The News – PIA plane crash: Punjab Forensic Science Agency teams arrive in Karachi

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 22 May 2020. Three teams from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency arrived in Karachi on Saturday to collect DNA samples from the victims of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash, reported Geo News.

All but two of the 99 people on board the PIA plane were killed when it crashed into Karachi’s Model Colony neighbourhood, a residential area near the airport.

Among the survivours were the chief executive of the Bank of Punjab and a young engineer. No casualties were reported on the ground.

Head of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency Dr Tahir Ashraf told Geo News three teams comprising forensic scientists were in Karachi to collect DNA samples from the plane crash victims.

“The teams will start collecting samples from today,” Dr Ashraf said.

He added, the teams will collect samples from the bodies and the victims’ parents, siblings or children to identify the victims.

“As soon as the samples reach Lahore, we will work day and night to get the result out as soon as possible. The result of the DNA test will be available in 24 hours,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, the Sindh Health Department confirmed that 66 bodies had been shifted to Jinnah Hospital, of which 20 bodies were of women and 43 of men. Three bodies of children had also been brought to the hospital.

The provincial health department said 50 bodies at the hospital were yet to be identified, while 16 bodies had been identified.

The health department further said that the remaining 31 bodies had been moved to Civil Hospital, of which six bodies were of women and 25 of men. It said 28 of bodies kept at the hospital have yet to be identified while the process of identification had been completed for three.

Separately, rescue officials said some bodies had later been shifted from the Civil and Jinnah Hospitals to an Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth and the Chhipa morgue at FTC.

“DNA samples were taken from the bodies before being shifted to the morgues,” officials said, adding that 96 bodies were at the morgues, while one had been handed over to the deceased’s relatives.

The Tribune – Reveal ‘truth’ about lunch diplomacy outcome: MLA

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 22 May 2020. Qadian MLA Fateh Jang Bajwa today dared senior party leaders to reveal the truth about the outcome of their luncheon meeting with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh at latter’s residence on Wednesday.

Four party leaders, PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar, Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, Gidderbaha MLA Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and MLA Pargat Singh, had been invited for the luncheon by the Chief Minister amid face-off between the ministers and Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh.

“The leaders had been asking for the removal of the Chief Secretary. If the leaders had put their strong point of view before the Chief Minister, the latter must have given his reply to them and must have convinced them that the Chief Secretary was a good officer who is about to retire. They should tell the truth to the people,” Bajwa said.

Stating that one can understand CM’s point of view that removing the top bureaucrat will give a wrong message to the bureaucracy, he said the political class also had to show its face to the public.


28 March 2020

Merelbeke : Flora kerk

Gentbrugge : Station Merelbeke

Stad Gent – Merelbeke Station

Gentbrugge – Merelbeke Station

De Lijn Bus stop

De Lijn bus stop

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

How-it-works-daily – Heroes of history – Sophia Duleep Singh

Far more worthy of respect than her useless father

This princess of a stolen empire became one of Britain’s most high-profile women’s rights activists

Scott Dutfield

London – UK, 22 May 2020. Born and raised in England, Sophia was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the exiled Emperor of the Sikh Empire and a favourite courtier of her godmother, Queen Victoria.

She was brought up among the British aristocracy and enjoyed all the luxuries of royalty, wearing the latest fashionable dresses to all the exclusive parties.

After the death of their parents Sophia and her sisters were granted apartments at Hampton Court Palace by the queen, as well as an annual income of £25,000. However, this pampered princess was soon to encounter severe inequality and discrimination on account of her gender and race.

In 1903, Sophia visited India to attend celebrations for Edward VII’s coronation as king and emperor.

It was during this and subsequent trips that she became more aware not only of her own heritage and ancestry but also of Britain’s oppressive colonial rule. She and her sisters also experienced racist and prejudiced attitudes that were prevalent at the time.

Despite their royal status, they found themselves snubbed and shunned at social events, or even ridiculed and criticised for wearing traditional Indian dress. She may have been the descendant of maharajas and Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, but Sophia was made to feel like an outsider in the very region her family had once ruled.

