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Today's Hot Stories

Every day from Monday to Saturday, by 12 noon generally, the R&D team at PT universe will bring you the hottest global and Indian current affairs stories. Read, learn, enjoy! Remember to come back tomorrow... Kar ke dikhayenge!

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Fate of several foreign students in medical colleges uncertain after SC's ruling on NEET
(2) Online sales of threatened cacti an open door for illegal trade
(3) Mayawati is 'mentally bankrupt', says BJP
(4) The armed forces must be 'very capable': PM Modi
(5) LeT hit hardest in surgical strikes: Reports
(6) Dubai: Indian man buys car number plate for $9m
(7) Ahead of BRICS summit, China says willing to discuss India's NSG bid
(8) Freed Delhi teen was abducted for Rs 50 crore
(9) 'Taliban leader lived, taught in Pak for 15 yrs'
(10) Bengaluru's taste for high-end party drugs

5 Stories for Today

(1) World’s diamond city can guide India’s waterways
(2) This year's Vijayadashami will be very special for country: PM
(3) Fossil Group enters ‘connected’ wearable segment in India
(4) 5 Indian-Americans among richest in the US
(5) Russia moves nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad

(1) World’s diamond city can guide India’s waterways

Belgium’s Port of Antwerp could well be India’s lighthouse. In its bid to drastically cut logistics costs, the Asian nation is planning to pump in billions of dollars to make its dry river beds navigable and develop over 2,000 river ports across 111 national waterways spanning 20,000 km. And, it could take away a few lessons on generating cargo close to its proposed riverine ports from its European counterpart.

The Port of Antwerp, a river port set up over 500 years ago, and Europe’s second largest port behind Rotterdam, attracts some of the biggest vessels to its 86 terminals located 80 km inland, away from the North Sea, as it has emerged as one of Europe’s major transshipment hubs feeding cargo to large parts of Europe through water, rail and roadways.

Besides, it generates large quantities of cargo from manufacturing and processing units located in the port area (the biggest in the world spread across 12,068 hectares - or equivalent to about 20,000 football fields) to cater to the growing demand of vessels calling on the port and barges that transport cargo to the hinterland in Europe.

‘Cargo is king’

Located on the banks of the river Scheldt, a 350-km long perennial river that originates from France and that receives tidal water from the North Sea, the port has multiple canals dug up to create man-made waterways and additional capacity as well as to set up terminals for specific purposes such as container, liquid bulk, dry bulk and break-bulk cargo.

The port also boasts of 7 functional locks to ensure adequate water levels for vessels during times of low-tide in the confined zones to keep port activity going round the clock. Locks are created to enable vessels to sail away using the tidal window after completion of loading or off loading work.

The landlord port, which gives away land, warehouses, coverings and quays in concession to private enterprises, also houses Europe’s biggest petrochemicals zone and warehouses spread across 610 hectares.

The combination of cargo-handing, value-added logistics and production from local industry makes this port unique. The port boasts of railway and roads of 1,061 km and 430 km respectively for evacuation of cargo.

Through its quay length of 172 km, the port transports about 35 per cent of cargo through barges across Europe through the Scheldt (in Belgium, France and Netherlands), Rhine (Germany) and other European rivers. To ensure the entry of large vessels the port authorities have dredged the river and during high-tide the port gets draught that is about 15 metres more than available at India’s JNPT.

“For long India has focused on sea ports,” Eddy Bruyninckx, CEO, Port of Antwerp told The Hindu. “Today, if ships are sailing through a river to come to our port through the tidal window, it is because cargo is there. They come here because cargo is king.” .

According to him, “Cargo is here because we host Europe’s biggest petrochemical complex and 6 million sq metres of warehousing in the port area. That is cargo in itself. We provide excellent connectivity through barges right up to the Rhine,” he added.

Today, the port is focused on improving barge connectivity to the hinterland, as well.

