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Monday, April 29, 2019

Water crisis, Plastics .. London Marathon and debut of seaweeds !

Seaweed, or macroalgae, refers to several species of macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae. Seaweed species such as kelps provide essential nursery habitat for fisheries and other marine species and thus protect food sources; other species, such as planktonic algae, play a vital role in capturing carbon, producing up to 90 percent of earth's oxygen. Seaweed are a source of biologically active compounds including proteins and polysaccharides with promising uses in nutrition, biomedicine, bioremediation and other uses. ~ have you ever seen or read about them ? – can you identify this packet ?

Globally, Water crisis and plastic avoidance are at the top of the issues concerning people.  Chennai is reeling under heat and is also facing acute water crisis.  Rivers, tanks, wells,  borewells at places have gone dry and so many water tankers and people running after tankers with plastic pots are becoming a common sight.  There are fears that the major reservoirs and river basins has fallen to 21% of its average for the last 10 years, pushing thousands of villages across the nation to a possible water crisis. 

The CWC data also shows that, except the Indus, the Narmada, and the west-bound rivers of the south, the water level in all the river basins is less than the average of the last 10 years — the worst affected are Kutch, Tapi and Sabarmati in Gujarat; Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery in southern India, and the Mahanadi from Chhattisgarh to Odisha in eastern India.

Back home, one still find plastics after the ban by the State.  Some small scale vendors and shops have been worst sufferers – for example, those selling idly batter, edibles and side-dishes like chutney, tomato puree have to find alternatives for the plastic packs they used and find that the cost of packing has risen exorbitantly.  Meantime, one also finds MNC brand chips, biscuits and the like still hanging on every shop – and they too are made of plastic only !  The thrust is on single-use plastic of bi0-degradables.  From a purely commercial standpoint, single-use plastics, or SUPs, are a blockbuster innovation. Food container manufacturers have responded by making them even thinner and cheaper, which causes more single usage in a vicious cycle – but, are they really degradable, meaning would they vanish in thin air ?

In an interesting post in National Geographic, a  British marine biologist who devoted his career to studying plastic waste, analysed whether  biodegradable shopping bags actually degrade.  In 2015, he and his graduate students at Plymouth University buried a collection of bags labelled as biodegradable in the school’s garden.Three years later, when the bags were dug up, the bags not only had remained intact, they still could carry almost five pounds of groceries.  They did not have the same strength as they had when new, but had not degraded to any meaningful extent. The indestructible qualities of biodegradable bags are just one of the findings in a first-of-its-kind study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The research documents deterioration of five types of shopping bags that were immersed in water, buried in soil, or exposed to outdoor air as if litter.

The study highlights how the term “biodegradable” is often misunderstood by commoners like us – we think that the bag will  simply disappear if thrown away.  Scientists warn that chemical additives in biodegradable bags can contaminate the mixture, rendering it unusable. Now read this interesting news item from MailOnline on the effort to cut plastic ! .. .. it reads that London Marathon runners were offered  energy drinks in seaweed capsules in bid to cut 650,000 plastic bottles used in race !

Thousands of seaweed capsules filled with energy drink were handed out to competitors at the London Marathon as part of efforts to reduce the vast amount of plastic used at the event.Around 650,000 plastic bottles were provided at last year's marathon and, while they were recyclable, their use was branded a 'waste of resources'.However this time organisers were seen trialling a range of innovations and measures aimed at cutting plastic use and reducing waste at this year's marathon.The event saw the largest ever trial of Ooho seaweed edible and biodegradable capsules, more than 30,000 of which were handed out at the 23rd mile of the iconic marathon.

The Ooho seaweed edible and biodegradable capsules are made from brown seaweed, which inventors say is one of nature's most renewable resources.Elsewhere on the route, three Lucozade Sport stations used compostable cups rather than bottles.Organisers said they aim to cut the number of plastic bottles on the course by more than 215,000 at this year's event.Following the 2018 marathon, Tory MP Pauline Latham criticised the sight of discarded bottles 'dozens deep along the streets'. She told the Commons: 'We need to keep people like that hydrated, but actually using single use plastics is such a waste of resources and there should be better ways.'

As well as efforts to cut the number of bottles in use, organisers are testing ways of recycling them more effectively.Using a 'closed loop' system, plastic bottles collected in Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Southwark and Canary Wharf will be returned directly to a reprocessing plant where they will be recycled into new bottles.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
29thapr 2019.

