Monday, June 29, 2009

Catch eclipse early in Surat or clearly in Patna

Surat and Patna are the places to be on July 22, not Mumbai, where the solar eclipse will not be total and where the weather will obstruct the view of whatever spectacle there is. Surat is where the total eclipse will begin for India; Patna is one of the best spots for witnessing it.

Mumbai is just outside the total eclipse’s path and will witness a 96 per cent partial eclipse. Besides, NASA predicts, visibility will be poor with the mean cloud cover expected to be nearly 84 per cent and sunshine just 18 per cent. The partial eclipse will arrive in Mumbai at 6.22 am, one minute after Surat, and about 10 minutes after sunrise.

“After analysing the weather pattern of the last 20 years, it seems places like Patna and Varanasi would offer good viewing prospects. With several eclipse chasers from India and across the world eyeing this event, hotels and guesthouses in places like Patna are likely to be fully booked in advance,” said Dr Piyush Pandey, director of the Nehru Planetarium in Mumbai

Food Processing Industry Should be More Active to Ensure Agriculture A Larger Share in India's Gdp emphasizes Bihar's Industry Secretary

India is one of the largest producers of vegetables and fruits in the world with an annual production more than 80 million tonnes, only next to China. However, though India's GDP has recently crossed the trillion dollar mark taking it up to the elite club of 12 top economies, agriculture still comprises a mere 20% of the country's GDP despite the fact that it is the source and means of livelihood for almost 2/3rd of the country's workforce. The Planning Commission has , however, laid down a growth target of at least 4% for this sector in the 11th Five Year Plan as against the achieved growth rate of 2% in the 10th Plan. And within India, Bihar is such a State that has got a very fertile land capable of multicropping and a set of very skilled and cheap labor, where agriculture and agro-based industries can thrive to their fullest capacity. It is fast coming up as the most sought after destination for the food processing industry in the eastern part of the nation. Concentrating on these various areas of potentiality of the food processing sector of the State of Bihar, CII, Eastern Region in partnership with the Department of Industries , Government of Bihar organized a "Road Show: Destination Bihar" in Kolkata, on 26 June, Friday, 2009.

Inaugurating the Road Show, the Chief Guest of the session, Mr. Ashok Kr. Sinha, Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, Government of Bihar emphasized in his inaugural address on three major points of potential, policy and environment which according to him makes the State of Bihar an attractive investment destination. He stated that despite the fact that Bihar is a fertile State complete with skilled and cheap labor, what is most important in today's date is the right pricing of the agricultural produce for which food processing industry needs to play a very active role. Keeping this vision in mind, he informed that the Bihar Government has formulated a very open and liberal industrial policy. And for the potential investors in the food processing industry the policy kitty has been made further more attractive taking the State forward in the league compared to other regions. According to Sinha, under this liberal industrial policy of Bihar, any potential investor in the food processing industry can avail the various facilities already in place under the Bihar Industrial Policy 2006, like 80% VAT reimbursement, 50% capital subsidy in the sphere of captive power generation etc coupled with an extra added advantages like 40% capital subsidy and an absolute no bar or objection on behalf of the State Government on any subsidy or facility what the investor wants to avail from the Central Government.

The keynote address was delivered by Mr. S. Mukherjee, Director, Bihar Electricity Board in which he provided a preview of the power scenario in Bihar. According to him, though a mere 3 to 4 years before, the power scenario of Bihar used to be really very scary, but , currently things have changed for better to a great extent. According to him, 3-4 years back, the power requirement in Bihar was something around 600-700 MW which has presently increased to more than double � something around 1800-2200 MW during the peak season. As he added that post Jharkhand formation, all the major power producing units like Patrapur Thermal Plant, Tenughat, Subarnarekha etc went away from the hands of the Bihar Government leaving behind zero producing units like that of Barauni and Muzzafarpur. But currently, Bihar Electricity Board has been able to generate on its own an average of about 160-170MW of power from these two units coupled with about 50MW of power from the various small units of Hydel power in the State, informed Mukherjee. Apart from this , Bihar also gets its allocated share of 1550 MW of electricity from the Central Sector Grid. He also informed that within the next 12-18months, about 440 MW of extra electricity will be available from the Barauni and Muzzafarpur units which are under renovation under the supervision of BHEL and NTPC for which an amount of about Rs1071 crores have been sanctioned. Apart from these, the Bihar Government is also in the process to notify a bidding process to buy about 1500 MW of electricity from various prospective bidders by 2010, thus accumulating about 3200 MW of total power which he expects is a very promising picture for prospective investors. Transmission and Distribution facilities are also undergoing major overhauling , informed Mukherjee.

