Displaying items by tag: India
We asked for your prayers last week; it took another five days, 17 in all, before 41 construction workers were rescued from from a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand state. The tunnel, part of a $1.5 million pilgrimage project, collapsed on 12 November, trapping low-wage workers from various Indian states in a 4.5km underground space. The rescue faced many challenges, including machine breakdowns and the tunnel's precarious geological location, both matters for considerable criticism. The breakthrough came on 29 November when a team of 'rat miners' managed to reach the trapped men. This method, which involves creating narrow tunnels by hand, has been controversial due to its hazards, and was officially banned in 2014. The rescued workers, who were in good health, were greeted by Uttarakhand’s chief minister with traditional marigold garlands, and celebrations ensued with sweets and firecrackers.
A rescue operation to free 41 Indian tunnel workers, trapped for twelve days in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkhand state, has reached its final stage. Rescuers are just metres away from the workers, and stretchers and ambulances are on standby. The tunnel collapsed during a landslide on 12 November. The trapped men, although free to move around and supplied with food and drink, have been suffering from various ailments, including headaches, nausea, anxiety, and depression. Psychiatrists have been monitoring their mental health and advising activities like yoga and conversations to maintain morale. The oldest worker, who has been in a similar situation before, has been encouraging the others to keep their confidence high. As the rescue nears completion, there are hopes that they will very soon be released from their ordeal. However, there has been anger about how long the rescue operation has taken.
An exposé has shown that the Bank of Baroda made it simple and easy for its agents to steal money from customers’ accounts - and some of them did. The bank’s employees had linked unauthorised mobile numbers to accounts before uploading them onto the bank’s new mobile app. These numbers were of bank staff, managers, guards, their relatives, and bank agents in remote areas. Internal documents show that some of the bank’s agents withdrew tens of thousands of rupees from customers’ accounts. The bank’s head office has asked the managers concerned to do everything necessary to restore the money to the accounts. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has ordered an audit, and has told the bank to stop registering new customers on its app.
In an effort to protect survivors of bonded labour from further exploitation, the government in Tamil Nadu, India, has established an herb garden for families of the Irula tribal community. The garden provides ten survivor families and thirty other families with the opportunity to cultivate and sell a diverse range of herbs, medicinal plants and fruit-bearing trees. Having secure job opportunities will prevent them from obtaining loans from unscrupulous lenders who prey on their vulnerability. The herb garden is the result of a proposal which the Released Bonded Labourers Association (RBLA) had submitted with the help of IJM. It is part of many others that the government has been regularly creating, from helping survivors and other vulnerable families earn a stable income to establishing a first-of-its-kind, holistic community for survivors. The herb garden is significant as it preserves the knowledge of traditional medicinal herbs. Following the launch, an RBLA leader gave a tour of the herb garden and said, ‘I hope this will inspire other survivors to come forward and access government welfare measures’.
Canada's high commission in India has said that it has decided to ‘adjust’ staff presence in the country temporarily after some diplomats received threats on social media platforms, adding to spiralling tensions between the two countries. The statement from the high commission came soon after an Indian company published a notice that it was suspending visa services for Canadian citizens. Tensions between the two countries escalated earlier this week when Canada said that it was ‘actively pursuing credible allegations’ linking Indian government agents to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia in June. Prime minister Narendra Modi's government has categorically rejected the claims. With both nations expelling a diplomat each, and India urging its nationals in Canada to ‘exercise caution’, relations between the two countries have touched the lowest point.
From business and strategic perspectives, Joe Biden's recent visits to Vietnam and India will likely be seen as bolstering ties with countries that can help Washington to counter China’s growing might. But for rights advocates, Biden's travels are a huge disappointment, given his administration's vow to prioritise human rights when taking office in 2021. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the government's Hindu majoritarian ideology is reflected in bias in the justice system, and authorities have intensified efforts to silence activists and journalists through politically motivated charges. Meanwhile, Vietnam is holding at least 159 political prisoners - people imprisoned for peacefully exercising basic civil and political rights - and at least 22 others were in detention pending eventual trial before a court controlled by the ruling Communist Party. In the first eight months of 2023 alone, HRW said, courts have sentenced at least fifteen people to long prison terms in violation of their rights to a fair trial. Reporters asked Biden in Vietnam if he was putting US strategic interests above rights and replied: ‘I’ve raised it (human rights) with every person I met with’.
But HRW said talking in private was not enough.
British Asian Christians are issuing an urgent call for peace in Manipur as the area grapples with escalating violence and persecution. They are calling on people to join a peaceful protest in London next week. They said, ‘This unified effort, driven by the desire for justice and equality, seeks to shed light on the discrimination faced by Christians in the region.’ They are calling for ‘people of faith or no faith, who have good conscience and are moved by the recent attacks to come together and call for change.’ The violent persecution of Christians, which began four months ago over land rights and jobs, has been brought to the attention of British MPs, and a meeting in Parliament to discuss the situation is scheduled for later this month. Prime minister Modi is accused of ignoring the situation and not doing enough to quell the violence, earning him a vote of no confidence.
India's space agency is the first to walk on the moon's south pole. Chandrayaan-3's rover walk means that India has joined America, the former Soviet Union and China’s elite club. The rover is roaming the rocks and craters at 1 cm per second, gathering data and images to send to earth for analysis. It landed on the start of a lunar day, which equals a little over four earth weeks. The lander and rover will use these days of sunlight to charge their batteries. A major goal is to hunt for water. The craters, permanently in shadow, hold ice which could support human habitation on the Moon in future. It could also be used for supplying propellant for spacecraft headed to Mars and other distant destinations. Narendra Modi said India wants to open its space sector to foreign investment as it targets a five-fold increase in its share of the global launch market within the next decade.
On 3 May deadly riots broke out between the Muslim Meitei tribe and the Christian Kuki-Zo tribes in Manipur. Since then over 130 Kuki-Zo have been killed and over 50,000 displaced. Now that the internet ban has been lifted, a 26-second video has emerged after two months showing dozens of men parading and assaulting two naked Christian women. Elsewhere, a Christian woman’s husband was killed by a mob who then surrounded and sexually assaulted her daughter. Her son was killed trying to stop them. ‘How can the police say they aren’t aware of what happened when they were present while we were assaulted? The bodies of my husband and son were taken by them to the government morgue in Imphal’, she told Al-Jazeera. These are just two of the ongoing violent attacks on Christian women and brutal killings of Christian families, with homes being burned down and communities being terrorised.
In Delhi, floods from the Yamuna river caused roads to turn into rivers and water gushed into houses, medical facilities, crematoriums and shelter homes. It is impairing normal life and causing immense hardship for the people in the national capital as the river water level rose to a record high. Amid the flooding, the city is staring at a shortage of drinking water after the government decided to cut down supply by 25 percent following the closure of three water treatment plants due to the rising level of the Yamuna. It swelled to a staggering 208.62 metres at 1 pm on 13 July, smashing the previous all-time record of 207.49 metres set 45 years ago. Rescue teams have been deployed, and administration and agencies are also working together. At the time of writing they have evacuated around 2,500 people from different areas.