14 September 2017

India, Japan start work on high-speed train during Abe visit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave during the ground breaking ceremony for high speed rail project in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.
India and Japan launched work on a high-speed train line in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Thursday during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The “bullet train” will link Ahmadabad, the main commercial city in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native state, to India’s financial capital of Mumbai.

The 500-kilometer (310-mile) project will be financed by a Japanese credit of $17 billion and is expected to be completed by 2022. The loan carries a nominal interest rate of 0.1 percent to be paid over the next 50 years.

Boat capsizes in Indian river, killing 19; about 31 missing

Rescuers search in the Yamuna River as villagers gather after a country boat, seen in foreground, capsized near Baghpat town in Uttar Pradesh state, India, Thursday, Sept.14, 2017. The boat crowded with construction workers capsized early Thursday and nineteen bodies have been pulled out of the river so far.
A boat crowded with construction workers capsized in the Yamuna River in northern India early Thursday and at least 19 people have drowned, officials said.

A search is underway for missing passengers, said senior police officer Ram Kumar.

More than 60 people were on the boat when it capsized near Baghpat town in Uttar Pradesh state early Thursday.

At least 10 people swam to safety while about 31 passengers are missing. Nineteen bodies had been pulled out of the river, Kumar said.

13 September 2017

From India to Malaysia, Rohingya face hardship, uncertainty

In this Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, photo, Rohingya refugee Muhammad Ayub shows off a picture of his grandfather allegedly killed during recent violence in Myanmar, in Klang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. There are some 56,000 Rohingya refugees registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Malaysia, with an estimated 40,000 more whose status has yet to be assessed.
Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. But Rohingya have been fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, and many who have made it to safety in other countries still face a precarious existence.

Some are barred from working or feel unwelcome in unfamiliar lands. Still, many say they are relieved to be safe.

Here are four countries where Rohingya have established settlements in recent years:

Abducted Indian priest rescued in Yemen after 18 months

An Indian Catholic priest who was kidnapped by militants from a home for senior citizens in Yemen has been rescued after 18 months, an Indian official said Tuesday.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter that Tom Uzhunnalil had been rescued, saying later Tuesday that he had reached Vatican City. He is expected to meet Pope Francis. Swaraj gave no other details.

Uzhunnalil had worked for more than four years as a chaplain at the home in Aden in southern Yemen established by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

7 September 2017

Indian court sentences 2 men to death in 1993 Mumbai blasts

Indian police officials stand guard outside the sessions court complex in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. An Indian court has sentenced two men to death and another two to life in prison for a series of bombings that killed 257 in Mumbai in 1993. The four Indian men had earlier been convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder in the planting of 12 powerful bombs in cars, scooters and suitcases around India’s financial capital.
An Indian court on Thursday sentenced two men to death and two others to life in prison for a series of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993. A fifth man was given 10 years in prison.

The five men were convicted earlier of criminal conspiracy and murder in the planting of 12 powerful bombs in cars, scooters and suitcases around India’s financial capital.

The sentencing ended a second trial related to the bombings. An initial trial ended in 2007 with more than 100 people convicted, of whom 11 were sentenced to death and the rest to various terms in prison.

Indian journalist’s killing provokes outrage, anguish

Mourners stand next to a portrait of Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh during the public viewing of her body in Bangalore, India, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The Indian journalist was gunned down outside her home the southern city of Bangalore — the latest in a string of deadly attacks targeting journalists or outspoken critics of religious superstition and extreme Hindu politics. Kannada reads, “Heartfelt Condolences”.
The killing of an Indian journalist provoked outrage and anguish across the country on Wednesday, with thousands protesting what they saw as an effort to silence a critic of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Even as police promise to hunt down the assailants who gunned down Gauri Lankesh outside her Bangalore home Tuesday night, many said they feared the perpetrators of the attack - like so many others - would get away with impunity.

Spontaneous rallies erupted in cities and towns across India on Wednesday. Protesters demanded the government do more to protect free speech in the secular, South Asian democracy.

6 September 2017

Indian journalist gunned down outside her home

A participant holds a placard with a photograph of Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh at a protest demonstration against her killing in Bangalore, India, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The Indian journalist was gunned down outside her home the southern city of Bangalore — the latest in a string of deadly attacks targeting journalists or outspoken critics of religious superstition and extreme Hindu politics.
An Indian journalist was fatally shot outside her home the southern city of Bangalore, the latest in a string of deadly attacks targeting journalists or outspoken critics of religious superstition and extreme Hindu politics.

The assailants fled on a motorcycle after spraying bullets at Gauri Lankesh on Tuesday night as she was leaving her car outside her home in the Karnataka state capital.

Police said they were searching for leads, but that it was too early to say who killed her. Top police officer R.K. Dutta said he had met Lankesh recently, but that she did not mention any threat to her life.

3 September 2017

Indian Prime Minister Modi drops ministers as economy slips

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets attendees during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Sept.3, 2017. Modi on Sunday reshuffled some of his key minister’s portfolios to refurbish his government’s image, which has been dented by falling economic indicators.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reshuffled some of his key minister’s portfolios to refurbish his government’s image, which has been dented by falling economic indicators.

Modi named Suresh Prabhu as the new commerce and industry minister and Piyush Goyal the railways minister. Dharmendra Pradhan was promoted as oil and gas minister. Modi dropped half a dozen ministers for failing performance.

A big surprise was 58-year-old Nirmala Sitharaman’s appointment as the country’s defense minister, an elevation from the post of junior commerce minister.

2 September 2017

A singular storm in Houston; a recurring nightmare in Mumbai

In this Aug. 15, 2017, file photo, flood affected villagers travel by boat in floodwaters in Morigaon district, east of Gauhati, northeastern state of Assam. This week’s flooding in Houston is unprecedented, but such devastation is chronic across South Asia. Experts say local officials are ignoring dangers and pursuing development plans that only increase the risk of flood-related death and destruction as annual monsoon rains challenge cities to cope.
Two massive, rain-soaked cities on opposite sides of the world are struggling with swirling, brackish waters that have brought death and devastation. For Houston, it’s unprecedented. For Mumbai, it’s painfully common.

For India’s financial capital and other South Asian cities and farmlands, floods are regular, cataclysmic occurrences made worse by breakneck urban development and population booms that will only become more challenging as climate change increases disaster risk.