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Inspired by a college professor, villagers in the south-central part of Bihar donated money, built traditional channels and embankments to irrigate fields and ease farm woes.

Ancient Mauryan engineering has brought water back to the undulating and rocky terrain of Magadh, the grain bowl of Bihar that had turned almost entirely arid because of abortive modern irrigation policies.

The Magadh region, comprising 10 districts in south-central Bihar, was reeling from its worst water crisis over a decade ago, forcing farmers to board trains to distant cities such as New Delhi and Chandigarh and work there as migrant labourers.

Rainfall was scant, people had long abandoned traditional reservoirs that caught and stored rainwater run-off, the water table in aquifers had depleted from overuse, and modern irrigation canals covered only a small area.

Gaya itself was a modern nightmare as most of its ponds overflowed with garbage. The water table had dipped below 200 feet, and taps and tube wells had gone dry. The water crisis was so acute that people sold their houses in posh localities at throwaway prices. The government promised to build a 100km canal from the Ganga, but the project failed.

The crisis looked irreversible but Rabindra Pathak, who taught Pali and Sanskrit at a college in Arwal, was certain that the answer lay in the long-forgotten and crumbling aqueducts and water reservoirs that irrigated the fields and fed ancient India’s most glorious empire.

He pored through old books and scriptures, and found that reviving the dilapidated network of pynes and ahars was the lone solution.

Pynes are channels carrying water from rivers. Ahars are low-lying fields with embankments that act as water reservoirs. This combined irrigation and water conservation system dates back to the Mauryan era that flourished in Magadh 2,000 years ago.

Pathak founded the Magadh Jal Jamaat (MJJ) in 2006, a network of individuals working to revive the neglected pynes and ahars. “There was no other way to solve the recurring water crisis threatening to turn the region arid. Reckless use of tube wells for irrigation without adequate recharge complicated the scenario,” he said.

Convincing people to participate was not easy in a fragmented society, where nobody was willing to part with an inch of land.

“Villagers shrugged off the idea of collective participation initially, as they couldn’t fathom its impact,” said Kanchan Mistri at Khaneta-Pali village. “When the government with all its resources failed, how could a group (like ours) do it? That was the common refrain.”

Besides, the local mafia interested in contracts for government projects posed a big threat to the voluntary initiative. A years before MJJ’s formation, in 2004, social activists Sarita and Mahesh, working on an irrigation system in Gaya, were murdered by the mafia.

But Pathak was determined to do the unthinkable — bring water to the area. He got ample help from his professor-wife, Pramila, and trader Prabhat Pandey.

They persuaded villagers to form committees and donate anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 1,000, depending on the size of agricultural plots they owned, and revived the 125-km Jamune Dasain pyne and 159-km Barki pyne. These two complex channels, rebuilt with help from social worker Chandra Bhushan, brought water from Falgu, a tributary of the Ganga.

The impact was instantaneous and miraculous. About 150 villages along the Jamune-Dasain pyne and around 250 villages along the Barki canal have been able to irrigate their fields for the kharif and rabi (monsoon and winter) crops, and grow vegetables, pulses and oilseeds as well.

The farm distress eased significantly. Life changed for marginal farmer Jairam Bhagat, who wanted to kill himself when his paddy crop failed in 2007, after he met volunteers of the Magadh Jal Jamaat. He joined the group, discarded plans to return to Chandigarh where he worked as a plumber, and contributed his mite for the irrigation system.

Bhagat, 45, from Shabaazpur village in Gaya was among thousands of people from about 700 villages who used to migrate for work — not by choice, but by compulsion. He now stays home and reaps a good harvest from his amply irrigated farm.

People began to say the water system’s revival was the second-best thing to have happened to Gaya after the Buddha’s enlightenment. In Gaya, residents, officials, military and police personnel joined the mission to build check dams and clear ponds of encroachment and debris.

“Recurring protests over water crises are now a thing of past in the district. Hand pumps and wells that were abandoned are now working,” said Rajesh Kshitij, a lawyer in Gaya.

The social organisation’s initiative drew accolades from environmentalists Anupam Mishra and Magsaysay winner Rajendra Singh.

In 2011, chief minister Nitish Kumar asked the irrigation, public health and engineering, and the revenue and land reforms departments to replicate the Magadh Jal Jamaat model.

The Magadh region has four medium and major irrigation projects, including the Sone canal. But these irrigate only 30,000 hectares in parts of Gaya, Arwal, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nalanda and Nawada districts.

The North Koel reservoir scheme in Jharkhand’s Palamau and Punpun barrage in Gaya were launched in 1972 and 2006 respectively. But they never took off.

