NEET 2017: Tamil Nadu makes ‘last effort’ to exempt its students from entrance

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TN Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan on Monday made the “final effort” to approach the centre to ask for the state’s exemption from the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) 2017. The ministers met Union Health Minister JP Nadda and Minister of State at the PMO Jitendra Singh to discuss the issue.

“As a final effort, Vijayabaskar met Nadda and Singh to pressure them for an exemption for Tamil Nadu from the National Entrance Cum Eligibility Test (NEET),” an official release said, adding that this comes after several efforts by Tamil Nadu ministers to convince the centre, including meetings with CM K Palaniswami, PM Narendra Modi and other officials.

The medical entrance exam had been made compulsory last year for those seeking admission to medical colleges in the country. Since then, the exam has been subject to a number of changes and has seen numerous protests. Tamil Nadu has sought exemption from NEET on the argument that students from the state will be at a disadvantage compared to students studying at schools affiliated with central boards upon which the NEET syllabus is based.

The assembly had passed two bills in February so that undergraduate medical admissions can continue on the basis of class 12 marks instead of NEET.

How we believe meat is raised may influence its taste: Study

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Our beliefs about how animals are raised – whether on ‘factory farms’ or in more humane conditions – can shape our meat eating experience and influence its taste, a new study has found.

Researchers from Northeastern University in the US paired identical meat samples with different descriptions and then reported on participants’ eating experiences.

They found that meat samples paired with descriptions of animals raised on factory farms looked, smelled and tasted less pleasant to study participants than meat samples paired with descriptions of animals raised on humane farms.

Participants’ beliefs also influenced their perceived flavour of the meat and the amount of meat they consumed, suggesting that beliefs can actually influence eating behaviour.

The findings align with an emerging body of research that shows that our beliefs can influence how we evaluate food.

Wine, for instance, tastes better if we think it is expensive – even if the fine vintage we have been told we are drinking is really a cheap knock-off from a corner store, researchers said.

“We show that what you feel very directly influences not only how you interpret what you see but also very literally what you see,” said Lisa Feldman Barrett from Northeastern University.

“We call this ‘affective realism’ – the tendency of your feelings to influence the actual content of your perceptual experience,” said Barrett.

The findings suggest that anyone interested in creating things, from a chef to a filmmaker to a designer should consider how beliefs influence the user experience.

In the first experiment, study participants were asked to consume two identical samples of organic beef jerky, each of which was paired with a different label describing a different kind of farm on which cattle were raised.

Researchers found that study participants ranked the factory farmed meat sample as less pleasant along all measured consumption categories, including appearance, smell, taste and overall enjoyment.

In the second experiment, each study participant sampled only one of four identical roast beef samples, each of which was paired with a newly created description.

The third experiment tested whether beliefs about how animals are raised can influence basic sensory properties of flavor, including perceived saltiness and sweetness.

Researchers found that the descriptions influenced the flavour ratings of the ham sample.

Participants reported that factory farmed ham tasted saltier, greasier, and less fresh than humanely raised ham.

“Beliefs are really powerful. Words are really powerful.They influence what you do, often in surprising ways,” said Barrett.

The findings were published in the journal PLoS ONE.

For the University of Mumbai, at 160, it’s time to introspect

Mumbai University is the administrative body for 777 colleges and about 7 lakh students.

A liberal education aims at the ‘making of men’, said Sir Raymond West, vice-chancellor of the University of Bombay, speaking in the convocation address in July 1882. “It [education] is not to be diverted into a process of manufacturing human tools wonderfully adroit in the exercise of some technical industry, but good for nothing else,” added West.

His words are interesting to revisit as the University of Mumbai (MU) turns 160 this month.

The former VC would probably have had some things to say about how the university has conducted exams and admissions in recent times. It has also messed up schedules and delayed results. Last year, the Mumbai University ranked 68 among 421 institutions among BRICS nations according to rankings agency Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Amongst 724 institutes nationally, it ranks between 151 and 200, in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) released by India’s human resources development ministry in April.

Think of a prominent Mumbaiite, and chances are she or he studied here.

Nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha; reformer Lokmanya Tilak; Morarji Desai, the fifth prime minister of India; Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, passed through these gates. More recently, so did industrialist Adi Godrej; Wipro founder Azim Premji; jurist Nani Palkhivala and ICICI Bank CMD Chanda Kochhar.

