India’s first band of winter showers are only a weekend away with rain expected to fall over the states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan and the capital territory of Delhi, all in northern India, skymetweather.com reported this past Friday.
The first few rains to end the dry season are expected to arrive 14 November, the article by Skymet Weather Services reports, as temperatures have noticeably reduced over much of India’s northern plains. According to Skymet, a westerly disturbance (possibly referring to a depression) will take hold over the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir on the 13th of this month, inducing a ‘cyclonic circulation’ of cooler air over neighbouring Haryana and Punjab states, the first signs of the upcoming winter season. Punjab, Haryana and parts of north-west Rajasthan will experience some light to moderate showers by 14 November, reports suggest.
The Indian capital, New Delhi, is expected to see increased cloud cover by the same date, with light rains a possibility there too. The capital is currently experiencing a intense smog, that has caused warnings to be issued on air quality to the city’s residents and schools to be closed. People living in the neighbouring Himalayan areas in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh states are also likely to witness their first snowfalls of winter. Once the depression kicks, the entire northern region of India could see temperature drops of around two to four degrees Celsius, driven mainly by chilled air and icy winds blown south from the Himalayas.
Port Louis – VIJAY SHAH and ABHI RAMSAHAYE via LeDéfi Media Group
A team of fifty pilots from India are being sent to the island of Mauritius to help solve a staff shortage that has brought the island’s national air carrier to its knees, reports local French-language news agency LeDéfi Media Group.
The island’s national and most significant airline, Air Mauritius is currently undergoing a crisis caused by many of its pilots refusing to report for duty, for reasons unknown. Several flights by Air Mauritius have already been cancelled since last Thursday, a serious problem for Mauritius, a popular holiday hotspot and for which tourism is a vital component of its economy.
The Mauritian government, frustrated with the inactivity of some of Air Mauritius’ aviators, has struck a deal with the government of India, an important regional ally, to supply the fifty pilots from Asia, who Le Défi said are now ready and waiting to take orders and man Air Mauritius’ planes. The Indian contingent are currently on standby to take over controls should more Mauritian pilots refuse to enter the cockpit.
Mauritius’ prime minister Pravind Jugnauth condemned the unofficial strike by Air Mauritius’ flight crew, claiming they were betraying the country. The PM said at an inauguration of playing fields in Résidences Briqueterie, Sainte-Croix: “I find it unacceptable that people can act against the interests of Mauritius,”
“There will certainly be repercussions, but they (the airline) have my support,”
The airline’s board of directors have already terminated the employment contracts of three pilots this past Friday. The dismissals were followed by a press statement from the board, in whixch it said it had “taken note of the detailed report presented by management” whose initial conclusions “confirm a premeditated and concerted action”.
The Air Mauritius debacle mirrors a similar situation in Europe, when the Anglo-Irish economy airline Ryanair was forced to cancel hundred of flights after senior management messed up pilot working hour rotas following a change in statutory holiday periods. Also in the UK, another air carrier, Monarch, went into administration with the loss of 1,900 jobs after losing £100 million of profits due to terrorism and the impact of Brexit on the travel economy.
Gorakhpur – VIJAY SHAH via PRABHASH DUTTA and India Today
The latest stage in a series of infant encephalitis outbreaks has claimed the lives of around sixty children in the Indian city of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh state, India Today news magazine reported this Saturday. The city, which lies 200 kilometres north-west of India’s capital New Delhi has been the scene of yearly outbreaks of both Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome since 1978, a period of nearly forty years.
Official figures claim that so far, around 25,000 children have succumbed to both conditions, which is spread by mosquitoes and causes inflammation of the brain and can leave survivors mentally and physically disabled, since the first outbreak in 1978. Unofficially the death toll since then has been claimed to be double that, at 50,000. The unofficial tally includes those children who never made it to hospital and were not officially recorded by doctors. Lack of medical facilities, poor nutrition and hygiene and close contact in crowded family environments in Gorakhpur and other parts of Uttar Pradesh has seen regular encephalitis outbreaks impossible to control.
Government records suggest that since September 2016, 224 children had died of encephalitis at just one hospital, BRD Medical College hospital, where already sixty children died just this year. This is the only hospital within a 300-kilometre radius that has the facilities to treat encephalitis victims, some of which come to the hospital from as far away as Nepal. Most of the victims were below the ages of eight and ten. Including all age ranges, Gorakhpur has lost 114 residents to the lethal diseases this year alone..
Government support of medical facilities and initiatives to combat the outbreak, of which Gorakhpur is the epicentre, have been minimal most of the time. In 2007, a government initiative was launched to save people live’s using drugs imported from China. While successful in many other parts of India, it failed to halt the march of encephalitis in the struggling eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh.
