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India committed to improve road safety: Gadkari

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Picture Courtesy:-www.economylead.com

Brasilia: Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said Indian government was committed to improving safety, efficiency and sustainability in the transport sector.

This approach is even more relevant in India as the problem of safety is also a problem of social equity,

Speaking at the global conference on traffic safety in Brasilia, Gadkari said India fully endorsed the Safe System Approach which is being advocated by the United Nations.

He said the road transport sector has played a key role in driving the rising Indian economy during the last few decades and major efforts are being made towards modernizing the country’s road infrastructure spread over 5 million km.

However, with over 200 million vehicles on our roads and vehicle registration witnessing a rapid increase at the rate of 10 percent annually, our country is faced with serious impacts on road safety levels,

The minister said he has asked the government for complete replacement of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 to encompass comprehensive promotion of road safety as well as the promotion of the development of an efficient, seamless and integrated multi-mode public transport system.

 

We are working towards making road safety a social movement. Issues related to road safety have also been included in the school curriculum.

India is collaborating with International Road Federation, WHO and World Bank who are assisting the country by way of strengthening the capabilities of various institutions, enhancing awareness, improving engineering designs for safer roads, improved trauma care and host of related activities.

(Inputs from IANS)

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Crossfire between Rohingya Insurgents and Myanmar Military leaves Hindu Refugees In a Deadlock

Hindus form a small but an established minority in Myanmar and Bangladesh

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Rohingya Hindu refugees
A Rohingya refugee distributes wheat, donated by locals, among other refugees at a camp for the refugees in New Delhi, India.
  • The Hindu refugees, who fled to Bangladesh, have placed their hopes on the Modi  government 
  • The Hindu refugees are scared of moving back to the Buddhist majority Myanmar’s Rakhine state
  • The Indian government was waiting for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal against the home ministry’s plans of deporting Rohingya Muslims from the country 

New Delhi, September 21, 2017: The crossfire between Rohingya insurgents and Myanmar’s military has left hundreds of Hindus, who fled to Bangladesh, placing their hopes on the Indian government.

Around 500 Hindus have taken shelter in a cleared-out chicken farm, in a Hindu hamlet in the southeast of Bangladesh. The place is situated at a distance of a couple of miles, where most of the 421,000 Rohingya Muslims, who also fled violence in Myanmar since August 25, have taken abode, mentions the Reuters report.

The Hindu refugees are scared of moving back to their villages in the Buddhist majority Myanmar’s restless Rakhine state. Modi government, meanwhile, is working to make things easier for Hindus, christians, Buddhists, and other minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh to gain access to Indian citizenship.

“India is also known as Hindustan, the land of the Hindus,” said a Hindu refugee, Niranjan Rudra, “We just want a peaceful life in India, not much. We may not get that in Myanmar or here.”

The fellow refugees agreed and shared their desire of getting this message received by the Indian government through media.

The Indian government, however, has declined to comment on hopes of Hindu refugees. it was waiting for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal against the home ministry’s plans of deporting around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims from India.

Achintya Biswas, a senior member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) also called the World Hindu Council, on the other hand, stated India as the natural destination for the Hindus fleeing Myanmar.

Also readStop Lecturing And Demonizing India over its Plan to Deport 40,000 Stateless Rohingya Muslims: Minister

“Hindu families must be allowed to enter India by the government,” Biswas said, according to a report by Reuters, “Where else will they go? This is their place of origin.”

Biswas said the VHP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, would be submitting a report to the home ministry demanding a new policy that would be allowing Hindu refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh to seek asylum in India.

While India’s Home Ministry spokesman, K.S. Dhatwalia declined to comment, a senior home ministry official in New Delhi, on the condition of anonymity, mentioned that no Hindu in Myanmar or Bangladesh affected by the violence had approached Indian authorities.

“At this juncture we have no SOS calls from Hindus,” the official said.

“Also, the Supreme Court is yet to decide whether India should deport Rohingya Muslims or not. The matter is sub-judice and any policy decision will be taken only after the court’s order.”

Hindus form a small but an established minority in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Rudra along with other Hindu refugees talked about how they fled soon after Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 Myanmar police posts, instigating a fierce military counterattack.

“Our village in Myanmar was surrounded by hundreds of men in black masks on the morning of Aug. 25,” said Veena Sheel, a mother-of-two whose husband works in Malaysia.

“They called some men out and asked them to fight the security forces … a few hours after we heard gunshots,” she added.