“The MU is one of the three oldest in the country,” says Naresh Chandra, former pro-vice chancellor of the university who now serves as principal of Birla College, Kalyan. “The largest number of NAAC-accredited A-grade colleges fall under MU.” These include St Xavier’s, Ruia, Ruparel colleges and more.

Established in 1857 and initially spread over a single 243 acre campus in south Mumbai, MU now operates across campuses in Kalina, Thane, Ratnagiri and Kalyan. It is the administrative body for 777 colleges and more than 7 lakh students, says Leeladhar Bansod, the university’s deputy registrar. At the undergraduate level, courses are offered in subjects ranging from management studies to law, architecture, aviation and physical education. It also runs 58 post-graduate programmes ranging from applied psychology to nanotechnology.

Changing times need a change of pace and approach. “One of the key issues for students of the 21st century is student engagement,” says Rajan Welukar, former vice-chancellor of MU. “The moment you engage them, learning happens automatically in the classroom and outside it. For this net-savvy generation, what is needed is creating the experience around such easily accessible content.” MA Khan, registrar of the MU says, “The current administration has initiatives to increase transparency and automation. ”

Indu Shahani, educationist and former principal of HR College, says that much of the university’s good standing comes from the staff and students. “Eighty to ninety percent of students in MU travel from the suburbs for higher education. They are very self-motivated,” she says. “They make things happen no matter what.”

“Today, a generation lasts not 20 years, but 5. Newer courses when added, must be centered around the learner, ” says Snehlata Deshmukh, former vice-chancellor of MU.

Shahani adds that the university has been able to meet the needs of its students well. Its B.Com courses have offered specialisations such as Banking and Insurance, and Accounting and Finance. It also introduced Bachelor of Mass Media and Management Studies courses in the early 2000s.

But much more needs to be done. “When exam reforms are added, the process has to be set in motion at least two years in advance,” says Snehlata Deshmukh, former vice-chancellor of MU.

Quick decisions have resulted in delays in results and mix-ups during exams.

Deshmukh also says that the curriculum be revised more frequently. “Today, a generation lasts not 20 years, but 5,” she says. “Newer courses when they are added, they must be centered around the learner.”

Despite West’s view, the curriculum needs to help students face a changing workplace. “The jobs of the future will be in fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, design thinking, virtual reality, and data analytics,” says Shahani.

“Data is going to be the next generation’s oil.” It’s time the institution started planning for tomorrow.


H1N1 virus claims its first victim in Navi Mumbai this year

H1N1 influenza has claimed its first victim of the year in Navi Mumbai as a 44 year-old truck driver from Rabale succumbed to the viral fever. According to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s health department, Shahaji Dhondiram Dangade, a resident of Katkari Pada, who was admitted to DY Patil hospital, Nerul on June 30, was tested positive. He succumbed on July 7.

“According to the hospital records, Dangade was a truck driver who made regular trips en-route Gujarat and Pune. After one such trip, he complained of uneasiness and breathless and was admitted at DY Patil hospital. But his condition deteriorated. He was also suffering from liver ailments. He was put on ventilator, but he passed away last week,” said medical officer Dr Deepak Paropkari.

The department has issued reminders to private hospitals to provide immediate updates about patients being treated for swine flu. The notice is in response to the delay observed from DY Patil hospital in informing about the death. “The health department was informed about the death only three days ago. So a reminder letter was issued on Saturday to all private hospitals to have the system in place to update NMMC at the earliest,” an NMMC officer said.

The NMMC administration has decided to intensify its awareness programme. “Since this infection spreads through air droplets, residents are being advised to cover nose and mouth while coughing and avoid going to crowded places,” said medical officer Dr Ujawala Otukar. While H1N1 infection ebbs in rainy season, this year has been different. Mumbai, which registered less than 10 cases last year, listed 484 cases between January 1 and July 1 as well as 16 deaths.

Does your child grind her teeth in sleep? It’s a sign she is being bullied at school

Teeth-grinding in teenagers during sleep could be a sign that they are being bullied at school, a study suggests.

The study by an oral health charity in the UK found that adolescents who suffer from bullying are far more likely to grind their teeth in their sleep, a sign which could help parents identify victimised children sooner.

