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Auckland, New Zealand: The sugar industry of Fiji degrades due to damage from Cyclone Winston in February and an impending expiry of crucial low-tariff exports deal with the European Union.
Winston, one of the strongest cyclones ever in the South Pacific, slammed into Fiji on February 20. The storm claimed 44 lives in Fiji and caused damage valued at $226 million, including $48.4 million to the sugar industry, according to preliminary estimates by the Fiji National Disaster Management Office.
The industry, the country’s largest employer, employs about 40,000 people, with up to 250,000 of the country’s 881,000 population relying on it when extended families are included. About 80% of the current crop was destroyed, and two of four crushing mills run by the state-owned Fiji Sugar Corporation were damaged.
Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the cyclone was a terrible blow, coming just after a glowing economic report on Fiji from the International Monetary Fund. “Now all of that may be in doubt,” he told diplomats.
The IMF report, released on February 5, said Fiji was “enjoying strong growth momentum, due to higher investment, robust tourism and strong remittances, supported by an improvement in the terms of trade.”
More presciently, the IMF noted that significant risks to growth were “largely related to external developments, including Fiji’s exposure to natural disasters.” The rains brought by Winston followed two years of drought.
Praveen Singh, the leader of a cane producers’ association, said the combination of the drought and Winston had created a bad situation ahead of the harvesting season between June and September. “We may have to forego the 2016 harvest and plan for a bigger harvest next year,” he said.
Last year’s crop of 1.84 million tons of cane produced 222,000 tons of raw sugar, one of the country’s lowest harvests. In 1996, a record 4.4 million tons of cane was crushed. Around 75% of Fiji’s arable land is planted with sugar cane and the crop is Fiji’s biggest export, valued at $52 million in 2015.
Most of Fiji’s sugar exports go to the UK, where it has preferential access to EU support measures, and prices are up to four times the global sugar price. The EU is due to scrap the measures next year, leaving Fiji to compete for head on with sugar producing giants such as Australia, Brazil, India, and Thailand.
EU-Pacific ambassador Andrew Jacobs has hinted that Brussels might develop proposals to help Fiji. “The EU recognizes that the sugar industry is very important to Fiji,” he said, without offering specific measures.
However, Fijians appear divided about whether the industry has a future, and what its long-term impact will be on the economy, relations between the country’s indigenous Fijian and ethnic Indian population groups, and stability in the coup-prone political system.
About 16,000 cane growers are Indian, according to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics.
Addressing the International Sugar Organization in November, Bainimarama said the future for Fiji sugar after the end of the EU deal would lie in extracting “the maximum sugar possible from every stick of cane.”
“We must extract every economic advantage we can from the sugar cane plant and the more productive and resilient varieties we continue to develop,” Bainimarama said. India has provided Fiji with a $70 million line of credit to build a co-generation plant, but a small pilot plant was affected by Winston.
Bainimarama said the industry was irreplaceable. “It cannot and must not be allowed to decline… [despite] the odds that are stacked against us; we do not intend to give up on sugar cane in Fiji,” he said.
Institutional analysts said the industry faced major structural problems. The IMF report also said that “modernization of the industry is urgently needed to improve international competitiveness.”
Padma Lal, an economist who has specialized in studying the Fiji sugar industry, said the damage to mills, irrigation and drainage systems, roads and rail links made it imperative for Fiji to diversify its rural economy away from sugar by increasing production of vegetables, poultry, ducks and goat meat.
“I would use this opportunity to rationalize the industry, however painful it may be,” said Lal.
(The article was first published in asia.nikkei.com)
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Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan face a bleak future in a country dominated by the Taliban. While the Islamic fundamentalist organisation claims that minorities would be secure, many are apprehensive based on previous experiences.
Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have returned to their homes in various regions of the nation after spending weeks at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita, a Sikh shrine in Kabul's Karte Parwan neighbourhood.
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Religious minorities' lives have been thrown into chaos after the collapse of Afghanistan's civilian government and the Taliban's takeover of the conflict-torn country last month.
After almost 140 Sikhs and Hindus were unable to board an Indian military evacuation flight from Kabul airport following a suicide bomb strike near the airport, around 250 Sikhs and Hindus remain in Afghanistan.
They risk a bleak future under the extremist Islamist administration because there are no flights out of the Taliban-led capital city.
India had evacuated over 600 people from the Afghan capital before the last American plane departed from Kabul airport. 67 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were among those killed, including parliamentarians Anarkali Kaur Honaryar and Narender Singh Khalsa.
the origins of Afghanistan's Sikh and Hindu community date back centuries, even before the country's founding.Unsplash
Is it possible for a non-Muslim to be an Afghan?
According to Inderjeet Singh, author of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs: History of a Thousand Years, the origins of Afghanistan's Sikh and Hindu community date back centuries, even before the country's founding.
"The history of Sikhs in modern-day Afghanistan can be traced back to Guru Nanak's tenure in the region, which corresponds with the birth of the religion itself in the 16th century," Singh told DW. "The Hindu religion's origins are far older."
However, those in authority have depicted them as outsiders or "foreigners," relegating them to second-class status in their own nation, regardless of the administration.
Puja Kaur Matta, an Afghan Sikh anthropologist who currently resides in Germany, argues, "Sikhs and Hindus are locals – not foreigners." When Taliban terrorists took over Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, her parents, who had roots in Ghazni and Kabul like many Sikhs and Hindus, immigrated to Europe.
