Rajasthan Home Minister promises action in Alwar case

first_imgUnder pressure to act in the case of lynching of a man for transporting cows in Alwar district, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria on Sunday said anyone found breaking the law will be punished. He reiterated that the State government would take action against “both the sides”.Speaking on the sidelines of the 11th Standing Committee Meeting of the Inter-State Council in New Delhi, Mr. Kataria said though deceased Pehlu Khan, a resident of Nuh in Haryana, did not have valid papers to transport the cattle out of Rajasthan, the people who allegedly thrashed him and his companions had taken the matter in their own hands.Mr. Kataria pointed out that only the Sub-Divisional Officer had the power to issue permit for carrying bovine animals out of the State. FIR registered“In this case, Pehlu Khan did not have valid documents,” he said. An FIR was registered against him for illegally transporting cows, the Minister addedHowever, it was the police who admitted him and others to the hospital in Behror and registered a case under Section 308 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code after the April 1 incident, he said. “When he died, the case was converted to Section 302 (murder) and several persons have since been arrested.”Law and order situationThe Minister denied that the law and order situation in the State had deteriorated after the incident.Pehlu Khan’s family members have stated that he had purchased the cows with proper receipts at a cattle fair organised by the Jaipur Municipal Corporation and was falsely accused of smuggling the bovine animals.Two more heldThe police have arrested two more persons – Dayanand, 40, and Neeraj, 19 – in connection with Pehlu Khan’s murder, on the basis of video footage of the April 1 incident. With the latest arrests, a total of five persons have been apprehended in the case.last_img read more

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Lalu calls key meeting on Monday, Nitish a day after

first_imgAmid the tense political atmosphere in Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad has called a meeting of party legislators on Monday, while alliance partner Janata Dal (United) has called a meeting of its core committee on Tuesday.The Opposition BJP, for its part, has appealed to RJD and JD(U) MLAs to pressure their party leaders to seek the resignation of Mr. Prasad’s son, Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, in the wake of the CBI booking him for alleged corruption in the award of a contract for managing two railway hotels.Nitish silentBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar returned to Patna on Sunday afternoon, after three days in Rajgir, and drove straight to his 1 Anne Marg residence. He did not speak to the media.Mr. Kumar and his party leaders have been maintaining a stoic silence on the CBI raids on Mr. Prasad’s premises and the charge sheet filed against Rabri Devi and Mr. Tejaswi Yadav in connection with the railway hotels scam.The “image conscious” Chief Minister was expected to take a decision on Mr. Tejaswi Yadav after reaching Patna. But that did not happen. Mr. Kumar has also cancelled his weekly Lok Samvad programme on Monday due to “ill-health”.Mr. Prasad has been meeting senior party leaders and legal advisers at his 10 Circular Road residence for the past two days.Legal advisersParty sources said he spoke to eminent lawyer and party’s Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani twice.Party leaders coming out after meeting the RJD chief said they would not be cowed down by the BJP’s political vendetta. Party sources told The Hindu that the RJD chief had identified another member for Deputy Chief Minister should Mr. Tejaswi Yadav need to be replaced.Not to quitNames of State Finance Minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Lalit Yadav, MLA, and Mr. Prasad’s elder son, Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav, came up at the closed-door meeting with some top party leaders. However, party insiders said neither Mr. Tejaswi Yadav nor any of the family members favoured his resignation.Meanwhile, senior State BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi told presspersons that he was appealing to all RJD and JD(U) MLAs to demand the resignation of Mr. Tejaswi Yadav.The party’s leaders have been holding meetings for the last two days to discuss the fast changing political situation. Top State BJP leaders asked legislators on Sunday to gear up for a possible mid-term poll.last_img read more

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Faux pas leaves govt. red-faced

first_imgNagpur – The Maharashtra government was left red-faced in the State Assembly on Wednesday when the Speaker had to cancel a calling attention motion as the Agriculture Minister was unaware of cotton crops being hit by pink bollworm infestation.Officials of the Agriculture Department failed to brief Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar on the raging problem for which 69 members of the Assembly had moved the calling attention motion and demanded a detailed discussion.Speaker Haribhau Bagde announced postponement of the motion owing to lack of information of government officers on the issue. Members of the opposition immediately demanded an apology from the government and accused it of shielding private seed companies.Nationalist Congress Party MLA Ajit Pawar said, “The issue is not new. How can the Minister not get an answer from his department? Has he completely lost hold or is he shielding someone?”Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “When the State is staring at a loss of ₹30,000 crore, the Agriculture Department’s claim to having no information is a shameful thing.”last_img read more

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Amarinder to meet Trudeau on Wednesday

first_imgAmid ambiguity over his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said on Monday that they would meet in Amritsar on Wednesday.“Look forward to meeting Canadian Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau in Amritsar on Wednesday. I’m hopeful that this meeting will help strengthen the close Indo-Canadian business ties as well as the deep-rooted people-to-people relations between our two countries,” the Chief Minister wrote on Twitter.Deep roots“While trade and business will be the focus area, the two leaders are expected to discuss steps to intensify the close relations between the people of the two countries,” said a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office.“Punjab has deep roots in Canada, where a large Punjabi community is settled, and has always striven to strengthen the connect,’’ Capt. Singh said in the statement.He pointed to the apology tendered by Mr. Trudeau in 2016 for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which hundreds of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus were denied entry to Canada and forced to return to India. This gesture underlined the depth of the bilateral relations, he said.last_img read more

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Bihar ex-Minister, husband booked under Arms Act

first_imgAn FIR was registered against Bihar’s former Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma and her husband under the Arms Act following recovery of 50 cartridges from her in-law’s house during a CBI raid in connection with the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex scandal, the police said.The CBI had on Friday raided nearly 12 places in four districts of Bihar, including the residences of Ms. Verma in Patna and her in-law’s place in Begusarai.The FIR was registered on Friday against Ms. Verma and her husband Chandrashekhar for recovery of 50 live cartridges from her in-law’s house at Arjun Tola village during a raid, Cheria Bariarpur police station SHO Ranjit Kumar Rajak said.Different firearmsThe police said the live cartridges were of different firearms.The FIR was registered against the couple by a CBI official, Mr. Rajak said, but declined to name him.Ms. Verma had resigned as Social Welfare Minister last week following a disclosure that her husband Chandrashekhar had spoken to the prime accused in the scandal, Brajesh Thakur, 17 times between January and June this year.The scandal came to light two months ago when an FIR was lodged by the Social Welfare Department following a social audit report submitted by Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences which mentioned sexual abuse of girls lodged at the Muzaffarpur shelter home.last_img read more

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Fire breaks out in Kalka-Howrah train, no casualties

first_imgA fire broke out in the front coach of Kalka-Howrah train on Tuesday, however, no one was injured, a Railway Police official said.The blaze erupted in a seating cum luggage coach in the early hours between Dhirpur to Dhoda Khedia railway stations near Kurukshetra, Haryana, he said.“Smoke filled the SLR bogie (Seating cum Luggage Rake), which is next to the engine. The train was brought to a halt and all the passengers were safely evacuated when smoke was noticed,” the official said.“The bogie caught fire later and fire tenders were called. Three women and two children, who complained of difficulty in breathing as they had inhaled smoke, were provided medical attention,” he added.Short circuit?As per preliminary details, an electrical short circuit was believed to be the reason behind the fire, he said, adding that forensic experts had been called to ascertain the exact cause.The train which had started from Kalka in Haryana in the early morning was headed to Howrah.After the incident, the train was held up for more than two hours before the affected bogie was detached and placed about 50 to 60 metres away. Rail traffic on the route was also affected, he said.last_img read more