The research, published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, found that teenagers who were subjected to verbal bullying in school were almost four times as likely to suffer from sleep bruxism (65%) compared to those who were not (17%).

Sleep bruxism is when you grind your teeth in your sleep and over time can lead to major oral health problems, including migraines, sensitive and worn teeth, chipped or cracked teeth, loosing of teeth and severe oral pain. It may lead to irreparable damage.

Over time, sleep bruxism can lead to major oral health problems, including migraines, sensitive and worn teeth, chipped or cracked teeth, loosening of teeth and severe oral pain. (Shutterstock)

The researchers urge parents, carers and schools to be alert to students complaining of oral health problems and symptoms related to bruxism as a signifier of them being bullied so that they can help tackle the issue.

“Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact, and when experienced in childhood, can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood,” said Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, which carried the study.

The researchers urge parents, carers and schools to be alert to students complaining of oral health problems and symptoms related to bruxism as a signifier of them being bullied.

“Grinding teeth may not sound like priority within the wider picture but it could prove to give a vital insight into a child’s state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage,” said Carter.

“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress, and bullying is a significant contributor here,” he said.

A fresh coat of paint, better plumbing and drinking water: How 5 teachers gave a Rajasthan school, and its students, a new life

When she joined the Girls’ Upper Primary School (GUPS) in Alwar’s Shivaji Park in December 2016, Hemlata Sharma, 47, had been teaching for 27 years. This was her first posting as head teacher and never before had she been so appalled by the condition of the school.

Classrooms leaked in the rain, plaster peeled off the wall. The entire building was in a state of disrepair and housed just 100 students from classes 1 to 8.

Sharma took up a challenge to bring the school back to life before the next academic session in July and roped in four other teachers for support.

Pleasing seating areas, space for interaction: The old school now is all bright and cheerful (HT Photo)

Within four months, things changed – the walls were painted in bright colours, the classrooms spruced up and a lawn laid out in front. An underground rainwater recharge tank, an RO plant for drinking water, and new furniture in all classrooms were also added. Leakages were plugged.

Just 15 days after schools opened, enrolment went up to 202. Some admissions were pending clearance for lack of Aadhaar and birth certificates.

Sharma was also determined to do something about Rajasthan’s high school dropout rate. The 2016 Annual Status of Education Report survey of schooling and learning levels in rural India ranks the state among the top three with the highest dropout rates in children aged 11 to 14 (5% among all-India average of 3.5%). To get more children to her school, she turned to her family for donation to start repairs.

A garden has been laid out for the children to play in. (HT Photo)

“I asked my sisters, brother and father for money and collected Rs 40,000 from them. After that I went to my teachers,” said Sharma, who added Rs 11,000 from her savings into the school renovation kitty.

Manju Rani Sharma, who retired on May 31, donated Rs 21,000 as a parting gift to the school. Three other teachers – Sanika Sharma, Sashi Singhal and Kavita Sharma – also donated to take the teachers’ contribution Rs 51,000.

After collecting about Rs 1 lakh, the teachers began work. For changing the infrastructure, Sharma met district Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan officials, who, impressed by her efforts, sanctioned Rs 2 lakh more.

Sanika Sharma, who will retire in June next year, said they approached philanthropists in town for furniture in classrooms and free uniforms for students.

On June 8 this year, the teachers distributed among 170 students a new uniform set and a pair of shoes and socks.

Clean water, waste disposal – the school has now got new, upgraded facilities. (HT Photo)

“It was on that day that I proposed to my colleagues that teachers should wear uniform to school to enforce discipline – and the teachers agreed,” said Sharma.

Now the students wear brown trousers and skirts and light brown shirts, and the teachers wear off-white salwar and dupatta and maroon kurta.

Two teenagers who passed Class 12 recently come in regularly to teach junior school students to make up for shortage of teachers. “Parul and Priyanka, twin daughters of school management committee president Kusum Rohilla, are coming to school since June 22 after two of the five teachers got transferred out,” the head teacher said.

The two girls are in the first year of college.

Recently, Imran Khan from Alwar, who was lauded by PM Narendra Modi at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2015 for creating apps for the benefit of students, got the school four computers and a printer.

