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Incredible rescue from Thai cave: Mission “I m Possible”

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Thai Cave Rescue Team

In the northern Thailand, hundreds of international rescue workers were busy spending their last waking hours for the past 15 days trying to get a group of 12 boys, and their 25-year-old soccer coach out who have been inadvertently trapped in a cave after flooding caused by relentless monsoon rains.

In a marathon rescue operation, four boys were rescued on Sunday and an additional four emerged on Monday. Today, since early morning, a high-risk operation was in progress to rescue the remaining four boys and their coach. After a grueling operation all 13 people were rescued after being trapped in the cave for 18 days.

Thai navy Seals, who have been running the operation, confirmed that all 13 were out. The Seals officially broke this news on their Facebook page by posting “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science or what”.

Three navy seals and a doctor, who had been with the boys, emerged safely from the cave several hours later. The four boys and their coach who were rescued today have been airlifted to hospital to join their eight teammates who were rescued earlier.

The entire plan is based on bringing four boys each day because on an average, it takes about 20 hours to re-set the oxygen tanks which divers use inside the cave for the rescue purpose. It is not clear at this point of time if all five of those remaining inside will get out on Tuesday.

                   A Buddha statue is seen in front of Tham Luang cave

The idea of entire operation was based on to first take out the strongest boys which may seem counterintuitive, but then officials were working on the theory that those who have the best chance of surviving should be rescued first.

The boys who were mostly in 11-16 years age group, and their 25-year-old soccer coach became stranded when they went exploring inside the cave after a practice game. But the sudden Monsoon downpour blocked off their escape and also prevented rescuers from locating them for almost 10 days.

It was on July 2 when rescue teams finally discovered the boys and their coach who were found in relatively good health but had traveled deep inside the cave complex. Ekapol Chanthawong, the soccer coach who got trapped in the cave with 12 boys for nearly two weeks apologized to their parents in a handwritten note released Saturday and promised to take care of children during the difficult rescue mission.

                             Photograph: Thai Navy Seal/Reuters

The assistant coach of the Wild Boars, the football club has been on the receiving end of seething criticism for leading the boys into the predicament. At the same time, he got accolades for his subsequent efforts to keep them alive. It was told by authorities that the coach took the boys deep into a massive Tham Luang cave complex in the northern Chiang Rai province after a football game on June 23.

Through handwritten letters, the boys assured their parents and also requested for their favorite foods from family members. One boy called Tun wrote “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine”. He further requested to get fried chicken after he got out of the cave. “The air here is little chilly but don’t worry”, wrote another. He also wrote “Don’t forget to set up my birthday party when I am back”

In a joint letter, the boys said they were all hale and hearty and wanted to go to their homes immediately. They also made a special request to their teachers. They wrote “Teacher, don’t give us lots of homework!”

While the boys sounded a brave tone, their situation remained critical as rescue teams raced against the time to find a way to get them out. Heavy rains were forecasted for this week which could raise the water levels in the flooded cave complex, making the rescue impossible.

The most likely rescue scenario would have involved getting out the boys by using diving gear with the help of expert divers. But, most of the boys didn’t know how to swim and had become physically weak during last two weeks. The difficulty level of the rescue operation would have made swimming across the cave very dangerous as in some places the width was not more than 20 inches.

The assistant coach of the Wild Boars, the football club has been on the receiving end of seething criticism for leading the boys into the predicament. At the same time, he got accolades for his subsequent efforts to keep them alive. It was told by authorities that the coach took the boys deep into a massive Tham Luang cave complex in the northern Chiang Rai province after a football game on June 23.

Through handwritten letters, the boys assured their parents and also requested for their favorite foods from family members. One boy called Tun wrote “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine”. He further requested to get fried chicken after he got out of the cave. “The air here is little chilly but don’t worry”, wrote another. He also wrote “Don’t forget to set up my birthday party when I am back”

In a joint letter, the boys said they were all hale and hearty and wanted to go to their homes immediately. They also made a special request to their teachers. They wrote “Teacher, don’t give us lots of homework!”

