Mahatma Gandhi’s Grandson Bows Out Of Indian Presidential Race

(FILES) The grandson of India’s independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, Gopalkrishna, has dropped out of the race to become president after his name was proposed by an alliance of opposition parties in June 2022. (Photo by Deshakalyan CHOWDHURY / AFP)

 

 

The grandson of India’s independence leader Mahatma Gandhi has dropped out of the race to become president after his name was proposed by an alliance of opposition parties.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, 77, a diplomat turned politician said he had declined the request of the 17-party alliance to be their nominee for the largely ceremonial role.

“I am most grateful to them. But having considered the matter deeply I see that the Opposition’s candidate should be one who will generate a national consensus and a national atmosphere beside Opposition unity,” Gandhi said in a statement on Monday.

National and state lawmakers are slated to vote on a new president on July 18.

The Indian head of state enjoys certain constitutional powers but largely acts on the advice of the government, making it more of a titular position.

But agreeing on a candidate and getting him or her elected would be a symbolic victory for India’s splintered opposition after eight years of rule by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP is likely to announce its own candidate this week and may again put forward the incumbent, Ram Nath Kovind, a member of India’s marginalised Dalit community, to serve another term.

Gandhi, who was governor of West Bengal state between 2004 and 2009 after being appointed by the then-ruling Congress party, ran for vice-president in 2017 but lost out to a BJP candidate.

The paternal grandson of India’s freedom movement icon is considered a vocal critic of Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies and has accused the government of crushing dissent in the world’s largest democracy.

Gandhi is the third person to decline an offer by the opposition to be their candidate.

The Gandhi dynasty of assassinated former prime ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, and of current opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, are descended from India’s first premier Jawaharlal Nehru and not from Mahatma Gandhi.

Indian Commercial Jet Makes Safe Landing After Engine Fire

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world.
India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world.

 

A New Delhi-bound flight carrying 185 passengers made an emergency landing on Sunday in the eastern Indian city of Patna, after its left engine caught fire while in flight, officials said.

The passengers aboard the domestic flight, operated by commercial carrier SpiceJet, were evacuated safely once the pilot returned to Patna airport shortly after take-off.

“The flight returned to Patna airport after locals (on the ground) noticed a fire on the left wing of the aircraft and informed airport officials,” district magistrate Chandrashekhar Singh told reporters.

“All 185 passengers were safely deboarded. Reason for the fire is a technical glitch. The engineering team is analysing,” Singh added.

A passenger told reporters that there was a lot of noise heard on board the plane in the first 15 minutes after take-off.

“The pilot announced there was some problem and that we would be going back to Patna…. it was quite scary,” said Pacifica, who gave only one name.

A bird hitting the engine may have sparked the fire, local news broadcaster NDTV quoted aviation sources as saying.

The no-frills SpiceJet airline has been in the news in recent weeks, with aviation authorities imposing a fine of one million Indian rupees (about 12,830 US dollars) for training its Boeing 737 MAX pilots on a faulty simulator.

In April, authorities barred 90 SpiceJet pilots from operating that aircraft, saying they were not properly trained, according to local media reports.

AFP

Two Killed In India Protests Over Remarks Against Prophet

Pakistani traders demonstrate to condemn derogatory references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad recently made by Nupur Sharma, a spokesperson of the governing Indian Hindu nationalist party, Friday, June 10, 2022, in Lahore, Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

 

 

Indian police shot dead two protesters and arrested more than 130 others during street rallies sparked by a ruling party official’s remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, authorities told AFP Saturday.

There have been widespread protests in the Muslim world since last week, when a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party commented on the relationship between the prophet and his youngest wife on a TV debate show.

In India and neighbouring countries, Muslims took to the streets in huge numbers after Friday prayers to condemn the remarks, with police firing on a crowd in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi.

“Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters… resulting in the death of two,” a police officer in Ranchi told AFP.

Officers said that the crowd had defied their orders not to march from a mosque to a market and had thrown broken bottles and stones when police attempted to disperse the rally with a baton charge.

Authorities cut internet connections in the city and imposed a curfew, with local resident Shabnam Ara telling AFP the atmosphere remained tense on Saturday.

“We are praying for peace and harmony,” she said.

Police in Uttar Pradesh fired tear gas to disperse at least one rally after several demonstrations were staged across the northern Indian state.

Most protests ended peacefully but demonstrators in some cities threw stones at police and injured at least one officer, said Avanish Awasthi, a senior government secretary in the state.

