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After 8 Years! India’s 1st Dolphin Research Centre to Come Up in Patna

The population of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins was stable along nearly 1,000 km stretch of the Ganga

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India, Dolphin, Research
The development was a good news for conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins in the country. Pixabay

 The foundation stone of India’s first dolphin research centre will be laid here on October 5, after an eight-year delay since it was first mooted, an officer confirmed.

D.K. Shukla, the senior officer from Bihar’s Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said: “It was announced by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi in state Assembly that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would lay the foundation stone of the National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) on October 5 on the bank of river Ganga in the premises of Patna University.”

Shukla said the development was a good news for conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins in the country.

According to Gopal Sharma, a senior scientist at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), the population of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins was stable along nearly 1,000 km stretch of the Ganga and its two major tributaries, Gandak and Ghaghra.

India, Dolphin, Research
The foundation stone of India’s first dolphin research centre will be laid here on October 5. Pixabay

More than 1,500 dolphins were spotted by three teams of experts and scientists who undertook the exercise of enumeration of the species earlier this year.

The NDRC will play an important role to strengthen conservation efforts and help in research to save the endangered mammal.

Another officer of the Department SAID the NDRC remained stuck for over four years due to refusal of Patna University to part with its land for it.

Unhappy over the delay, Nitish Kumar threatened last year that the NDRC might be shifted to Bhagalpur. After this, the varsity finally gave its clearance.

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A well reputed expert on the Gangetic river dolphins, R.K. Sinha, who is also the current Vice Chancellor of the Nalanda Open University in Patna said the NDRC will prove a boon for research and conservation of dolphin.

“It will help in reserach as well as conservation of dolphins.”

It was Sinha’s idea to set up the NDRC in Patna and a proposal was approved by then Planning Commission Chairman Montek Singh Ahulwalia during his visit here in mid 2011 and early 2012.

Within a year, the commission had sanctioned Rs 28.06 crore for the NDRC in 2013 followed by the state government that also released Rs 18,16 crore to the Infrastructure Development Authority in 2014. But till July 2018, the NDRC remained a non-starter.

India, Dolphin, Research
It was announced by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi in state Assembly that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would lay the foundation stone. Pixabay

Sinha, known as the ‘Dolphin Man’ for his research of the Gangetic dolphins, said the species habitat has been threatened and disturbed in the river.

He said the Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal but frequently falls prey to poachers and sometimes killed without intention after being trapped in fishs net and hit by machines.

The mammals are killed at an alarming rate with wildlife officials saying poachers kill them for their flesh, fat and oil.

Sinha, who was conferred the Padma Shri for his research on dolphin, said dolphin presence is the sign of a healthy river ecosystem.

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Dolphins prefer water that is at least 5ft to 8ft deep. They are usually found in turbulent waters, where there are enough fish for them to feed on.

Gangetic dolphins live in a zone where there is little or no current, which helps them save energy. If they sense danger, they can dive into deeper waters.

The dolphins swim from the no-current zone to the edges to hunt for fish and return, Sinha added.

Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, and have been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river in China, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river in South America.

The Gangetic river species – found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal – is blind and finds its way and prey in the river waters through echoes. These dolphins live by echolocation, and sound is everything to them.

They navigate, feed, escape danger, find mates, breed, and nurse babies by echolocation.  (IANS)

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Uber India Rolls Out Driver Reward Programme “Uber Plus”

Uber India has planned free doctor access and micro loans for drivers

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Uber
Uber has rolled out a reward programme for drivers in India. Wikimedia Commons

Global ride-hailing major Uber on Wednesday rolled out a driver rewards programme called “Uber Plus” in India that will let drivers earn points for rides so that they can win free doctor consultations, concessions on education modules, access to micro loans, faster airport pick ups and savings on vehicle maintenance costs.

These points will be earned by the driver partners in 13 cities over a fixed period of every three months and can be then accumulated to unlock higher rating tiers such as blue, gold, platinum and diamond which, in turn, will let them access better rewards, informed the company.

“Under the programme, the Uber drivers get access to four tiers. To unlock these awards, they need to maintain a certain threshold rating and keep a low cancellation rate to unlock access to these benefits,” Prabhjeet Singh, Head of Cities, Uber India and South Asia, told IANS.

Uber Plus
Under this programme, Uber drivers get access to four tiers. Pixabay

“We have always worked towards prioritising their welfare and making them feel valued, respected and appreciated. ‘Uber Plus’ is an effort in that direction and will enable our driver partners to access greater benefits during their everyday journeys,” he added.

The rewards and offers are only available to drivers who use the Uber driver app, are participating in Uber Plus and meet applicable criteria.

Asked if this initiative will help in bringing down the number of cancellations, Singh replied: “We encourage ri ders to flag such cases if the driver cancels because the mode of payment is not cash, etc. That will help us take strict action against such drivers.

“We want to encourage behaviour which helps improve the marketplace reliability. Less the cancellation, the chances of the trip getting completed goes up and, overall, the network efficiency increases.”

An initial pilot phase was carried out in Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh and Mumbai and now, Uber Plus is being rolled out across 10 new cities, including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Pune, Kochi, Guwahati and Jaipur.

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“We also want to reward drivers who have lower cancellations,” said Uber.

Under the driver programme, Uber has partnered with “Ayushman Bharat” to provide access to free healthcare to its drivers, wherein they have access to free healthcare of up to Rs 500,000 in empanelled hospitals. (IANS)