - mangoes and strawberries - have been drastically hit due to regular bouts of unseasonal rains in different parts of the state.
 
The damage has happened at the peak cropping and plucking season, industry stakeholders said.
 
"Nearly 60 percent of the mango crop has been hit by twin spells of heavy rains, one during Diwali (last October) which hit flowering and in March which hit the ready crop that was to be plucked after a few days," Fruit Growers Welfare Association chief Balasaheb Bhende told IANS in Mumbai.
 
Compared to an estimated 45,000 tonnes of mango crop from the state, the final season's tally (in July) may barely touch 25,000 tonnes, he rued.
 
The worst-hit is the famous alphonso of Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district.
 
The rains have resulted in anthracnose disease, which blots the raw fruit and rots it before it ripens, rendering it useless.
 
"Even strawberry has been at the receiving end of rains and hailstorms at different times during the cropping season from November to February," Strawberry Growers Association of India President Balasaheb Bhilare told IANS in Mumbai, adding that the production will be less than 50 percent this time.
 
Consequently, the prices of both mangoes and strawberries have hit the roof in major markets like Mumbai and Pune.
 
The juicy apples from hill state Himachal Pradesh too may not be as sweet this time, with adverse weather conditions damaging the crop.
 
State horticulture department officials say continuous spells of rain in Shimla, Mandi and Kullu districts and snow in the higher reaches of Kinnaur district are good at this point in time, but if precipitation continues till mid-April, it will delay the flowering stage of the apple crop.
 
"There are reports of widespread rains in Jubbal, Kotkhai, Rohru, Theog and Narkanda areas (in Shimla district). This will help sustain the required level of moisture in the soil during summer," S.P. Bhardwaj, former joint director at the Solan-based Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, told IANS.
 
Bhupinder Chauhan, an apple grower in Jubbal in upper Shimla, said the rain during this period is good but after the middle of next month it would be a matter of concern.
 
The fruit production in 2014-15 is estimated at 653,000 tonnes, compared to 866,000 tonnes in 2013-14.
 
"Apples constitute about 89 percent of the total fruit production. During 2014-15 (up to December 2014), 581,000 tonnes of apples were produced against 739,000 tonnes in 2013-14," the state economic survey report said.

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Net Neutrality Debate - II
The meaningless rules and regulations imposed on newcomers by the government gives more power to the incumbent player. Similarly, established ISPs will gain more power as the restrictions on the sector increase
 
What is the motivation for ISPs to invest in better infrastructure to deliver video content if they cannot charge them differently? What is the incentive for a newcomer into the video streaming business to come up with a better technology that would reduce the bandwidth consumption while giving the same service? None, for he will be charged at the same rate as Netflix. In addition, no wonder Netflix and other established businesses support this so called ‘non-discriminatory’ pricing. As nobody can now threaten their business models. 
 
Net neutrality also prohibits any collaboration between the video streamer and the ISP to innovate a technology to give a better experience for the user.
 
In 2011, MetroPCS, a mobile network company, was accused of violating net neutrality principle as it favoured YouTube over other video streaming sites. The background story is - MetroPCS provides low-cost unlimited data consumption plans for price conscious customers. Since they deliver it via 2G technology --which is not technically broadband -- they would not allow video streaming or VOIP calls (actually this itself violates net-neutrality principle, but the complaint was not against it). Nevertheless, when they approached YouTube and learnt how to compress their videos to deliver over the 2G network efficiently, they added “unlimited YouTube videos” to the data packages they were offering. This bit, though provide better experience for their customers, is criminal under net-neutrality principle. 
 
ISPs can’t discriminate content providers, but what if the content providers discriminate ISPs?
 
ESPN3.com is an online streaming service that broadcasts global sports events. If you go to their website, it will only let you watch their videos, if your ISP is registered with them. This means content providers can have their own revenue models, but ISPs cannot have that freedom. If you are taking the creative element out, why will anybody want to invest in this business? This will stall the internet penetration rate and the ones who do not have access to internet will continue to suffer. India, with only 20% internet penetration, if any, should be giving more freedom to the ISPs. 
 