TN X standard results ~ SYMA Growth students do well - 2019

Old timers will recall that the First Public Examination for the students used to be at Class XI – those who passed would join PUC in College and those days, the State First used to secure a little over 400 out of 500 -  a time when securing more than 80% was considered the ultimate !! .. recall that in 1977, MK Raman of our school (The Hindu High School, Big Street, Triplicane) secured 407/500 and was State 4th  – photo of him with a beaming smile appeared in newspapers .. .. Those were the times when Newspapers would roll out special editions containing the Roll No. of those Candidates who passed the Examination.  It was ‘all numbers’ and those Special Supplements would sell like hot cakes…….. students, parents, near and dear would be elated to see their Registration No. appearing on the newspaper – it was a time to celebrate and so they would buy toffees and distribute ! – simple life …

                       Now the education till 5th Standard is Primary and upto X is Secondary .. .. Tamil Nadu Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) or Class 10th exam results have been declared this day.  This SSLC Certificate was a very important document and served as date of birth proof and more for very many years.
I have been posting about our full-time tuition centre SYMA Growth providing quality tuition free to under-privileged children.    SYMA Growth students hand-picked from lower strata of society have done well. The Academic year 2018-19 was  11th  year of SYMA Growth.  Our students did exceeding well in +2 with ‘all pass’ – making us proud.  [15 of them in Science group and 28 in Commerce group]   Our Student Ms Varsha is the topper in Science with 545 out of 600.  4 of them got above 400; 9 students are in the bracket 300-400.  In the Commerce group, the topper is Pugazhenthi 506/600.  6 got more than 400 and 12 above 300. 
o   Tamil Nadu State Board X Standard results have been announced today.  For X we had  Tamil Medium and English medium classes.

o   In + 2 – we had cent % results.  In X our students have performed well too.

o   In English medium out of 24 / 23 have passed (the other one is being checked) – our Growth topper is Ms Harini with 427/500 & Ms Jeevitha secured 418/500.

o   In Tamil medium, (which perhaps represents the poorest of poor in the society) – of 13 students – 12  have passed.  The topper is Ms Afrin Banu with 318/500.

o   SYMA greets them all .. .. 

As you may know now, there is no State level ranking !!! -  State-level ranks will not be released this year as well to ensure that students don’t get disheartened by an unhealthy competition. “We have done away with the ranking system as even one mark will cause serious distress,” said an Official. Students, who have not done well in the exams, should not get too stressed, is the view point.He said that parents, who notice unusual behaviour or sadness in their wards, should use the helpline immediately.  But is that not a disincentive to those who perform well .. .. .. because  KX1 / MI / RCB fail to qualify should we not speak of champions CSK ?

The success of SYMA Growth in uplifting the students from lower echelons of society is fully because of the untiring efforts of teachers of SYMA Growth.    SYMA places on record our profound thanks  to the Management of NK Thirumalachariyar National Boys High School, Mr S. Venkatadri, HM, NKT Boys High School, our beloved teachers of SYMA Growth, Mrs Thara, and the volunteers.  Special appreciations are due to M/s Manpower Group India and Mr PV Venkatesan – for their support in fully-funding this project for the 3rd continuous year.

We would also like to mention the efforts of Mr Durai and Mr TJ Ramani in visiting the facility daily and in the conduct of full-fledged model exams in all subjects.    There are so many of you, who have contributed in the success of Growth and a BIG THANKS to you ALL.
Queue for applications last year !

The next academic year will be our 12th year of Operations and together we will strive to continue to educate the students.  The application forms for the next Academic year at SYMA Growth are scheduled to be issued on Sunday, 5th of May 2019 at NKT National Boys High School @ 09.30 am.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
29th Apr 2019
~ some file photos of our Growth students .. ..

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Duke of Susses showcases care for Earth Day with edited photos

The British media celebrated it writing that ‘the Duke of Sussex is an amazing photographer’ and he chose Earth Day to give a proof of that, as he posted 8 of his stunning images about nature on Instagram, in order to share his environmental point of view. "Today is #earthday - an opportunity to learn about, celebrate and continue to safeguard our planet, our home," the caption read.

