Nagpur Senior IPS officer Vivekananda Sinha was appointed as the Inspector General of Police of the Maoist insurgency-hit Bastar range of Chhattisgarh on Saturday.The post was vacant after former Bastar IG and controversial police officer Shiv Ram Prasad Kalluri was shifted out of the region in February.The Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Dantewada range P.Sundar Raj was given an additional charge of Bastar range, however, the killing of 12 CRPF men in the region’s Sukma district last month, fuelled the demand of a full-time IG in the region.An IPS officer of 1996 batch, Mr.Sinha is currently posted as IG Bilaspur range. With his transfer to Bastar, the conflict-hit region will have a new team of IPS officers.Mr. Kalluri’s subordinate officers, including Bastar Superintendent of Police R.N. Dash and Sukma SP Kalyaan Elesela were also removed from Bastar after his transfer.Mr. Sinha already has experience on the Maoist front as he was in-charge of Bastar range for a few months last year, when Mr. Kalluri had proceeded on medical leave.Mr. Sinha’s transfer to Bastar also quelled speculations about Mr. Kalluri’s return to the region.
The city police on Tuesday lodged a first information report (FIR) against the wife of Marathi film producer Atul Tapkir, who committed suicide by consuming poison at a city hotel last week on Sunday.Mr. Tapkir, who produced the 2015 box-office flop Dhol Taashe, uploaded a sensational suicide note on Facebook before taking the fateful step, accusing his wife Priyanka and her kin of repeated mental and physical torture following the failure of the picture.Two of Priyanka’s brothers, Kalyan and Balu Gavhane, and her cousin, Bapu Thigale, have also been booked for abetment of suicide.The FIRs were registered on Monday after the police recorded statements of Mr. Tapkir’s mother, father and other family members.Detailing in details his turbulent relationship with his wife, Mr. Tapkir, in his note accused her of separating him from his children and not standing by him during his battle with depression.In his note, Mr. Tapkir had recounted that his wife, at one point, had lodged a complaint against him and his father [Atul Tapkir] was forced to bribe a policeman with a sum of ₹10,000 in order to allegedly evade arrest.Pune Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla has ordered an inquiry into this charge made Mr. Tapkir in his suicide note.
Pricey tomatoes spurred a fresh round of protests by Congress workers on Friday, who parked a cart full of tomatoes in front of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly and sold the kitchen staple at Rs 10 per kg.The party had earlier come up with a “State Bank of Tomato” that is being operated from the Youth Congress office here.Tomato prices have hovered around Rs 100 per kg in major cities with supplies being disrupted due to heavy rains.Congress workers led by state secretary Shailendra Tiwari stood in front of the Assembly with a cart full of tomatoes with a banner “Tamatar ke aaye acche din” (good days have come for tomatoes) and sold it at Rs 10 per kg per person.“This is our way to protest the soaring tomato price.We are selling it to common man to show our concern for them.It’s ironical that the government has not taken any initiative to open subsidised counters for selling tomatoes or to check its price,” Mr. Tiwari said.The ‘tomato bank’ has some interesting schemes to offer like providing the commodity on easy loan as also a locker facility, 80 per cent loans on tomatoes and attractive interest rates for depositing tomatoes, especially for the poor.The idea behind the bank is to lodge protest and to create awareness among the people about the commodity being sold at such high rates.Prices of tomato have shot up about four times since the beginning of June when tomatoes were being sold at about Rs 25 per kg in the Delhi-National Capital Region market.Industry body Assocham had said recently that “Tomato prices may not immediately ease as flooding in some of the growing states has led to damage to the crop.” Unlike onion and potato, the shelf life of tomato is very short and it needs cold chains and modern warehouses for storage and transportation, it said.Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha are the major tomato growing States.The country produces around 18 million tonnes of tomatoes.
