Category: Asia: South-West

South-West Asia

Massive earthquake shakes South Asia

Dozens reported dead in Afghanistan and Pakistan as powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocks South Asia.

A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake has struck in northern Afghanistan and has been felt in a large area from northern India to Pakistan with scores of people killed across the region.

The US Geological Survey put the epicentre of Monday’s quake near Jarm in Afghanistan’s northeast, 250km from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213km.

The total death toll stood at about 111 with at least 85 people killed in Pakistan and at least 26 more in Afghanistan, according to official reports from the two countries.

Hikmat Fasi, a resident of Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan, said the quake caused a lot of damage in the area.

“We are safe but I saw a lot of buildings collapse,” Hikmat Fasi said. “It [earthquake] caused severe damage to our area. We are just praying.”

The Guardian: Live Blog

Pakistan heat wave claims hundreds of lives

CNN, By Ralph Ellis & Sophia Saifi, June 23

Islamabad – Hundreds of people have died in a three-day heat wave affecting Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, according to local media reports.

A spokesperson from the Sindh province Ministry of Health told CNN that 323 people had died in Karachi as a result of the heatwave.

The ministry also told CNN that the number of patients treated for heat stroke in Jinnah hospital, the largest in the city, is 2.360.

Others, unable to make it to a hospital, may have died at home. At least one city morgue, CNN affiliate Geo.tv has reported, has been overwhelmed with the numbers of dead.

Death tolls in local media reports vary.

Now, drones to be used to disperse mobs in Lucknow

PTI, April 3

LUCKNOW – Drones will soon perform a special task in the state capital apart from functioning as eyes in the sky with the Lucknow Police planning to use them for dispersing mobs.

These little unmanned mini-choppers are already in use in various sensitive parts of Uttar Pradesh for taking aerial snaps, but for the first time the hi-tech gadget will be used to control unruly crowds.

“We have purchased five drone cameras with capacity of lifting two kg weight. They can be used to shower pepper powder on an unruly mob in case of any trouble,” Senior Superintendent of Police Yashasvi Yadav told PTI here today. […]

Lucknow Police will probably be the first in the country to have such hi-tech surveillance gadget, he said, adding drones will assist not only in checking crimes but also in keeping a track of criminals.
Continue reading

India Tries Evacuating Citizens in Yemen

New York Times, By Hari Kumar & Ellen Barry, April 5

New Delhi — India used small boats this weekend to ferry some of its citizens to a naval destroyer anchored near Aden, Yemen, as an operation to evacuate about 4,000 Indians from Yemen’s war zone entered a difficult phase.

The Indian ship was not able to dock in Aden because of shelling, so the small boats carried people in groups of about 30, said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry. About 2,000 Indians have now been transported out of Yemen, but the deteriorating conditions there mean that no more evacuations from Aden will be possible, he said.

“It’s been a hard task, and as the situation worsens, the time available to us lessens,” he said. “Difficult situations now are becoming more difficult as time passes.”

Experts raise alarm as plague kills dozens in Madagascar

CNN, By Laura Smith-Spark & Lucy Pawle, February 1

An outbreak of the plague has killed dozens in Madagascar, and experts fear those numbers could go up.

At least 119 cases were confirmed by late last year, including 40 deaths, the World Health Organization said in a statement.

And the disease is taking an alarming turn.

“The outbreak that started last November has some disturbing dimensions,” the WHO said this week. “The fleas that transmit this ancient disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the first-line insecticide.”

Pakistan to execute 500 militants after moratorium lifted

RTÉ, December 22

Pakistan has announced plans to execute around 500 militants in coming weeks, after the government lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in terror cases following a Taliban school massacre.

Six militants have been hanged since Friday amid rising public anger over an attack last Tuesday’s which left 149 people dead including 133 children.

The attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar was the deadliest terror attack in Pakistani history, leading to the ending of the six-year moratorium on the death penalty.

A senior government official said the interior ministry has finalised the case of 500 convicts who have exhausted all avenues of appeal.

India lawmakers demand Modi speak on mass conversion to Hinduism

AP, December 22

New Delhi – Opposition lawmakers, charging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done little to stop hard-liners in his party from forcibly converting religious minorities to Hinduism, threw Parliament into an uproar Monday, with the upper house of Parliament adjourned after descending into shouting matches.

Right-wing Hindu groups allied to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party whose members are overwhelmingly BJP members have conducted a series of ceremonies across India over the past week to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.
Continue reading

India Takes First Step to Sending Astronaut to Space

The Wall Street Journal, December 18

It’s been a pretty amazing year for India’s space agency: reaching Mars orbit at first attempt and on a tight budget then clubbing together with the United States for future explorations of the Red planet. On Thursday morning the Indian Space Research Organization wrapped up 2014 with the successful launch of a rocket that will help it discover if it has the capacity to put an Indian astronaut into space, and bring them home again.

