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BY Varuni Trivedi
Swarms of locusts have flown into India from Pakistan entering Rajasthan last month, affecting several districts. They have further spread to other western and northwestern states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab after heavy infestation in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. These swarms are damaging crops and agricultural livelihoods in what seems like the worst attack in three decades. After causing widespread damage in Pakistan they ave headed towards Indian states.
The Indian economy which was already in a pitiful state and was plagued by an economic slowdown, due to Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown is now under the threat of a severe agrarian crisis at the hands of these flying pests. Agricultural expert Devinder Sharma tried to explain what has led to this sudden locust attack on India, “Climate change is facilitating breeding and movement of locusts. Untimely rains and increased cyclonic activity have helped them breed faster. A locust attack never occurred in December but there was one in 2019,” he said.
According to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, The Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has actively stepped up locust control operations in the affected states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.
What are locusts?
Locusts look like ordinary grasshoppers and are considered the most destructive migratory pests in the world. These insects travel in enormous swarms that can travel up to 150 kilometers in a day depending on the wind speed. They devour on leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, and growing points basically devastating any crops that come on their way. They leave behind a trail of destruction by causing serious agricultural damage in their wake. Locusts can lead to famine and starvation as their sheer weight the massive numbers that travel dooms crops.
The desert locust threatens one-fifth of Earth’s land area and one-tenth of the global population, they are responsible for a lot of economic destruction. Essentially they are found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, inhabiting an area of about six million square miles. On average a small swarm of the desert locust eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels, or 2,500 people.
Locusts as a symbol of doom since ages
Since the biblical time’s locusts have been considered a bad omen that brings devastation and plague. “The locusts will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields,” said a vengeful god of The Old Testament as he cursed the Egyptians. This gives a fair idea of the association of locusts with destruction and doom.
Producer of BBC’s famous documentary show ‘Earth’ said, “The locusts don’t hit you or fly into you, instead they part like a stream around a rock, flying within a few inches of you.” “Also, the sound made by so many billions of wings all beating in unison is incredible, like a deep roar of a waterfall, but almost on the edge of hearing,” he further added.
These dreaded creatures are known for the wide-spread destruction, hunger, poverty, and economic crisis that they bring along when their enormous swarms fly into any nation.
How is India fighting the Locust Attack?
Locust attacks in India since 1993 have been localized to Rajasthan, however this time, favorable weather conditions have led them to travel from Rajasthan to Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and even Maharashtra.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, locust containment measures and sprinkling operations are being conducted in 303 locations spread across more than 47,000 hectares till Wednesday. It is happening in 20 districts of Rajasthan, nine in Madhya Pradesh, two in Gujarat, and one each in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Around 200 Locust Circle Offices (LCO) are conducting survey and control operations in close coordination with the district administration and agriculture field machinery of the affected states.
The government claims that locust control operations are in full swing in coordination with the state agriculture departments and local administration. As of now, 89 fire brigades for pesticide spray, 120 survey vehicles, 47 control vehicles fitted with spray equipment and 810 tractors with sprayers have been deployed for actively controlling the locust situation. Across many areas, drones will be deployed for tracing and eliminating swarms.
Several states have resorted to their own strategies in dealing with the locust threat. Delhi and Chhatisgarh are on high alert for locust attacks and are taking preventive measures by the use of pesticides. Among other measures, controlled spraying of insecticide on locusts’ night resting places like trees would also be deployed.
This devastating locust attack that has surrounded India while the nation struggles to deal with the pandemic could lead to a lack of food grains and vegetables drowning the nation into fresh economic trouble. If not dealt with timely and effectively an agrarian crisis due to locust attack will further throw the government into grave problems.
It's been over two years since Hrithik Roshan appeared on celluloid. Fans have been waiting to witness his next performance on the silver screen and it seems like their wishes will be soon granted. Earlier, Hrithik had made an announcement about getting back to shooting schedule for the upcoming film 'Vikram Vedha'. And now, it's learnt that the actor has recently wrapped the first ever action sequence from the film.
The news came out when a few stuntmen from the film's set shared pictures of the sequence wrap. The stunt sequences seem to be quite crazy as suggested by the stuntmen. Talking about the same, a stuntman posted on his instagram as he wrote, "Wrapped up the first action sequence of Vikram Vedha. A big 'Thank you' to @parvez.shaikhh sir for this opportunity. Wouldn't have been possible without you ?? @hrithikroshan."