Soon after taking office in 2014, the Modi government issued orders stating that no Hindu, or refugees of other minority from Bangladesh and Pakistan would be deemed as illegal immigrants even if they had entered the country without having the required documents, on or before December 31, 2014.

India, indeed, is in a tough situation, where it can’t compromise with the principles it holds being a Secular nation that is always engaged in humanitarian activities, but will also need to keep in mind the potential security threats that might come along with such an act of acceptance.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Holy Dip in Garbage Floating Ganges River: A big Cause of Concern for Hindus

The pristine waters of the Ganges river as it gushes down the Himalayas have long turned into a toxic sludge due to garbage, untreated sewage and industrial waste dumped into it

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A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

On a gray monsoon morning, Darshana Kapoor picks her way gingerly through the slush on the riverbank after taking a dip in the Ganges River in Haridwar town, one of the most revered spots for Hindus.

But the ritual bath that Hindus believe absolves a lifetime of sins was not an uplifting experience for her. “My faith brought me here, but when I see the garbage floating in the river, I felt so bad. I had to scrub myself,” she said.

Haridwar, India

She was not exaggerating. The Central Pollution Control Board has said that the water of the Ganges at Haridwar is not fit for bathing.

The murky condition of the mighty Ganges is a letdown for thousands of devotees who flock daily to the pilgrim town, some for a ritual dip, some to immerse the ashes of their loved ones or to take part in a colorful prayer ceremony held every evening to celebrate the Ganges, which devotees call “Maa” or mother.

Hundreds of Hindus take a ritual dip in the Ganges at Haridwar believing it absolves a lifetime of sins. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Hundreds of Hindus take a ritual dip in the Ganges at Haridwar believing it absolves a lifetime of sins. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

These devotees were hoping to see results from a flagship $3 billion initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive the river, particularly in Hinduism’s holiest towns such as Haridwar and Varanasi.

The pristine waters of the river as it gushes down the Himalayas have long turned into a toxic sludge due to garbage, untreated sewage and industrial waste dumped into it as it courses through booming pilgrim and industrial towns along the vast, populous plains of North India. It is a huge concern because the river is a water source for some 400 million people.

After his victory in 2014, Modi had acknowledged the failure of an expensive three-decade long effort to rejuvenate the Ganges, and vowed to succeed where his predecessors did not.

But three years after the Hindu nationalist leader’s pledge, the once-mighty river is still dying, say environmental activists.

India’s top environmental court, the National Green Tribunal, slammed the government in July, saying “the status of river Ganga has not improved in terms of quality and it continues to be a serious environmental issue.”

The court prohibited dumping waste within 500 meters of the river and said that no development should be allowed within 100 meters of the river as it flows along a 500-kilometer stretch from Haridwar to the town of Unnao.

Hundreds gather to witness a colourful prayer ceremony held along the Ganges River in Haridwar every evening. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Hundreds gather to witness a colourful prayer ceremony held along the Ganges River in Haridwar every evening. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

That is crucial to revive not just the river, but also the banks or “ghats” in pilgrim towns where visitors throng.

However, in a country with abysmally poor enforcement, environmentalists point out court orders do not always translate into action on the ground.

“The basic problem in this country and this case also is compliance,” says M.C. Mehta, an environmentalist who has been leading a campaign to get rid of the pollution. “No monitoring mechanism is there, so it is very difficult to say how much directions have been complied with.”

The main challenge is the slow pace of setting up treatment plants – about three-quarters of the sewage generated in the towns and cities in the northern plains flows untreated into the Ganges.

Sewage treatment plants in Haridwar, for example, can only cope with half the sewage. New ones have been planned, but none have been built yet.

In fact, some fear the river is becoming dirtier as India’s growing population and economic boom has meant an ever growing influx into towns like Haridwar.

Shopkeeper Ganesh Singh in Haridwar says efforts are being made to educate people about not throwing plastic and other waste in the river or along its banks. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Shopkeeper Ganesh Singh in Haridwar says efforts are being made to educate people about not throwing plastic and other waste in the river or along its banks. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Ganesh Singh owns a shop at the famed “Har ki Pauri,” the most revered spot along the riverbank where people gather to attend the evening prayer, where the poor line up for free meals offered by devotees and where pavement sellers hawk flowers.

He said there have been efforts to educate the people about not dumping waste into the river. “Many polythene bags, bottles, garbage used to be thrown into the river earlier. It is better now,” he said, gazing at the river, happy that it helps draw in more tourists who bring more business.