Chiddi Sharma, a farmer in Ading village of Mathura, has received 1 paisa or ₹00.01 as part of the U.P. government’s flagship crop loan waiver scheme, which promises a relief of up to ₹1 lakh to the 86 lakh farmers in the State. Mr. Sharma, one of the many farmers who have been given waivers of minuscule amounts, says his is the “cruellest joke” as no one in the State has been paid 1 paise as relief for losses running into lakhs.‘Blessing for farmers’Announced in April this year, a month after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath came to power in U.P., the ₹36,000-crore ‘Rin Mochan Yojana’ had come as a blessing for debt-ridden farmers of the State. Even as the Adityanath government competed six months, Mr. Sharma got a message on his phone from Punjab National Bank on Sunday that he had got a loan waiver of 1 paisa as part of the flagship scheme.When The Hindu met the 52-year-old farmer in his humble one-room house,Mr. Sharma was visibly angry. “I had distributed sweets in April when Yogiji announced the loan waiver. I had taken loan of ₹1.55 lakh from the Punjab National Bank six years ago, but could not repay it that due to repeated losses in farming. Today I do not know whether to laugh or cry. Many leaders have played with the emotions of the farmers, but this one by Yogiji is the cruellest of them all,” said Mr. Sharma who owns five bighas of land and comes under the category of “marginal farmer”. Waiver certificate“Since the day Yogiji announced the ₹1-lakh loan waiver scheme, I had only been thinking about it. I don’t know what to say now. The six-month wait has resulted in 1 paisa in my account,” Mr. Sharma said, waving the loan waiver certificate embossed with the photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Adityanath, with the slogan “har kadam kisanon ke saath (with farmers in their every step)” running under them.“I don’t want to speak much but what is the point of advertising ₹36000 crore. How come other farmers in Mathura who took almost the same amount as me and who were in a similar situation, got the full waiver of ₹1 lakh,” asked Mr. Sharma, flanked by his son Banwarilal Sharma and his two sons. Since the news of 1-paisa loan waiver broke, Mr. Sharma has been receiving hordes of journalists and photographers at his home.The media attention is also proving to be a pocket pinch for the family, said Banwarilal Sharma who had spent over ₹100 on tea and snacks for the reporters visiting them.Opposition fumesWhile there are many beneficiaries of the loan waiver scheme who have got a relief as low as 40 paisa, no one else in the State has a certificate that matches the 1-paisa laon waiver to Mr. Sharma. His case has already given ammunition to the Opposition leaders in the State. Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted on Monday: “Bhool chukey jo apna sankalp patra, shweta patra unka bahana hai (The white paper is an excuse for those who have forgotten their poll promises)”.Two-account theoryThe district manager of PNB bank, P.K. Singh, said that a case like that of Chiddi Sharma may have happened because of two accounts in the same bank. “Under the scheme those accounts of farmers ended up getting selected in which the money was either repaid or there was a meagre loan amount left,” said Mr. Singh. But Mr. Sharma said he never had two accounts in PNB, so there was no chance of any confusion. Probe orderedThe district officials of Mathura have ordered a probe into Mr. Sharma’s case. ADM Mathura Sadanand Gupta told Mr. Sharma that it was a mistake on part of PNB and directed the bank officials to issue a new certificate. The District Magistrate of Mathura, Arvind Malappa, told The Hindu, “I looked at the case of of Chiddi Sharma and it seems that it happened due to some technical error which we are trying to sort out.”
The Hornbill Festival of Nagaland attracted a record 2,43,214 visitors this year, a sharp climb compared to the previous years, a government official said.Toka E. Tuccumi, an officer with the Department of Tourism, said a total of 2,43,214 visitors, including 2,401 foreign tourists, 38,700 domestic and 2,02,113 locals enjoyed the festival during the 10 days. The number of visitors this year was higher than last year’s total of 1,12,604 visitors by 1,30,610, he said.10 days of festivitiesThe 10-day festival, which is the annual showpiece tourism event of the State, was inaugurated on December 1 — coinciding with the 54th Statehood Day celebrations — by President Ram Nath Kovind.The festival concluded at the picturesque Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, on Sunday amid mega bonfires and the tunes of Naga war cry and beats of traditional log drums reverberating in the background.The massive turnout at the festival provided the visitors ample opportunity to take prized photos and getting a lowdown on some of the Naga cultural dances during the “Unity Dance” performed by the 17 tribes of the State.Nagaland Governor P.B. Acharya said, “The Hornbill festival is designed in such a manner that it coincides with Statehood Day celebrations, which gives an opportunity to all the Naga tribes to converge on one location to showcase the best of their tribal costumes, songs and dance.”Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Governor of Odisha S.C. Jamir, Governor of Arunachal Pradesh Brig. (retd) B.D. Mishra, Manipur CM N. Biren Singh, Arunachal CM Pema Khandu and Director General of Assam Rifles Lt. Gen. Shokin Chauhan were among the several dignitaries gracing the festival.