Another stuntman posted, "First craziest action sequence have done (sic).!! Cheer's To @hrithikroshan @parvez.shaikhh @stuntindia1 and all the stunt boys.!!"
'Vikram Vedha' is a Hindi remake of the runaway Tamil hit of the same name which was released in 2017. While the original action thriller starred R. Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi, the Hindi version will see Hrithik Roshan squaring off against Saif Ali Khan. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Hrithik Roshan, Vikram Vedha, action, sequence, wrap up
The niece of Japanese Emperor Naruhito, Princess Mako, married a commoner Tuesday, relinquishing her royal status following a heavily scrutinized, controversial four-year engagement.
The Japanese Imperial Household Agency issued a statement announcing the marriage of Mako to Kei Komuro, both 30 years old.
The couple broke with tradition by foregoing the usual rituals and ceremonies of royal weddings, including a reception, while Mako also refused the one-off payment of about $1.3 million typically made to royal women who leave the imperial family to marry.
The couple had been classmates at Tokyo's International Christian University when they announced their engagement in 2017, saying they intended to marry the next year.
But shortly after the announcement, a dispute involving money Komuro's mother, a widow, had received from a former suiter surfaced and the wedding was postponed. Komuro wrote a lengthy statement explaining the situation, and but it is still unclear if the dispute has been fully resolved.
Komuro spent the last three years at law school in New York City, where The New York Times reports tabloid newspapers documented everything from his hairstyle to the food trucks where he bought his lunch.
At a news conference, the former princess addressed the controversies, gossip and mixed public opinion about the relationship, saying, "I am very sorry to the people who had trouble (with our marriage). Also, I feel gratitude towards people who cared and quietly worried about me, or people who were not misled by the non-factual information and still continued to support me and Kei."
The couple expressed their love for one another, and Mako said, "As we go on with our lives, I think there will be different difficulties. But as we have in the past, we will work together and continue to move on together."
The couple plans to live in New York City. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Japan, Princess Mako, Komuro, Marriage, Royals
WASHINGTON — U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol announced dozens of arrests to break up a global operation that sold illegal drugs using a shadowy realm of the internet.
At a Department of Justice news conference Tuesday in Washington, officials said they arrested 150 people for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including fake prescription opioids and cocaine, over the so-called darknet. Those charged are alleged to have carried out tens of thousands of illegal sales using a part of the internet that is accessible only by using specialized anonymity tools.
The 10-month dragnet called "Operation HunTor" — named after encrypted internet tools — resulted in the seizure of 234 kilograms of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and opioids worth more than $31 million. Officials said many of the confiscated drugs were fake prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The counterfeit tablets are linked to a wave of drug overdoses.
"This international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and sends one clear message to those hiding on the darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet," said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaks during a news at the Department of Justice in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo credit: VOA
Investigators rounded up and arrested 65 people in the United States. Other arrests occurred in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In addition to counterfeit medicine, authorities also confiscated more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills.
"We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine," said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances."
The international police agency Europol worked alongside the U.S. Justice Department's Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team.
"No one is beyond the reach of the law, even on the dark web," said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol's deputy executive director.
The dark web is preferred by criminal networks who want to keep their internet activities private and anonymous. In this case, it served as a platform for illegal cyber sales of counterfeit medication and other drugs that were delivered by private shipping companies.
Investigators said the fake drugs are primarily made in laboratories in Mexico using chemicals imported from China. Prosecutors also targeted drug dealers who operated home labs to manufacture fake prescription pain pills.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, second from left, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo credit: VOA
"Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don't know what they're getting," Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate said. The joint investigation followed enforcement efforts in January in which authorities shut down "DarkMarket," the world's largest illegal international marketplace on the dark web.
Last month, the DEA warned Americans that international and domestic drug dealers were flooding the country with fake pills, driving the U.S. overdose crisis. The agency confiscated more the 9.5 million potentially lethal pills in the last year.
More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. U.S. health officials attribute the rise to the use of fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine.
U.S. officials said investigations are continuing and more arrests are expected. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally wriiten by Chris Simkins)
Keywords: Drug Vendors, Investigation, DEA, Illegal purchase, Police Operation, Internet