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Rajiv Gandhi statue vandalised in Ludhiana

first_imgA statue of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was vandalised in Ludhiana on December 25 by some persons, who Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh claimed, owed allegiance to the Shiromani Akali Dal in the State.The Chief Minister has asked the police to take action in the matter and identify the perpetrators. Paint was sprayed by miscreants on the statue at the Salem Tabri area in Ludhiana, police said. They carried out the act in full public glare and blamed Rajiv Gandhi for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, they said.Condemning the incident, Capt. Singh tweeted, “Strongly condemn vandalisation of Rajiv Gandhi’s statue by @Akali_ Dal_ workers in Ludhiana. Have asked Police to identify the guilty & take strict action.” “@officeofssbadal should apologise to people of Punjab for this obnoxious act,” he posted on Twitter tagging the office of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. Capt. Singh also asked the SAD to apologise to the people of Punjab for this act.Police said the miscreants demanded that statues of Rajiv Gandhi across the country be removed and Bharat Ratna conferred on him be withdrawn. The statue was later cleaned by some Ludhiana Congress leaders.Ludhiana Congress unit president Gurpreet Singh said they have lodged a police complaint.last_img read more

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3 murders that rocked M.P. solved, say police

first_imgThe Madhya Pradesh police have solved all the three recent murders in the State in which the opposition BJP workers have some connection. These murders took place between January 17 and 23 in the Malwa region.In a major breakthrough in the murder of BJP Balwadi block president Manoj Thakre on January 20, the police have arrested seven persons. “Seven persons have been arrested in connection with the murder of Manoj Thakre. They include BJP State executive member Tarachand Rathor and his son,” Superintendent of Police Yangchen Dolkar Bhutia told reporters in Barwani district on Thursday. RSS worker heldIn another development, the Ratlam police on Thursday arrested a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker, Himmat Patidar, from Pratapgarh district in Rajasthan. He had faked his own murder on January 23 to claim insurance money totalling ₹20 lakh in order to repay debts.SP, Ratlam, Gaurav Tiwari said Patidar killed his farm labourer, Madan Malviya (32), to pass it off as his own murder. He later burnt the victim’s face to conceal his identity.In the case pertaining to the gunning down of Prahlad Bandhwar, senior BJP leader and chairman of Mandsaur municipality, on January 17, a BJP worker, Manish Bairagi, has been arrested.last_img read more

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India’s Fragmented Society Was Once a Melting Pot

first_img“In India we celebrate the commonality of major differences,” wrote the celebrated author Shashi Tharoor about his native country. “We are a land of belonging rather than of blood.” Indeed, India’s 1.24-billion-strong population is one of the world’s most diverse, with 700 ethnic and language groups and possibly many more, depending on how they are counted. Today, most of these groups keep pretty much to themselves, only rarely marrying outsiders. But a new study concludes that several thousand years ago, the entire subcontinent underwent a period of massive intermarriage, shuffling its population’s genetic deck so thoroughly that it left clear traces—even in the genomes of today’s most isolated tribes.In recent years, genetic studies of modern Indians have provided a host of new insights into the ancient history of this sprawling nation, which harbors nearly one-sixth of the world’s population. A key finding, reported in 2009 by a team led by geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston, was that most Indians today are descendants of two major population groups: Ancestral North Indians (ANI), who probably migrated into the subcontinent 8000 or more years ago from the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe; and Ancestral South Indians (ASI), who were native to the region and had been there much longer. The study also showed that these two groups began to mix at some point in the past, although just when was not clear.Reich and his colleagues teamed up with researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, to take a much closer look at the genetics of modern Indians. Using both newly generated and previously published genetic data from 571 people representing 73 ethnic and language groups, 71 from India and two from Pakistan (which prior to Indian independence from British rule in 1947 was considered part of India), the team analyzed the genetic differences among the subjects using several powerful statistical methods. The analysis included nearly 500,000 genetic markers on the subjects’ DNA.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(*)The results, reported online today in The American Journal of Human Genetics, paint a complex picture: Beginning about 4200 years ago, ANI and ASI populations, which previously had kept mostly separate, began mating together, a flurry of intermarriage that probably lasted more than 2 millennia. Then, beginning about 1900 years ago or somewhat later, mating patterns shifted dramatically. Local populations became entrenched, eschewing intermarriage with other groups and adopting a cultural pattern of what researchers call endogamy, the practice of marrying only within an ethnic or social group.“There was a major demographic transformation in India from a region where mixture was pervasive to one in which it is very rare because of a shift to endogamy,” says lead author Priya Moorjani, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School.The traces of this alternating pattern can be clearly seen in the genomes of modern Indians today, the study finds. For example, the percentage of ANI ancestry ranges from a high of 71% in the Pathan ethnic group of northern India to a low of 17% in the Paniya group of southwest India, meaning that the degree of ancient admixture is still measurable and significant in even the most isolated and endogamous ethnic groups.“The most remarkable aspect of the ANI-ASI mixture is how pervasive it was, in the sense that it has left its mark on nearly every group in India,” Moorjani and her co-workers write.What accounts for this pattern? The team points out that the period of intermarriage overlaps with a time of huge social upheavals in India, including the collapse of the ancient Indus civilization—which thrived on the Indian subcontinent between about 2600 B.C.E. and 1900 B.C.E.—as well as large-scale population movements and the rise of the Vedic religion, the predecessor of modern Hinduism. But after 1900 years ago, India’s caste system became a major cultural force, the team concludes, based on its new genetic findings and confirmed by evidence from ancient religious texts. The system rigidly defined four social classes, with the Brahmans at the top and the Sudras at the bottom. Intermarriage was not allowed between them. The Rig-Veda, India’s oldest surviving text and a founding document of ancient Hinduism, does not mention the caste system in its earliest sections, probably written some 3000 years ago; only much later are references to it found.“The bulk of the Rig-Veda describes a society in which there is substantial movement among groups,” Moorjani points out. The four-caste system is only mentioned in an appendix written much later, she says, consistent with the genetic evidence.The study is “carefully and cautiously crafted,” says Toomas Kivisild, a population geneticist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and has “major significance for understanding the complex demographic processes in India that led to the endogamous rules of the caste system.”Lynn Jorde, a geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, calls the results “intriguing,” but cautions that they need to be confirmed with a larger number of samples from even more regions of the Indian subcontinent, as well as with the use of complete DNA sequences from the entire genomes of all the individuals studied.The team agrees that more needs to be done and suggests that ancient DNA studies of prehistoric burials—which would give scientists a finer grained picture of population mixing in the ancient past—could be the next step in this ongoing research.last_img read more