Recently, the Yoga Adityanath administration that governs the northern state launched a massive anti-encephalitis drive, vaccinating babies against catching the illness, but it will be years before results become conclusive, and the yearly sceptre of death is lifted from Gorakhpur’s innocent children.
A photo taken of the murti of Lord Ganesh at the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal festival located in Love Lane, Mazgaon, Mumbai. Devotees of God as Ganesh are getting ready for the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival which commences on the 24th August 2017.
Please allow a few seconds for the embedded tweet and image to load as it may be slower on some browsers/connections.
Auroville, a young city lying around 10 kilometres from the former French colony of Puducherry (Pondicherry), now an Indian union territory, is an important hub of Hindu spirituality, which draws in thousands of people from all over the world. Set deep in the forests straddling the border of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, Auroville’s buildings are laid out in a unique formation reminiscent of the stars of a galaxy. Designed by architect Roger Anger, Auroville takes its name from Sri Aurobindo, a great philosopher and was established in 1968 by The Mother, also known by her birth name Mirra Alfassa, who was a close disciple of Sri Aurobindo and who hailed from France. Auroville came about as a haven from the religious and political strife of the time, and its whole mentality is geared towards serving God and realising the inner self.
One of the main ideas that governs the city is the improvement of personal relations among people, at a time when there was much strife and rivalry, and nowadays it encourages the perfection of people collaborating together as one humanity, and the devotees of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo courageously work together to improve relations between different groups of humanity. Auroville even received recognition in this dynamism from once Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who spoke of the commune’s work in promoting harmony between different cultures and furthering understanding of how coexistence among human beings can help promote spiritual growth.
According to the Census of India 2014, only around 2,300 people live in Auroville, tiny by Indian standards. Around two-thirds originate from India, France and Germany. They are all governed by the civic cardinal rule, unique to Auroville, which states that no political, religious or spiritual organisation should use Auroville as a platform to proselytise for their faith or recruit followers. As a result, there are no political parties or political operations in Auroville, and there is also no concept of private property or money, with the land and homes held under a communal basis, via the auspices of the Auroville Foundation. Auroville also engages with intra-community activities with neighbouring villages and social outreach work.
Unlike the mayor’s office and local councils found in mainstream cities around the world, Auroville is administered by a committee elected by the locals, and residents can support or veto any measures put forward by the committee without having to deal with council red tape. In return, residents are expected to engage in daily programmes of work, for at least five hours a day, seven days a week, either on their own or collectively. When not working, many of Auroville’s inhabitants like to congregate at the Matrimandir to meditate and pray to and honour God, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondicherry.
The outbreak occurred in the town of Gaya in Bihar state, which lies around 100 kilometres from the state capital Patna.
Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is a severe inflammation of the brain caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and brain-dwelling parasites. In adults, AES can cause fever, headaches, confusion, and occassionally, seizures. In children, the most reported symptoms are irritability, poor appetite and drowsiness.
It is not yet known which pathogen is responsible for today’s outbreak.
In June 2014, a similar AES incident in the city of Muzaffarpur, also in Bihar, claimed the lives of 30 people, including several children, which was blamed on poor environmental hygiene and lack of ‘proper food’, according to the Times of India.
India will follow in the steps of Europe and North America by instituting a single number for emergency services as of 1st January 2017, enabling more convenience for the services and the public, the Deccan Herald reports.
As with America’s ‘911’ and the U.K.’s 999 services, Indian citizens looking to report a crime or incident will be able to dial ‘112’ to give them direct access to the fire brigade, ambulance service and the police, and this will be operational as of the first day of next year, a senior governmental official told the country’s Press Trust of India (PTI). The new easy to dial number has been formally approved by Telecoms Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
112 will be available even to mobile phones and landlines that are out of coverage, low on credit or that are barred from making outgoing calls. Currently, the emergency services are contactable via different numbers. To dial the police, callers must use 100, for the fire brigade, it is 101. Ambulances are reached through the number 102 and Emergency Disaster Management crews are contacted via 108. Having 112 as a single number to cover all the services will greatly improve response times and co-ordination between emergency responders in the nation of 1 billion people.
The unnamed official told PTI: “Telecom operators have been asked to direct all emergency calls to 112. The process to direct calls made on to 112 to concerned departments is being worked out,”
“At present, there are call centres which handle emergency number calls. They will be asked to handle calls on 112 as well. Besides, requirement of additional capacity is being worked out which will be in place by January 1,”
People will also be able to contact emergency services by texting 112, and operators will be able to obtain their location via their mobile signal. The telecoms ministry also plans to bring in an associated ‘panic button’ system which will be made compulsory for all mobile handsets sold in India as of 2017, the Herald reports. GPS navigation systems will also be made compulsory on all handsets to enable emergency services to trace callers in distress.