It’s a Wrap

Gurgaon-based food researcher and consultant Pritha Sen talks about how momos went on to become a popular street food in India

Could you please talk about how momos became a popular snack in India?

After the 1959 Tibetan uprising, a large number of refugees arrived in Delhi. As with refugees from any culture, the entrepreneurial lot set up local businesses, especially around food. I remember going to the Tibetan dhaba in the settlement near the Delhi University where a plateful of momos were sold for as less as Rs 2 along with a bowl of soup. You could have as much soup as you wanted. They also sold thukpas alongside, which were heavier soups served with noodles, meat and vegetables. Momos, in comparison, were steamed, with a filling of meat or veggies and came with that warm and light soup. They were nourishing and could be had as a snack or even make for a full meal. Also, these wholesome and healthy meals were made in front of your eyes so you knew they were fresh.

Many regional Indian cuisines have both sweet and savoury dumplings. What worked in favour of momos?

Most Indian dumplings are traditionally sweet. But momos could have either a meat or a vegetarian filling. Initially, momos weren’t street food for the masses. Back then, the intellectual, jhola types would savour these, making the momo joints an adda kind of a space. But they appealed to the Indian palate because Indians, who had a taste for the Chinese cuisine, could have them bland, just as they were made, or spice them up with the sauce if that’s how they liked it. Once fried, they were almost like samosas or kachoris. Soon it became cool to have momos over chhole bhature at a streetside eatery.

Their popularity isn’t limited to cities. We see momos being sold in many hill stations, such as Manali.

These also became a popular food in hillstations because a number of Tibetan refugees moved there and momos were a warming but light meal. In Kolkata (Calcutta then), come winter, many Tibetans would leave Darjeeling and Sikkim to set up shop along the streets, selling woollens and momos. Soon these became permanent shacks. In the hills, it is quite usual to find yak meat or pork momos flavoured with animal fat, which is warming in a cold climate . This is why the momos in the hills taste a lot better than those in the cities. Over time, the animal fat in momos was done away with. And today, cities like Delhi have centralised momo kitchens from where vendors pick up their supply and set up stalls across.

Last week, Ramesh Arora, the BJP MLC in Jammu and Kashmir, called for a ban on momos for the use of ajinomoto in them. Your views?

But it’s unlikely that the Tibetans use that in their preparation. The tough terrain and weather of Tibet made it impossible for the locals to grow anything there. Leave alone import such taste enhancers. Tibet has always been a trading society, bringing in supplies such as flours and other grains, from countries like India. It’s also why the Tibetan food is very simple and basic, and unlike dim sums, which are Chinese, momos have always been made from from flours like maida and atta.

Also, the use of ajinimoto is fairly recent in Japanese and Chinese cuisine. It’s much like garam masala, which is common with rise in affluence. Similarly, ajinimoto is not part of any rural cuisine, and is unlikely to have been used by Tibetans to prepare momos. Today while they may use it, all Chinese eateries and fast food joints use it. Like local eateries use cheap red chemical colouring for tandoori chicken or the very very harmful metanil yellow for biryanis. So, why are momos being singled out?

This Website Is Selling All Its Beauty Products For $3

If you love to whip out your Urban Decay Naked Palette and Glossier Boy Brow on the subway for strangers to gawk at, this beauty brand is not for you. But if you couldn’t give a shit about what your products look like — as long as they work and stay within your budget — we’ve got some good news. Enter: Brandless.

Brandless is a website that exclusively sells its own manufactured products in all categories for $3 — no more, no less. The private label sells everything from food to home goods, but there’s also a solid beauty section we can’t ignore.
On the site you can find facial lotion, lip balm, hand cream, body lotion, hand soap, cotton rounds, and cotton balls all for the same low, low price of $3. Sure, the variety is lacking, but rumor has it the website is only getting started, so the range is only going to get more expansive. Even better, most of the products — including food — are organic, gluten free, GMO-free, and rid of every harsh chemical in the book (see ya sulfates and phthalates).
Sounds too good to be true, right? We don’t disagree. The cheap price comes with some suspicion. Since it’s a private label, online-only brand it’s able to forego what the brand calls a BrandTax. Brandless explains this as “the hidden costs you pay for a national brand. We’ve been trained to believe these costs increase quality, but they rarely do.” And while the answer is a bit vague and raises even more questions (how can safe, simple products be made at such an absurdly low price?) we’re eager to find out more.
We’ve reached out to the brand for more information and will update this story as soon as we find out more. And we’ll be testing the products in the coming weeks to give you our unfiltered opinion on them.