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Top Stories: Stranded Whales, a Lead-Laced Ocean, and Three-Parent Embryos

first_imgFind Along Chilean Highway Suggests Mass Stranding of Whales Millions of Years AgoIn 2010, highway workers in Chile uncovered a trove of fossils, including the skeletons of at least 30 large, mostly intact baleen whales. The 9-million-year-old fossils are the first definitive examples of ancient mass strandings of whales. What killed all these whales? Scientists may finally have the answer.3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced OceanSign 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(*)The United States and Europe banned most uses of lead decades ago, but the pollutant’s fingerprint lingers on—as shown by remarkably detailed new maps of our oceans. The maps tell an especially sobering story of past pollution—and continuing contamination.Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than ThoughtIt’s called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.Getting Crops to ‘Talk’ to InsectsIf you want to keep insects off your crops, you have a couple of options: Use pesticides or confuse the bugs with pheromones. Pheromones—chemicals used by insects to communicate—are more environmentally friendly, but manufacturing them involves harmful chemicals. Now, scientists have figured how to produce pheromones from plants themselves, a safer and potentially cheaper approach.U.S. and U.K. Weigh In on Controversial IVF TechniqueA new in vitro fertilization technique that has provoked controversy because it involves combining genetic material from two different women’s egg cells has been assessed by both the United States and the United Kingdom this week.The U.K. government has issued proposed regulations that would allow researchers to try the controversial technique in patients. Across the pond in the United States, however, experts reached a different conclusion. Advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have concluded that mitochondrial transfer is in fact not yet ready for human clinical trials.The World’s Forests at Your FingertipsA new electronic tool called Global Forest Watch (GFW) offers the public, policymakers, and scientists near-real-time data on Earth’s forests through an interactive website. Launched last week by the World Resources Institute, GFW allows users to track deforestation over time, find recently clear-cut areas and current fires, and receive alerts when there are changes to specific tracts of interest.last_img read more

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Australian scientists take to the streets to protest job cuts

first_imgSYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Abandoning their usual reserve, nearly 1000 scientists across the country downed instruments and grabbed placards this week to protest pending job losses at the nation’s leading research organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). “Scientists are not known for rushing to the barricades,” says Anthony Keenan of the CSIRO Staff Association, who adds that while staff members are concerned about job cuts at CSIRO, they are “dismayed” at the government’s short-sighted approach to science.  Job cuts at CSIRO are the direct result of the government’s decision last month to slash AU$115 million, or 16%, from the organization’s budget over 4 years. As many as 420 staff members, mostly scientists, could be out of work by June 2015, according to a memo circulated to staff members on 14 May by CSIRO chief Megan Clark. According to the Staff Association, the losses are “unprecedented.” Currently, CSIRO has 5500 positions. The pending cuts could leave the agency with 1000 fewer staff members than last year, and up to 2500 fewer than it had in the 1990s. The conservative government, elected last September, has also chosen not to appoint a science minister, the first time since the portfolio was created in 1931.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(*)Protests occurred today at the Black Mountain site near Canberra, the Melbourne suburb of Clayton, North Ryde near Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, and Perth. On Tuesday, scientists gathered at regional sites in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, as well as in Western AustraliaAfter speaking at the Canberra protest, former science minister and opposition Labor Senator Kim Carr blasted the government with this tweet: “No Science Minister, no policy, no idea.”last_img read more

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Fukushima report urges U.S. plant operators to take heed

first_imgTo avoid the kind of complacency over safety that led to the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan, U.S. nuclear plant operators and regulators must be prepared to take timely action to upgrade plant safety features in line with advances in the understanding of natural hazards, states a report released today.The report, Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants, was written by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The panel drew on Japanese and international investigations into the causes of the Fukushima disaster, precipitated by the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011.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(*)Like previous assessments, the academy’s report cites as a key contributing factor to the disaster the “failure of the plant owner [Tokyo Electric Power Co.] and the principal regulator [the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency] to protect critical safety equipment at the plant from flooding in spite of mounting evidence that the plant’s current design basis for tsunamis was inadequate.” The earthquake cut power from the electrical grid and the tsunami swamped the plant’s emergency generators, which were located in basements in the complex. The total loss of power deprived plant operators of reliable data on conditions within the reactors. They could not control key equipment, and therefore could not cool the reactors. Three of the plant’s six reactors suffered core meltdowns, hydrogen explosions damaged the facility, and the release of radioactive plumes led to the evacuation of about 100,000 nearby residents, many of whom remain in temporary housing.The report notes that plant personnel were inadequately trained and lacked sufficient manpower to cope with simultaneous crises at several reactors. The situation was exacerbated by the loss of communication lines between the plant and the headquarters in Tokyo.The report’s authors describe the disaster as a beyond-design-basis event, because several factors were more severe than anticipated by designers—particularly the earthquake and tsunami hazards. “The overarching lesson learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that nuclear plant licensees and their regulators must actively seek out and act on new information about hazards that have the potential to affect the safety of nuclear plants,” the report concludes, adding that plant operators “must take timely actions to implement countermeasures when such new information results in substantial changes to risk profiles at nuclear plants.” The report cites a need to strengthen capabilities “for identifying, evaluating, and managing the risks from beyond-design-basis events,” including large earthquakes or floods that occur very infrequently.During a dial-in press conference to discuss the report, committee member B. John Garrick, a consultant in Laguna Beach, California, explained that there is also a need to assess how a severe accident, simultaneously affecting multiple reactors at one site and within a region, can complicate crisis management at a time when electricity, support, and emergency services from off-site could be disrupted, as happened at the Fukushima plant. In such circumstances, plant personnel must be trained to respond in an ad hoc manner to circumstances that are nearly impossible to completely predict, the report states.Among a number of specific lessons, the report identifies the need to ensure a continuing source of power for instrumentation and safety system control and to cool and depressurize reactors; to improve monitoring of radiation levels both on-site and in the surrounding community; and to provide more robust communication links between on-site and off-site support facilities.  Robert Bari, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, noted that plant operators and regulators in the United States and other countries are already taking steps to upgrade plant systems, operating procedures, and operator training in response to the Fukushima disaster. But “it is too soon to evaluate their comprehensiveness, effectiveness, or status,” he said.  Norman Neureiter, acting director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy of AAAS, which publishes Science and ScienceInsider, chaired the committee of 21 experts.last_img read more

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Mysterious Indo-European homeland may have been in the steppes of Ukraine and Russia