The Gaya circle irrigation department’s executive engineer, Ashok Kumar Choudhary, said the existing canal system works only for the kharif season, or monsoon crop.

But the restored pyne-ahar system helps farmers grow paddy in 150,000 hectares, wheat in 100,000 hectares and pulses and oilseeds in about 30,000 hectares in Gaya alone.

The Mauryan network brings water to the remote countryside, which seldom got any help from government agencies because of Maoist insurgents active in those areas.

The Magadh Jal Jamaat responded positively when at least seven villages in the Maoist heartland of Imamganj- Dumaria requested for a check dam to be built to conserve rainwater. The area is about 22km off GT Road, but barely accessible.

“Our volunteers worked two months, built a check dam and rejuvenated a pyne, which is now irrigating farms of over a dozen of villages and recharging ahars and ponds,” said 60-year-old Kameshwar Yadav of Pachman, ploughing his field after a decade.

The move encouraged a farm turnaround and migrant youth working in Delhi returned home to sow oilseeds.

“We built the dam with Rs 44,000 in 2014 when the state would have spent Rs 50 lakh and taken a year. This year, we hope to grow fish and reap a bumper rabi crop,” said Niranjan Yadav, a 30-year-old who worked at a retail shop in Delhi. Source : ht

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Security flaws put virtually all phones and computers at risk. Here’s everything you need to know.

Security researchers at Google say they’ve discovered serious security flaws affecting computer processors built by Intel and other chipmakers.

Google’s Project Zero team said on Wednesday that the flaw could allow bad actors to gather passwords and other sensitive data from a system’s memory.

“The Project Zero researchers discovered three methods (variants) of attack, which are effective under different conditions. All three attack variants can allow a process with normal user privileges to perform unauthorized reads of memory data, which may contain sensitive information such as passwords, cryptographic key material, etc,” said the company in a blog post.

“There is no single fix for all three attack variants; each requires protection independently. Many vendors have patches available for one or more of these attacks. We will continue our work to mitigate these vulnerabilities and will update both our product support page and this blog post as we release further fixes. More broadly, we appreciate the support and involvement of all the partners and Google engineers who worked tirelessly over the last few months to make our users and customers safe.”

The tech company disclosed the vulnerability not long after Intel said it’s working to patch it. Intel says the average computer user won’t experience significant slowdowns as it’s fixed.

“We have discovered that CPU data cache timing can be abused to efficiently leak information out of mis-speculated execution, leading to (at worst) arbitrary virtual memory read vulnerabilities across local security boundaries in various contexts,”say Google researchers.

Both Intel and Google said they were planning to disclose the issue next week when fixes will be available. Tech companies typically withhold details about security problems until fixes are available so that hackers wouldn’t have a roadmap to exploit the flaws. But in this case, Intel was forced to disclose the problem Wednesday after British technology site The Register reported it, causing Intel’s stock to fall.

Google says it also affects other processors and the devices and operating systems running them.

Although Intel cited rival AMD as among the companies it’s working with to address the problem, AMD said in a statement that it believes its chips are safe because they use different designs.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp had patches ready for users for desktop computers affected by Meltdown. Microsoft declined to comment and Apple did not immediately return requests for comment.

Daniel Gruss, one of the researchers at Graz University of Technology who discovered Meltdown, called it “probably one of the worst CPU bugs ever found” in an interview with Reuters.

Gruss said Meltdown was the more serious problem in the short term but could be decisively stopped with software patches. Spectre, the broader bug that applies to nearly all computing devices, is harder for hackers to take advantage of but less easily patched and will be a bigger problem in the long term, he said.

Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing service used by businesses, said that most of its internet servers were already patched and the rest were in the process of being patched.

The defect affects the so-called kernel memory on Intel x86 processor chips manufactured over the past decade, The Register reported citing unnamed programmers, allowing users of normal applications to discern the layout or content of protected areas on the chips.

That could make it possible for hackers to exploit other security bugs or, worse, expose secure information such as passwords, thus compromising individual computers or even entire server networks.

Dan Guido, chief executive of cyber security consulting firm Trail of Bits, said that businesses should quickly move to update vulnerable systems, saying he expects hackers to quickly develop code they can use to launch attacks that exploit the vulnerabilities. “Exploits for these bugs will be added to hacker’s standard toolkits,” said Guido. Source : ht

 

 

 

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Jio Effect: In Latest Scheme, Airtel Offers 60 GB Free Data

Written by Tuesday, 19 September 2017 05:57

Amid stiff competition in the telecom industry to claim and retain customers, Bharti Airtel is now offering up to 60 GBs of free data to its postpaid customers installing mobile app Airtel TV on their smartphone. The Airtel TV app, which provides Live TV streaming services, has to be downloaded and installed by the user so that he or she can avail 10 GBs data per month for six months, the telecom company said. Existing Airtel postpaid customers can avail this offer through the MyAirtel app.