“We will take strict action against those indulging in stone pelting and violence,” Awasthi told reporters.

“Those working behind the scenes, instigating violence, will not be spared at all.”

Prashant Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told AFP that up to “136 protesting miscreants” had been arrested from six districts around Uttar Pradesh.

Cities around India saw sizable demonstrations on Friday, with some crowds burning effigies of Nupur Sharma — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokeswoman whose comments set off the furore.

Authorities also cut internet services for the weekend in several districts near the eastern megacity of Kolkata, after protesters blocked a railway line and mobbed a police station.

– Diplomatic storm –
Sharma’s remarks have embroiled India in a diplomatic storm, with the governments of nearly 20 countries calling in Indian envoys for an explanation.

Since coming to power nationally in 2014, Modi’s government and the BJP have been accused of championing discriminatory policies towards followers of the Islamic faith.

His government proposed a controversial law that granted citizenship to refugees in India, but not if they are Muslim, while state BJP governments have passed laws making it harder for Muslims to marry outside their religion.

The foreign ministry last week rebuked US officials for what India termed “ill-informed” and “biased” comments made during the release of a religious freedom report that accused Indian officials of supporting attacks on minority worshippers.

Sharma’s comments sent the BJP into damage control, with the party suspending her from its ranks and issuing a statement saying it respected all religions.

Friday saw the biggest South Asian street rallies yet in response to the remarks, with police estimating more than 100,000 people mobilised across Bangladesh after midday prayers.

Another 5,000 people took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Lahore at the call of a radical religious party, demanding that their government take stronger action against India over the comments.

The row follows anger across the Muslim world in 2020 after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right of a satirical magazine to publish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in October 2020 by a Chechen refugee after showing the cartoons to his class in a lesson on free speech. Images of the prophet are strictly forbidden in Sunni Islam.

Hindu Extremists Target Muslim Sites In India, Even Taj Mahal

Members of security personnel stand guard behind a perimeter fence at the Taj Mahal in Agra on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Pawan SHARMA / AFP)

 

 

 

Thirty years after mobs demolished a historic mosque in Ayodhya, triggering a wave of sectarian bloodshed that saw thousands killed, fundamentalist Indian Hindu groups are eyeing other Muslim sites — even the world-famous Taj Mahal.

Emboldened under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aided by courts and fuelled by social media, the fringe groups believe the sites were built on top of Hindu temples, which they consider representations of India’s “true” religion.

Currently most in danger is the centuries-old Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, where Hindus are cremated by the Ganges.

Last week reports claimed a leaked court-mandated survey of the mosque had discovered a shivalinga, a phallic representation of the Hindu god Shiva, at the site.

“This means that is the site of a temple,” government minister Kaushal Kishore, a member of Modi’s BJP party, told local media, saying that Hindus should now pray there.

Muslims have already been banned from performing ablutions in the water tank where the alleged relic — mosque authorities say it is a fountain — was found.

 

A member of security personnel stands guard behind a perimeter fence at the Taj Mahal in Agra on May 20, 2022. – Thirty years after mobs demolished a historic mosque in Ayodhya, triggering a wave of sectarian bloodshed that saw thousands killed, fundamentalist Indian Hindu groups are eyeing other Muslim sites — even the world-famous Taj Mahal. (Photo by Pawan SHARMA / AFP)

 

 

Religious riots

The fear now is that the Islamic place of worship will go the way of the Ayodhya mosque, which Hindu groups believe was built on the birthplace of Ram, another deity.

The frenzied destruction of the 450-year-old building in 1992 sparked religious riots in which more than 2,000 people died, most of them Muslims, who number 200 million in India.

The demolition was also a seminal moment for Hindutva — Hindu supremacy — paving the way for Modi’s rise to power in 2014.

The movement’s core tenet has long been that Hinduism is India’s original religion, and that everything else — from the Mughals, originally from Central Asia, to the British — is alien.

Some groups have even set their sights on UNESCO world heritage site the Taj Mahal, India’s best-known monument attracting millions of visitors every year.

Despite no credible evidence, they believe that the 17th-century mausoleum was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan on the site of a Shiva shrine.

“It was destroyed by Mughal invaders so that a mosque could be built there,” Sanjay Jat, spokesman for the hardline organisation Hindu Mahasabha, told AFP.