OnePlus 5 Speed Test Shows 6GB RAM Variant Holds Its Own Against 8GB Model

The OnePlus 5, which was recently launched in India, boasted of some top-of-the line specs that looked to challenge flagship smartphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung. Apart from the dual rear camera setup, the OnePlus 5 also highlights an 8GB RAM variant. While many feel that 8GB of RAM in a smartphone is a bit of an overkill, OnePlus clearly felt differently. But just how much of performance difference does is there in comparison to the 6GB of RAM variant? A YouTube channel tries to find out.

We already know that the 8GB variant of the OnePlus 5 is blazing fast after seeing a speed test videowhere it beat the iPhone 7 Plus. But for those curious to know just how much faster the OnePlus 5 with 8GB of RAM is compared to the 6GB model, a YouTube video recently posted by Timmers EM1 pitted the two against each other in a real life benchmark, launching the apps first and then reopening them from memory.

OnePlus 5 Speed Test Shows 6GB RAM Variant Holds Its Own Against 8GB Model

From the video, one can conclude that both the 8GB + 128GB Midnight Black variant of the OnePlus 5 and the 6GB + 64GB Slate Grey model are pretty similar when it comes to load times. Both are extremely fast and fluid when freshly opening the apps and it’s mostly hard to tell them apart from a few instances when the 6GB model doesn’t quite keep up.

When testing multitasking or loading the apps once again from memory, both responded snappily, although with apps like Amazon and eBay, the 6GB variant had to refresh the page a bit. On a second try (and with one additional game), the 6GB variant started reloading a number of apps all over again while the 8GB model had all the apps intact in memory. Despite that, both the models managed to keep a large number of apps in memory which is pretty impressive.

In our review of the 6GB model, we found that switching between the apps to be extremely smooth and the smartphone excels at gaming and media playback. Our review also pegged the OnePlus 5 6GB RAM variant versus the 8GB RAM variant in synthetic benchmarks like AnTuTu, GeekBench, and 3DMark, and the results were neck to neck, with 6GB RAM variant sometimes even trouncing its better endowed counterpart.

In conclusion, both the OnePlus 5 variants do extremely well at loading apps and a slight lag with the 6GB OnePlus 5 should not be a cause for concern and will likely be the more popular choice when considering that it’s Rs. 5,000 cheaper than the 8GB model.

GST Effect: Tata Motors Announces Price Reduction For Its Commercial Vehicle Range

Having extended the GST benefits for its passenger vehicle customers, Tata Motors has now announced that it will be extending benefits under the new tax slab towards its commercial vehicle business as well. Following the roll out of GST, the company has decided to pass on the entire benefit to customers on the ex-showroom prices. Tata’s commercial vehicle range for cargo with a price reduction between 0.3 per cent and 4.21 per cent, while commercial vehicles for passenger transportation will see a reduction between 0.6 per cent and 8.2 per cent.

In a statement, Tata Motors – Head of Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, Girish Wagh said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the initiative by the Union Government for introducing GST thereby bringing in one uniform tax across the country. This will bring about significant gains to the country’s economy and advantages for the stakeholders while enhancing the ease of doing business. We are confident that the post-GST price reduction will enable the customers to bring down their cost of operations and in turn, boost demand.”


The reduction in prices should help Tata Motors’ efforts towards improving commercial vehicle sales. The company recorded positive numbers in June 2017 on a month-on-month basis. While sales were still 2 per cent lower when compared to June 2016, it was a sign of growth for the automaker having seen dwindling numbers back-to-back in the first half of this year. The improved sales were cited due to ramp up in the production of BS-IV vehicles and the overall production increase across different segments.

With respect to passenger vehicle sales, Tata Motors witnessed a drop of 5 per cent in June 2017, after what has been a largely positive year for the carmaker. The company cited uncertainty over the new GST norms as the main reason for its drop in sales. However, with an overall price reduction across its passenger vehicles, expect volumes to pick up once again. The Indian carmaker is also gearing up to introduce its much awaited Nexon subcompact SUV around the festive season.