While delivering his theme address, Mr. Satyajit Singh, Chairman, CII, Bihar State Council said that Bihar has changed a lot and the State has entered into a new phase of Governance where there are ample scopes for a fruitful partnership between the private investors and the Bihar Government which can ensure better returns.

Prior to that , Mr. Kurush Grant, Deputy Chairman, CII (Eastern Region) said in his welcome address that though India is a fertile country but there is an urgent need for increased productivity, post harvest technology and processing and infrastructure for the focused growth of the nation's agricultural sector. Grant said, that the Bihar Government has done with a very timely proposition in incorporating the food policy which will go a long way to help in diversification and commercialization of the sector resulting in employment generation, value addition and also export opportunities.

The august audience present at the Road Show were enlightened by a Film Show titled "Bihar Has Changed � Food Processing Policy" which uphold the pretty conducive industrial and social environment of Bihar and focused on its tremendous opportunity.

The Vote of Thanks to the Inaugural Session was delivered by Dr. Saugat Mukherjee, Regional Director, CII (ER).

JVL's new unit at Bihar's Pehleja

Varanasi, June 28 Vanaspati Ghee and refined oil manufacturer JVL Agro Industries today launched its commercial production at Pehleja unit in Bihar.

Dinanath Jhunjhunwala, the Chairman of the Jhunjhunwala Vanaspati Limited (JVL) Group told PTI here that the new unit at Sasaram district, about 150 kms from here, was inaugurated by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi.

The unit set up at a cost of Rs 100 crore will have a capacity of 750 metric tonnes per day (MTPD).

Prehistoric cave art found in Bihar

Patna, June 29: A young explorer says he has discovered prehistoric cave art in Bihar`s Rajgir hills that are known for their Buddhist heritage and has asked the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) to validate his claim.

"We have found cave art of the prehistoric age in the dense forest of Rajgir hills. The discovery is of immense importance," Deepak Anand, an explorer associated with Nav Nalanda Mahavihara, a Nalanda-based deemed university, told IANS on telephone.

"There is no doubt that the art is pre-historic. The location from where the art has been discovered was unexplored till date. The cave, its location, colour, rock structure and pattern clearly show that the art is pre-historic. Also, the art was made by rubbing hematite (iron oxide) on rock by men living in the areas that substantiates it to be prehistoric," said Anand, who is in his late 20s.

"The Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) has been requested to visit the site and ascertain the dating of the art," he added

"Prehistoric cave art has been found at several places across the world but discovery of a pre-historic cave art at Rajgir was different from others. It is an unique one," said Anand, who has an experience of seven years in the exploration field.

Anand found the series of caves on June 19 in the Rajgir hills, about 100 km from state capital Patna, during his exploration of the archaeological site.

"After we found it, now what we want that world`s best archaeologists, who are experts on this Paleolithic art, should visit the site," Anand said.

He said Rajgir hills are waiting for explorers and archaeologists from around the world.

"Possibilities of more discoveries are good in the Rajgir hills. We strongly feel that many more discoveries will be made here which world does not know about," he said.

Anand said there was an urgent need to propagate and promote discovery of prehistoric cave art.

"Unless we propagate it on massive scale it will be unknown to the world. Till five to 10 years ago, people used to fear visiting the Rajgir hills. Nobody used to venture there. No explorer or archaelogist would go there as the hills were considered a Maoist stronghold. But now things have changed," he said.

Anand is currently working in a documentation project titled Mapping of Nalanda.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Foreign tourists' inflow jumps four times in Bihar

With the Bihar government giving a fresh thrust to the tourism sector through enhanced budgetary allocation, the footfall of foreign tourists in the state has gone up by nearly four times in two years.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Bihar has shot up to over three lakhs in 2008, state's Tourism minister Rampravesh Rai told reporters on Friday.

In 2007, the state witnessed an 87.79 per cent rise in tourist inflow as compared to the previous year and last year the rise was 100.97 per cent, he said.

Realising vast potential of Bihar, home to a number of Buddhist, Jain and Sikh shrines for pilgrim tourism, the NDA government substantially increased budgetary allocations to the sector after coming to power in November 2005.

He added that while a meagre Rs three crore was earmarked for tourism for 2005-06, it was raised to Rs 30 crore in 2009-10.