After her return to England, Sophia became heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She supported the campaign to gain women the vote, donating money to the cause and even selling copies of The Suffragette newspaper outside her residence at Hampton Court.

On 18 November 1910 she joined hundreds of other protestors in a march on Parliament, demanding that a law be passed granting women the vote. The day was later referred to as ‘Black Friday’ after scores of marchers were violently assaulted by police, scenes to which Sophia was an appalled witness.

Despite alienating some of her aristocratic friends, Sophia continued her activism, supporting the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and its leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Although many fellow suffragettes were sent to jail for their activities, Sophia’s status meant the authorities were reluctant to imprison her.

Sophia continued her work with the movement until the outbreak of WWI in 1914, when the WSPU suspended its activities to support the war effort. After the war she maintained her fight for women’s rights, claiming in a 1934 article that her sole interest was “the advancement of women”.

After largely retiring from public life she remained unmarried and without children. The revolutionary royal who had fought so hard for the betterment of those less fortunate than herself died of cardiac arrest at her home in Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in August 1948.

As part of her activism, the princess joined the Women’s Tax Resistance League

The Women’s Tax Resistance League (WTRL) was a protest group that refused to pay taxes while women were not allowed to vote. Their message was simple: ‘No Vote, No Tax’.

Several members of the group were prosecuted as a result, including Princess Sophia, who was one of the group’s high-profile members from 1909. In 1911 she was brought before a court and fined. Several pieces of her jewellery were confiscated and sold to pay for the debt. However, Sophia’s fellow WTRL members purchased the jewellery and returned them to the princess.

Heroes of History: Sophia Duleep Singh
 – In uncertain times, nanotechnology may help Indian farmers boost crop growth

A team of scientists at IIT-Kanpur have engineered nanoparticles rich in iron and sulfur.

Sahana Ghosh

Kanpur – Uttar Pradesh – India, 22 May 2020. The use of nanotechnology for enhanced crop productivity can be a locally viable strategy for farmers, especially in exigencies, according to a team of Indian scientists.

The technology can be used to “dress up” or treat seeds and roots for higher productivity for smart agriculture and can be executed with minimal resources.

“The idea is to prepare ourselves with future agro-productivity tools, which can be executed with minimal resources and in any sort of emergencies, be it in tough terrains, warlike situations, pandemics/epidemics, or even international trade embargoes,” said Himanshi Jangir, a doctoral student at IIT Kanpur’s Design Program.

Lock-downs make it harder for farmers to obtain vital inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and field labor. Crops already planted are at risk due to a lack of labour as migrant workers are returning to their homes. Missed windows for planting and harvest will devastate yields, said a statement from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Jangir notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken scientists back to the drawing board, to design futuristic sustainable strategies that are locally viable, such as nanotechnology, for agriculture sectors.

India started a National Nanotechnology Mission more than a decade ago and the technology has found applications in the agriculture sector, the backbone of the Indian economy. Jangir and colleagues at the Design Programme, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, are working with nano iron pyrite to pump up crop productivity.

They have synthetically-engineered nanoparticles comprising iron and sulfur and have a diameter 1,000 times smaller than that of a human hair. The engineered nanoparticles are modelled on the natural ones that sustain life at the bottom of the ocean. Pyrite nanoparticles from hydrothermal vents are a rich source of iron in the deep sea, supplying iron to the bacteria and tiny plants living in the ocean, for energy and growth.

Seed and root treatment

“The application of nano fertiliser is one approach to restore the sustainability of the soil,” said Jangir. “We discovered another nano approach whereby it is feasible to bolster seed and root metabolism. It is by a brief treatment of seed or root with an iron-sulfur nano-bio-stimulant, that is, nanopyrite.

Here we discovered that nanoparticles of iron pyrite boost the seed and root metabolism and increase the production of wheat [grain crop], chickpea [legume crop], cabbage, cauliflower, tomato [vegetable crops].”

The seed or root treatments involve soaking the seeds in an aqueous suspension of nano pyrite. The core idea is to leverage the potential of an energy molecule to boost the seed and root metabolism, said Jangir.