This month a court petition was filed by a member of Modi’s party trying to force India’s archaeological body, the ASI, to open up 20 rooms inside, believing they contained Hindu idols.

The ASI said there were no such idols and the court summarily dismissed the petition.

But it was not the first such case — and it is unlikely to be the last.

“I will continue to fight for this till my death,” Jat said.

“We respect the courts but if needed we will demolish the Taj and prove the existence of a temple there.”

‘Gospel truth’

Audrey Truschke, an associate professor of South Asian history with Rutgers University, said the claims about the Taj Mahal are “about as reasonable as the proposals that the Earth is flat”.

“So far as I can discern, there is not a coherent theory about the Taj Mahal at play here so much as a frenzied and fragile nationalist pride that does not allow anything non-Hindu to be Indian and demands to erase Muslim parts of Indian heritage,” she told AFP.

But while the demolition of the Taj Mahal remains — for now, at least — a pipe-dream of the fundamentalists, other sites are also in the crosshairs.

They include the Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura, built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after he attacked the city and destroyed its temples in 1670.

The mosque is next to a later temple built on what is believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna.

On Thursday a court agreed to hear a lawsuit demanding the removal of the mosque, one of a slew of similar petitions.

Police in the northern city have been put on alert.

Another is Delhi’s Qutub Minar, a 13th-century minaret and victory tower built by the Mamluk dynasty, also from Central Asia.

Some Hindu groups believe it was constructed by a Hindu king and that the complex housed more than 25 temples.

Such claims were born of a “very sparse” knowledge of the past, historian Rana Safvi told AFP.

Instead, a “sense of victimhood” was being fuelled by social media misinformation, she said, “making them believe it’s the gospel truth”.

Waiting For The Water Train In Scorching India

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows women filling their pitchers with water supplied by a special train on a hot summer day in Pali.  (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

 

Afroz misses school every day to spend hours waiting with a handcart full of containers for a special train bringing precious water to people suffering a heatwave in India’s desert state of Rajasthan.

Temperatures often exceed 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) here, but this year the heat came early in what many experts say is more proof of climate change making life unbearable for India’s 1.4 billion people.

“It’s always been very hot here and we have always struggled for water,” Afroz, 13, told AFP as he waited in Pali district for the second time that day for the special train.

“But I don’t remember filling up containers in April.”

For more than three weeks now, the 40-wagon train — carrying some 2 million litres — has been the only source of water for thousands of people in the district.

 

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows a railway employee preparing to refill the water in a tanker of a special train before dispatching for the Pali district on a hot summer day at Bhagat Ki Kothi railway station in Jodhpur.  (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

– Untreated –
Every day, dozens of people — mostly women and children — jostle with blue plastic jerry cans and metal pots to fill from hoses gushing water out of the army-green train into an underground tank.

Water has been dispatched by train to Pali before, but according to local railway officials, the shortage this year was already critical in April so they started early.

The wagons — filled in Jodhpur, around 65 kilometres (40 miles) away — are first emptied into cement storage tanks, from which the water is sent to a treatment plant for filtering and distribution.

But for Afroz’s family and many others like them, life is easier if they fill directly from the storage tanks, despite the water being untreated.

That their children skip school at times to ensure there is water in the house is what hits the families the most.

“I can’t ask the breadwinner of the family to help me. Otherwise, we’ll be struggling for both food and water,” Afroz’s mother Noor Jahan said as she filled up an aluminium pot.

“It is affecting my child’s education, but what do I do? I cannot carry all these containers on my own,” she told AFP.

 

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows people waiting to refill their containers with tap water supplied by the government on a hot summer day in Pali. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

– Cracked feet –
Hundreds of millions of people in South Asia have been sweltering in an early summer heatwave in recent weeks, with India seeing its warmest March on record.

In India and Pakistan, “more intense heat waves of longer durations and occurring at a higher frequency are projected”, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a recent landmark report.

The “cascading impacts” of heatwaves on agricultural output, water, energy supplies and other sectors are already apparent, World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas said this month.

On Friday, India banned wheat exports — needed to help fill a supply gap due to the Ukraine war — in part due to the heat wilting crops.

Together, high humidity and heat can create “wet-bulb temperatures” so vicious that sweating no longer cools people down, potentially killing a healthy adult within hours.

“I have already made three trips from my house in the last one hour. And I’m the only one who can do it,” said Laxmi, another woman collecting water, pointing to cracks on her feet.