Their population has shrunk from 60,000 in 1992 to less than 300 presently.
Also read: India hosting Taliban welcome meet
Segregation and harassment threats
Minorities held out some hope for equal rights under the deposed civilian administration, despite years of systemic and structural discrimination. However, two large assaults in 2018 and 2020 destroyed this optimism.
In the first suicide explosion, Khalsa's father was slain, and at least 25 Sikh pilgrims were killed in the 2020 Gurdwara shrine assault. Both assaults were claimed by "Islamic State Khorasan" (IS-K), a regional offshoot of the "Islamic State" organisation. The gang was most recently responsible for the suicide assault that killed at least 182 people at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Sikhs and Hindus worry that under the new Taliban administration, they would be forced to wear yellow tags to indicate their non-Muslim identity, as they were in the past.
"For their beliefs, Sikhs and Hindus have been targeted," Kaur adds.
"For fear of harassment, a generation of youngsters were unable to attend school. They couldn't even bury their loved ones without risking being stoned in front of others." The word "home" connotes a sense of security, which many communities have long since lost.
India's contradictory policies have left them in the lurch.
As India prepares to welcome Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan, its uneven attitude toward asylum seekers and refugees has left hundreds stranded. The government's stance toward asylum seekers varies significantly, depending on whether it is based on ties with the nation from which they are seeking protection or on local politics.
New Delhi said this month that it will provide shelter to Afghans of all faiths, not just Hindus and Sikhs. However, what the government states may not be representative of what occurs on the ground.
There is no openness regarding how people are given refuge since there is no protocol in place.
Aside from the uncertainty surrounding their refugee status, living in India is difficult. Delhi, which is home to the majority of the Afghan diaspora, is a pricey city. The majority of Afghans in this country do not have work licences. It is not possible to survive on handouts.
Dreams of a secure future
Sikhs and Hindus escaping Afghanistan desire to establish a new life — one that is stable — and give their children a great future.
Kaur Matta, now 29, was one of those children when her parents opted to leave Afghanistan, opening up a world of possibilities for her. She now wants to start a dialogue about her neighbourhood.
Even though a substantial number of Sikhs and Hindus leave Afghanistan, some families have chosen to remain in the nation as guardians of their places of worship – their legacy.
"We don't have a place to live," Kaur Matta says. If you're looking for a unique "People in Afghanistan refer to us as Indians. We are Afghans in India."
"All we want is a safe haven where we can live our lives without fear of persecution – a place where we may practise our faith, follow our traditions, work, and raise our children without fear of persecution."
Keywords: Afghanistan, Indians, Hindu, Sikh, Origin of Sikhs in Afghanistan
Many brands in India are favoring the Halal stamp on their products. From the likes of Haldiram's, Bikano, Amul to Patanjali, big brands are paying high prices to gain confidence of their Muslim consumer base. According to the belief of Sharia, a Muslim should only consume food which is permissible under Halal.
What is Halal?
Halal is an Arabic word meaning allowed or permitted. In Islam there are several ground rules regarding halal. The do's come under halal and the don'ts fall under 'Haram' category. Haram means unlawful, essentially following halal guarantees pure Islamic practice.
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The religious practice of halal, does not always encompass sophisticated mannerisms. One such practice which may be deemed inhumane is the slaughtering of animals fit for eating. According to the Muslim Halal method the animal has to be placed in the direction of Mecca and must be awake during the time of butchery. A Muslim butcher would make a deep incision in the animal's throat while saying "Bismillah"(in the name of god). The slaughtered animal would be left to bleed till its death. It is important to note that the non-religious methods are comparatively sympathetic in the method of killing the animal. The animals are not conscious when the deed is done, thus feeling no pain.
What is halal certification?
Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind Halal Trust, an organization in India which claims itself to be a 'non-profit', issues certification for food products, restaurants, airlines and hospitals which is accepted in several countries. The certification ensures that the concerned food items, restaurants, hotels, airlines and hospitals are complying with the halal practices. If it is a food item, it means it is fit for consumption as per the Sharia law. The religious practice may seem noble for religious purposes but it has more than one contribution to the Islamic community.
Map depicting Muslim majority countriesWikimedia
The supposed not-for-profit organization gains approximately 4 crores in a year from over 250 traders in India. The organization markets the Halal trademark as the sole key to "penetrating Muslim countries" and the ones who do not have it "would lose a large segment of potential consumers from around the world". It claims the Halal market to be worth $600 billions' worth. As an NGO the Halal Trust is provided tax exemptions on its funds. Not only does it have a profit-based business in the country but it gains from abroad in crores. 'Jamiat Ulma Hind UK' is its top foreign contributor, with a contribution of over 6 crores in the last 4 years.
Though the Jamiat's origin has roots in the Khilafat movement of 1919, the current running has nothing to do with it. Jamiat aims to 'enroll 20,000 fresh members' in the Jamiat Youth Club in 2021 and 12.5 million youth to be prepared in the next 10 years. With details of expansion of the club and promotion in the youth, Jamiat focuses on propagation of Islamic practices and upliftment of madrasas.
The question arises, in a country which claims itself to be secular, what place do such organizations hold? Do they enjoy special status in the name of minority or is it a general bias running throughout the world?
Key Words: Halal, Halal Certificate, Islam