Choosing investments

“You may, of course, invest a lot of money in a canal but if there are no services launched, if there are no barge operators, then you are nowhere,” he said. “It is extremely important to identify as to who will use the inland waterways. If you create industrial zones located at the border of the canal, cargo can be generated. There have to be logistics facilities as well,” he said.

For example, the port has helped in the creation of special warehouses or cold chain facilities for storage of fruits such as pineapples and bananas as well as vegetables that are transported across Europe even up to Russia. Many such facilities have their own captive terminals within 10 metre from the warehouse. This has become possible because terminals and the warehouses have been set up on the river bank itself.

The main objective is to generate enough cargo from the river banks so that riverine transport can be made viable and which would ultimately attract investors to invest in such projects.

Even as the government authorities are bullish on the prospects, India faces many challenges to develop and run these waterways.

Identifying the areas where investment can be made could be crucial. “You must know the potential of the particular waterway to attract water-way cargo. Where does it come from? Multiple activities need to be set up for the development and improvement of the waterway. You must address road congestion. You can invest a lot. The sky is the limit. But there has to be cargo and supply chain,” he said.

Draught concerns

Recently the Port of Antwerp undertook a study for the World Bank concerning the development of a waterway connecting Patna to Garden Reach near Kolkata.

The study mentions the seasonal variations in the navigable depth. In the monsoon, the draught (or the depth of water needed to float a ship) is fine but in other seasons it goes down. “It requires some capital dredging and some amount of maintenance dredging (to keep the water levels acceptable for movement of barges),” said Raj Khalid, the India representative of Port of Antwerp.

Both kinds of dredging - capital and maintenance - are important to deepen river beds. Moving the dredgers into the rivers is not easy and in most cases, the dredger needs to be assembled in the river to do its job. It may remain there forever thus blocking capital. Besides, the riverine transport routes should run uninterrupted for at least 300 km at a stretch so that desired logistics cost savings might be achieved.

“At least two metres of draught is required for movement of even the smallest barges,” said maritime expert Rohit Chaturvedi who was previously with CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory. “Rivers carry a lot of silt and sand which need to be removed constantly,” according to him.

“In India you have to do dredging and get the waterways into operation,” said Luc Arnouts, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Antwerp which is helping Panama, Belgium, Netherlands, France and Germany to develop and maintain inland waterways.

According to Mr. Chaturvedi, another concern was from the dams and barrages that restricted the flow of water depending on local requirements. “No viable business can be built on the Cauvery considering the ongoing tussle between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on sharing of water,” he said adding that Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) “is not institutionally strong to push aside these regional concerns and develop a viable business model for investors.”

After the successful movement of cargo on NW1 (the Ganga) and NW2 (the Bramhaputra), the World Bank, which had sanctioned Rs.4,000 crore for the NW1, is now keen that IWAI takes up passenger transportation in the second phase, said Pravir Pandey, Vice Chairman & Project Director, IWAI.

India lagging

“We have started work to develop inland waterways, which are our priority. The objective is to reduce logistics costs, which is now 18 per cent,” said Union minister for Shipping and Roads Nitin Gadkari. According to him, “It is 8 per cent in China and goes up to 12 per cent in Europe. We have to bring it down to 12 per cent to be internationally competitive. Only water transportation can make it possible,” .

“We have a sea shore (line) of 7,500 km and we have 20,000 km of river banks. About 2,000 water ports can be created. We are putting up to 50 ports on the Ganga. We are investing Rs.4,000 crore on NW1. We are putting up multi-modal ports at Varanasi and Haldia. I am talking to the Korean government to (help) create waterways across rivers,” Mr. Gadkari added.

According to the minister, in India only 3.5 per cent of all cargo is transported through waterways. It is 47 per cent in China, 40 per cent in Europe, 44 per cent in South Korea and Japan and 35 per cent in Bangladesh.