Sussex, is a historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex.  Sussex has three main geographic sub-regions, each oriented approximately east to west.  The name derives from the Kingdom of Sussex, which was founded, according to legend, by Ælle of Sussex in AD 477.  It was invaded by the Romans and is the site of the Battle of Hastings. The Duke of Sussex is sixth in line to the throne and the younger son of The Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales. His Royal Highness spent ten years working in the Armed Forces, ending operational duties in 2015. During his service, he conducted two tours of duty to Afghanistan with the British Army.

The height of counterculture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” War raged in Vietnam and students nationwide overwhelmingly opposed it. At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.

Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page. Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Prince Harry's commitment to protecting the environment has been talked about widely. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex  used their own wedding day as an action against ocean pollution by asking well-wishers to support certain charities instead of offering gifts.    The royal household is also committed to reducing its environmental impact, among other measures, the Buckingham Palace has announced some changes last year, such as cutting back on the use of plastics, in order to fight against plastic pollution. 

Prince Harry posted a spectacular wildlife album on his official Instagram page to mark this year's Earth Day !   immediately it was reported that juding by his spectacular photographs of African wildlife, the Duke of Sussex is something of a natural behind the lens.  But while the camera never lies, Harry’s pictures of a rhino, elephant and lion don’t quite tell the full story.

Here is something reported in British media today and reproduced from MailOnline.  Anyone glancing at them quickly could be left with the impression that capturing images of these mighty creatures at such close quarters would have required a thrilling – possibly life-endangering – pursuit across the bush. But the reality is that all three animals had been stunned by a tranquilliser before the prince clicked the shutter.  The elephant had also been tethered – but because of the way the picture was edited, Harry’s Instagram followers were unable to see the rope around its hind legs.

The edited photograph from  another angle shows that the elephant had been tethered, as well as tranquilised !  so much for the Westerner’s care and concern fro animals .. .. and they often campaign that in India elephants are chained and treated badly and should be recovered and released !!   the Duke however, notably avoided explaining the circumstances in which the images were taken – the tranquillised animals were in various states of comatose as they were being relocated as part of conservation projects.

It is unknown where Harry’s close-up image of a lion’s eye was taken but he posted it in the same Instagram album as the others. When shown the pictures, top wildlife photographer Christiaan Kotze was unimpressed.  He said: ‘He [Harry] is on the front line and has access that very few people including professional photographers would ever dream of having.  A spokesman for the Duke declined to discuss the photos, though sources denied the rope was deliberately edited out of the elephant picture, claiming instead that ‘it was due to Instagram’s format’.

Every now and then news crops of the real happenings, but they would always denounce other Asian countries stating that animals are not being treated fairly.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th Apr 2019.

Monday, April 22, 2019

thala MSD ~ the ultimate finisher

o   Sachin once after a famous loss when his brilliant innings went in vain said - Never leave it to others what you can do yourself !
o   In a Tamil program that used to be telecast before CSK matches earlier – one host – spoke in jest of Michael Bevan being the best finisher.  In trying to justify his hype, he went on to say ‘ Bevan got down and hit WI bowlers – Malcolm Marshall to all parts ensuring victory’.

The most coveted ‘finisher’ tag aptly fits MS Dhoni ~ IPL is most entertaining, and many a times, Dhoni’s heroics make people pass comments that matches are fixed and IPL is all about money.  To me, IPL provides the best form of entertainment – do not have too much attachment for any of the clubs, just watch – big hitting -  especially in the last overs – players like Andre Russel, Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni, Kieron Pollard – you will just love it. 

Finisher (noun) would mean  - a person or animal that finishes an athletic competition; a worker or machine involved in the last stage of making a product:

In Feb 2019,  India lost the final T20I against New Zealand by four runs. India came close to winning the game, but could not cross the finish line. The visitors needed 16 runs in the last over.  Dinesh Karthik was at the crease, managed two runs in first ball and the dot in the second ball.  When he hit the third ball, there was a possibility of a single, but he refused. Krunal Pandya, who was batting really well at the end, had no idea on why he was denied the single. In the end, India lost by four runs with Karthik smashing the last ball for a six.  .. .. there were comments & memes in the social media of his trying to emulate but falling flat off thala Dhoni. 

What a match yesterday – score Card reads : Royal Challengers Bangalore 161 for 7 (Parthiv 53, Chahar 2-25) beat Chennai Super Kings 160 for 8 (Dhoni 84*, Steyn 2-29) by one run ~ but only those who saw the match will understand the tension and gripping final over. 