first_imgBut many archaeologists noted that genetic and archaeological studies did indeed suggest massive ancient migrations from the Middle East into Europe that could have brought PIE and sparked such language diversification. In 2003, evolutionary biologists Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand used computational methods from evolutionary biology to track words as they changed over time, and concluded that the Anatolian hypothesis was right. But steppe supporters remained unconvinced, even after Gray’s team published a confirming analysis in Science in 2012.Fans of the steppe hypothesis are now hailing a genetics study that used ancient DNA from 69 Europeans who lived between 8000 and 3000 years ago to genetically track ancient population movements. The work, now posted on the bioRxiv preprint server, was done by a large team led by geneticists David Reich and Iosif Lazaridis of Harvard Medical School in Boston and Wolfgang Haak of the University of Adelaide in Australia. Among the team’s samples were nine ancient individuals—six males, two females, and a child of undetermined sex—from the Yamnaya culture north of the Black Sea in today’s Russia. Beginning about 6000 years ago, these steppe people herded cattle and other animals, buried their dead in earthen mounds called kurgans, and may have created some of the first wheeled vehicles. (Many linguists think PIE already had a word for “wheel.”) The team also retrieved ancient DNA from four skeletons from the later Corded Ware culture of central Europe, known for the distinctive pottery for which they are named (see photo above), as well as their dairy farming skills. Archaeologists had noted similarities among these cultures, especially in their emphasis on cattle herding.The team focused on sections of DNA that they suspected would provide markers for past population movements and identified nearly 400,000 DNA positions across the genome in each individual. They used new techniques to zero in on the key positions in the nuclear DNA, allowing them to analyze twice as many ancient nuclear DNA samples from Europe and Asia as previously reported in the entire literature.The comparison of the two cultures’ DNA showed that the four Corded Ware people could trace an astonishing three-quarters of their ancestry to the Yamnaya. That suggests a massive migration of Yamnaya people from their steppe homeland into central Europe about 4500 years ago, one that could have spread an early form of the Indo-European language, the team concludes. Thus the paper for the first time links two far-flung material cultures to specific genetic signatures and to each other—and suggests, the team says, that they spoke a form of Indo-European.The Corded Ware culture soon spread across north and central Europe, extending as far as today’s Scandinavia. So the “steppe ancestry,” as the authors of the preprint call it, is found in most present-day Europeans, who can trace their ancestry back to both the Corded Ware people and the earlier Yamnaya. The work thus adds to genetic findings from last fall showing that the genetic makeup of today’s Europeans is more complicated than anyone expected.The results are a “smoking gun” that an ancient migration into Europe from the steppe occurred, says Pontus Skoglund, an ancient DNA specialist who is now working in Reich’s lab but was not a co-author on the paper. (Although the paper is publicly available on a preprint server, it is not yet published, and the authors declined to discuss their work until it’s published.) The paper “levels the playing field between the steppe hypothesis and the Anatolian hypothesis by showing that the spread of farming was not the only large migration into Europe,” Skoglund says.The second new paper to address PIE’s origin, in press at Language and due to be published online during the last week of February, uses linguistic data to focus on when PIE arose. A team led by University of California, Berkeley, linguists Andrew Garrett and Will Chang employed the language database and evolutionary methods previously used by Gray to create a family tree of the Indo-European languages from their first origins in PIE. But in certain cases, Garrett and Chang’s group declared that one language was directly ancestral to another and put that into their tree as a certainty. For example, they assumed that Latin was directly ancestral to Romance languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian—something that many but not all linguists agree on—and that Vedic Sanskrit was directly ancestral to the Indo-Aryan languages spoken on the Indian subcontinent.These constraints transformed the results from what Gray’s team has published: Garrett, Chang, and their colleagues found that the origins of PIE were about 6000 years ago, consistent with the steppe hypothesis but not the Anatolian, because the farming migration out of the Middle East was 8000 years ago. Once the original PIE speakers began to sweep out of the steppes about 4500 years ago, their languages spread and diversified, Garrett’s team says.But many supporters of the Anatolian hypothesis remain staunchly unconvinced. Paul Heggarty, a linguist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, questions Garrett’s methods, arguing that, for example, linguists cannot be sure if the Latin attested to in written documents really was the direct ancestor of later Romance languages, rather than some dialect of Latin for which no record remains. Even small differences in the true ancestral language, Heggarty insists, could throw off the timing estimates.As for the Reich paper, many archaeologists and linguists praise the data on ancient migrations. But they challenge what they see as its speculative link to language. The movement out of the steppes, Renfrew says, “may be a secondary migration into central Europe 3000 to 4000 years later than the spread of farmers, which first brought Indo-European speech to Europe.” If so, the Yamnaya steppe people would not have spoken PIE but an already derived Indo-European tongue ancestral to today’s Balto-Slavic languages such as Russian and Polish, Heggarty says. He adds that the wording of the Reich paper is “misleading.”Indeed, in a lengthy discussion in the paper’s Supplementary Information section, Reich and colleagues do concede that “the ultimate question of the Proto-Indo-European homeland is unresolved by our data.” They suggest that more ancient DNA, especially from points east of the steppes, may finally tie our linguistic history with our genes. Adapted from R. Bouckaert et al., Science (2012) What do you call a male sibling? If you speak English, he is your “brother.” Greek? Call him “phrater.” Sanskrit, Latin, Old Irish? “Bhrater,” “frater,” or “brathir,” respectively. Ever since the mid-17th century, scholars have noted such similarities among the so-called Indo-European languages, which span the world and number more than 400 if dialects are included. Researchers agree that they can probably all be traced back to one ancestral language, called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). But for nearly 20 years, scholars have debated vehemently when and where PIE arose.Two long-awaited studies, one described online this week in a preprint and another scheduled for publication later this month, have now used different methods to support one leading hypothesis: that PIE was first spoken by pastoral herders who lived in the vast steppe lands north of the Black Sea beginning about 6000 years ago. One study points out that these steppe land herders have left their genetic mark on most Europeans living today.The studies’ conclusions emerge from state-of-the-art ancient DNA and linguistic analyses, but the debate over PIE’s origins is likely to continue. A rival hypothesis—that early farmers living in Anatolia (modern Turkey) about 8000 years ago were the original PIE speakers—is not ruled out by the new analyses, most agree. Although the steppe hypothesis has now received a major boost, “I would not say the Anatolian hypothesis has been killed,” says Carles Lalueza-Fox, a geneticist at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, who participated in neither of the new studies.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(*)Up until the 1980s, variations of the steppe hypothesis held sway among most linguists and archaeologists tracking down Indo-European’s birthplace. Then in 1987, archaeologist Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom proposed that PIE spread with farming from its origins in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, moving west into Europe and east further into Asia; over time the languages continued to spread and diversify into the many Indo-European languages we know today.Traditional linguists, meanwhile, painstakingly reconstructed PIE by extrapolating back from modern languages and ancient writings. (Listen to a short fable spoken in PIE here.) They disdained Renfrew’s idea of an Anatolian homeland, arguing for example that the languages were still too similar to have begun diverging 8000 years ago.center_img More than 400 Indo-European languages diverged from a common ancestral tongue; the earliest ones (top right), Anatolian and Tocharian, arose in today’s Turkey and China, respectively. last_img read more

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UK: Indian academics in demand, cross 5,000 mark

first_imgThe number of Indian students coming to British higher education institutions has dwindled since 2010, but the number of academics categorised as “British Indian” has crossed the 5,000 mark for the first time, reflecting their expertise across disciplines.The category includes Indian citizens and British citizens of Indian-origin. During 2016-17, the 5,245 academics in this group included 2,185 Indian citizens, according to new figures provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).Indians have long taught various subjects in British universities, including economist Amartya Sen, educationist Sugata Mitra and engineer Kumar Bhattacharyya, but this is the first time their figure has crossed 5,000 across the United Kingdom.Read it at Hindustan Times Related Itemslast_img read more

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Indian-Origin Woman Accused Of Child Murder Faces Extradition To India

first_imgA London-based Indian-origin woman faces extradition to India for her involvement in the murder of a 12-year-old orphan from Gujarat.Arti Dhir had been arrested last year after an Interpol alert over the murder of the 12-year-old boy in February 2017.The 52-year-old appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London today for a hearing on her bail application, which remains pending as her family members put together nearly 50,000 pounds as security.“This should be sorted out in a week,” Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot told Dhir, who remains in custody until the security is deposited with the court.Read it at NDTV Related Itemslast_img