Source- The Hindus

(2) This year's Vijayadashami will be very special for country: PM

In an apparent reference to the Army’s surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this year’s Vijyadashami is “very special” and quoted BJP ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay to say that “very capable” armed forces were a must for a strong nation.

The Prime Minister also maintained that India should seek to be strong in its own interest, and this should not worry the neighbours. Speaking at a function held to release the complete works of Upadhyay, whose birth centenary celebrations are being organised by the government, Modi said,

“We will celebrate Vijayadashami in the coming days. This year it is very special for the country.” His words elicited a thunderous applause from the audience at the Vigyan Bhavan. The Prime Minister is slated to take part in the Dussehra celebrations at Lucknow. With Uttar Pradesh heading for Assembly elections early next year, there appears a clear message that the BJP would seek to take credit for the “effective” response given to Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism.

“He (Upadhyay) used to say that the country’s armed forces should be very capable, then only can the nation be strong. In this time of competitiveness, the need is that the nation should be capable and strong,” said Modi, who at the same time elaborated that being strong does not mean being against anyone.

If we exercise for our strength, then the neighbour need not worry that it is to target him. I am exercising to strengthen myself and for my health,” Modi stated in a subtle message to Pakistan.

BJP chief Amit Shah said the Centre had made the country secure. “Without diverting from the path of peace, the NDA government has ensured the country’s safety and security,” he said.

The second in command of the RSS, Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi, stressed the need for strengthening India’s security.

“India’s pursuit for national security was inspired by the need to defend itself rather than to defeat others. India should be safe and secure. Its borders are posing a challenge and everyone has seen that this issue can be resolved too,” he said.

Source- the Indian Express

(3) Fossil Group enters ‘connected’ wearable segment in India

Global luxury accessories maker Fossil Group on Wednesday entered the wearable segment in India by unveiling a range of connected devices that include smart watches, hybrid watches and fitness trackers.

The wearable devices span across six of Fossil Group’s licensed brands -- Fossil Q, Michael Kors Connected, Skagen Connected, Chaps, Emporio Armani and Misfit.

“Indians are very passionate about technology and are quick to adopt the latest. We believe the country will continue to be a key market for us,” Sonny Vu, President and CTO, Connected Devices, Fossil Group, told reporters here.

Fossil’s Q Wander smartwatch features a soft curving, multi-finish case and comes with interchangeable genuine leather strap.

Q Marshal features a rugged case along with a navy blue plated case paired with vintage-inspired leather straps.

Both Q Wander and Q Marshal feature Always On Display, allowing users to access important information like time, calls and alerts anytime.

Users can also respond to messages from the watch by tapping the screen or by using voice commands.

The collection is priced between Rs 21,995-Rs 22,595.

Michael Kors enters the connected world through “Michael Kors Access,” featuring designs based on the Bradshaw and Dylan styles, and comes with customisable display and functionality to keep users equipped with features like connectivity, activity tracking, voice activation, customisable display faces and wireless charging.

Bradshaw Access and Dylan Access are available in the price range of Rs 25,995 to Rs 29,495.

Skagen debuts with Skagen Connected, a wearable technology line. The initial collection will include the Hagen Connected hybrid smartwatches and a Skagen Connected activity tracker.

The collection is priced between Rs 14,295 to Rs 15,495.

The Chaps connected hybrid smart watch is for customers who want all the functionality of a world-class tracker with notifications hidden in a traditional watch.

The smart watch is available to customers from Rs 9,995 to Rs 10,495.

Emporio Armani Connected hybrid smartwatches are priced between Rs 17,495 and Rs 27,995.

MisFit expands its portfolio with Misfit Shine 2 and Misfit Ray.

Priced at Rs 7,495 onwards, Misfit Shine 2 and Misfit Ray feature a modular design and lets users track their fitness goals.

Source- The Hindusta Times

(4) 5 Indian-Americans among richest in the US

Five Indian-Americans have made their way to the Forbes’ list of 400 richest people in the US. Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates, who has a net worth of $81 billion, has topped the list for the 23rd year in a row.