Royal Challengers Bangalore kept their campaign hanging on with a last-gasp, one-run win over Chennai Super Kings at M Chinnaswamy stadium, surviving an MS Dhoni special as the Super Kings captain marshalled the chase expertly but couldn't quite get his team over the line. Parthiv Patel's second fifty of the competition glued Royal Challengers' innings together, but their 161 for 7 didn't look like enough to challenge the table-topping Super Kings outfit. Dale Steyn spearheaded a spirited defence with two wickets in his first over, and at the end of the Powerplay, Super Kings were floundering at 32 for 4.

Then there is always thala Dhoni to rely upon.   Dhoni's unbeaten 84 off 48, ensured that the match went down to the wire, and were it not for Parthiv's dhoni emulating direct-hit , the game would have gone into a Super Over. Super Kings needed 70 from the last five, and 26 off the last over. Off those last six balls, Dhoni crunched three sixes - one clean out of the ground - and a four, but couldn't lay bat on the final delivery when two runs were needed to win. Called through for a bye, Shardul Thakur dived to make his ground, but Parthiv, who had his right glove removed, threw down the stumps with the batsman inches short to secure a vital win for Royal Challengers by the narrowest of margins.

In the final stages, it was all happening – RCB had  an over each from Chahal, Yadav, Steyn, Navdeep Saini and Marcus Stoinis to play with. Dhoni reached his 50 with a massive hit off Dale Steyn. Dhoni repeated the result with an  uppercut of a  Saini no-ball over third man.  In between a couple of occasions, Dhoni denied Bravo single.  There were some criticism on this count too.   However when he got the chance to bat, Bravo was caught-behind in the penultimate over to leave Umesh Yadav with 25 runs to defend in the last over.  It was otherwise all over but for the fact that thala was at the crease.

26 needed off 6. Umesh Yadav  to bowl – 1st was pulled to deep square leg for 4; 22 off 5 – next was smashed with contempt over deep square almost into the space.  16 off 4.  Next hit over long-off, AB de Villiers jumps, ball brushes his hand but goes over.  Next was hit to deep square and Dhoni ran 2. 5th pulled into country for another 6 ~ now just 2 needed off the last ball – a single would bring the super over.  It was mid-night.  After such a brilliant innings, Dhoni could not reach out the slower one of Umesh Yadav.  Sharadul Thakar should have run half the crease, he did run fast – but failed to beat the lob of Parthiv Patel.  .. . match over CSK lost b a single run.

While Dinesh Karthik was blamed for not providing chance to  Krunal Pandya by denying that single – Dhoni too denied single to Dwayne Bravo. In the post-match conference, when asked this question, Dhoni said the nature of the surface meant it was difficult for a new batsman to the crease - Bravo had only faced three balls at that point - to start middling the big hits straightaway. Given that he himself was batting on 51 at that point, Dhoni felt he was better equipped to handle that task.

Now getting back the Michael Bevan’s prowess – he made 785 test runs and 6912 oDI runs with 3 tons and 53.58 average – 6 centuries and 46 fifties.  He made his Test debut against Pak on Oct 1994 and ODI debut against Srilanka in Apr 1994.  Impressive no doubt but his prowess of hitting helter-skelter Malcolm marshall
-       Marshall made his ODI debut in May 1980 against England and played his last match at Auckland on Mar 8, 1992. He passed away in 1999
-       Incidentally there was another by the same name - Roy Edwin Marshall (who played in four Tests from 1951 to 1952.  He was son of a wealthy plantation owner.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Apr 2019.

the tragic tale of a West Indian pace bowler

A few years ago, the Brooklyn-based, Vincentian group, bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on former West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis. When Winston Davis played cricket, he was the fastest (bowler) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the West Indies,” said Howie Prince, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States, in his remarks.

Chris Gayle and Jason Holder with Winston Davis (

India lost badly in Pakistan in 1982 and then embarked tough tour to West Indies with Kapil Dev at the helm.  For adding weight, experienced Srinivasa Venkatraghavan and Anshuman Gaekwad were recalled.  There was some talk of rivalry between West Zone and North Zone.  ..   1983 was the best as India peaked to win the World Cup beating the mighty West Indies twice ..  .. a few months before  came their first win ever against West Indies.  It was at a place called Berbice, where India went to play having lost the first Test and ODI and drew the 2nd test.  Berbice was the place of Rohan Kanhai – reportedly, the turnout was so huge that they erected temporary stands. 