How to avail free 60 GB Airtel data

Go to the MyAirtel app and click on 'claim free data'. Proceed by following the instructions displayed on the screen. On successful completion, the free data is credited into the customer's account within 24 hours, Bharti Airtel said in a press release.

Airtel's free 60 GBs offer is comparable with another scheme offered by the telecom major earlier this year.

Bharti Airtel had in July offered 10 GBs of free data per month for three months in a promotional scheme, called "Monsoon Surprise". Under this offer, Airtel postpaid customers downloading the Airtel TV app received total data benefit of 30 GBs (10 GBs per month).

The telecom sector has witnessed heightened competition ever since Reliance Jio made its entry with free calling and aggressive mobile data pricing, say some analysts.

On September 11, Bharti Airtel became the second telecom operator, after Reliance Jio, to start its 4G VoLTE service in Mumbai. Currently, Reliance Jio is the only operator in India offering voice on 4G network using VoLTE technology across the country. Other telecom players have been offering voice calls to their 4G customers with support of their other established networks - 2G and 3G. Jio has made voice calls on its 4G network free for lifetime.

Jio is also set to deliver a low-cost 4G feature phone called JioPhone to customers. Bharti Airtel 
is in talks with multiple handset makers to bring a 4G phone for a price as low as Rs. 2,500-2,700 to take on Reliance Jio.

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Renault is all set to unveil its India-spec Captur crossover on Thursday, September 21, 2017. Renault already sells the Captur crossover in left-hand drive configuration in various international markets however, India will be the first market where the crossover will be sold in the right-hand drive layout. The carmaker is expected to launch the crossover a little later. We are eagerly waiting to have a go at it when it’s launched, but you need not wait to know more about it. 

We’ve made a list of things things that you should know about the upcoming Renault Captur.

Family lineage
The Captur will be built on the versatile M0 platform that also underpins the Duster. Renault has achieved high levels of localisation with this platform in India, which will help keep costs in check. There seem to be minimal tweaks to its chassis as the dimensions are similar to that of the Duster, which means it will have similar levels of space inside the cabin. The platform will also underpin the India-spec Nissan Kicks crossover when it comes.

More power
In Russia, the Captur got a choice of two petrol engines – 1.6- and 2.0-litre. For India, though, Renault is expected to continue with the tried-and-tested powertrains – the 1.5-litre petrol and the ubiquitous 1.5-litre K9K motor. While an automatic transmission is not expected at launch, it may arrive later. 

Upmarket fight
In terms of pricing and equipment, the Captur will rival Hyundai’s Creta and Jeep’s Compass, with the Nissan Kicks expected to join the fray later. Expect prices to be in the region of Rs 12 lakh (ex-showroom). The Captur will come with full-LED headlamps flanked by LED DRLs, an option for a contrast roof, dual-tone interiors, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with media navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.

Launch this quarter
While Renault will unveil the Captur crossover this week, the carmaker will officially launch it in our market in the coming months. The French manufacturer has been testing the Captur for Indian markets for the past few months.

 

 

 

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Hyundai cars get costlier by up to Rs 84,867

Written by Saturday, 16 September 2017 08:51

NEW DELHI: Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) today increased prices of its various models by up to Rs 84,867, following a hike in GST cess rates.

The price hike will range from 2 to 5 per cent and will be effective from September 11, the company said in a statement.

HMIL, which is country's second largest passenger car manufacturer, has hiked the price of 1.4-litre petrol automatic variant of its premium hatchback Elite i20 by Rs 12,547.

Besides, it has raised prices of the newly launched mid-sized sedan Verna by up to 29,090. Similarly, prices of SUV Creta have been hiked ranging between Rs 20,900 and Rs 55,375.

The automaker has also raised prices of its premium sedan Elantra ranging between Rs 50,312 and Rs 75,991. It has also increased the price of its premium SUVTuscon between Rs 64,828 and Rs 84,867.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has also announced a hike in prices of its Jeep and Fiat range of vehicles by up to Rs 6.4 lakh. 

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Google to Introduce Mobile Payment Service in India

Written by Friday, 15 September 2017 06:16

 

Alphabet's Google plans to introduce a localised digital payment service in India as early as next week, technology website TechCrunch reported, citing a report from news site The Ken. The payment service, called Google 'Tez', will offer payment options beyond the existing ones like Google Wallet or Android Pay, the report said.

Tez, meaning fast in Hindi, will include support for the government-backed Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other consumer payment services including Paytm and MobiKwik, according to the report. Google did not comment on the report, but sent a media invite for the launch of a new product for India on Sept. 18.