“We have no direct water to our homes and it is so hot. What are we supposed to do if something happens to us while we walk up and down to fetch water?”

 

This aerial photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows a railway employee preparing to refill the water in a tanker of a special train before dispatching for the Pali district on a hot summer day at Bhagat Ki Kothi railway station in Jodhpur. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

– ‘Extreme depletion’ –
In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an ambitious Jal Jeevan (Water Life) Mission, promising a functional tap connection to all households in rural India by 2024.

But less than 50 percent of the population has access to safely managed drinking water, according to UNICEF, with two-thirds of India’s 718 districts affected by “extreme water depletion”.

 

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows people waiting to refill their containers with tap water supplied by the government on a hot summer day in Pali. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows a girl carrying a container filled water supplied by a special train on a hot summer day in Pali.  (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows a woman carrying a pitcher-filled water supplied by a special train on a hot summer day in Pali. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

 

This photograph taken on May 11, 2022 shows a man fixing a pipe on a tanker to store water in the underground tanks being supplied by a special train on a hot summer day in Pali.  (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

A little further from Pali, 68-year-old Shivaram walked on the cracked bottom of a dried-out pond in Bandai village, his bright-pink turban protecting his head from the scorching sun.

The pond — which was the main source of water for both residents and their animals – has been dry for almost two years because of low rainfall. The shells of dead turtles litter the cracked mud.

“Farmers have been severely impacted,” Shivaram said. “Some of our animals have died too.”

Couple Files $650,000 Suit On Son For Not Giving Them Grandchildren

A file photo of a court gavel.
A court gavel.

 

An Indian couple are taking their son to court demanding that he and his wife produce either a grandchild within a year or cough up almost $650,000.

Sanjeev and Sadhana Prasad say that they exhausted their savings raising and educating their pilot son and paying for a lavish wedding.

Now they want payback.

“My son has been married for six years but they are still not planning a baby. At least if we have a grandchild to spend time with, our pain will become bearable,” the couple said in their petition filed with a court in Haridwar last week.

READ ALSO: US Man Dies While Burying Woman He Strangled

The compensation they are demanding — 50 million rupees — includes the cost of a wedding reception in a five-star hotel, a luxury car worth $80,000 and paying for the couple’s honeymoon abroad, the Times of India reported Thursday.

The parents also forked out $65,000 to get their son trained as a pilot in the United States only for him to return to India unemployed, the paper said.

“We also had to take a loan to build our house and now we are going through a lot of financial hardships. Mentally too we are quite disturbed because we are living alone,” the couple said in their petition.

The couple’s lawyer Arvind Kumar said the petition will be taken up for hearing by the court in northern India on May 17.

India has a strong joint family system with many generations including grandparents, nephews, aunts and uncles often living in the same household.

However, in recent years the trend has shifted, with young couples preferring to move away from their parents or siblings, and wives — such as in this case — opting to work rather than focus on having children and staying at home.

AFP

India Relaxes Environment Rules For Coal Mines, Citing Heatwave

An auto rickshaw driver drinks water as he takes a break on a hot summer day in New Delhi on May 9, 2022. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

 

 

 

India has relaxed environmental compliance rules for coal mines seeking to ramp up production as power outages exacerbate a sweltering heatwave, a government notice showed.

Coal makes up more than two-thirds of India’s energy needs, even as unseasonably hot weather illustrates the threat from climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

Soaring temperatures have prompted higher energy demand in recent weeks and left India facing a 25-million-tonne shortfall at a time when coal spot prices have skyrocketed since the start of the year.

In a letter dated May 7 seen by AFP, the Environment Ministry said it has allowed a “special dispensation” to the Ministry of Coal to relax certain requirements — like public consultations — so mines could operate at increased capacities.

The relaxation comes after it received a request from the Ministry of Coal “stating that there is huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country and all efforts are being made to meet the demand of coal for all sectors”.

Coal mining projects previously cleared to operate at 40-percent capacity may now increase capacity to 50 percent without undertaking fresh environment impact studies, the authority said.

The letter coincided with the government launching a new scheme last week to lease abandoned state-owned coal pits to private mining companies, assuring them of fast-track environment approvals.

“The Ministry of Environment and Forests understands that they need to cut out the red tape,” coal ministry official Anil Kumar Jain said at the launch event Friday.

The government hopes to woo private mining giants — like Vedanta and Adani — to revive more than 100 dormant coal mines previously deemed too expensive to operate, using new technology and fresh capital.