While the boys sounded a brave tone, their situation remained critical as rescue teams raced against the time to find a way to get them out. Heavy rains were forecasted for this week which could raise the water levels in the flooded cave complex, making the rescue impossible.

The most likely rescue scenario would have involved getting out the boys by using diving gear with the help of expert divers. But, most of the boys didn’t know how to swim and had become physically weak during last two weeks. The difficulty level of the rescue operation would have made swimming across the cave very dangerous as in some places the width was not more than 20 inches.

As part of their rescue efforts, the divers are tutoring boys and the coach about rudimentary diving lessons. Thai authorities have made it clear that diving through the murky water is the only way the boys could be taken out. A fibre-optic cable is being laid inside the cave which would ensure the audio as well as video communication between children and their parents.

Poonsak Woongsatngiem, a rescue official with Thailand’s interior ministry, told The Guardian that the water level inside the cave had been reduced by 40 per cent in the past few days. However, more rainfall is putting pressure on the rescuers to come out with a plan to remove the boys before flood waters rise higher.

Divers who are working round the clock to free the boys and their coach must navigate dark, flooded tunnels for six hours to reach them. It takes another five hours to return. The authorities are also calculating as how long they could afford rescuers to remain in the cave considering that the weather could anytime change for worse. If it comes to that, the rescuers will be asked   to withdraw which could cut the contact with boys for next four months.

According to the rescue plan, the boys would be dressed in wetsuits, boots and helmets, and divers would use an 8mm static rope to guide them out. They will be given oxygen supply from a navy diver’s kit. A number of “stage tanks” have been also placed at every 25 to 50 metres along the cave to ensure a continuous supply of oxygen. Divers working in the rescue team have warned boys about the dark and dangerous waters which have flooded the cave.

Though boys are physically in much better shape but experts have their doubts as according to them the ordeal may have taken a heavy toll on their confidence level which could worsen if their stay becomes longer. Paul Auerbach from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University medical school said  “It’s very likely that while the boys were in the cave they may have experienced various degrees of anxiety, fear, confusion, vulnerability and dependency, and perhaps hopelessness,” In the end, it will be apt to say “Jako rakhe Saiyan maar sake na koi”

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Lakhs of towels, bedhseets missing from AC coaches – passengers are suspects

Besides, the Railways found 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets missing from the AC coaches in this period.

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Indian Railway Bed Rolls

New Delhi, Nov 15 : Affluent AC passengers are the prime suspects as over 21 lakh towels, bedsheets, blankets and other items went missing from air-conditioned coaches during 2017-18 an official said.

The passengers are suspected to have made off with precisely 21,72,246 “bedroll items” — including 12,83,415 hand towels, 4,71,077 bedsheets and 3,14,952 pillow covers — from trains across the country in the last fiscal.

Besides, the Railways found 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets missing from the AC coaches in this period.

“Together, the missing items are estimated to cost over Rs 14 crore,” a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.

While the theft of toilet mugs, taps, flush pipes and mirrors are also reported on a regular basis, the missing bedroll items in substantial numbers has posed a challenge for the Railways, which is trying to provide better amenities to upper class passengers.

Currently, about 3.9 lakh sets of linen are provided daily — this comprises two bedsheets, a towel, a pillow and a blanket for each passenger in the AC classes.

“The maximum number of items stolen are towels, followed by bedsheets, as reported by coach attendants at the end of each journey,” the official said.

In the light of the thefts, especially of towels, the Railways has decided that the face towels given to passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches will be replaced with cheaper, smaller, disposable, takeaway napkins, said the official.

The Railways has already started changing the cover of blankets in some sections while the frequency of washing is being increased from monthly to fortnightly and weekly.

There is also a move to increase the frequency of washing of blankets to begin with and replacing the existing ones with the newly designed lightweight blankets made of soft fabric in a phased manner.