The BJP on December 24 wrested both the Pakke-Kessang and Likabali Assembly seats from the Congress in the bypolls to these constituencies in Arunachal Pradesh. With this, the 60-member State Assembly now has 49 MLAs from the saffron party, nine from the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA), one Congress and one Independent legislator. B.R. Waghe of the BJP won the Pakke-Kessang seat by a narrow margin of 475 votes, defeating his lone rival and former Deputy Chief Minister Kameng Dolo of the Congress. While Mr. Waghe polled 3,517 votes, Mr. Dolo bagged 3,042, Joint Chief Electoral Officer D.J. Bhattacharjee said.In the Likabali seat, BJP’s Kardo Nyigyor won by a slender margin of 305 votes, defeating his nearest rival, Gumke Riba of the PPA. While the BJP candidate polled 3,461 votes, the PPA nominee secured 3,156 votes in the constituency, which witnessed a multi-cornered contest. While the Congress candidate Modam Dini could secure only 362 votes, the lone Independent candidate, Sengo Taipodia, bagged 675 votes. The constituency also saw 23 voters opting for NOTA, Mr. Bhattacharjee said. Over 68.5% electors had voted in the December 21 bypolls, with Pakke-Kessang recording an 86% voter turnout and Likabali 51%. The Likabali seat had fallen vacant after then Health and Family Welfare Minister Jomde Kena passed away on September 4. The Pakke-Kessang seat fell vacant after the Gauhati High Court declared the election of Mr. Dolo from the constituency in the March 15, 2014 polls null and void, following an election petition filed by BJP nominee and former Minister Atum Welly.Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju congratulated the BJP members for the victory in the bypolls.
Paresh Dhanani (41) is Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s choice for Gujarat’s Leader of the Opposition post. A third time legislator and Patidar leader from Amreli, Mr. Dhanani was appointed as the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader on Saturday.The announcement was made by Congress General Secretary in-charge of Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot, after a meeting with the Congress president in New Delhi. “After taking a sense of all elected legislators, I submitted a report to Rahulji, who then called me and Paresh Dhanani for a meeting in Delhi,” Mr Gehlot told The Hindu.“He is young and aggressive leader from Saurashtra region. He comes from grassroots and has understanding of issues in Gujarat,” Mr. Gehlot added.“During our meeting with legislators, everyone had supported his name and passed a resolution authorising the Congress president to name the legislative party leader,” Mr. Gehlot said.However, earlier, two senior legislators Kuvarji Bavalia and Vikram Madam had staked claim for the post. Mr Bavalia is a senior leader and former MP belonging to numerically important Koli community while Mr Madam is former Jamnagar MP and prominent leader of Ahir community. The party high command has, however, chosen a Patidar leader for the post.
Right-wing outfit Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) on Saturday submitted a memorandum to Deputy Collectors and the North Goa Collector, urging them to stop “malpractices on Valentine’s Day.” HJS spokesperson Manoj Solanki said authorities should increase police patrolling in colleges and take action against speeding drivers. It has appealed to schools to celebrate February 14 as ‘Parents’ Day’.
Panaji: Goa Governor Mridula Sinha asked the State’s Chief Secretary, Dharmendra Sharma, to take appropriate action on a complaint filed by activist lawyer Aires Rodrigues against an illegal bungalow built by Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar in Old Goa. This was confirmed to The Hindu by a Raj Bhavan spokesperson on Wednesday.On April 9, in a petition to the Archaeological Survey of India, Goa Circle, copied to the Governor and the Prime Minister, Mr. Rodrigues alleged that Mr. Madkaikar’s company, Nikitasha Realtors, had built a palatial bungalow in Old Goa, which violated the law by being within 300 metres from the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO heritage monument. The bungalow’s compound wall was less than 50 metre from the protected monument.The ASI, in its reply on April 10, had informed Mr. Rodrigues that it does not have the magisterial powers either for removal of encroachment or for demolition of illegal structures and asked him to approach the local authorities for further action in the matter. The ASI also told him that it had asked the Old Goa Police to register an FIR against Mr. Madkaikar over the unauthorised compound wall, copying local authorities, including the North Goa Collector and the local panchayat, but no action was taken.Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Mr. Madkaikar said that his bungalow was legal in every way and he was willing to offer documents related to his newly constructed house to any authority for examination. “I have all the approvals, licences from the authorities,” he said. “If required I will present it before appropriate authority.”