                Sunil Gavaskar made a good start and scored a 90 !  - was run out.  Then came the great knock by cavalier Kapil Dev - 72 off 38 balls, three sixes and seven fours on the way and lifting India to 282 for 5 in 47 overs, their highest score till then in ODIs.  Kapil combined  with Balwinder Sandhu, got rid of the dreaded opening pair of Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge early. – in that match debuted Winston Davis – sad that a bowler who primed in a match in WC is confined to wheel-chair.

1983 World Cup was to start rather differently for the Australians.  Zimbabwe carted the biggest upset.  Duncan Fletcher scored 69 not out, claimed 4 for 42, and led Zimbabwe to a 13-run victory over Australia. The Trent Bridge encounter was Zimbabwe’s first World Cup match.  Elsewhere, in Old Trafford, India made a big  262 for 8 and reduced West Indies to 157 for 9 before Andy Roberts and Joel Garner went berserk, adding 71 for the last stand. The 34-run defeat was West Indies’ first in the history of the tournament; it was also India’s first.   Thus, when the West Indies and Australia met at Headingley for the second match, both were desperate for a victory. The pitch was damp, which did not allow play to start before 3.30. When it eventually did, Kim Hughes decided to take advantage of the conditions and put West Indies in.

West Indies finished on a more than competitive 252 for 9.  .. .. it was fearsome Windies - Andy Roberts bowled Kepler Wessels (he later played and captained south Africa),  Holding struck the lethal blow: hit Graeme Wood on the face. Wood’s helmet did not contain a grille; Joel Garner, the West Indian twelfth man, ran out with a stretcher; the Australian support staff joined in, and a concussing Wood had to be stretchered off. He had to be hospitalised.  Kim Hughes hit two sixes, but tried one shot too many: the square-cut came a tad too slow; the ball flew to Lloyd at first slip, and Hughes was back. Then the 24-year-old Davis took over. He was fast, but had been kept out by the quartet of Marshall, Garner, Holding, and Roberts, and had played a solitary ODI till then.

He had Graham Yallop top ending; David  Hookes edging one to Dujon off Davis. MacLeay was his next victim.  Rod Marsh fell to Holding.  Australia still had Border, and needed 114 off 192 balls. Lawson tried a wild heave and edged to Dujon to give Davis his five-for. Border gone to Davis caught by Clive Lloyd. Davis became the third bowler (second in World Cup) to take 6 wickets in an innings. It was only the 31st over of the match. There was still a wicket to be had. Lillee was cleaned up second ball, making Davis the first bowler to take an ODI 7-for. Australia, bowled out in only 30.3 overs, lost by 101 runs.

Sad that the great bowler had to face trouble in life .. .. in Nov 1997, he was doing some service for a church,   pruning some trees, making a clearance, and  went up in a tree. The branch gave way, broke, and fell bringing down burly Davis and sadly was paralysed since.  It reportedly was not a big fall, around 6 ft or less yet the damage for life had been done.   He reportedly moves around in wheel chair, perhaps watching and following the game, which had brought him glory.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Apr 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

+2 Results - SYMA Growth students secure 'All pass' - 2019

Today 19th Apr 2019 is a Happy Day for us all ~ SYMA Growth students have performed exceedingly well.  It is ‘all pass’ **

SYMA has an unsaturated desire for serving the Society.  SYMA [Srinivas Youngmen’s Association]  has been in the field of Social service since 1977 ~  in the past few years, our initiative in the field of Education ‘SYMA Growth’ has been prospering.  SYMA Growth – a fullfledged tuition centre, is our  cherished initiative in educating the economically poor children, uplifting their standards and making them responsible citizens, by providing quality educational support throughout the year free. In this beautiful World, most students are frightened to face the Public examinations.  SYMA’s vision is  to provide good quality education training free of cost  for those students who suffer for want of opportunities.  On 6th  July 2008,  Mr.R Sekar, IPS, Commissioner of Police launched our Tuition Centre ‘Growth’  and a right beginning was made.  Every year since, we have been tasting grand success with very good results. The Academic year 2018-19 was  11th year of SYMA Growth.