All calls to the police and others will be routed through a call centre with operators on hand who will be able to take calls and texts in English, Hindi and regional languages such as Gujarati and Tamil.
A new round of talks on commerce and security between South Asian neighbours and bitter enemies India and Pakistan, designed to facilitate links and friendship has ground to a halt over tensions during the high-level government meetings, the Voice of America reported yesterday.
In Pakistan‘s capital Islamabad, the Pakistani delegation called off the talks after the two sides began ‘trading barbs’ over the meeting’s agenda, VOA reports. The national security advisors of both countries were due to meet in India‘s capital New Delhi today and tomorrow, but the reluctance of the two nations to step away from their pre-conditions for the meetings has hampered dialogue.
The Indian position wanted the bilateral talks to focus on cross-border terrorism, in particular incursions of Pakistan-sponsored militants across the heavily fortified border of the disputed region of Kashmir. They wanted assurances that Pakistan would rein in the militants and help maintain peace in the restive northern region. Pakistan however, wanted to also communicate on other issues, in particular resolving the Kashmir dispute which has seen the two neighbours go to war three times since their joint independence in 1947 after the dismantling of the British Raj.
The foreign affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj, told her opposite number, NSA adviser Sartaj Aziz that he could only participate in the New Delhi phase of the talks if he was prepared to address the terrorism issue.
“If you want to come, I have two messages for you,” Swaraj told Aziz via a press conference in the Indian capital. “Don’t create a third partner, the talks should be between India and Pakistan. And keep them limited to terrorism. If you do so, you are welcome to come.”
The ‘third partner’ that the Indian foreign minister was referring to are the numerous Kashmiri separatist factions such as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who are agitating for complete independence for Kashmir or its annexation to Pakistan. Pakistan itself had originally invited leaders of the region’s separatist factions to meet with Sartaj Aziz before Aziz was to travel to New Delhi to meet the Indians, angering Indian politicians whose patience has been worn thin from separatist agitated violence in the Kashmir area over the past fifteen years or so.
A previous round of meeting with separatists from Kashmir by the Pakistanis caused India to call off talks between their foreign secretaries. Pakistan considers the Kashmiris to be ‘legitimate stakeholders’ in the ongoing debate over their region’s status, and has met with them as a matter of course for many years. India in turn regards the separatists as troublemakers and their position is that Kashmir and the wider Jammu and Kashmir state is an integral part of India without dispute. India regards the meetings between Pakistan and the Kashmiris as a violation of the 1972 Shimla Agreement, a document that implores both sides to bilaterally settle their differences.
The security meeting was a follow-up to a previous Indo-Pak meeting which took place in Ufa, in the Bashkiria region of Russia. On the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Council summit, which was taking place at the same time, the prime ministers of the two nations reached an agreement to discuss bi-national security arrangements and issues.
Both sides accused each other of trying to re-interpret that agreement and violating its spirit.
“We were clear that if we say all outstanding issues then Kashmir is included… Ask anyone sitting here what is the biggest outstanding issue between the two countries, everybody will say Kashmir,” Aziz said referring to the joint communiqué issued at the Ufa meeting.
“All outstanding issues will be discussed once violence and terrorism end. This meeting was supposed to discuss how to end those,” Swaraj retorted. The foreign minister also said that Aziz had not referenced the communiqué properly, only referring to what was noted in its preamble, rather than the main actionable body of the document from Ufa. Tensions over the exact agenda of the NSA meeting were further exacerbated by recent incidents of cross-border firing between Indian and Pakistani troops over the Line of Control, which separates Pakistani-occupied Kashmir from India’s autonomous Jammu and Kashmir state.
The good news is that despite the tensions over cross-border terrorism and security concerns, India and Pakistan have said that the talks will still continue, and despite the hard-hitting rhetoric between Swaraj and Aziz, the door has been left open for further negotiations between the Asian subcontinent’s two largest nations. According to Sartaj Aziz, however it is too early to say if the parties will meet again on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session to be held in New York next month.
Swaraj in turn commented of her hope that talks will persist, stating to the VOA that despite the difficult and complicated Indo-Pak relationship, the two sides have had worse falling-outs and was confident the problems could be negotiated.
“In diplomacy, there’s never a full stop, only commas or semi-colons,” she said.