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Why Tea is so popular Worldwide? India’s Tea Genome sequencing project will not replicate work done by Chinese

Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality and other attributes

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Tea. Pixabay
  • Genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism
  • Chinese researchers announced on May 1 they have successfully sequenced the genome of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, known as tea tree
  • Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality, and other attributes

Kolkata, June 5, 2017: India, which recently launched its tea genome sequencing project, is not going to replicate the work done by the Chinese but instead aims to develop climate-smart tea plantations with the genomic boost, an official here said.

We launched the project in the first week of April and a Chinese group published a paper on their work a month later. Many are of the opinion that India has, perhaps, missed the bus. We are not replicating the work that China has done. Our target cultivar is Assam type (Camellia assamica) and that is Indian-origin tea, Biswajit Bera, Director (Research) at Tea Board of India, Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry said on Monday.

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Once the project is completed, we are going to have a climate smart tea plantation wherein we will target development of tea cultivars according to our own need, he said.

In a study that offers clues why tea is so popular worldwide, Chinese researchers announced on May 1 they have successfully sequenced the genome of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, known as tea tree, for the first time, Xinhua reported.

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The genus Camellia contains over 100 species, but the most popular varieties of tea, including black tea, green tea, Oolong tea, white tea, and chai, all come from the leaves of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis.

India’s tea genome mapping project involves six institutes — three Tea Research Institutes, National Tea Research Foundation (NTRF), ICAR, CSIR. This exercise will help in the development of superior tea cultivars using genome sequence information, Bera said.

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This will be a two-phased programme. We will generate huge genetic resource information which will be co-related with field data specifying different traits or characters. Like, for Darjeeling, we are targetting the disease blister blight. For different areas of tea plantation in India, we are targetting different traits which will be co-related with this genome sequencing. In addition, the genetic data will also aid in developing package and practices to overcome adverse climatic stress, Bera said.

Genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality and other attributes.

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Bera, a botanist, said there are three main tea varieties: India tea (Assam), China tea and hybrid tea.

Bera was speaking at a workshop on ‘Sustainable Development of Tea-Gardens and Issues of Urban Wetland’ organised here by IIT Kharagpur and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Around 40 students and faculty from both institutions, who are jointly researching the tea gardens in North Bengal, participated in the event. (IANS)

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India Needs to Define Special Placement of Function of Intelligence in Interest of National Security

The Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy, in February last, by a suicide bomber of Jaish-e-Mohammad, was a case more of inadequate response

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India, Intelligence, National Security
Terrorists would always have a lead in springing up surprises -- it has to be appreciated, therefore, that the agencies using both human and technical means have produced information to preempt them in most cases. Pixabay

It is a matter of deep satisfaction for the people of India that our Intelligence agencies moulded in a non-political work ethos and practising the dictum of ‘working with urgency even when there was no emergency’ enabled the first Modi regime to successfully deal with the threats to national security — particularly in Kashmir where they helped the security forces to pursue Intelligence-based operations that guaranteed minimal collateral damage in counter-terror work. Terrorists would always have a lead in springing up surprises — it has to be appreciated, therefore, that the agencies using both human and technical means have produced information to preempt them in most cases.

The Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy, in February last, by a suicide bomber of Jaish-e-Mohammad, was a case more of inadequate response than Intelligence failure. In security, failure of ‘action’ not of ‘information’ does happen often enough to remind us of the need to improve coordinated responses to Intelligence alerts and to never be dismissive about information. No Intelligence is ‘non-actionable’ as it should rightly be presumed to be the tip of the iceberg warranting all possible preventive measures, howsoever tedious these might seem to be for the action takers.

Most of the serious threats to national security have external and internal dimensions and the Multi Agency Centres at Delhi and in the state capitals with years of functioning now, make sure that the available actionable information is passed on to the concerned functionaries without delay and that further lines of pursuit to dig out more intelligence were specified as an ongoing task. Our Inteligence agencies — inheriting a British tradition — exercise the sovereign power of identifying the emerging threats to national security and initiating the effort to ‘cover’ them to ensure a constant flow of information on them without waiting for a clearance from the political executive. They have to keep the latter fully informed at the same time. This is what enables the agencies to go on without change of pace even when a new government assumes charge at the Centre after a General Election.

