Quirky World: 2.3m apply for 300 low-level office jobs in India

India: When a northern Indian state announced a few hundred job openings for low-level office workers who run errands and make tea, they were staggered by the response — 2.3m people applied.

Applicants for the 368 jobs, with the government of Uttar Pradesh — which pay 16,000 rupees (£150) a month — included hundreds with doctorates and other advanced degrees.

Senior administrative officer, Prabhat Mittal, said the state government will conduct a written exam to screen the applicants, because interviewing would take four years.

Package to Mecca

Britain:

One of Britain’s first package holidays was to Mecca, according to a new study published as millions of Muslims prepare to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The Hajj — one of the five pillars of Islam — takes place this week, with Muslims from all over the world due to gather at the sacred site in Saudi Arabia.

But while its significance in the Islamic world is well-known, it also became a feature of British imperial culture.

While modern customers are more likely to book a trip to Tenerife, in the late 19th century Thomas Cook’s premier package tour was the pilgrimage to Mecca, according to a study by John Slight, a fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge.

In the 1880s the colonial government in India found itself under fire, with more of its Muslim subjects than ever travelling to the Arabian Holy City.

British authorities turned to Thomas Cook and Son, which became the official travel agents for the Hajj, in a bid to improve conditions.

The company was called in by the government, in 1886, after a scandal surrounding the near-sinking of a pilgrim ship.

The firm was given a contract to arrange tickets, train journeys, ships and other logistics, enabling Muslims living in India, as subjects of the British Crown, to perform Hajj.

However, the project was shortlived, as, by 1893, the firm had made such a loss that it pulled out.

Timing is everything

Portugal:

Political leaders are promising a lot during campaigning for next month’s general election, but one thing they cannot guarantee is punctuality.

A live radio debate between prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, and the leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Antonio Costa, started late, after the candidates got stuck in traffic.

Three moderators waited on a specially created set, at Lisbon’s Electricity Museum, as photographers and camera crews looked on during the unprecedented, seven-minute delay.

Mr Whippy ‘safe’

Britain:

Tim Farron has declared that “Mr Whippy is safe in my hands”, amid concerns that a Liberal Democrat policy proposal could spell the end for ice-cream vans. At their conference in Bournemouth, the Lib Dems will vote on a policy to reduce air pollution by banning diesel-engined vehicles from running their engines while parked.

A blanket ban could prevent ice-cream vans using their engines to power the freezers and machines that dispense cornets and 99s.

The Sunday Times revealed the unintended consequence of Monday’s vote, but Mr Farron insisted that the Lib Dems did not have an anti-ice cream agenda.

Mr Farron told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “The way we make party policy is through conference. It’s very democratic.

“The aim of that motion is well-intentioned, it’s about making sure that we reduce carbon emissions.

“But targeting idling ice- cream vans is absolutely not on my agenda and we shouldn’t be doing it.”

First on two legs

USA:

A ‘pre-reptile’ that lived 26m years ago may have been the first creature to stand upright on all fours, scientists believe.

Other animals alive during the Permian era are thought to have “sprawled” like lizards.

Analysis of fossil bones belonging to Bunostegos akokanensis showed that it was different to its relatives.

Linda Tsuji, from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada, who helped uncover the African fossils, said: “Imagine a cow-sized, plant-eating reptile with a knobby skull and bony armour down its back.”

The study showed that the creature’s fore-limb shoulder joint was facing down, so that its humerus — the bone running to the elbow — would have been positioned vertically beneath.

Co-author Morgan Turner, from Brown University in the US, said: “The elements and features within the fore-limb bones won’t allow a sprawling posture. That’s unique.”

Learning how to stand on all fours may have been linked to the creature’s habitat.

Walking upright on all fours is more energy-efficient than sprawling and would have made longer journeys between meals possible.

Standing on all fours evolved independently, in reptiles and mammals, several times.


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