However, it is astounding how the principle of net neutrality garners so much support, for it can be clearly seen to be failing when applied to networks in the physical world. In a book publishing chain, author writes a book; publisher evaluates and publishes it; and then it reaches your nearest bookshop. If you apply the principle of not discriminating data packets based on the content they are carrying, the government should be forcing the bookshops to price books based on the number of words present in it. After all, the data packets in this scenario are words/alphabet. Sounds foolish, no? Who does that, you may think? Well, the Indian Govt, in 1956 passed a law, which forced newspapers to price their dailies based on the number of pages they are selling. Here is the stated purpose for the law.
 
An Act to provide for the regulation of the prices charged for newspapers in relation to their pages and of matters connected therewith for the purpose of preventing unfair competition among newspapers so that newspapers may have fuller opportunities of freedom of expression.
 
The tone of this should sound familiar to net-neutrality debaters.
 
Under this law, a new entrant in the media business, if he wanted to give a taste of his ideas to the readers by adopting a market strategy to offer a six-month free subscription, he cannot do that. Moreover, the law talks about “freedom of expression”. The entry barrier created by not letting the newcomer use pricing as a strategy to enter the market can only benefit the established businesses. However, the act says it is there to prevent “unfair competition”.
 
Yes, whether it is 1956 or 2015, every government regulation wears the mask of protecting “freedom of expression” and preventing “unfair competition” but does exactly the opposite.
 
People ask, is it not a threat to freedom of speech if ISPs block content as they wish? No, just like it cannot be considered a threat to freedom of speech if your neighbour does not let you speak in his house. Property rights precede freedom of speech. If there is an agreement between you and the ISP that they will not block any content, and if they still do, they would be liable for violating the contract. However, if you ask how do I know if they are blocking any content? Well, there will be a market for this, where third-party rating services will be equipped to certify ISPs on their internal workings, and you can chose ISPs based on that. In addition, ISPs can sell transparency as a feature of their service to attract customers. 
 
There is this allegation that ISPs will block, for instance Google, and offer their own search engines. Like a company-owned showroom, they display only their products and block others’, or do they really? Well, even if they do it, it is their property and it is their prerogative, but they will not do it, it is not profitable. 
 
The last mile ISPs have too much power they say. Like the local kirana store can dent the Colgate and its consumers by not selling its toothpaste, right? If one kirana store does not sell, the other will. If no one wants to sell it, Colgate will open its own store. Like how Google ventured into ISP business with ‘Google Fibre’. What gives more power to the local kirana store is if the govt puts meaningless rules and regulations to give a license for a new comer to open his own store. Similarly, established ISPs will gain more power as the restrictions on the sector increase.
 
You may also want to read...
 
(The author can be reached at twitter.com/ravithinkz)

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COMMENTS

Prakhar Verma

2 years ago

Going against Net-Neutrality will complicate the existing pricing structure and composition of the data packages provided by the ISP's. I wouldn't mind paying more for VOIP services but the whole purpose of internet will be destroyed if I am required to subscribe to two different data packages, for ordinary surfing and another one for various OTT services.

Sudharsan R

2 years ago

Greedy Telecom Players already charge heavy for data (Rs.250) for 1GB data wich is 100 times costlier than unlimited dedicated fibere connections now they want to throttle speed of applications and website to make more money which is 100% against net neutrality hope TRAI does not feed theses greedy telecom players

Shashibhushan Gokhale

2 years ago

The statement: "What is the motivation for ISPs to invest in better infrastructure to deliver video content if they cannot charge them differently?" is misleading and a good example of perverse use of metaphors and analogies.

Isn't higher profits driven by increasing volume of network traffic due to people using video content a lesser motivation?

Money at cost of other is greed. Money for service of others is ambition. Please correct your morals.

REPLY

Sudharsan R

In Reply to Shashibhushan Gokhale 2 years ago

Yes your are 100% Right it is only greed and nothing else. Now that want to violate net neutrality and throttle speed and block each and every application and website.

Vinaysheel Rao

2 years ago

People tend to attach moral connotations to words like equality and neutrality. This has to be challenged. Technology thrives on inequality. Undermining it with nonsense such as this net neutrality BS will take us back to the stone age ...or to an age with slow internet--which is essentially the same thing.

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