The Army on Friday ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against Major Leetul Gogoi’s conduct, hours after Army chief General Bipin Rawat promised “exemplary punishment in case the officer was found guilty of any wrongdoing.”“Any rank of Indian Army — if he does anything wrong — an action will be taken. If Major Gogoi has done something wrong I will punish him and the punishment will be exemplary,” General Rawat said in Anantnag in south Kashmir.Terms of reference According to Army sources, the terms of reference of the CoI will be finalised after a meeting of senior Army officials in New Delhi.Major Gogoi, who used a civilian as a human shield by tying a man to an Army vehicle in Budgam in 2017, was detained from a Srinagar hotel along with a woman and a member of the Territorial Army on May 23.The officer has been now removed from the 53 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) unit posted in Budgam and attached to the Army headquarters pending the inquiry.The woman accompanying the Major was not a minor: the police said. A senior police official, probing the incident, told The Hindu that preliminary investigation suggested the woman was “a major and not a minor” and was born in 1999 as per the Aadhaar card details.The woman, a resident of Budgam, has told a magistrate that she had gone to the hotel “on her own free will” and “wanted to spend time with the Major”.A hotel room was booked by the Major for two persons on May 23. However, an altercation ensued when the hotel staff objected to allowing a local woman to the room as per the hotel policy.The Major has allegedly been in touch with the woman before also and got connected through a Facebook account named “Aadil Adnan”.Sources said the police are yet to establish any legal grounds to file an FIR in the case as “both the individuals were adult”.
Rajasthan has sought establishment of an Inter-State Basin Authority with the powers to resolve disputes among different States on sharing of river waters. The desert State does not agree with a proposal to set up an integrated group of watershed agencies, which it says will not serve any meaningful purpose.Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said at the 13th meeting of the Inter-State Council’s Standing Committee in New Delhi last week that since several Boards were already functioning for management of inter-State basin waters, there would be no utility for the integrated group of watershed agencies.The Boards include Bhakra-Beas Management Board for Indus basin, Upper Yamuna River Board for Yamuna river waters, Narmada Control Authority for Narmada river waters and the Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan Chambal Inter-State Board for Chambal river waters.Mr. Kataria said the practice being followed for distribution of water on the basis of catchment areas of rivers went against the interest of a State like Rajasthan because it had very little such areas. “Rajasthan should be exempted from the rules framed on the basis of catchment areas,” he said.More allocation soughtWhile seeking allocation of more Central funds for expansion of forest areas to meet the national targets, Mr. Kataria sought a special status for Rajasthan in view of its “scattered environmental status” with the presence of the Aravalli hills range and the vast Thar desert. Rajasthan was geographically the biggest State in the country, he pointed out.
Dusty weather conditions continued to prevail across parts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on Friday even as the weather department said the situation is likely to improve over the next 24 hours as a fresh western disturbance approaching the region is expected to bring in rain.Owing to low visibility, as many as 26 domestic flights were suspended at the Chandigarh international airport.According to India Meteorological Department, strong dusty winds are likely to continue across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh over the next 24 hours. The density of dust in the atmosphere is likely to decrease from Friday evening, with thundershowers expected over parts of north-west India. The key reason for the dusty weather has been the prevalence of west and south-western strong surface winds travelling from Rajasthan.Strong winds “The winds have resulted in increase in levels of coarse particles in the atmosphere in most parts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The situation is likely to continue over the next 24 hours and would dissipate afterwards as a fresh western disturbance is approaching, which will affect parts of north India from June 15 evening onwards,” said Surinder Pal, Director of IMD, Chandigarh.Mr. Pal said light to moderate thunderstorm and rain is likely to occur from late Friday in the north-eastern parts of Punjab including Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Pathankot and adjoining areas and northern parts of Haryana, including Panchkula, Ambala,Yamunanagar, Kaithal including Chandigarh.Rain relief“The rain will increase in intensity and distribution and will cover most parts of Punjab and Haryana from June 15 to 18. Also, strong surface winds are expected in some parts of Punjab and Haryana during this period,” he added.Meanwhile, the Punjab Pollution Control Board has said that the situation is alarming as the air quality has deteriorated due to the haze. “The air quality index is alarmingly high in many cities of Punjab due to dust… Schools should be shut, children and old aged people should avoid going out as the weather condition could adversely impact their health,” Chief Environmental Engineer Krunesh Garg said.