– Coal needs set to double -India needs a billion tonnes of coal annually to meet its current domestic demand.

Most of its needs are met by domestic producers, with a record 777 million tonnes mined in the fiscal year to the end of March.

The shortfall is imported from countries like Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.

The government says it plans to increase domestic coal production to 1.2 billion tonnes in the next two years to support a post-pandemic economic recovery.

Despite a commitment to increase its renewable energy capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 and 500 gigawatts by 2030, Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi said Friday that India’s coal needs are set to double by 2040.

A renewed focus on accelerating coal production risks India missing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s COP26 commitment to meet 50 percent of energy demand through renewable energy by 2030, according to experts.

The world’s third-biggest carbon emitter, already home to 1.4 billion people, is projected by the UN to become the planet’s most populous nation by the middle of the decade.

Singapore Bans Hit Kashmir Film Over Portrayal Of Muslims

 

 

Singapore has banned a controversial Indian film over its “provocative and one-sided portrayal” of Muslims in Kashmir that officials fear could provoke religious and ethnic tensions in the city-state.

Released in March and one of India’s highest-grossing films this year, “The Kashmir Files” depicts in harrowing detail how several hundred thousand Hindus fled Muslim militants in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1989 and 1990.

The movie has been endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and seized on by Hindu hardliners to stir up hatred against the country’s Muslim minority.

Critics say it tackles themes close to the political agenda of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which has often been accused of marginalising and vilifying Muslims.

The media regulator in Singapore refused to classify the film, meaning it cannot be screened.

The decision was due to the movie’s “provocative and one-sided portrayal of Muslims and the depictions of Hindus being persecuted”, officials said in a statement late Wednesday.

“These representations have the potential to cause enmity between different communities, and disrupt social cohesion and religious harmony in our multi-racial and multi-religious society.”

The city-state’s population of 5.5 million are mostly ethnic Chinese but it also has large communities of ethnic Malay Muslims and ethnic Indian Hindus.

The film’s director, Vivek Agnihotri, lashed out at the decision, tweeting that Singapore was the “most regressive censor in the world”.

The tightly-controlled country is sensitive to anything that could trigger ethnic and religious tensions.

It occasionally bans films and publications for fear of inflaming divisions, leading some to ridicule it as a nanny state.

The movie revolves around a university student who learns about the death of his parents in the 1990s in Muslim-majority Kashmir, a disputed region split between India and Pakistan since 1947.

Three decades of insurgency in the region — with Pakistan’s backing, according to New Delhi — and a heavy-handed response by the Indian military have killed tens of thousands of people, mostly Muslims.

Around 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus — known as Pandits — fled after the violence began in the late 1980s. Up to 219 may have been killed, according to official figures.

India, Pakistan Must Brace For Even Worse Heatwaves

Monkeys sit in shade inside a temple on a hot summer day in Allahabad on May 6, 2022. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

 

 

The devastating heatwave that gripped India and Pakistan over the last two months is unprecedented, but worse — perhaps far worse — is on the horizon as climate change continues apace, top climate scientists said. 

Even without additional global warming South Asia is, statistically speaking, ripe for a “big one” in the same way that California is said to be overdue for a major earthquake, according to research published this week.

Extreme heat across much of India and neighbouring Pakistan in March and April exposed more than a billion people to scorching temperatures well above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The hottest part of the year is yet to come.

“This heatwave is likely to kill thousands,” tweeted Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, a climate science research non-profit.

The number of excess deaths, especially among the elderly poor, will only become apparent in hindsight.

Heatwave mortality in India has increased by more than 60 percent since 1980, according to the country’s Ministry of Earth Sciences.

But “cascading impacts” on agricultural output, water, energy supplies and other sectors are already apparent, World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas said this week.

Air quality has deteriorated, and large swathes of land are at risk of extreme fire danger.

Power blackouts last week as electricity demand hit record levels served as a warning of what might happen if temperatures were to climb even higher.

For climate scientists, none of this came as a surprise.

“What I find unexpected is most people being shocked, given how long we have been warned about such disasters coming,” Camilo Mora, a professor at the University of Hawaii, told AFP.

“This region of the world, and most other tropical areas, are among the most vulnerable to heatwaves.”