The plan envisages improvement of linen management with the aim of providing clean, hygienic and good quality linen to passengers travelling in AC classes, the official said.

Among the 16 zones of Indian Railways, the Southern zone alone accounted for the theft of 2,04,113 hand towels, 29,573 bedsheets, 44,868 pillow covers, 3,713 pillows and 2,745 blankets.

In the missing list, South Central zone has registered 95,700 towels, 29,747 pillow covers, 22,323 bedsheets, 3,352 blankets and 2,463 pillows.

In the Northern zone, 85,327 towels, 38,916 bedsheets, 25,313 pillow covers, 3,224 pillows and 2,483 blankets were found missing.

In the East Central zone, 33,234 bedsheets, 22,769 pillow covers, 1,657 pillows, 76,852 towels, and 3,132 blankets were stolen last year.

In the Eastern zone, 1,31,313 towels, 20,258 bedsheets, 9,006 pillow covers, 1,517 pillows and 1,913 blankets were reported missing by attendants after the end of the train journey.

The East Coast railways has registered 43,318 towels, 23,197 bedsheets, 8,060 pillow covers, and 2,260 blankets as missing.

(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at [email protected])

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Lakhs of towels, bedhseets missing from AC coaches – passengers are suspects

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indian-railways

New Delhi, Nov 15: Affluent AC passengers are the prime suspects as over 21 lakh towels, bedsheets, blankets and other items went missing from air-conditioned coaches during 2017-18 an official said.

The passengers are suspected to have made off with precisely 21,72,246 “bedroll items” — including 12,83,415 hand towels, 4,71,077 bedsheets and 3,14,952 pillow covers — from trains across the country in the last fiscal.

Besides, the Railways found 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets missing from the AC coaches in this period.

“Together, the missing items are estimated to cost over Rs 14 crore,” a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.

While the theft of toilet mugs, taps, flush pipes and mirrors are also reported on a regular basis, the missing bedroll items in substantial numbers has posed a challenge for the Railways, which is trying to provide better amenities to upper class passengers.

Currently, about 3.9 lakh sets of linen are provided daily — this comprises two bedsheets, a towel, a pillow and a blanket for each passenger in the AC classes.

“The maximum number of items stolen are towels, followed by bedsheets, as reported by coach attendants at the end of each journey,” the official said.

In the light of the thefts, especially of towels, the Railways has decided that the face towels given to passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches will be replaced with cheaper, smaller, disposable, takeaway napkins, said the official.

The Railways has already started changing the cover of blankets in some sections while the frequency of washing is being increased from monthly to fortnightly and weekly.

There is also a move to increase the frequency of washing of blankets to begin with and replacing the existing ones with the newly designed lightweight blankets made of soft fabric in a phased manner.

The plan envisages improvement of linen management with the aim of providing clean, hygienic and good quality linen to passengers travelling in AC classes, the official said.

Among the 16 zones of Indian Railways, the Southern zone alone accounted for the theft of 2,04,113 hand towels, 29,573 bedsheets, 44,868 pillow covers, 3,713 pillows and 2,745 blankets.

In the missing list, South Central zone has registered 95,700 towels, 29,747 pillow covers, 22,323 bedsheets, 3,352 blankets and 2,463 pillows.

In the Northern zone, 85,327 towels, 38,916 bedsheets, 25,313 pillow covers, 3,224 pillows and 2,483 blankets were found missing.

In the East Central zone, 33,234 bedsheets, 22,769 pillow covers, 1,657 pillows, 76,852 towels, and 3,132 blankets were stolen last year.

In the Eastern zone, 1,31,313 towels, 20,258 bedsheets, 9,006 pillow covers, 1,517 pillows and 1,913 blankets were reported missing by attendants after the end of the train journey.

The East Coast railways has registered 43,318 towels, 23,197 bedsheets, 8,060 pillow covers, and 2,260 blankets as missing.