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BPO goes to Hollywood

first_imgHollywood film stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have been shooting in the western India city of Pune for A Mighty Heart, the story of the Al Qaeda kidnapping of Wall Street Journal journalist Danny Pearl. A flotilla of Indian service providers, from film technicians to security guards, has been supporting them.Jolie and Pitt represent just the visible tip of the iceberg. As Hollywood increasingly turns to India to provide some of its needs, business process outsourcing (BPO) is making its way to the top of the credit lines. “The scope is enormous in virtually every area,” according to Pritish Nandy, founder-chairman of Pritish Nandy Communications, a content company in the news and entertainment business. “Currently, Hollywood appears to be looking at three areas: post production, animation and local production support. But these are nothing compared to the real opportunity areas.” Hollywood actor Will Smith talks on the sets of television show “Indian Idol” in Bombay. Smith is in India aiming to build a partnership with filmmakers in the world’s most prolific movie industry. (AP Photo/Rajesh Nirgude)Before getting into how BPO is transforming animation, consider the other two areas of activity: local production support and post production. The first lies in the gamut of “red carpet” services being rolled out for Jolie and Pitt. Even as the duo was keeping Pune on its toes – everyone wanted to see the action, and the international paparazzi had descended in full force – neighboring Mumbai was hosting an International Fair on Film Locales (IFFL). The fair saw other countries showcasing their attractions as locales for shooting films, but most of the participants were from India – state tourism boards, facility providers, film councils and other affiliated service providers.Land of the GodsTouting their scenic charms and rustic settings, some locations have begun tapping this opportunity in an organized fashion. “God’s Own Country,” the banner under which southern state of Kerala is marketed to tourists, is being sold to film producers as a place that delivers “more beauty per frame, more art per shot, more plots per story, more images per set, and more locales per schedule.” The neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh has gone even further. Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad has been involved in several Hollywood productions and offers a whole range of facilities. “It is one of the largest, most comprehensive and advanced film production facilities in the world,” says a spokesperson. Shooting is currently going on for one film (the company says it can’t talk about it) and more than half-a-dozen have been completed.Ramoji Film City offers all sorts of elaborate sets. If a director wants an airport or a medieval castle, she can have it. Also on tap are production crews, grid equipment, cameras and anything else a filmmaker might require. Post-production facilities include processing, printing, and digital and audio editing. “In terms of live-action feature film production, India is on its way to becoming a serious player in the economic ‘runaway production’ phenomenon,” says Dileep Singh Rathore, producer and founder of the Mumbai-based On The Road Productions and the Los Angeles-based Kundalini Pictures. (“Runaway productions,” as defined by the US Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, “are developed and are intended for initial release/exhibition or television broadcast in the U.S. but are actually filmed in another country.”) OctopussyRathore, whose company handles the physical production and acts as co-producer for international projects shooting in South Asia, says the Indian film business has come a long way since gaining industry status in August 2000. “Many countries are competing to attract runaway productions,” he says. “But India provides up to 60% cost savings on below-the-line expenses such as crew, materials and logistics. In addition, due to its robust domestic film industry – producing more than 1,000 films each year – the availability of highly skilled technicians, equipment and facilities has put India in an advantageous position.”Chaitanya Chinchlikar, marketing manager at Whistling Woods International, a new institute for film, television, animation and media arts that set up in Mumbai barely a year ago, echoes the same line. “Hollywood has long chased low-cost ways to produce content,” he says. India will gain “in the coming years, as the economy becomes more and more global and competition forces media content producers to get even more aggressive in conserving costs.” But, he adds a caveat: “The market for BPO services from Bollywood to Hollywood is relatively small at the moment.”Whistling Woods hopes to bring professionalism to the Indian film industry. “The institute will be a catalyst in bringing people to India as it offers an opportunity to interact and educate, which many Hollywood professionals are interested in,” says Chinchlikar. “Once they are here, they can see the possibilities for themselves.” Incidentally, the dean of Whistling Woods – Kurt Inderbitzin – is a filmmaker-producer and media business professional from Hollywood.Among films wholly or partially shot in India are The Bourne Supremacy (2004), In the Shadow of the Cobra (2004), Jungle Book(1994), City of Joy (1992), Octopussy (1983), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Tarzan Goes to India (1962) and The Drum (1938). Says Rathore: “Approximately 80 productions from Hollywood have shot in India since the 1940s. In the past five years since the industry hreforms, the number has grown exponentially. On an average, according to the union ministry of information and broadcasting, 15 feature productions are shot in India each year.”The Animation ArmyIndia is becoming more prominent on the Hollywood locale list. But much of the current action is in animation. “India, with its wide base and intellectual property in the field of animation, offers key advantages to the global animation market,” says a report produced by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers. “With technical expertise, highly-skilled manpower and international collaborations, the industry is going from strength to strength….“Animation outsourcing is the primary work coming India’s way and this trend is expected to continue over the next five years. During this period, a large chunk of the work will be of this nature, even though the industry has begun to move towards the next level in the animation outsourcing business as certain co-production assignments have started coming to India.”Animation companies are sprouting up all over India. These include UTV Toons in Mumbai, Moving Picture Company in Noida (near Delhi), Pentamedia Graphics in Chennai, Jadoo Works in Bangalore, Color Chips India in Hyderabad, and Toonz Animation India in Trivandrum (in Kerala).The Mumbai-based Crest Animation Studios has several successes to its credit, though they are more in the TV arena. Its recent series Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks has received an Annie nomination for the best animation television production for children. Crest’s U.S. subsidiary – RichCrest Animation – has teamed up with independent producer and distributor Lions Gate to create three state-of-the-art animated feature films for Hollywood. This includes one based on William Steig’s classic children’s book, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.The Hyderabad-based DQ Entertainment bills itself as the largest animation outsourcing company. “We are now co-producing several TV series,” says a spokesperson. The Mumbai-based Maya Entertainment has also been doing award-winning work in animation and special effects. From Chennai, Pentamedia Graphics has so far released four full-length animated movies, including Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists and Alibaba.“Companies in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai have all been part of VFX (visual effects) and animation shots for major Hollywood productions like Spiderman 3, Cars, and Lord of the Rings,” says Chinchlikar. For example, the Bangalore (Karnataka)-based Paprikaas Animation Studios is working on 3D-animated TV series, game cinematics and broadcast commercials. “In the pipeline are direct-to-video and full-length feature films with Tier I studios in Hollywood,” says Paprikaas CEO Nandish Domlur. “Unfortunately, as these are unreleased titles, we are bound by non-disclosure agreements not to talk about them.”Toonz Animation is another rising star, with a client list that includes the biggest names in media and entertainment: Marvel, Hallmark, Paramount, Disney, and Cartoon Network. Animation Magazine has written up the company as one of the Top 10 multimedia studios in the world. Its pre-production services include script writing, storyboarding, character designing, color model creation, conceptual artwork, key layouts, key animation and key background. “We are working for television shows and direct-to-DVD feature films for Hollywood entertainment majors,” says CEO P. Jayakumar. “Around 500 people work at our studios, including top professionals from the US, the UK, Canada, the Philippines and India.”In Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Color Chips, an animation studio and integrated design solutions company, “is doing a lot of co-productions with Hollywood studios in the animation space,” says chairman and managing director Sudhish S. Rambhotla. Incidentally, Color Chips also runs an animation training center. Some firms have chosen even narrower niches. The Prasad Group in Chennai is into VFX (visual effects) and Digital Film Restoration projects. “We have already completed a number of such projects,” says Mohan Krishnan, head of corporate communications. “We have a production-cum-sales facility in Hollywood and are discussing more projects with Hollywood studios and filmmakers.” The Indian VFX market is expected to go up to $95 million by 2009 from $15 million today.The large Indian IT firms also have a toe in this pond. Nipuna, the BPO subsidiary of Satyam Computers, has signed a deal with the German 4K Animation. The duo will work on animation projects for a Hollywood film – an international action, adventure and fantasy motion picture directed by Paul Nicholas. Infosys has partnered with Hollywood studios to develop customized content. TCS has set up a media and entertainment lab in Burbank, Calif.But these companies seem more interested in back-office work such as writing the software to restrict unauthorized online video and music downloads, and making DVDs piracy proof. They are applying their core competencies to a new vertical and waiting to see whether it is worth extending their skill sets. This is, after all, a very different business.The India Advantage“At present, animation is the biggest player when it comes to outsourcing Hollywood to India,” says Rathore. “India’s cutting-edge IT skills, the large pool of highly-educated English speakers and lower manpower costs are the main reasons for outsourcing. A typical half-hour 3D animation TV episode costs between $70,000 and $100,000 to produce in India, compared to $170,000 to $250,000 in America. U.S. animators can cost $125 an hour; in India, they cost $25 an hour. India offers animation at 25% to 40% lower rates than other Asian studios and much lower than those of American studios. The total cost of making a full-length animated film in the U.S. is estimated to be $100 million to $175 million. In India, it can be made for $15 million to $25 million.”The latest National Association of Software & Service Companies (NASSCOM) report on the animation industry in India estimates that from the developers’ perspective the global market will increase to $35 billion by 2009 from $25 billion in 2005. India’s share will be $950 million; in 2005 it was $285 million. “Apart from the obvious cost arbitrage, the other advantages are high quality work, ability to scale, robust IT infrastructure, which is key to computer graphics content production, a large English-speaking base relative to other countries, and the advantage of a 12-hour time difference which helps to keep work going 24/7,” says Domlur of Paprikaas. Jayakumar of Toonz notes, “Our familiarity with the Western style of storytelling is also a big advantage.”