The classes for the present academic year started  in June 2018   after our initial screening ensuring that the most deserving were selected on economic criteria.  The Centre is run on all days from 6 - 8 pm in the evening and on Sundays @ 10-12 am and has  +2 Commerce, + Science Group; X standard – Tamil and X Std English medium – each having around 30 students.   The Tamil Nadu board declared the results for the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC), or Class 12, examinations on Friday, 19 April (today) at 9.30 am

Though we were little bit anxious, we were quite confident – and we are very happy in informing you that ‘all our + 2 students have passed’ [15 of them in Science group and 28 in Commerce group]   Our Student Ms Varsha is the topper in Science with 545 out of 600.  4 of them got above 400; 9 students are in the bracket 300-400.  In the Commerce group, the topper is Pugazhenthi 506/600.  6 got more than 400 and 12 above 300.  We place on record our hearty thanks to Mr PV Venkatesan and M/s Manpower Group for their solid support. 

This year, around eight lakh students appeared for the HSC exams, which was held from 1 March till 19 March by the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Government Examinations. Among the districts, Tiruppur ranks first with a pass percentage of 95.37 percent, followed by Erode with 95.23 percent and Perambalur district in the third place with 95.15 percent. The overall pass percentage in the State  is 91.3 percent. Girls have outshone boys this year too with 93.64 percent. The pass percentage for boys is recorded at 88.57 percent. A total of 8,87,992 students received the Tamil Nadu 12th results today.

The success of SYMA Growth in uplifting the students from lower echelons of society is fully because of the untiring efforts of teachers of SYMA Growth.    SYMA places on record our profound thanks  to the Management of NK Thirumalachariyar National Boys High School, Mr S. Venkatadri, HM, NKT Boys High School, our beloved teachers of SYMA Growth, Mrs Thara, and the volunteers.  Special appreciations are due to M/s Manpower Group India and Mr PV Venkatesan – for their support in fully-funding this project for the 3rd continuous year. 

We would also like to mention the efforts of Mr Durai and Mr TJ Ramani in visiting the facility daily and in the conduct of full-fledged model exams in all subjects.    There are so many of you, who have contributed in the success of Growth and a BIG THANKS to you ALL.

The next academic year will be our 12th year of Operations and together we will strive to continue to educate the students.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th Apr 2019.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bangla campaign in West Bengal ~ Vellore election cancelled

In 2016, for the first time in electoral history of India, the Election Commission of India (ECI) based on reports of large scale distribution of money and gifts to elector by the candidates and political parties in two Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu  decided to rescind the notification and conduct elections afresh in due course of time. After considering reports of Observers, Special teams of central observers, report of the special team of observers of Aravkurichi and Tanjavur Assembly constituencies and representations of contesting candidates of these two Assembly constituencies.

“The ECI is satisfied that the election process in the two constituencies Aravkurichi (134) and Thanjavur (174), because of inducing electors by candidates and political parties by offering money and other gifts to woo them in their favour, is seriously vitiated and cannot be allowed to proceed and ought to be rescinded so that fresh elections may be conducted de novo in these two constituencies when the atmosphere becomes conducive to the holding of free and fair elections after a reasonable lapse of time,” an official said.

Back in 1995, Rajnikant starrer Muthu was released.  Directed by KS Ravikumar, initially, it was blamed that the songs were not catchy, though later by repeats, it picked up.  Rajni even here is known for his style, speed, fight and action – but miles away, in Japan his dance sequence with Meena was hailed and the film was a big hit as Dancing Maharaja, acquiring cult status.  The movie was recently restored in 4K and 5.1 CH surround – and was directed at Japanese audience too. 

Bahubali was a real black-buster.  For most favourite character from SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali, would probably be – Baahubali, Bhallaladev, Kattappa, Devasena, Sivagami, Avantika or Bijjaladeva or Rajamouli or MM Keeravani.   But Japan – the country who is showering immense love on the Indian film, got obsessed over Kumar Varma. So much so, that it became an emoticon there !

Perhaps drawing analogy from all these, the Bengal CM felt the need to rope in help from across the border .. huge political storm has erupted in West Bengal over Bangladeshi film star Ferdous Ahmed campaigning for TMC candidate Kanahiya Aggarwal.  On Monday, Ferdous campaigned in Karandighi and Chakulia areas of North Dinajpur, while on Sunday, he is said to have participated in road shows at Raiganj and Hemtabad along with Tollywood actors Payel Sarkar and Ankush. The actor is said to be on a business visa.  It is clear that business visa does not allow such participation. 