She explained how the system works: “If we bolster the metabolic activity of the seed or roots at the very onset of their journey in the soil, we equip the plant to grow better and assimilate nutrients optimally. It eventually leads to higher production and provides an opportunity to cut down on fertiliser requirements.”

Conducting field studies on grains, legumes, and vegetable crops, in the absence of fertilisers and in nutrient-deficient soils, the team observed that wheat and chickpea production increases significantly following 12 hours of seed treatment with nano iron pyrite before sowing the seeds.

“While seed treatment benefits the wheat and chickpea farmers, vegetable growers needed a different strategy,” Jangir elaborated. “The majority of the vegetable growers in developing and under-developed countries are marginal farmers.

These vegetable growers do not grow vegetables from seeds because of the lesser probability of plants growing out of seeds. Instead, they buy saplings from nursery and proceed with the cultivation.”

To cater to the specific requirements of such marginal farmers, they discovered a root treatment strategy that takes into account the plant root system’s job for foraging nutrients. Jangir said, “The root system is the part of the plant that searches for nutrients under the ground.

In comparative terms, the plants whose roots forage more into the soil in search of nutrients and make a denser network in the earth, draw more nutrients and eventually results in better production.”

“In developed saplings, the growth is bolstered by providing the root with an extra shot of energy [in the form of nano iron pyrite] before it gets into the soil. After transplantation, the root system will have to search for nutrients in a new environment and will require energy reserves.”

In the works

The technique is translatable to the farmers without much input, Jangir added.

“We are developing a factory-in-a-suitcase setup, which is a small setup to produce fresh nano pyrite. In small landholdings, the farmers at the ground level can run these setups with minimum energy input to meet the requirements of providing the nano-particles.

Similar small-scale production units can be easily set up at the village level, as a cottage industry through the assistance of local government. Specifically, this model is suitable for remote places in Africa and Asia.”

Jangir said the nano pyrite treatment involves a trace amount of nanomaterial. The seed or root treatment occurs before sowing or transplantation, respectively, ensuring that no nanomaterial gets into the soil environment.

“During seed [or] root treatment, the cascade of reaction occurs at the surface of seed or root in contact with the aqueous suspension of nano pyrite,” she said. “The nanomaterial is not entering the seed or the root system; it tweaks the energy metabolism of the seed [or] root during the narrow window of interaction during treatment. The effect is long-lasting, as observed by higher production.”

As for the cost of producing the nano pyrite, the team said the effective cost of synthesizing 500 mg of nano pyrite in laboratory conditions is Rs 26. And 500 mg is sufficient to treat almost 10 kg of rice seeds, whereas for 10 kg of rice seeds, fertiliser input costs Rs 890. It is quite straightforward to draw similar results with other crops.

Nanotechnology has been supporting the Indian agricultural market to develop products and processes with higher efficiency and lower costs. With the increasing scope to commercialise this technology, the Indian government in 2019 proposed a set of guidelines to regulate and maintain quality and safety of the products and processes.

These regulations will oversee the use and spread of hundreds of nano-agri input products and nano-agriproducts, which have been circulating in the Indian market for some years now, to prevent nanoparticle toxicity in humans and the environment.

Suresh Babu, head of capacity strengthening, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, stressed further research to make this technology available at the farmers’ level and emphasise the role of a transparent regulatory system.

Referring to the studies highlighted by Jangir, Suresh Babu, who was not associated with the research, said they are good examples of demonstrating the potential of nanotechnology in the crop productivity.

But further research is needed on how to make this technology available at the farmers’ level. And the role of a transparent regulatory system cannot be overemphasised.

“The approval and scaling up of the nanotechnology at the farmer level should be based on a transparent technology evaluation system that is science-based. The regulatory system needs to be open and the data used for the evaluations must be openly available for independent research to further study the safety and efficacy of the technologies,” Suresh Babu told Mongabay-India.

“While nanotechnology has high potential, the safety of its use for humans, animals, and the environment remains a concern. Effective and well-functioning evaluation and regulatory systems will also require human and institutional capacity at various levels, which is still being developed in the Indian and South Asian contexts,” he added.

This article first appeared on Mongabay.