“It’s hard to find a logical competitor to India, because India has a unique combination of three characteristics,” says Chinchlikar of Whistling Woods. There is a huge English-speaking population, there is a vast labor market and the people are technologically up-to-date. “China fits the second and third points,” adds Chinchlikar. “But language is a major barrier. And virtually all other developing countries fall short in at least one of the above areas. So, India is going to be the place to be in.”Back to the Future“The potential for Indian companies is high, as the work outsourced is less than 1% as of today,” says Rambhotla of Color Chips. Nandy of Pritish Nandy Communications has a more holistic vision. There is so much India can do, he says. “Pre-production, for instance,” says Nandy. “Writing. We Indians write the English language far better and infinitely more creatively than most people in the world, including the English-speaking world. And the interesting thing is that our best filmmakers — from Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor to Shekhar Kapoor and Ram Gopal Varma — have always written their screenplays in English and then filled in the dialogue in the language they have used for the film. Hollywood and the English-speaking world are too arrogant to notice this talent. But the compulsions of cost and original treatment will drive them in this direction eventually.”Ravi Aron, a senior fellow at Wharton’s Mack Center for Technological Innovation, has a different view. “It is not the quality or creativity of Indian writing that is in doubt. It is the cultural context in which such writing is set,” he says. “Can Indian writers create characters and dialogue, and recreate the cultural experience of North America for American and European audiences? Writing is not a fungible skill that can be deployed independently of cultural context. Indian scriptwriters will not find it easy to write the script for a film set in New York about New Yorkers any more than Americans will find it easy to write about Mumbaikars (residents of Mumbai).”While Nandy claims that India will outstrip Hollywood’s theater revenues in six years, Aron says that’s wishful thinking. He puts the numbers in perspective. “In 2005, Hollywood grossed about $35 billion from 300 films,” he says. “The Indian film industry made about 1,000 films and grossed a little more than $1.5 billion. It is not the ticket revenues that count as much as the unit price of the ticket. Hollywood’s higher revenue is because it sells in the U.S., Canada, the E.U. and Japan. It dominates all the big film-consuming markets in the world except for India. In 2005, the average revenue of a Hollywood film was about 75 times that of an Indian film. For the Indian film industry to challenge Hollywood it will have to sell tickets in volumes in these countries. The odd Indian film does reasonably well in these market segments. But that is just that — the odd Indian film.”Understandably, it is not as though all the fruits of Hollywood are waiting to fall into India’s lap. Domlur of Paprikaas points to a major problem. “There is a dearth of trained and production-ready artists,” he says. “In-house training is mandatory for all production houses who hire students from mom-and-pop training shops.” But he adds that some good training institutes are coming up. Jayakumar of Toonz says that radically improving output quality and productivity will be a major challenge in the coming years.“We need to see further investment in facilities and equipment,” says Rathore. “If a studio is going to pump $50-100 million into a project in a country, then you to want to ensure that the government is cooperating and inviting them with open arms. Otherwise they’ll go elsewhere, where they are welcome.”The role of the government is a common grouse; everyone complains about lack of support. There are no tax breaks and incentives. In countries like South Korea, China, Canada and France, the industry has been fostered by the governments.Aron points to a much broader issue. The Indian film industry can’t be everything to everyone. “It is important to ask the question -what drives firms to offshore production centers?” says Aron. “Not just movie production houses but any business –why does a business start producing offshore?” He provides the answer: “In most industries – spanning heavy manufacturing through electronics, apparel and banking services – offshore production is rarely the first option. It is a firm’s response to one or both of the following factors:• Competition in its principal markets resulting in erosion of revenues;• Rapid changes in the industry: in production, distribution and pricing of production and services.“There is another reason why companies produce offshore. In fact, until the mid-1960s, this was the principal reason for U.S. multinationals to take this route. The corporation wants to extend its business imprint in a region. To do so, it locates some production in that region partly to produce content to local tastes and partly to anchor the corporation to its market. It can be seen that both sets of factors are operative in the case of the entertainment industry.“For the year 2005, the average cost of production and marketing of films in the U.S. was between $92 million and $97 million. This means many large movie studios had returns of no more than 8% at best, while some hitherto successful studios had returns of 5% or less. Sales of DVDs declined, further eroding revenues. Online distribution of movies — downloadable films — is a serious concern for all production companies. Not only is technology (online distribution) changing the nature of the competition, but new players and new forms of content are rapidly competing for the same viewership dollars. Finally, other computer-mediated content forms – online games, video games and independently-produced video content on sites such as YouTube – are competing with films for audiences. So, like many other industries, Hollywood faces the double whammy of high costs and revenue pressures. And, like other industries, it is looking at alternatives. For instance, Canada is the destination for several productions, and now New Zealand and Eastern Europe are beginning to attract attention.”Aron argues that India needs to expand its business imprint in media and entertainment. The country has one of the largest cinema-watching populations and, with the rapid growth in size as well as the buying of power of the middle class, the Indian movie-watching market has become even more attractive. An additional feature is that growth of broadband in India will not penetrate the rural retail market in the near future. Even where it is available, it is small enough to leave a robust theater-going population intact. This, too, makes India an attractive destination.All those who are scrambling to get onto the BPO bandwagon should realize the distinction between “Made in India” and “Made for India,” Aron says. “In the traditional sense of offshoring – that is, using Indian skilled (and non-skilled labor) for global audiences – we will witness the following phases of growth. Production can be divided into artistic production (the output of writers, actors, musicians, cinematographers, directors, etc.) and non-artistic production (the set of activities that go into bringing a production to distribution-ready status). The first to be tapped will be the latter set of activities: production support to pre-production and post-production finishing.“The artistic production activities will not easily migrate from the U.S. and other locations. There are various reasons for this. First, anything that needs to be shot on location will be shot at the intended location. Just because Kerala markets itself as ‘God’s Own Country,’ you cannot shoot a film such as You’ve Got Mail there. Second, even studio pieces will largely be filmed in the U.S. (or Europe).Recreating scenes from the U.S. in Indian studios is not easy. For one thing, technologically many of the studios in India are generations behind their western counterparts. And, for another, there is considerable artistic participation in studio production – set designers, costume designers, etc. So these, too, will not migrate in the near future in great volumes.“‘Made for India’ is a different story altogether. Hollywood studios and independent financiers are now working with Indian counterparts to make films in India for an Indian audience but with some global reach, too. As this trend accelerates, we will see more films made for India through collaboration. Sony Pictures, Paramount, Hyde Park Entertainment and Disney are some examples. This, in turn, will have a second-order impact. It will see the diffusion of technologies and production techniques in India and will further enable India to bid for more segments of the production activity. So ‘Made for India’ will over time feed into the ‘Made in India’ trend.“But this is not going to happen anytime soon. Recall that with IT and financial services, the presence of MNCs in India for more than a century created a robust Indian middle- and upper-middle-management layer that was fully acquainted with the West and was ready to offer services and production standards on par with the Western corporations. It will take some time for that to happen in India.“Then there is another trend to keep in mind: the corporatization of Hollywood. As large corporations acquire movie studios (GE’s acquisition of Universal is a case in point) and investment funds increase their funding of movies, there will be greater willingness to see it as ‘a business’ — that is, decouple those parts of production that can be done offshore from those that need to be done onshore.“Finally, don’t underestimate the power of organized big labor in Hollywood. The entertainment industry is the bastion of unionized labor. Many actors and artists will not cross the union picket lines out of ideological sympathy. In the short run, unions will erect stiff barriers to offshoring. But over a period of time, it may well become counterproductive. Union intransigence and labor inflexibility were among the reasons that U.S. firms moved manufacturing to China. Now European firms are beginning to move to Asia for that reason.“So, for some time, India will have to take a two-tack approach: welcome ‘Made in India’ projects and encourage Bollywood to collaborate with Hollywood in the ‘Made for India’ projects,” says Aron.For the optimists at home, it is only a question of whether it will happen tomorrow or the day after. Bringing India up to speed can be done. It will be done, says Nandy who is bursting with confidence. “We are good at virtually everything we do,” he says. And India costs much less. “We are also ready to learn,” he continues. “So anything that is BPO-ed out here will result in innovative options that could teach Hollywood a trick or two in terms of finding creative solutions to complex techie problems. That will be the ultimate benefit of offshoring in this space.”Back in Pune, Jolie and Pitt provoked a debate. Some residents argued that the movie should not have been allowed to disrupt life in the city, though the grumbling was directed less at the stars than at the army of foreign paparazzi surrounding them. At one point things got so tense that one of the guards — who belonged to an outsourced security firm — pulled out his gun to threaten a photographer. Though no bullets were fired, it was an apt metaphor: Whether it is a cameraman or a security guard, everybody in India wants to get in on the action.Reprinted from knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu  Related Itemslast_img read more