Google, Facebook and WhatsApp were in talks with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to provide UPI-enabled payment on their platforms, the Mint daily had reported in July. The internet giant launched its payment app Android Pay in the United States two years ago.

 

 

 

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WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton to Leave Company

Written by Wednesday, 13 September 2017 06:18

 

Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook, will leave the messaging service company to start a new foundation, he said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Acton spent eight years with WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $19 billion in cash and stock.

A Stanford alumnus, Acton co-founded WhatsApp with Ukrainian immigrant Jan Koum in 2009. The duo worked at Yahoo before starting WhatsApp.

Here's Acton's Facebook post announcing his departure from WhatsApp, and explaining his reasons, in its entirety.

"After 8 years at WhatsApp, I have decided to move on and start a new chapter in my life.

I am very fortunate at my age to have the flexibility to take new risks and focus on what I'm passionate about. I've decided to start a non-profit focused at the intersection of nonprofit, technology and communications. It's something I've thought about for a while, and now it's time to just focus and execute. I'll have more to share in the coming months.

This decision is, of course, a tough one. I'm proud of what our team has accomplished in only a few years, and it's humbling to see that so many people rely on WhatsApp every day.

 

 

 

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Micro-blogging website Twitter is reportedly testing a feature that will simplify the way users post "tweetstorms" — a series of related tweets posted by a user in quick succession.

According to a report on Engadget on Monday, A user has discovered a hidden, experimental "tweetstorm" feature in Twitter's Android app that simplifies the process. "Instead of posting tweets one at a time and replying to them in sequence, you compose everything behind the scenes and share it all at once," the report added.

Hidden inside the Android app is a way to write a "tweetstorm" and see it broken into distinct tweets and then tweet them all at once.

Twitter, however, declined to comment on the feature which is yet to be made available to the public.

Twitter has lifted the 140-character limit for its 328 million-plus users to send direct messages. While Twitter is largely a public experience, direct messages let you have private conversations about the memes and news that unfold on the micro blogging site. The company said last year that it would stop counting photos, videos and GIF animations toward the 140-character limit.

This report comes a day after Twitter started allowing users to share access to multiple accounts via iOS and Android applications without needing to share that account's password.

 

 

 

 

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WhatsApp rolls out two new feature for both Android and iOS users. One of them is the Picture-in-Picture video calling feature and the second one is the text status update. To recall, both the features were earlier available for the beta users, but now WhatsApp has pushed out both the features to stable builds. WhatsApp has been rolling to several new features almost every other day; this is basically because the Facebook-owned messaging platform is aiming towards improving its functionalities.

The new Picture-in-Picture video calling feature allow users to multitask. The feature basically allows the users to make video calls and send messages to friends simultaneously. For instance, if a user is on a video call and also wants to talk to some other friend via message, they can simply resize the video calling screen so they can talk to one friend via video call, and message the other one. After resizing the video call screen will appear at one side of the mobile screen, while the background will be that of the chat box. It is noteworthy, the resized video calling screen can be resized as per requirement and it can also be dragged to any corner of the phone screen.

This is the Picture-in-Picture feature, also known as PiP. Now the text status updates feature. Like we share pictures and videos as status, iOS and Android users will now be able to set a text status as well. It is different from the profile text status. We know that picture and videos on WhatsApp status last's only for 24 hours. The scene will be the same with the new WhatsApp text status as well. So, how does this feature work?

 

 

 

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In collaboration with Reliance Jio, domestic consumer electronics brand Intex Technologies on Friday announced data benefits up to 25GB for its 4G smartphone users.

Under this scheme, all Intex 4G Smartphone users using a Jio connection will get additional 5GB 4G data per recharge, over what they normally get on a recharge of Rs. 309 or above.

"The world's largest end-to-end IP network of Jio and Intex's pan-India mobile distribution network will together be a delight for consumers," said Nidhi Markanday, Director and Business Head, Mobiles, Intex Technologies, in a statement. The offer is limited to a maximum of five recharges.

Late last month, Chinese manufacturer Oppo also partnered with Reliance Jio to offer data benefits to its smartphone customers.

Those customers who purchase an Oppo smartphone and enrol themselves in Jio Prime membership will get additional data benefits.

As per the new offer, buyers of Oppo's F3F3 Plus, and F1 Plus smartphone models can get additional data up to 10GB on every recharge of Rs. 309 or above (making it up to 60GB of additional data). On the other hand, those customers who purchase Oppo F1sA57A37, and A33 models can get additional data up to 7GB on every recharge (making it up to 42GB of additional data). Notably, customers can avail these additional data benefits for a maximum of six Jio recharges.

 

 

 

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