More than all these, the Lok Sabha election to the Vellore constituency stands cancelled following recovery of huge amount of cash allegedly from a DMK candidate's office a few days ago. President Mr  Ram Nath Kovind rescinded the notification to hold the election to the seat based on the recommendation made by the poll panel. Polling in Vellore was scheduled for 18 April. The Election Commission took the decision after the district police had filed a complaint against the accused, Kathir Anand, as well as two party functionaries on the basis of a report from the Income Tax department on 10 April. Anand was charged under the Representation of the People Act for giving "wrong information" in his election affidavit filed along with his nomination papers, the police said. The other two, identified as Srinivasan and Damodaran, were booked under bribery charges. The recommendation was sent to the legislative department of the law ministry on Tuesday which issued the notification.

On 30 March, Income-Tax officials had conducted searches at the residence of Anand's father Durai Murugan over suspected use of unaccounted money for electioneering, and seized Rs. 10.50 lakh in alleged "excess" cash. Two days later, they claimed to have seized Rs 11.53 crore from a cement go-down belonging to a DMK leader's associate in the same district. DMK leader however denied and questioned  the timing of the Income Tax department's operation.  Whether it proper to cancel the election when one is caught – is it fair to the people, is it fair to other candidates, the debate would rage on.

There is another cancellation too – the  Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the business visa of Bangladeshi actor Ferdous Ahmed, who campaigned for the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. He has also been blacklisted.  More of election news -  addressing a rally in Thrissur, BJP chief Amit Shah alleged, "Under Pinarayi Vijayan government, 525 incidents of mob lynching and violence have taken place... The Kerala government also unleashed violence  on the devotees of Sabarimala in the name of implementing the Supreme Court order. What message does the Kerala chief minister want to send through the violence on the devotees?"  The Election Commission has sought report from the Katihar district magistration on Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu's speech in which he reportedly appealed to the Muslims not to split their votes.

A blot and shame for the democrary !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Apr 2019.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Marine salvage ~ costly cars from sunken Baltic Ace

On 5 Dec 2012, Baltic Ace collided with the Cyprus-registered container ship Corvus J in the North Sea while underway from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Kotka, Finland with a cargo of about 1,400 Mitsubishi cars likely headed to the Russian market.The incident took place some 40–50 kilometres (25–31 mi) off the Dutch coast south of Rotterdam on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world at 18:15 GMT. Sources ascribed the cause of accident to be ‘human error’.  Immediately after the collision, Baltic Ace began taking on water, capsized and sank within 15 minutes in shallow waters.  There were human casualties too ~ Corvus J was severely damaged and her bulbous bow was bent, but she was not in danger of sinking and participated in the search for survivors.

Marine salvage is the process of recovering a ship and its cargo after a shipwreck or other maritime casualty. Salvage may encompass towing, re-floating a vessel, or effecting repairs to a ship. Today, protecting the coastal environment from spillage of oil or other contaminants is a high priority. Before the invention of radio, salvage services would be given to a stricken vessel by any ship that happened to be passing by. Nowadays, most salvage is carried out by specialist salvage firms with dedicated crew and equipment.

The legal significance of salvage is that a successful salvor is entitled to a reward, which is a proportion of the total value of the ship and its cargo. The amount of the award is determined subsequently at a "hearing on the merits" by a maritime court in accordance with Articles 13 and 14 of the International Salvage Convention of 1989. The common law concept of salvage was established by the English Admiralty Court, and is defined as "a voluntary successful service provided in order to save maritime property in danger at sea, entitling the salvor to a reward"; and this definition has been further refined by the 1989 Convention.

Originally, a "successful" salvage was one where at least some of the ship or cargo was saved, otherwise the principle of "No Cure, No Pay" meant that the salvor would get nothing. In the 1970s, a number of marine casualties of single-skin-hull tankers led to serious oil spills. Such casualties were unattractive to salvors, so the Lloyd's Open Form (LOF) made provision that a salvor who acts to try to prevent environmental damage will be paid, even if unsuccessful. This Lloyd's initiative proved so advantageous that it was incorporated into the 1989 Convention.