The rocket that lifted off from southern India at 09:32 Indian Standard Time carried an un-manned crew capsule that scientists wanted to ensure could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without burning up.

The so-called crew-module atmospheric re-entry experiment is part of India’s plan to send a person into space within the next eight years. The capsule separated from the rocket successfully at 126 kilometers above the Earth’s surface and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere as hoped and deploying parachutes. It was expected to land in the Bay of Bengal and be recovered by the Indian Coast Guard.

300,000 Evacuated as Cyclone Hudhud approaches Indian coast


ste.india
 
BBC, October 11

A mass evacuation is taking place in India’s south-eastern coast a day before Cyclone Hudhud is expected to hit land.

Around 150,000 people have already left their homes in the coastal state of Andhra Pradesh. The cyclone, classed as “very severe” by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), is expected to hit Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states on Sunday. The IMD predicts the storm will bring winds of up to 195km/h (120mph).

* * * * *
NYT, October 12

A powerful cyclone crashed against the eastern coast of India on Sunday, uprooting trees, lashing the area with heavy rain and wind, and disrupting power and communication lines.Close to 300,000 people were evacuated from their homes in parts of the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh as of Sunday evening, according to disaster and relief officials in each state.

Narendra Modi calls for International Yoga Day

TNN, By Chidanand Rajghatta, September 28

New York – Yoga got a strong leg up on the world stage when Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for observing an International Yoga Day, describing the ancient science as “India’s gift to the world.”

Modi’s unexpected reference to yoga during in his UN General Assembly speech came when he was talking about climate change and going back to basics. Yoga is not just about fitness or exercise, it is about changing one’s lifestyle, Modi said, plugging for ancient practice that was introduced to the west by Modi’s spiritual inspiration, Swami Vivekananda.


DNA India: Narendra Modi in US DAY 2: May the force be with you, PM Narendra Modi tells youth at Global Citizen Festival in New York – live blogging.
Indian Express: Narendra Modi asks world leaders to adopt International Yoga Day

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asked the world leaders to adopt an International Yoga Day, saying that by changing lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change.

[…]

“Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being,” he said.

“By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change,” he added.


Al Jazeera: Indian president lays out new economic agenda, June 9

India’s new government will pursue an economic reform agenda that foresees introducing a general sales tax, encouraging foreign investment and speeding approvals for major business projects, the president has told parliament.

[…]

The speech also included a series of ambitious policy goals that had been laid out in the election manifesto of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the creation of 100 new cities and a revamp of the railway network.

[…]

“My government will strive to get India on a high growth path, reign in inflation, restart the investment cycle …[and] restore investor confidence,” he said.

Previously:
India likely to ease restrictions for foreign online retailers in July, June 2014
Modi May Be an Anti-Muslim Dirtbag But He’s Their Anti-Muslim Dirtbag, March 2005

Indian president lays out new economic agenda

Pranab Mukherjee tells parliament government will encourage foreign investment and engage energetically with neighbours.

Al Jazeera, June 9

India’s new government will pursue an economic reform agenda that foresees introducing a general sales tax, encouraging foreign investment and speeding approvals for major business projects, the president has told parliament.

Pranab Mukherjee also said on Monday the new government would engage energetically with its neighbours, including China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will “urgently pursue” reforms to the state-run coal sector to attract private investment, Mukherjee told politicians elected in Modi’s landslide victory last month.

In an address to the two houses of parliament which was drawn up by Modi’s new cabinet, Mukherjee said India’s economy faced “extremely difficult” times and that inflation was “unacceptably” high.

The speech also included a series of ambitious policy goals that had been laid out in the election manifesto of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the creation of 100 new cities and a revamp of the railway network.

“The country is passing through an extremely difficult phase on the economic front,” said Mukherjee. “Putting the economy back on track is paramount for my government.”

“My government will strive to get India on a high growth path, reign in inflation, restart the investment cycle …[and] restore investor confidence,” he said.

India likely to ease restrictions for foreign online retailers in July

Reuters, By Nandita Bose & Rajesh Kumar Singh, June 4

Mumbai, New Delhi – India could allow global online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) to sell their own products as early as next month, removing restrictions that have held back competition in one of the world’s biggest, and most price-sensitive, retail markets.

The decision, which is likely to be announced in or alongside the budget, is one of the first tangible signs of economic reform by the business-friendly government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was sworn in 10 days ago.

The move could allow the government to circumvent political opposition to opening up India’s $500 billion retail sector to global retail giants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Four people privy to discussions within the government told Reuters that officials believed a more robust online retail sector would spur manufacturing and consumption, helping revive an economy that has grown at below 5 percent for two years, the longest period of sub-par expansion since the late 1980s.

Via Pando Daily: Just as we predicted, India’s new leader is about to make Pierre Omidyar a lot richer

Also: REVEALED: The head of Omidyar Network in India had a secret second job… Helping elect Narendra Modi

And: Omidyar and the Oligarch’s Code: Enabling Extremism, Monetizing Dissent