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Mid-sized Firms Stick To The Middle

first_imgFor several years now, analysts have been predicting that the Indian information technology industry is set for a period of consolidation. It hasn’t happened yet. Four large companies  –  Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro and Satyam  –  have established themselves at the top. At the other end of the spectrum are scores of “mom-and-pop shops” subsisting on cut-price offerings and established business relationships. They may survive, but industry analysts don’t see much of a future for them.According to a study by research firm IDC, while the market will continue to be dominated by large services firms that have the size and scale to deliver both raw infrastructure and business process expertise, smaller companies that build specific expertise in select vertical markets and even within specific business processes will also remain competitive.Apart from the CrowdThe textbook prescription for a market like the current one is an intense phase of mergers and acquisitions that would result in one or more majors emerging. “A lot of people are talking about consolidation in the industry, but I don’t see it happening in a big way,” says Infosys head of global branding, Aditya Nath Jha. It is entirely possible that global companies will acquire Indian companies to gain scale in India, he adds, “But there is a lot of headroom for growth. There is space for everyone.”That is “a dangerous view of the world” for Indian mid-tier IT companies, says Ravi Aron, senior fellow at Wharton’s Mack Center for Technological Innovation. “Yes, there is room to grow, but it is a great challenge to grow while preserving the revenue-per-employee metric”  –  or the money firms charge for man-hours spent on client projects.In the current environment, Aron says that mid-tier IT firms need to build a “strategic differentiation” platform to retain their competitive edge over rivals. “As the company expands, and if it lacks a well-defined basis for strategic differentiation, you will increasingly see that it is forced to deliver more  –  quality, features and client-specific calibrations of project delivery  –  for less. This is what the company ‘pays’ to win over a client. The revenue-per-employee metric will at best remain flat and will usually decline as the company begins to scale up.”It is dangerous for an IT company to let this metric slip, especially in an industry that is “expert labor intensive,” Aron notes. “In a downturn, or when faced with more competition as the IBMs and the Accentures scale up in India, companies will take severe hits to the bottom line. Mid-tier firms do not have the deep pockets of the big Indian IT majors to recalibrate and bounce back with new offerings. Room to grow exists for large companies like Wipro, Infosys and TCS, but that path requires very careful navigation for the middle tier.”Atul Nishar, chairman of Hexaware, a typical mid-tier company which had revenues of $187 million in 2006, says that his company is working to create niche specialties for itself. “We have no ambition to be among the full-service big companies. We realize that the only way we can compete is by developing areas of excellence.” In the mid-1990s, IT firms focused on “body-shopping,” or placing their engineers at client sites, but Nishar says that is no longer a sustainable niche. He points out that despite a big rush for U.S. H1B visas, or work permits, the bigger demand these days is for “virtual software engineers” who can work for clients remotely from India.“IT companies must move with the times,” says Nishar, who was chairman of Nasscom (National Association of Software and Service Companies) in 2000. At Hexaware, he has worked to develop a sharp focus on delivering IT solutions for clients in the airline industry, human resources, health care and the so-called “BFSI” space  –  banking, financial services and insurance. Aron says Hexaware’s emphasis on its BFSI offerings may not be sufficient to differentiate it from others. “Wipro, Infosys and TCS all get significant revenues from BFSI,” he says. “For some of these companies, BFSI is the single largest industry segment.” An additional problem is that “banking” is too broadly defined. “It is important to define segments within banking, such as ‘testing of retail banking products’ or ‘business intelligence for high-volume retail transactions,’” Aron notes.Meanwhile, competition is intensifying for mid-tier firms in the BFSI space. TCS has set up a strategic business unit called TCS Financial Solutions, to pitch its suite of financial products. “BFSI is TCS’s largest vertical, contributing 42% of our revenues of $4.3 billion in 2006-07,” says N.G. Subramaniam, president of TCS Financial Solutions. He adds that business volume in this segment is growing at an accelerated pace  –  66% in the last fiscal year, compared with 50% in the prior year.But according to Jha of Infosys, mid-tier companies like Hexaware that build niche specialties “may have a better chance of winning business.” Aron points to i-flex Solutions as one example. “i-flex is able to sell not just its products but also a host of value-added services as a result of its standing in its business segments,” he says. “They are not forced to make costly concessions to win deals.”Hexaware’s plan  –  building niche excellence and specialization  –  “is the right way to go,” Aron says. “Access to larger deals characterized by greater complexity and risk  –  but also greater potential payoff for the software firm  –  is greatly diminished in the absence of strategic differentiation.”Hexaware has relevant experience in managing large IT applications and providing high-value services around packaged enterprise applications such as SAP and PeopleSoft, but growing that plate of offerings is not easy. “It is a Herculean task to add a service line,” says Nishar. “In many [large] companies the management may not even know that a service line has been added.”Aron agrees. “Sometimes, it is best not to add a service line. For some companies what may seem to be an inviting business target is actually a hidden opportunity cost.” A new service line that calls for senior management attention and marketing expenditure could distract the company from acquiring greater depth and excellence within an area, he says.Small’s VirtuesSome mid-tier companies attempt to play up the virtues of being small. P. K. Sridharan, executive director at Hexaware, likens his firm’s strategy to the “We try harder” approach of car rental company Avis, with its emphasis on personal attention. “Would you rather be a company’s third client or its three-hundredth?” he asks.Aron agrees that smaller firms could find a sweet spot for themselves with the Avis approach. “However, that test does not hold up quite so gracefully with larger deals,” he says. “In deals where the size exceeds $20 million or so, larger companies will be reluctant to go with a middle-tier firm over the short run,” because the smaller size of the firm will act as a “risk amplifier.” To bridge that gap, mid-tier companies should focus on gaining access to the CXO suites at prospective client companies, according to Aron. The big deals are not negotiated by those reporting to chief technology officers or chief information officers at prospective client companies, but CXO-level officers, or heads of strategic business, he says. “Without such access, it is difficult to get in as a principal on big deals. The middle-tier firm might well be in on a deal, but somebody else  –  a large IT player or consulting firm  –  would end up being the mid-wife, thus forcing the middle-tier firm toward the less revenue-laden projects within the deal.” Visibility is not the only key with senior executives, he adds: Mid-tier firms must also be able to stake out a strength that is of business relevance.Some mid-tier companies have adopted partnering as a strategic route to enhance their credibility and bring in more business. Ashank Desai, chairman and co-founder of Mastek, says his firm markets itself through alliances. “Partnerships are key to our approach,” he says. The company has alliances with Capita (the largest BPO in the U.K.), British Telecom and French energy major Areva, among others. More than half of the company’s business comes from partnership-driven projects.Other mid-tier companies have extended their global network by setting up overseas offices, especially in locations where they have clients. “The key is to have global reach,” says Chennai-based Chandra Sekaran, managing director and executive vice president of Cognizant. Expanding the company’s “footprint in other areas makes good business sense.”Smaller firms have also taken a cue from their larger counterparts and are increasing their global reach through acquisitions. For instance, i-flex has taken over Mantas, a software company based in Herndon, Va., and BPO firm Equinox of Irvine, Calif., among others. Last November, Hexaware acquired FocusFrame, a Mountain View, Calif.-based firm that specializes in automated testing of ERP (enterprise resource planning) and custom applications. The firm’s Mexico center is being developed as Hexaware’s sixth global delivery center.Aron has studied i-flex’s Equinox acquisition in detail. “That takeover is an example of a very savvy triple-play,” he says. “One, Equinox offers a natural extension to i-flex competencies; two, Equinox has well-defined competencies in combining technology and expert human intervention in ‘predictive analytics’; and three, the combined service solves several closely related business needs for clients, especially in retail financial services.”Targeting ClientsUnlike IBM or Microsoft, India’s big IT companies maintain fairly low profiles when it comes to mass media or even niche market advertising. For Jessie Paul, chief marketing officer at Wipro, that makes perfect sense. “At Wipro, our marketing would best be described as lean and zero-waste. It is important to target your clients, so we put our efforts into identifying the decision-makers and influencers in our eco-system. If we broadly define Fortune 1000 companies as our audience and assume that we need to reach 5-10 people per company, it narrows down our target audience to 10,000.”Srikant Sastri, managing director of Solutions, a marketing services firm that helps technology companies enter South Asian markets, says it is “a level playing field” where “even the bigger IT firms are weak on marketing.” He says that larger firms might do “one big marketing initiative  –  such as a sponsorship  –  and some customer seminars, but very little genuine mainline marketing” compared to U.S. firms like Accenture. “The big firms are still riding the India wave, and are backing it with strong sales efforts,” he says. “So, for a smaller firm like Hexaware, some smart marketing can actually provide a cutting edge and brand equity.”Jha points to another reason for the industry’s preference for narrowly focused marketing: “For Indian IT companies, 90% of revenues come from existing clients,” he says. “So, our principal task is to market into and mine existing clients.”Media stories on Indian IT companies also help, says Jha. “For every cover story in BusinessWeek or Fortune, there will be a CEO asking: ‘Where is our India strategy?’” The major IT firms also nurture relationships with analysts at research firms like Gartner or IDC. Jha adds that Infosys also participates in major business events including the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos, the Microsoft CEO summit and the Fortune CEO Strategy Summit.Aron sees all those marketing strategies as critical for targeting the CXO suite in client companies. “This is what the management consulting firms  –  McKinsey, Bain and BCG  –  excel at,” he says. “Participating in forums like the WEF is a powerful way of reaching the C-suite decision makers. The attention and credibility that participating in these forums brings is priceless.”To enhance their client networks, both large and middle-tier firms have begun sponsoring events that combine work with pleasure. Hexaware, for instance, throws a three-day, all-expenses-paid party in the U.S., inviting its customers from all over the world. “We bring our clients together so that they can share notes,” says Nishar. “If we have goofed in one case, everybody will come to know of it. If we have done well, they will know that too.” Besides golf and other activities, Hexaware’s events also feature speakers such as management pundit Tom Peters and technology thought leader Nicholas Negroponte.The format varies by company: Jha notes that Infosys stopped paying all client expenses for its annual event a couple of years ago. “The reason why we asked clients to pay is that it is a measure of their commitment,” he says. It had to change one other feature of the event, too  –  its name. Infosys used to call it “Milan,” which in Hindi means “getting together,” before it realized that people confused the name with the Italian city. It is now more appropriately called “Confluence.”   Related Itemslast_img read more

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Taxi Driver Deported from Australia After Serving Jail Sentence for Sexual Assault

first_imgAn Indian taxi driver, who was jailed for sexual assault of two female passengers in Perth, has been deported from Australia.Both the incidents happened on Jan. 8, 2011. Simardeep Singh sexually assaulted a 20-year-old woman passenger after telling her that “they could come to an arrangement” over the cab fare. He later raped an 18-year-old female passenger on a park bench in Daniella after he told her that he had to stop the car to check it, the West Australian newspaper reported.Singh fled to India after he was questioned over the sexual assault charges, where he was arrested in 2015. When he was presented in front of the West Australian District Court in 2016, Singh’s lawyer told the court that he experienced a cultural difference when he moved to Australia as in his community women dress more conservatively. The court also heard that Singh was exposed to drunk women and prostitutes and acted out of “misconception.”The court said that cultural difference cannot justify his violent behavior toward women.Singh, now 33, was sent to prison in 2016 and released earlier this month.He moved to Australia in 2008 with a work permit as a Swan Taxi driver while still completing his master’s in computer science.The news of his deportation was confirmed by an official from the Australian Border Force. “The Australian government takes its responsibility seriously to protect the community from the risk of harm arising from foreign nationals who choose to engage in criminal activity or other serious conduct of concern,” the publication quoted an official as saying.“Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa will be liable for removal from Australia, following the completion of any custodial sentence,” the official added.According to Migration Law 1958 under section 501, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has the power to refuse a person’s application for a visa, or cancel a person’s visa, if that person fails to satisfy the Minister that he or she passes the ‘character test’. Visa refusal or cancellation can have serious consequences for a person, including placement in immigration detention for lengthy periods of time, separation from family and friends, removal and effective exclusion from Australia. Related ItemsAustralialast_img read more

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