All vessels have an international duty to give reasonable assistance to other ships in distress in order to save life, but there is no obligation to try to salve the vessel. Any offer of salvage assistance may be refused; but if it is accepted a contract automatically arises to give the successful salvor the right to a reward under the 1989 Convention. Typically, the ship and the salvor will sign up to an LOF agreement so that the terms of salvage are clear. Since 2000, it has become standard to append a SCOPIC ("Special Compensation - P&I Clubs") clause to the LOF, so as to circumvent the limitations of the "Special Compensation" provisions of the 1989 Convention.

"Salvors" are Professional  seamen and engineers who carry out salvage to vessels that they do not own, and who are not members of the vessel's original crew. When salving large ships, they may use cranes, floating dry docks and divers to lift and repair submerged or grounded ships, preparing them to be towed by a tugboat. The goal of the salvage may be to repair the vessel at a harbour or dry dock, or to clear a channel for navigation. Salvage operations may also aim to prevent pollution or damage to the marine environment. Additionally, the vessel or valuable parts of the vessel or its cargo may be recovered for resale, or for scrap.

Smit Internationale N.V. (or Smit International) is a Dutch company operating in the maritime sector. The company was founded in 1842 by Fop Smit as a towage company with only the 140 horsepower paddle steamer tug Kinderdijk. It is now part of Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. a leading global dredging and offshore contractor and maritime services provider. With origins in the Netherlands, they have been operating for over 100 years.

The vessel in first para - MV Baltic Ace was a Bahamian-flagged car carrier that sank in the North Sea on 5 December 2012 after a collision with the Cyprus-registered container ship Corvus J. Built by Stocznia Gdynia in Poland, the ship had been in service since 2007.  Baltic Ace was a car carrier, a roll-on/roll-off ship designed to transport vehicles in a large, fully enclosed garage-like superstructure running the entire length and width of the vessel. She had eight cargo decks of which two decks (3 and 5) could be hoisted up to increase the clearance of the decks below to 4.8 metres (16 ft) for large vehicles. Her car capacity, measured in RT43 units, was 2,132. For loading and unloading cargo, Baltic Ace had a stern ramp for normal ro-ro berths and a stern quarter ramp for harbours with no specialized cargo handling facilities.

She was propelled by a single 5.84-metre (19.2 ft) nickel-aluminum alloy fixed pitch propeller directly coupled to the main engine. Calling ports in the Baltic Sea regularly, Baltic Ace was strengthened for navigation in ice and held a Finnish-Swedish ice class1A. She was classed by Det Norske Veritas.After the collision, she went into the sea and was resting in sea bed – not so deep, estimatedly around a  depth of only 35 metres with its cargo including 1400 cars – some costly luxurious ones .. .. there was also substantial quantity of oil, which created some disturbance to marine environmentalists. 

In Mar 2014, in  its largest ever salvage award the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment contracted Boskalis and its partner Mammoet Salvage for the wreck removal operation.  The concern was that the ship  had some 540,000 liters of pollutants on board such as heavy fuel oil and lubricants and posed quite a threat to the environment. In addition, of course, there was also the petrol, oil, batteries etc. in the vehicles themselves. Furthermore, this is a very busy shipping lane so the wreck was certainly a hazard to vessels, given that it was so close to the surface. The wreck therefore was closely monitored by the Dutch and Belgian coastguard authorities.

The contract was to be completed before end 2015 ~ North Sea offered its share of complications as work normally could be done only during Apr to Sept. For taking out the oil, the salvors used hot tapping with a heating system.  In this process, the  oil is heated with inserts in the bunker tank. Steam is run through these inserts, which are cylinders of 2 meters long and 30 cm in diameter. The steam plant was installed on a barge and provided constant heating to create the flow of oil in the tank. Once all remaining oil had been removed from the wreck, the vessel was cut into 8 separate pieces using a cutting wire and raised from the seabed.  To cut a section of 25 meters wide and 25 meters high takes around 30 hours. The sections were then lifted with large sheerlegs onto a barge and taken to a recycling plant.

For maintaining navigation hassle-free, the seabed had to be cleaned and grabs were used to retrieve the smaller parts and debris  off the bottom. Divers cleared the  remaining waste.  The salvaging of a sunken ship is certainly challenging and in this case the salvors - Boskalis Westminster N.V ensured a clean retrieval.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Apr 2019
PS : news collated from various sources on the web – pics credit : Boskalis, the salvor’s website.