IANS

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India’s higher education system needs drastic changes to address tech-induced challenges

Further, India’s GER for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups — 21.8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 15.9 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

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education

As the world stands on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by a wide range of new technology breakthroughs such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), advanced robotics, Internet of Things IoT), Cloud computing and 3D printing, major changes are expected in the labour market globally.

There will be reduced demand for middle-skilled workers doing repetitive tasks and increased demand for more highly-skilled workers — and also low-skilled workers doing non-routine work. While many developed countries, such as the US and Japan, as also several European economies, are already experiencing this polarisation, the labour market is also hollowing out in many developing countries, although at a rate slower than the developed world.

In the case of India, this polarisation can be seen in the organised manufacturing sector, where the share of high-skilled occupations in total manufacturing employment increased by more than three percentage points, while the share of middle-skilled jobs decreased by 6.3 percentage points from 1993-94 to 2011-12. Looking at the impact of technological progress on various manufacturing industries, the capital-intensive industries, such as automobile manufacturers, have a greater probability of adopting advanced automation and robotic technologies, compared to labour-intensive manufacturing industries such as textile, apparel, leather and footwear, and paper manufacturers.

Further, in the services sector, particularly in the IT sector, e-commerce, banking and financial services and health care services, there is a huge potential for automation technologies, which would increase the demand for skilled workers and reduce the demand for middle-skilled workers.

However, in India, over 80 per cent of the working population is engaged in low-skilled jobs in the unorganised sector. These low-skilled workers aspire to join the middle-skilled workforce in the organised sector to raise themselves from poverty. However, the changing nature of work due to technology advancements in the organised sector prevents their upward labour mobility and any improvement in their incomes.

Addressing these challenges requires reforms in India’s higher education system. The institutes of higher learning should shun dated teaching methodologies and redesign the course curriculum by understanding key market transitions amidst the technological advancements. This would enable the country to create a workforce which could be placed in the positions demanded by the companies in the digital era and thus bridge the skill gap in the labour market.

However, looking at the current state of higher education in India, one can see that it is not just the quality of the system which needs to be improved. There is also much to be done in terms of the number of students enrolled in the institutes of higher learning. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in tertiary education in India is 26.9 per cent, which is lower than that of China (48.4 per cent), Indonesia (27.9 per cent) and the Philippines (35.3 per cent), among others.

Further, India’s GER for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups — 21.8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 15.9 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

There are also wide variations in the number of colleges for higher education across different states in India, with the lowest number of seven colleges in Bihar for every 0.1 million of eligible population to 51 in Telangana and Karnataka. The top eight states in terms of highest number of colleges are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, which have 28 or more colleges per 0.1 million of the population. The disparity in the distribution of the colleges is also seen across different districts in these states, with the top 50 districts having about 32.6 per cent of the colleges.

In addition to the inequalities existing in the access to institutions for higher education, another issue is that a majority of the students are enrolled in undergraduate level programmes, compared to the Masters and the Doctoral programmes. Moreover, at the undergraduate level, there is a low pass-out rate — out of 2,90,16,350 students enrolled at undergraduate level, only 6,419,639 passed-out in 2017.

It is imperative for the country to address these issues given that the Indian system of higher education faces multiple challenges of low gross enrollment in its colleges and universities, with predominance of students settling on undergraduate studies, along with various socio-economic inequalities existing in access to higher learning. Further, emphasis must be placed on increasing the number of students who pass out of the colleges/universities, along with increasing enrollment numbers.

The technology-induced skill gap which the Indian economy is facing across different sectors is bound to widen with the current higher education system. Change has to be brought from outside the existing constructs. Improvement in the teaching methodology from the traditional lecture courses, accreditation of online courses, along with redesigning the course curriculum to be more industry relevant are some of the ways the technology-led changes in the labour market can be dealt with.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Deepti Mathur, senior researcher at large, Institute for Competitiveness has contributed to the article)

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