However just a few meters down from his shop, piles of rubbish dumped along the riverbank are getting slowly washed into the water with the rain.

That is why Mehta remains skeptical and worries the political will for the gigantic task is missing. “I am not talking about this leadership – it is for the last 32 years the same thing is going on,” he said. “It should not be just lip service that we are the sons and daughters of mother Ganga, without doing something.”

In a signal that he is aware the Ganges cleanup is flagging, Modi this month handed charge of the campaign to a senior cabinet minister, Nitin Gadkari, who has a reputation for getting the job done.

Devotees and environmentalists are hoping that will happen. (VOA)

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550 mn Indians live with uncorrected refractive errors, leading to rampant road accidents

Poor vision plays a critical role in safe driving

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Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

New Delhi, Sep 11, 2017: With a staggering 550 million Indians — close to half the population — living with uncorrected refractive errors, the major cause of road accidents, and 63 percent of the world’s population in need of vision correction, two major stakeholders have come together to address the issue in this country and globally.

“Poor vision plays a critical role in safe driving, but we know that much of that could be avoided. According to an analysis by Boston Consulting Group, 23 per cent of drivers have uncorrected vision, but in India that number is 46 per cent — the highest of any country in the world,” Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, Chief Mission Officer of French lensmaker Essilor International, told IANS during a visit here of the three-year partnership with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

The “Action for Road Safety” partnership aims to create awareness on this global health issue and highlight the importance of regular eye checks for safe driving. The call to “Check Your Vision” will be commonly promoted towards local authorities, institutions, NGOs, eye care & medical professionals, driving schools and road users, among others, he added.

The figures for India are horrifying with some 138,000 people being killed in road accidents each year. Last week, Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari released the annual publication, ‘Road Accidents in India – 2016’, which revealed that fatalities resulting from these accidents have risen by about 3.2 per cent.

According to the Home Ministry, there was a 17.6 per cent increase in road accident deaths from 2008 to 2012, and 50 per cent of those who died were aged between 15 and 34.

“Something must be changed,” exclaimed Kristan Gross, Global Executive Director of the Vision Impact Institute, which is funded by the Essilor Social Impact Fund.

Speaking about the initiative in India, Bhuvaraghan noted that access to optometric eye care is limited, as there are approximately seven doctors of optometry per 1 million people across India, well below the world average of 25/1M.

Also Read: Unnatural deaths mostly due to road accidents in India: Report 

“But there is one other key barrier to corrected vision that we must still address: Acceptance. In India, stigmas exist around spectacle wear for all ages, but it is a tremendous issue for those in the professional driving industry.

“We have heard from many in this industry that wearing spectacles can be seen as a weakness or a visible defect. Therefore, many drivers are not wearing the correction they need, even when it is prescribed. Drivers were fearful of not being hired if they are thought to be defective,” he added.

To this end, The Vision Impact Institute is working to break down these stigmas through education, utilising the personal testimonies of other drivers for which vision correction and eye protection have been a benefit rather than a drawback, Gross explained.

A Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) interim report on ‘Assessment of Visual Limitations of Commercial Drivers in Metropolitan Cities in India’ focusses on commercial drivers in Delhi. The study was in association with the Vision Impact Institute. The sample size of the survey was 627 drivers and the study was conducted during August 8-14, 2017. Seventy per cent of those surveyed were light motor vehicle drivers, 24 per cent were heavy motor vehicle drivers, four per cent were private bus drivers while one per cent were government bus drivers.

According to the preliminary findings:

* One in every three drivers had either marginal or poor Far Visual Acuity (distance vision)

* Half the drivers surveyed had either marginal or poor Near Visual Acuity (near vision)

* Overall 29 per cent drivers, mostly among the older age group, with marginal and unacceptable stereopsis (depth perception) problems were more likely to be involved in accidents

* Overall 34 per cent drivers were found glare blind (56-60 per cent of the younger group of drivers had glare-related problems, 29-44 per cent of the older group of drivers had glare-related problems)

As for FIA, with its 245 member-clubs, representing over 80 million road users in 144 countries worldwide and its strong showcase in motor sport (F1, WEC, WTCC, WRC, World RX, ERC, Formula E et al), it “is a major global voice in the automotive world and is strongly committed to raising awareness and taking action on this global issue”, Bhuvaraghan concluded. (IANS)