Making light of the Congress’ efforts to cobble up pre-poll tie-ups in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Wednesday that outfits that allied with the grand old party have suffered destruction.“The Congress is a ‘dhokhebaj’ (deceitful) party. Those who had formed an alliance with the Congress had invited destruction [upon them],” Mr. Chouhan said at Maihar in Satna district, around 450 km from Bhopal, from where he launched the second leg of his ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’.The Chief Minister was reacting to the Congress’ efforts to stitch an alliance with parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party ahead of Assembly elections due later this year.‘Remember history’“You must remember that the Congress had pulled down the Chaudhary Charan Singh government within four months and humiliated him. The Congress did the same with I.K. Gujral and H.D. Deve Gowda [former Prime Ministers],” he said.Before launching the second leg of the yatra that would cover Bundelkhand, Mahakaushal and Vindhya regions, the Chief Minister, who has been helming the State since November 2005, paid obeisance at the Maa Sharada temple in Maihar.The first leg of the 75-day yatra was flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah on July 14 from Ujjain after offering prayers at the Mahakaleshwar temple.Two vehicles have been converted into chariots for the yatra. One of the chariots is being used in central Madhya Pradesh, Malwa and Nimar regions which were covered in the first leg of the yatra, the other chariot is meant for Bundelkhand, Mahakaushal and Vindhya regions.Mr. Chouhan had embarked on a similar yatra ahead of the Assembly polls in 2008 and 2013.The opposition Congress, which has been out of power since 2003, has been trying to forge ties with BSP and SP.State unit Congress president Kamal Nath had announced that his party was ready to align with like-minded parties, especially the BSP, ahead of polls to unseat the ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh.He had met BSP chief Mayawati in Delhi recently.
A Muslim woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Sikandrabad, who had filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking abolition of ‘nikah halala’ practice earlier this month, on Tuesday alleged that she has received death threats from her husband. The woman, Farzana, had claimed in her petition that she had been illegally divorced by her husband, leaving her and their daughter without any means of living or financial support. “From the day I have filed the petition, my husband has been pressuring me to withdraw it and has even threatened to kill me. He has also told me that going to the Supreme Court will not help me and I will be forced to do halala,” Farzana told reporters here. The practice of ‘nikah halala’ requires a divorced woman to marry someone else, consummate the marriage and then get a divorce in order to again marry her first husband under the Muslim Personal Law.
Despite poor voter turnout in the recently-concluded civic bodies’ elections in J&K, State Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra on Monday announced the schedule for the panchayat polls. “The elections to 316 blocks in 4,483 panchayat halqas comprising of 35,029 panch constituencies will be held from November 17 to December 11 in nine phases,” he said.The last panchayat elections were held in 2011 after a gap of 10 years and completed its term in July 2016. The elections were repeatedly deferred due to volatile situation in the valley in the past three years.A total of 58,54,208 voters were registered for the polls, “In Kashmir division, 29,91,128 voters are registered, while in Jammu Division the number is 28,63,080 voters,” said Mr. Kabra.Migrant Kashmiri Pandits would be provided facility to vote in panchayat elections through postal ballot.“All critical events will be video-graphed and concerned deputy commissioners will arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose,” said the CEO.The announcement came despite two main regional parties, Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference, deciding against participating in these polls.Due to boycott by the regional parties and separatists boycott call, the recently-concluded civic bodies elections saw just 35.1 percent in the State. In Kashmir, the voters turnover was less than eight percent.
Over 8.75 lakh applicants in Gujarat who were set to take exam for 9,713 unarmed police constable jobs were in for a shock when the exam was cancelled hours before scheduled time as the question paper was allegedly found to be leaked. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has ordered probe in the matter.The exam was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. on Sunday in 2440 centres across the State. However, the written examination was called off barely a few hours before it was scheduled to start after it surfaced that the question paper was leaked, said Vikas Sahay, chairman of the Lokrakshak Recruitment Board, the body that conducts recruitment for constables in the State.“Questions and answers started circulating on some social media before the exam was to begin,” Mr. Sahay told media persons in Gandhinagar.Mr. Sahay said the exam will most probably be conducted again within a month.“Chief Minister ordered probe immediately after he learnt about the leak of exam paper. He also said that the State government will provide free transportation to the applicants during the exam when it is held,” a CMO press release stated.
