Political leadership and government financing, as well
as the sparking of a people’s movement, are key elements of the Swachh
Bharat story, Indian leaders told international delegates looking to learn
from India’s sanitation successes at the Mahatma Gandhi International
Sanitation Convention here on Saturday.
“This is the role of good political leadership. It doesn’t
merely decide on a programme, but it throws its entire political weight — weight
of its politics, its policies, its finances — behind the decision. And that is
what happened,” said Finance Minister ArunJaitley, addressing delegates from 68
countries at the event, including many from developing nations.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan-Grameen claims to have increased
the percentage of the rural population with access to toilets from 39% in 2014
to almost 95% today. Overall, 503 districts and 24 States have been declared
open defecation-free. About $20 billion have been allocated to the programme,
Sanitation Secretary ParameswaranIyer said.
A highlight on the sidelines of the upcoming
India-Russia bilateral summit is likely to be the gifting of three MiG-21
fighter jets to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in New
Delhi on October 4 and 5 for the annual summit with Prime Minister
“Three MiG-21s are scheduled to be handed over to Russians
based on a request from their Defence Minister to our Defence Minister. They
comprise one Type 75 aircraft and two Type 77 aircraft,” an official source
The aircraft to be gifted are in flight-worthy condition
and the cost of crating and transportation will be borne by the Russians,
another official said.
This will be major symbolic gesture to showcase the
all-weather friendship and deep strategic partnership between India and Russia,
which has been put to test in recent times due to changing geopolitical
The MiG-21, a product of the Soviet Union, was designed by
the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the 1950s. It made first flight in 1956
and entered service in 1959. However, Russia stopped producing the aircraft in
1985, while India continued operating the upgraded variants.
India inducted the MiG-21s in 1963 and got full technology
transfer and rights to license-build the aircraft in the country. It is the
first supersonic fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The IAF still has
about 120 MiG-21s in service which will all be phased out of service by 2021-22.
India accounts for 29% of black spotted turtles (Geoclemyshamiltonii)
seized from across seven countries in South Asia, states a recent report by
TRAFFIC, an international network monitoring trade in wildlife.
Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union
for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species, the black spotted
turtle or spotted pond turtle is native to South Asia, and a heavily trafficked
chelonian. The medium-sized freshwater turtle has a black shell with yellow
streaks. The species was once smuggled for its meat and is now sought after as
an exotic pet.
India is followed by Southeast Asian countries such as
Thailand (1,995 specimens or 19%) and Hong Kong (1,775 specimens or 17%),
followed by Bangladesh (1,197 specimens or 12%). The remaining specimens were
seized from China, Pakistan and Singapore.
In India, the species is distributed across the north,
northeast and a few parts of central India in States such as West Bengal, Assam,
Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and parts of Madhya Pradesh,
Punjab, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. But an analysis of the trade route places
Chennai as an important centre for the trade.