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American companies ready to take advantage of Digital India initiative

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Washington: The main focus of the roundtable hosted by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday was the India’s plan to connect 600,000 villagers through Digital India programme to internet. Top American and Indian companies are ready to take advantage of it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Startup India initiative also came up at the roundtable with Indian Minister for Communications & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad hosted by the USIBC.

The roundtable was attended by USIBC President Mukesh Aghi and senior executives of American and Indian companies that included Google, AT&T, MasterCard, Facebook, American Tower Corporation, UST Global and iTech.

USIBC comprises 350 top-tier US and Indian companies advancing US-India commercial ties.

“Digital India provides an enormous investment opportunity for both global technology companies and startups from tech hubs like Boston and Silicon Valley,” Prasad said.

“India is sitting on the cusp of a digital revolution,” he said. “Whether it is big metropolitan cities or small towns, a well-connected India has the potential to not only usher in economic and welfare opportunities for its citizens, but also the global economic order.”

The Indian “government is taking every policy decision in a transparent, predictable and reasonable manner,” Prasad said encouraging “American businesses to take advantage of the Digital India programme, and the growth opportunities in India.”

Prasad also outlined the progress that has already been made to implement Digital India programme and his priorities for the future.

Aghi said, “Prime Minister Modi’s directive to connect Indians across the country is a tremendous opportunity for both Indian and US companies alike.”

Noting that 85 percent of Indians still do not have access to the Internet, he said “the government could make it easier to obtain clearances to install cell phone towers.”

“IT infrastructure can be further expanded by lifting the ban on foreign satellite operators so they can provide spectrum in hard-to-reach areas.”

Dan Gupta of UST Global commented on the economic growth that can be spurred by the Digital India initiative and adoption of key technologies across sectors.

“By some estimations, the Digital India initiative could help boost India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by around $550 billion upping its GDP by $1 trillion by 2025,” he said.

Sonny Khurana, CEO of iTech, praised the rapid strides in connectivity and the startup ecosystem under the current government.(IANS)

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)