 

Men take rest on a platform at Daraganj railway station on a hot summer day in Allahabad on May 6, 2022. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

 

– The new normal –
In a benchmark 2017 study, Mora calculated that nearly half the global population will be exposed to “deadly heat” 20 days or more each year by 2100, even if global warming is capped under two degrees Celsius, the cornerstone target of the Paris Agreement.

To what extent is climate change to blame for the scorched Earth temperatures just now easing up in India and Pakistan?

Scientists at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute led by Friederike Otto, a pioneer in the field of attribution science, are crunching the numbers.

“How much more likely and intense this particular heatwave has become is something we’re still working on,” she told AFP.

“But there is no doubt that climate change is a huge game changer when it comes to extreme heat,” she added. “What we see right now will be normal, if not cool, in a 2C to 3C world.”

Earth’s surface, on average, is 1.1C above preindustrial levels. National carbon cutting pledges under the Paris Agreement, if fulfilled, would still see the world warm 2.8 degrees.

In India and Pakistan, “more intense heat waves of longer durations and occurring at a higher frequency are projected,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a recent landmark report.

“Before human activities increased global temperatures, we would have seen the heat that hit India around once in 50 years,” said Marian Zachariah, a researcher at Imperial College London.

“But now we can expect such high temperatures about once ever four years.”

Continued global warming, in other words, guarantees greater heat extremes in the coming decades.

– Wet-bulb temperature –
But things may get worse even sooner, according to a new study in Science Advances.

A team led by Vikki Thompson of Bristol University ranked the world’s most severe heatwaves since 1960. Their benchmark, however, was not maximum temperatures, but how hot it got compared to what would be expected for the region.

Surprisingly, South Asia was nowhere near the top of the list.

“When defined in terms of deviation from the local norm, heatwaves in India and Pakistan to date have not been all that extreme,” Thompson explained in a commentary.

By that measure, the worst scorcher on record over the last six decades was in Southeast Asia in 1998.

“An equivalent outlier heatwave in India today would mean temperatures over 50C across large swathes of the country,” Thompson said.

“Statistically, a record-breaking heatwave is likely to occur in India at some point.”

What makes extreme heat deadly is high temperatures combined with humidity, a steam-bath mix with its own yardstick: wet-bulb temperature (WB).

When the body overheats, the heart ups the tempo and sends blood to the skin where sweating cools it down. But above a threshold of heat-plus-humidity this natural cooling system shuts down.

“Think of it as a sunburn but inside your body,” said Mora.

A wet-bulb temperature of 35C WB will kill a healthy young adult within six hours. Last week, the central Indian city of Nagpur briefly registered 32.2 WB.

“The rise in heatwaves, floods, cyclones and droughts that we have seen in this region so far are in response to just one degree Celsius,” Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, told AFP.

“It is difficult for me to even imagine the impacts when the increase in global temperatures are doubled.”

France, India Call For Immediate End To Ukraine Hostilities

Smoke rises at a warehouse after shelling in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 3, 2022, as fighting is raging across Ukraine’s east amid a US warning that Moscow is preparing to formally annex eastern regions. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

India and France on Wednesday called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi again stopping short of condemning Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

India, which imports much of its military hardware from Russia, has long walked a diplomatic tightrope between the West and Moscow — notably refusing to denounce the latter or vote against it at the United Nations over its actions in Ukraine.

“France and India expressed their deep concern over the humanitarian crisis and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine,” Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron said in a joint statement after they met in Paris for talks and a working dinner.

“Both countries unequivocally condemned the fact that civilians have been killed in Ukraine, and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in order for the two sides to come together to promote dialogue and diplomacy, and to put an immediate end to the suffering of the people.”

However, only France condemned “Russian forces’ illegal and unjustified aggression against Ukraine”.

The two countries said they would “respond in a coordinated and multilateral way” to the risk the conflict would intensify a global food crisis, with Ukraine one of the world’s main wheat producers.

Ahead of the meeting, Macron’s office had said he would “emphasise the consequences of the war for the international order well beyond the European Union, including in Asia” to Modi.

France wants to “help the Indians diversify their supply” away from Russian arms and energy, officials added.

The aim, they said, “is not to leave the Indians with no way out, but to offer solutions”.

Modi, who is on a European tour, told reporters after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday that “there won’t be any winners in this war and everyone will lose”.

– ‘Trusting relationship’ –

The Elysee said Macron has an “extremely warm relationship” with Modi, who has visited France three times since 2017, while the French leader went to India in 2018.

Modi invited Macron to visit India again to deepen cooperation on defence technology and the transition to clean energy.