A young industrialist, Gunjan Khemka, was shot dead on Thursday at the gate of his factory in Hajipur near Patna. He had been receiving extortion and threat calls for the last six months.Vaishali Superintendent of Police Manavjeet Singh Dhillion said: “An unidentified criminal fired at Gunjan Khemka when he was waiting outside the gate of his factory in industrial area of Hajipur…three rounds were fired at him and he was declared dead when taken to the local hospital…his driver Manoj Ravidas too has received gunshot injuries”. Gunjan Khemka, 38, owned G.K. Cotton factory at Hajipur in Vaishali district and his father Gopal Khemka, too, is a big businessman of the State. The family is said to be owners of a big hospital, medical stores and a private school in Patna.Gopal Khemka is the State convener of small industries cell of BJP in Bihar. Family members of the Gunjan told journalists that he and his wife have been receiving extortion calls for the last six months. “He had lodged a complaint regarding this at the local Gandhi Maidan police station but no action was taken…had the police acted upon his complaint, he would have been alive today,” said a family member requesting anonymity.Traders shocked Meanwhile, the daylight murder of Gunjan Khemka has sent a shock wave among the business community of the State. Some local BJP leaders too reached his residence to offer condolences. “I would request to the government to act swiftly…the culprits must be booked soon”, said local BJP MLA Nitin Navin. Opposition leaders slammed the Nitish Kumar government for complete failure on the law and order front in the State. “Everyday people are being killed, looted and raped in Bihar…but there is no one to look after…governance has collapsed in the State,” charged RJD leader and party spokesperson Bhai Birendra.
Twenty-nine students of a residential high school for girls at Antarba in Odisha’s Gajapati district left their hostel on Saturday night and are missing since.Despite efforts of the school authorities as well as the administration, the girls had not been traced till Sunday evening. They have not even returned to their homes. Most of the girls are from Class IX. It is suspected that they escaped from the hostel to complain to the District Collector about the state of affairs in the hostel.Gajapati District Welfare Officer Santosh Kumar Rath is monitoring the search operation. According to Mr. Rath, the girls have left behind a handwritten letter mentioning some reasons for leaving the hostel.Speaking to newsmen, school headmaster Manoj Rath accepted that the girls had earlier expressed their resentment over some issue with their teachers. As per the headmaster, the issue had been resolved. He felt the same reason may have prompted them to leave the hostel.
If you’re a bird enthusiast, you can pick out the “chick-a-DEE-dee” song of the Carolina chickadee with just a little practice. But if you’re an environmental scientist faced with parsing thousands of hours of recordings of birdsongs in the lab, you might want to enlist some help from your computer. A new approach to automatic classification of birdsong borrows techniques from human voice recognition software to sort through the sounds of hundreds of species and decides on its own which features make each one unique.Collectors of animal sounds are facing a data deluge. Thanks to cheap digital recording devices that can capture sound for days in the field, “it’s really, really easy to collect sound, but it’s really difficult to analyze it,” say Aaron Rice, a bioacoustics researcher at Cornell University, who was not involved in the new work. His lab has collected 6 million hours of underwater recordings, from which they hope to pick out the signature sounds of various marine mammals.Knowing where and when a certain species is vocalizing might help scientists understand habitat preferences, track their movements or population changes, and recognize when a species is disrupted by human development. But to keep these detailed records, researchers rely on software that can reliably sort through the cacophony they capture in the field. Typically, scientists build one computer program to recognize one species, and then start all over for another species, Rice says. Training a computer to recognize lots of species in one pass is “a challenge that we’re all facing.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)That challenge is even bigger in the avian world, says Dan Stowell, a computer scientist at Queen Mary University of London who studied human voice analysis before turning his attention to the treetops. “I realized there are quite a lot of unsolved problems in birdsong,” says Stowell, who is lead author on the new paper. Among the biggest issues: There are hundreds of species with distinct and complex calls—and in tropical hotspots, many of them sing all at once.Most methods for classifying birdsong rely on a human to define which features separate one species from another. For example, if researchers know that a chickadee’s tweet falls within a predictable range of frequencies, they can program a computer to recognize sounds in that range as chickadee-esque. The computer gets better and better at deciding how to use these features to classify a new sound clip, based on “training” rounds where it examines clips with the species already correctly labeled.In the new paper, Stowell and his Queen Mary colleague, computer scientist Mark Plumbley, used a different approach, known as unsupervised training. Instead of telling the computer which features of a birdsong are going to be important, they let it decide for itself, so to speak. The computer has to figure out “what are the jigsaw pieces” that make up any birdsong it hears, Stowell says. For example, some of the jigsaw pieces it selects are split-second upsweeps or downsweeps in frequency—the sharp