South Asian News Highlights
NASA's 'Indian Link'
Dr. Amitabh Ghosh of NASA
Photo courtesy AFP
"America's National Aeronautics
and Space Administration's (NASA) planetary geologist Dr Amitabha Ghosh
was the only
Asian to take part in the Mars Pathfinder Mission Operations in 1997. He is
currently participating in the Mars Odyssey Mission which orbits Mars to
study the planet's composition and searches for water and buried ice, plus
measuring deadly solar and cosmic radiation."
SAARC Summit -
South Asia free-trade pact agreed
Leaders from the seven-nation
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries
pose for a group photograph after the closing ceremony in Islamabad on
January 6, 2004. Standing from L to R are Maldives' Foreign Minister
Fathulla Jameel, Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, Sri Lanka's
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Pakistan's Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah
Khan Jamali, Bangladesh's Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia, India's Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nepal's Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa.
The seven South Asian nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka) have agreed to put in place a free-trade zone, aimed at boosting economic co-operation and development in the region.
It promises to open the markets of seven developing countries to each other, bolstering regional trade and firing economic growth. Foreign ministers from the seven nations in the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (Saarc) signed a pact at a summit in Islamabad. The seven agreed on the free trade area
(FTA) at a summit which also set poverty reduction and welfare goals.
The agreemment is set to take effect from 1 January, 2006.
The main item on the agenda of the Islamabad summit, however, was the free-trade zone. Under the terms of the new agreement, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka will cut import tariffs to between zero and 5% within seven years of the pact starting. Saarc's remaining members will have 10 years to complete the process. Ahead of the Islamabad meeting, ministers also reportedly reached agreement on combating terrorism and on a social charter to raise living standards across the seven-member grouping.
BBC NEWS Tuesday, 6 January,
Gandhi Peace Prize
Photo courtesy AFP
"President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
(second from L) presents the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize for 2003 to the
former President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel (R) as Deputy Prime Minister
Lal Krishna Advani (L) looks on at Rashtrapati Bhavan (The Presidential
Palace) in New Delhi on January 5, 2004. The Gandhi Peace Prize is awarded to people whose thought and action reflect the ideals of the late 'Father of
the Nation' Mahatma Gandhi. Vaclav received the 10-mn Rupees ($219,249)
prize for his 'historic contributions towards peace, championship of human
rights, upholding the spirit of human dignity and his faith in non-violence."
Moon call goes out to scientists
By Richard Black
BBC science correspondent, in Chandigarh
"The Indian President, Doctor A P J Abdul Kalam, has issued an invitation to scientists to put their experiments on the country's first Moon mission. The Chandrayaan Mission, as it is known, will be an unmanned probe and is scheduled for launch in 2007 or 2008."
BBC NEWS Wednesday, 7 January, 2004,
Hundreds of Mumbai police personnel test positive for HIV
"Hundreds of policemen in Mumbai tested positive for HIV in recent health examinations, prompting the police department to launch an AIDS awareness
drive...Around 450 policemen have tested positive for HIV," Prem Kishan Jain, joint police commissioner for administration, told
AFP. However, it is an open secret in Bombay that police are among the major patrons of sex
workers. India officially has at least 4.58 million people with HIV/AIDS, second only to South Africa with five million.
Bombay policemen are known for their long working hours, high stress levels and poor
pay. Police figures show nearly 200 policemen have died of cardiac arrests and hypertension in the last five years and another 200 have been infected with tuberculosis."
Agence France-Presse as reported in Hindustan Times
Mumbai, January 7
INDIA: SMALL FARMERS SET UP FIRST ORGANIC TEA FACTORY
"The Sahyadri Organic Tea Factory in Kerala was officially opened at the end of November. The organic tea factory is a unique project planned and organized jointly by the Peermade Development Society and Naturland e.V. Over 1,000 small farmers now have the opportunity to process and market the organically grown tea in their own factory, for which purpose the tea farmers have founded the Sahyadri Farmers Consortium. The factory is starting with a quantity of 600 tons of organic tea a year."
BioFach Newsletter 5.1.2004