The two men embraced and posed for photographs when Modi arrived in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace, where he was also greeted by Macron’s wife Brigitte.

Going into the meeting, officials described France’s relationship with India as “trusting”, and the joint statement reaffirmed the two countries’ desire to strengthen the “strategic Franco-Indian parnership, particularly in the Indo-Pacific”.

Securing France’s place in the region is especially important after Britain, the United States and Australia last year sealed their AUKUS security pact — dumping a lucrative French contract to supply Canberra’s next generation of submarines along the way.

India has bought dozens of French Rafale fighter jets and six submarines, and cooperates with Paris on civil nuclear projects.

French state-owned energy giant EDF wants to build six next-generation EPR reactors in Jaitapur on India’s west coast.

The Elysee said it was pushing hard to get that deal signed, fitting in with Macron’s vow ahead of his re-election last month to renew France’s nuclear industry and replace its fleet of ageing power plants.

WHO Launches Traditional Medicine Hub In India

File photo of WHO

 

 

The World Health Organization launched its Global Centre for Traditional Medicine at a site in India on Tuesday, aimed at unlocking its potential by blending ancient practices with modern science.

The GCTM knowledge hub is intended to create a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products to help inform standards and the cost-effective use of methods that go outside conventional medicine.

“Harnessing the potential of traditional medicine would be a game-changer for health when founded on evidence, innovation and sustainability,” the WHO said, noting that traditional medicine formed part of the growing health and wellness industries.

The hub will be temporarily housed at the Institute Teaching and Research in Ayurveda in Jamnagar on India’s west coast until the new 35-acre (14-hectare) site in the city is completed in 2024.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarati city to lay the foundation stone.

Around 80 percent of the world’s population is thought to use traditional medicine, such as herbal mixtures, acupuncture, yoga, ayurvedic medicine and indigenous therapies.

– Medicine of first resort –
“For many millions of people around the world, traditional medicine is the first port of call to treat many diseases,” Tedros told the ceremony.

“The WHO GCTM that we are launching will help to harness the power of science to strengthen the evidence base for traditional medicine,” he said, to optimise its use for health and wellbeing around the world.

The UN health agency defines traditional medicine as the knowledge, skills and practices that indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness.

India has put $250 million into the project, with Modi saying traditional medicine encompasses a holistic science of life and would gain global importance in the coming 30 years.

“Our traditional medicine is a repository of hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge,” he said.

“Going forward, we must use technology to create a global database, repository of traditional medicine practices,” to help future generations.

“They should also make international standards so that people’s trust in these traditional medicines goes up.”

– Aspirin and the pill –
The hub will focus on four strategic areas: evidence and learning; data and analytics; sustainability and equity; and innovation and technology.

It is hoped that a solid evidence base will help countries regulate quality and safety.

Of the WHO’s 194 member states, 170 acknowledged their use of traditional and complementary medicine since 2018, but only 124 reported having laws or regulations for the use of herbal medicines — while only half had a national policy on such methods and medicines.

The WHO said that traditional medicine was increasingly prominent in modern science, with 40 percent of approved pharmaceutical products currently in use deriving from natural substances.

It cited aspirin drawing on formulations using willow tree bark; the contraceptive pill being developed from wild yam plant roots; child cancer treatments based on the rosy periwinkle; and the development of the anti-malaria treatment artemisinin drawing on ancient Chinese medicine texts.

The UN health agency said artificial intelligence was now used to map evidence and trends in traditional medicine and to screen natural products for pharmacokinetic properties.

rjm-burs/pvh

Thieves Steal 60-Foot Iron Bridge In India

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world.
India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world.

 

A gang of crafty scrap metal thieves dismantled and decamped with a 500-tonne defunct iron bridge in eastern India, police said Saturday, pulling off the unlikely heist by pretending to be irrigation officials.

The robbing of the bridge was reported Wednesday in the state of Bihar, one of the poorest in the country.

Police officer Subhash Kumar told AFP the thieves came in the guise of government irrigation officials.

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They brought bulldozers and gas cutters and tore apart the structure before escaping with the booty over two days, Kumar said.

“They took away the scrap in a heavy vehicle,” he said.

The thieves had been chipping away at the 50-year-old structure — built over a water canal — ever since another bridge nearby was opened to the public five years ago.

Police launched an investigation into the bizarre incident on Thursday but no arrests have been made so far.

 

AFP