Bihar Govt's performance on RIDF appreciated

PATNA: Chief general manager, Nabard (Mumbai), B S Shekhawat on Wednesday appreciated the performance of the state government on rural
infrastructure development front during the past four years.

Addressing a day long workshop for the state government officials on `Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF)', he revealed that earlier Bihar figured as one of the worst performers on this count.

He said that the RIDF was in operation since 1995-96 providing term loans at a concessional rate to the state governments for financing their rural infrastructure projects. The Bihar government has been able to avail a loan facility of only Rs 3,000 crore so far, he said. He, however, pointed out that it was during the last four years that performance on this front had somewhat improved though it still needs much improvement.

Nabard Bihar regional office CGM Sandip Ghosh called upon the government officials to go for new areas where these projects could be taken up in the state. He informed that Nabard has sanctioned a large number of projects in road, bridge, irrigation and social sectors. In 2008-09, Nabard sanctioned infrastructure projects worth Rs 752 crore under RIDF whereas in 2009-10 the target is Rs 700 crore.

A presentation on new areas like seed farms, marketing infrastructure, fishery, animal husbandry and many more was made by Nabard before the state government officials.

Speaking on behalf of the state government, principal secretary, finance, Navin Kumar assured Nabard officials that it would go for infrastructure development in new areas. He appreciated Nabard's initiative in holding a day long workshop for all government departments concerned.

IIT-Patna to start PhD programmes from July

PATNA: The newly set-up Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in this Bihar city will start its doctoral programmes from next month, an official said
on Friday.

"IIT-Patna will become the first among the eight new IITs set up last year to start PhD programmes," institute official Subhash Pandey said.

The IIT will have PhD programmes in computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, mathematics, physics, humanities and social sciences.

Pandey said that interviews of the applicants are underway and there are 30 vacancies.

At present, the IIT is functioning from a polytechnic building here as a temporary campus. The process of land acquisition for a permanent campus is underway.

The first director of the institute A.K. Bhowmik will also assume charge in July, the official added.

NRIs can offer 'pindadaan' online

PATNA: The Bihar government has decided to introduce video-conferencing facility for NRIs to offer "pindadaan" for salvation of their ancestral

Lakhs of Hindus from across the country and abroad descend on Gaya town in the state during "Pitripaksha" (father's fortnight) every year to offer "pindadaan" for their dead ancestors as it is believed to ensure salvation of the souls. "Pitripaksha" this year begins on September 3.

The video-conferencing facility can be availed of by paying a fee through credit card. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting presided over by deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and attended by, among others, tourism minister Ramprawesh Rai.

Modi said a 35-room hotel of the tourism department, Vishnu Vihar, has become operational at Gaya from this year. Cottages would also be available at Gaya during the fortnight-long "Pitripaksha" fair. "Around eight lakh pilgrims are expected to arrive to offer `pindadaan'," he said.

Indian Air Taxi services from July 1 from Patna

PATNA: Fliers willing to avail chartered plane services in Bihar have now an option. Private carrier Spirit Air has decided to launch charted flight
services, christened `Indian Air Taxi' from Patna from July 1.

To begin with, airlines sources said, the service would be offered to destinations having functional airports. "As it is a chartered service, destination is to be decided by the customer, but the only pre-requisite is existence of a functional airport at the destination as one has to adhere to aviation rules for landing and take off of an aircraft," said a Spirit Air official.

A Cessna-172 Sky Hawk aircraft, which would have the capacity to carry three passengers apart from the pilot, would be offered to the passengers. The aircraft can fly for seven hours non-stop. "In case someone opts for a destination which needs more than seven hours of flying, the flight would hop at a suitable place for re-fuelling," said the official.

Those opting for the services would have to pay something between Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000 per flying hour. Rates for flying idle hours would be Rs 12,000 per hour for the first two hours and Rs 9,500 per hour for next three hours.

The private carrier had earlier announced that it would offer air taxi services to major district towns of Bihar and Jharkhand as well, but for now those willing to travel to these places by air would have to wait.

Reason being non-availability of security, fire tenders and ambulance at the airstrips in districts which the Spirit Air wants to connect with Patna and Ranchi. These three basic facilities are a must, according to the civil aviation rules, at the time of landing and take off of an aircraft from air strips, which do not fall under any airport.

Spirit Air had earlier written letters to both the state governments asking them to provide these facilities in the districts which have airstrips, but a positive reply is still awaited.

"Our team would once again meet senior officials of Bihar and Jharkhand requesting them to consider our proposal as people in districts too would like to avail the service which is first of its kind in these two states," said the Sprit Air official.