Symphony Technology founder Romesh Wadhwani, co-founder of outsourcing firm Syntel Bharat Neerja Desai, Airline veteran Rakesh Gangwal, entrepreneur John Kapoor and Silicon Valley angel investor Kavitark Ram Shriram have been featured in Forbes’ “The Richest People In America 2016” list.

Mr Wadhwani, 69, has been ranked 222nd on the list with a net worth of $3 billion. He is the chairman and CEO of Symphony Technology Group, an empire of 17 data, technology, healthcare and analytics companies that together take in more than $2.8 billion in annual revenue, Forbes said.

Last year, Mr Wadhwani announced that he planned to commit up to $1 billion to fund entrepreneurship initiatives in India.

Outsourcing firm Syntel Bharat co-founder Neerja Desai, on the other hand, ranks 274th on the list with a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Their company Syntel, started in 1980 from their apartment in Michigan, now generates over $950 million in revenue and has nearly 24,000 employees across the globe, Forbes said.

Airline veteran Gangwal is ranked 321 on the list with a net worth of $2.2 billion. The 63-year old IIT alumnus has made his fortune from InterGlobe Aviation, the parent company of his budget airline IndiGo, India’s largest by market share.

Mr Gangwal co-founded IndiGo, headquartered outside Delhi in 2006 with one aircraft. The Miami resident owns more than 40 per cent of the company and now serves as a board member, Forbes said.

Entrepreneur John Kapoor ranks 335 on the list and has a net worth of $2.1 billion. He is the chairman of two drug outfits — Akorn, which specialises in “difficult-to-manufacture” prescription drugs and Insys Therapeutics, which produces an opioid for cancer patients.

Silicon Valley angel investor Kavitark Ram Shriram ranks 361 on the list and has a net worth of $1.9 billion. An early Google backer, Mr Shriram, has sold off most of his stock but remains on the board of its parent company, Alphabet, Forbes said.

Since 2000, Shriram has been investing in young technology startups through his firm, Sherpalo Ventures.

His portfolio includes Paperless Post, an online card and invitation service; Optimizely, which provides web and mobile app testing; and Inmobi, a mobile advertising company.

Source- The Asian Age

(5) Russia moves nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad

Russia has moved nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into the Kaliningrad enclave bordering Poland and Lithuania, the Defence Ministry said on Saturday, adding it was part of routine drills.

"These missile units have been deployed more than once (in the Kaliningrad region) ... and will be deployed as part of military training of the Russian armed forces," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

A US intelligence official said on Friday that Russia had started moving the Iskander-Ms into the enclave on the Baltic in what he said could be a gesture to express displeasure with NATO.

Konashenkov said one of the missiles had been deliberately exposed to a U.S. spy satellite. "We did not have to wait for too long - our American partners confirmed it themselves in their revelatory endeavour," he said.

Lithuania, neighbouring Kaliningrad and a member of NATO, said it would protest to Moscow.

"The deployment not only increases tensions in the region, but also possibly violates international treaties which limit deployment of ballistic missiles of range of over 500 kilometres," Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told a news briefing in Vilnius.

"There will be a NATO-Russia Council meeting, and this is shaping up as one of issues on the agenda," he added.

"We will use all channels available to not only raise this question, but to demand that international agreements are adhered to."

Some modifications of the Iskander can hit targets 700 km (450 miles) away, putting the German capital Berlin in range of Kaliningrad, Linkevicius said.

"This is a usual Russian tactic: escalate tensions, create a discord and then expect concessions elsewhere. I would like to hope that this will not work this time," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday suspended a treaty with Washington on cleaning up weapons-grade plutonium, saying it was a response to unfriendly acts by Washington.

Source- The Times of India

Disclaimer: All news stories and content sourced from freely available material on the internet. All sources are acknowledged.

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