The system in India has upheld the position that national security was above politics and this principle was in play for most times since India became a democratic republic in 1950 — except for spells when the Intelligence chief of the day himself fell short of the highest levels of objectivity and independence. The natural changes brought about by the country’s democratic process enabled me to serve as Director Intelligence Bureau with three Prime Ministers of different political backgrounds — Congress, BJP and the United Front. Since the institution of National Security Advisor did not exist then, that function was also built into the DIB’s working in my time. I can say with emphasis that all the three valued IB’s information on national security even when they chose to run their politics in their own ways – by and large without involving Intelligence agencies in their political agenda.

India, Intelligence, National Security
It is a matter of deep satisfaction for the people of India that our Intelligence agencies moulded in a non-political work ethos and practising the dictum of ‘working with urgency even when there was no emergency’ enabled the first Modi regime to successfully deal with the threats. Pixabay

Because of the ever enlarging threat scenario, Intelligence agencies were in need of more manpower, funds and logistical support. As a historical legacy Intelligence Bureau was manned and led by officers of IPS — this made for the agency’s close cooperation with and a much-needed mentoring role in regard to the state police organisations. The Bureau was regarded as a Central Police Organisation for cadre management but was not otherwise bracketed with the investigation outfits or the para military organisations of the government. Intelligence agencies have a bulk of operators directly recruited from amongst the best through a rigorous examination and thoroughly trained in the trade craft.

The IPS officers leading them are on a turf of anonymity, covert operations and delicate information gathering — entirely different from the sphere of visible legal action handled by men in uniform including investigators. The Intelligence set-up, therefore, ought to have its own performance and promotion parameters. This is what gave Director IB the status and pay grade as the most senior police officer in the country in keeping with his function as the Chairman of the DGPs Conference even when IPS officers with longer years of service headed the state police or other police organisations at the Centre.

Intelligence agencies in Indian conditions handle only ‘information’ accessed through trade craft techniques and the responsibility of taking ‘action’ against a suspect in a legally empowered way would fall on the state police or a central investigation body like the NIA. The Intelligence agencies act as the eyes and ears of the sovereign power ruling the democratic state and could be scanning any other functionary — high or low — in the national interest under the express authorisation of the highest political executive exercising that power. Since Intelligence agency does not dictate ‘action’ or ‘policy’ it cannot be blamed for any legally untenable response of the police. The Centre needs to define the special placement of the function of Intelligence in the interest of national security.

The internal security situation in the country and the developing threat scenario around the world justify a quantum jump being made in the manpower and resources provided to the Intelligence set-up in general and Intelligence Bureau — the mother agency for counter intelligence work — in particular. IB watches every nook and corner of the country where terror agents and other anti-national elements might be harbouring taking advantage of the free society offered by Indian democracy. Kashmir, typically, illustrated the challenge to national security created by the paucity of ‘Intelligence from below’. Now that the J& K has been fully integrated with the rest of the country the Centre must raise enough trained professionals of the state to cover every Panchayat circle and town from the angle of counter terror watch. Failure to quickly identify the local masterminds behind the organised stone pelting was a major reason why the J&K government could not effectively handle the civic disturbances occurring in Srinagar and elsewhere in recent months. The collusion of the Valley parties ruling the state with the pro-Pak Hurriyat was the principal reason why the state administration remained infested with separatists and failed to work for the development and uplift of the average Kashmiri.

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A hard-pressed organisation like IB should have no ‘vacancies’ caused by procedural delays arising out of the issue of equivalence of batch positions of IPS officers serving elsewhere. An officer is inducted and kept in IB purely on a special evaluation of merit and suitability and a faster career graph for him or her during the stay with the agency should be a part of the deal. IB, in any case, was expected to be ahead of the state cadres in matters of promotion. National security is the joint preserve of the Centre and the states. Cadre management complexities should not, therefore, be allowed to come in the way of central Intelligence agencies getting the best of the available manpower at any point of time. The new global terror targeting the Indian subcontinent adds urgency to this requirement. (IANS)