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50 Years of ITEC Development Aid Programme

India celebrated 50 years of its unique initiative of sharing its developmental experience gained since its independence with other nations in the form of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, recently. ITEC has helped train thousands of participants from across the world and helped in capacity building of a large number of nations during the five decades of its existence.

Under the ITEC and its sister programme, the Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa Programme (SCAAP), and the Technical Cooperation Scheme of Colombo Plan, more than 160 countries are invited to share in India’s developmental experience.

Speaking at an event to mark the occasion, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said: "The ITEC programme was commenced in 1964 as an expression of India’s solidarity with fellow developing countries of the south. It was started with the belief that developing countries should assist each other, since they traverse similar paths of development and their knowledge and experience would be especially relevant to other fellow developing countries," she said. 

She suggested that the ITEC partner institutions undertake a review of their association with the programme and provide a feedback to the ministry on how the efficacy and impact of the capacity building schemes can be further enhanced. 

Sushma Swaraj also said that work is on to create a new online ITEC portal which will simplify the processing of ITEC applications, provide a platform for ITEC alumni to interact and also provide feedback to the Indian missions and the MEA officials. 

She said: "ITEC alumni are our goodwill ambassadors and it is apt that this important work to e-connect with them is being undertaken in the golden jubilee year." 

In 2013-14, India offered over 10,000 scholarship slots under the ITEC/SCAAP programme. 

There are 47 training institutions in India which run more than 280 training courses in diverse subjects ranging from information technology, public administration to election management, small and medium enterprises, rural development and others. 

Pankaj Advani is world billiards champ

Pankaj Advani decimated England's Robert Hall 1928-893 to win the time format title at the world billiards championship in Leeds, recently. The triumph adds luster to an already eye-popping string of achievements for the 29-year old from Bangalore. 

"This is so special because it was won on my mother's birthday. She is my rock," he said. "I decided to score as much as possible on each visit to try and extend the advantage I had at the halfway mark. I spoke with my brother Shree in the interval and a couple of tips from him did the trick too."  

Three time World champion Michael Ferreira believes his "balance from the time he was a youngster" has been the key to success. "He has tremendous self-belief and is a very spiritual person. Perhaps this gives him a lot of inner strength. His discipline is very good." 

Since winning his first national junior title at the age of 12 in 1997, Advani has been a trailblazer. Ferreira remembers him as a mischievous 10 year old who "imitated the way I played and walked." Today, he is the only player in history to have won both billiards and snooker IBSF world titles and the professional world billiards championships. 

"Sport is not only about ability. It's a combination of mental strength, calmness under pressure and knowing when to be aggressive or defensive. I've reached a stage where I've learnt how to assess a situation quickly and how to deal with it," says Advani.  

"Champions are made in the mind. A lot of people have the same skills," says another champ Geet Sethi. 

ISRO’s ‘Mars-2’ Mission

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning for its second Mars mission, Mars-2 in 2018. The new mission is likely to aim at putting a rover on the distant red planet; capable of performing experiments. I 

SRO is already working on developing new technologies to make the mission successful. Business Today reports that ISRO satellite director, S Shiva Kumar informed reporters in Bangalore. The ISRO game plan entered the next level after it successfully completed the Mars Orbiter Mission, by putting a satellite in Martian orbit on September 24, 2014. 

The Mars-2 will take priority only after ISRO's planned mission to the moon, called 'Chandrayaan-2', scheduled in 2016. The Chandrayaan-2 will carry ISRO's lander and rover to the moon. Space enthusiasts may already know that the opportunity to launch any mission to Mars arrives once every two years and ISRO's booked the 2018 slot. The learnings from the Chandrayaan-2 mission will enable engineers and scientists at ISRO to develop a better lander and rover for Mars. 

Plan to eradicate TB from India by 2020

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday outlined the broad contours of India's new thrust against tuberculosis (TB), stressing that he is determined to eliminate the disease by the year 2020.  

"I am a man in a hurry. While I am all for having a long-term perspective, I am not interested in something that may or may not be achieved in 2035 or 2050," Harsh Vardhan said, while delivering the keynote address at the World Health Organisation's Global TB Symposium here. 

Harsh Vardhan further announced that under the evolving 'TB-Mission 2020', he had instructed officials to work hard to achieve considerable success over the next five years. In his view, he added, a distant target date would not demand of his team the kind of accountability that would be naturally ensured if the objective is brought forward.  

The government has put TB control measures in top gear, with the country going into 'intensive mission mode', which is playing out at the micro levels of the nation, involving local self-government bodies and voluntary sector activists. 

"TB is the by-product of poverty. I strongly believe that TB control should be taken up by all as a development issue. The responsibility of TB control needs to move from doctors to medical administrators and politicians. That I wear all these hats is pure coincidence and, indeed, an opportunity to lessen the suffering of mankind," said the minister. 

Future robots will resemble ostriches, say scientists

In a new study, researchers from Oregon State University, the Royal Veterinary College and other institutions have outlined how running birds have achieved an impressive ability to run while minimizing energy cost, avoiding falls or injury, and maintaining speed and direction. 

Running birds come in an enormous range of sizes, from tiny quails to an ostrich that has 500 times as much body mass. Most, but not all, can fly, but spend most of their lives on the ground, and they don't always look the most graceful when they run and the study found that they maximized the results while keeping their priorities straight - save energy and don't break a leg. In the wild, an injury could lead to predation and death; and in like fashion, when food resources are limited, economy of motion is essential. 

Modern robots, by contrast, are usually built with an emphasis on total stability, which often includes maintaining a steady gait. This can be energy intensive and sometimes limits their mobility. 

What, the scientists said, is that it's okay to deviate from normal steady motions, because it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to fall or break something. Robotic control approaches "must embrace a more relaxed notion of stability, optimizing dynamics based on key task-level priorities without encoding an explicit preference for a steady gait," the researchers said in their conclusion. 

The researchers added that the running robots of the future are going to look a lot less robotic and will be more fluid, like the biological systems in nature. They are not necessarily trying to copy animals, but they do want to match their capabilities. 

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. 

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