pitch changes that make up a chirp. After seeing correctly labeled examples of which species produce which kinds of sounds, the program can spit out a list—ranked in order of confidence—of the species it thinks are present in a recording.Stowell and Plumbley tested this approach on several natural recordings, including birdsong from the British Library Sound Archive, and a large data set recorded in Brazil (77 hours; 501 species) that was publicly released as part of an annual classification challenge organized by the Scaled Acoustic BIODiversity platform project. Their unsupervised approach performed better than the more traditional methods of classification—those based on a set of predetermined features—and managed to reach up to 85.4% accuracy in the large Brazilian data set, they report today in PeerJ.The new system’s accuracy fell short of beating the top new computer programs that analyzed the same data sets for the annual competition. But Potamitis Ilyas, a computer scientist at the Technological Educational Institute of Crete in Greece, says that the new system deserves credit for applying unsupervised computer learning to the complex world of birdsong for the first time. He also suggests that this approach could be combined with other ways of processing and classifying sound, because it “can squeeze out some info that other techniques may miss.”Eighty-five percent accuracy on a choice between more than 500 calls and songs is impressive, Rice says, and shows “both the biological community and the computer community what you can do with these large sound archives.” The next step, he says, is to test the technology with new recordings to see if it can hold its own.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz went committee-hopping this week, defending President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE) before two panels in the U.S. House of Representatives. And although some lawmakers worried that DOE’s request tilts too far toward applied research in its science programs, their grilling of Moniz on science was relatively light.On Wednesday, Moniz appeared before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and yesterday testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies. Representatives mostly peppered Moniz with questions that focused on hot-button energy issues—including DOE’s role in evaluating the controversial Keystone pipeline and efforts to promote nuclear power—but the department’s science programs also saw some time in the spotlight.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)A few highlights:Applied versus basic science—At the House science committee, several Republican lawmakers complained that DOE was putting too much emphasis on applied energy research in its spending plan for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins 1 October. Representative Brian Babin (R–TX) compared the whopping 42%, $809 million increase that DOE has requested for its Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, which in part funds R&D for new energy technologies, with the 5%, $272 million increase requested for the Office of Science, which funds the national labs and basic research. “Are the Office of Science’s basic research programs a lower priority for this administration, when compared with these renewable programs?” he asked. Representative Randy Hultgren (R–IL), whose district includes Fermilab, later added: “There’s a problem that has been ongoing with this administration’s choice to value applied R&D over basic scientific research.” But Moniz pushed back, saying the 5% boost for basic science would “fully support” needed programs, and defended the applied programs. “We think we have to work across the entire innovation chain,” he said.Fusion research cuts—Representative Don Beyer (D–VA), a new member of the House, asked about the reasoning behind a requested cut in DOE’s fusion program budget, which would decrease by 10% under the request—the only loser in the Office of Science. (Last year, the House rejected a similar proposal for a cut in DOE’s fusion budget, which is increasingly dedicated to the ITER fusion project under construction in France, forcing cuts in domestic projects.) Franklin Orr, DOE’s under secretary for science and energy, suggested the trim was part of a long-term approach to achieving fusion power. “It’s a tough enough problem that a measured approach is appropriate,” he said, without addressing specifics. (Moniz has recused himself from fusion funding issues, in part because proposed cuts have targeted a DOE-funded fusion project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], where he used to work. The MIT project is now scheduled to close within a year or two.)Exascale computing—At the appropriations panel hearing, Representative Mike Honda (D–CA), whose district is located in Silicon Valley, asked about DOE’s efforts to achieve exascale computing—computers that can perform a billion billion calculations per second—calling it the “next technological leap.” DOE has requested a 15%, $80 million increase for its Advanced Scientific Computing Research program—the largest boost in the Office of Science—to help accelerate the effort, which Moniz said could bear fruit as early as 2022 or 2023. But he noted several challenges, including the whopping energy consumption of exascale computers and the massive amount of data they generate.Moniz’s appearances this week concluded the first major round of hearings on the DOE request; earlier this month he also appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power. The Senate appropriations panel has yet to schedule its DOE hearing. The House and Senate will soon begin the work of deciding how much of the DOE request will become reality—and what will get left on the cutting room floor. That process isn’t expected to be complete until late this year.