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Flood-hit eastern region in India ‘raises risk’ of Women, Children being sold into slavery

India alone is home 40 percent of the world's estimated 45.8 million slaves, according to a 2016 global slavery index published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation

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An aerial view of a flooded village on the outskirts of Allahabad, India, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

– by Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI, August 28, 2016: India’s flood-hit eastern region are at risk of being preyed upon by human traffickers and Women and children are being sold into slavery in middle-class homes, restaurants, and shops and even brothels, warned aid workers on Friday.

Heavy monsoon rains have caused rivers including the Ganges and its tributaries to burst their banks, forcing more than 200,000 people into relief camps in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand.

The deluge has killed at least 300 people, submerged thousands of mud-and-brick villages and destroyed large swathes of farmland – affecting millions of people across the five states.

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Charities working in the worst affected regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh said trafficking was widespread in the aftermath of previous disasters in the region, such as last year’s earthquake in neighboring Nepal and floods in Bihar in 2008.

“Children are always the most vulnerable during emergencies – especially during floods, when families are forced to move to higher ground, leaving their homes for an extended period of time,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children India.

“While a child’s parents may not always remain in their close proximity, and with the presence of strangers, the threat of sexual abuse and child trafficking is high. There are organized groups of offenders who are quick to seize opportunities to exploit the plight of children.”

South Asia is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime.

India alone is home 40 percent of the world’s estimated 45.8 million slaves, according to a 2016 global slavery index published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

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Thousands of children, mostly from poor rural areas, are taken to cities every year by gangs who sell them into bonded labor or hire them out to unscrupulous employers.

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Many end up as domestic workers or laborers in brick kilns, roadside restaurants or small textile and embroidery workshops. Many women and girls are sold into brothels.

Experts say post-disaster human trafficking has become common in South Asia as an increase in extreme events caused by global warming leave the already poor even more vulnerable.

The breakdown of social institutions in devastated areas creates difficulties in securing food and humanitarian supplies, leaving women and children at risk of kidnapping, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.

“CHILD-FRIENDLY SPACES”

Government officials in Bihar said they were aware of the risk of exploitation and were working with charities such as Save The Children, ActionAid, and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF to curb instances of trafficking.

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“Before the current floods, we had held meetings early this month on the issue of human trafficking,” said Imamudin Ahmad, Director of Bihar’s social welfare department.

“We are sensitizing people and are involving everyone including the police department, labor  department, and social welfare departments.”

Officials added that authorities were also checking trains, often used to transport victims, originating from impoverished districts where children labor is commonly sourced.

With schools destroyed or shut down, aid agencies said they were creating “child-friendly spaces” to give children a safe environment to play, learn and be with their families.

“The company of others, along with trained facilitators, ensures that children are able to discuss their challenges and reduce their anxiety,” said Rafay Hussain, General Manager for Save the Children in Bihar.

“From our experience, we have seen that children need the company of their parents, family, and friends during such crises – and every effort should be made to ensure that they do remain in such company, for their safety and overall well-being.”

India usually experiences monsoons from June to September which are crucial for its agriculture sector, making up 18 percent of its gross domestic product and employing almost half the country’s 1.3 billion people.

But in many states, the rains frequently cause landslides and flooding that wash away crops, demolish homes and devastate livelihoods – pushing already impoverished families to the brink.

The floods in Bihar this year have killed at least 130 people. Almost one million people across 24 of Bihar’s 38 districts have been evacuated from their homes and are either in relief camps or have sought shelter on embankments and roads.

Television pictures showed people wading shoulder-high in floodwaters or sitting on the rooftops of partially submerged buildings, while others were seen climbing into boats as they were rescued by India’s disaster response teams.

Authorities said that they had managed to reach most affected communities, but aid agencies working in the state said rescue and relief efforts fell short of what was needed.

“We have also been working with the administration providing status updates, offering support and coordinating efforts. However all flood relief efforts are inadequate in terms of the scope and extent of the crisis,” said Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid India.

“In particular, many areas reported a shortage of boats. We need greater effort in building disaster preparedness and ensuring rapid response to emergency rescue and relief.” (Reuters)

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Dalai Lama says that India and China have great potential

The spiritual leader feels that both the countries are doing compassionate works

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Dalai Lama talks about India and China
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai says that India and China can work together. VOA

New Delhi, Nov 19

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.

“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.

The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.

“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.

Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.

“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.

The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.

“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.

He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.

“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”

The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)

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Manushi Chhillar from India Wins the Miss World 2017 Title

India's Manushi Chillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant here, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

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Miss World
Manushi Chhillar has been crowned as Miss World 2017. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

China, November 19: India’s Manushi Chhillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

Chhillar competed against 108 contestants from various countries at a glittering event held at Sanya City Arena here.

Miss World 2016 winner Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle gave away the coveted crown to the winner.

Chhillar, who is from Haryana, had earlier this year won the Femina Miss India 2017.

Miss world
Anti Ageing was the official skin care expert for Manushi Chhillar at the Miss World 2017 pageant. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

India, England, France, Kenya and Mexico grabbed the top five spots at the peagant.

Manushi, born to doctor parents, studied in St. Thomas School in New Delhi and Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonepat.

Her entire family including brother and sister were present and they looked excited watching Manushi grabbing top five spot.

As many as 108 beauty queens from different parts of the world participated in the prestigious pageant. (IANS)

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The Fall of the poster boy of Indian politics – Nitish Kumar

How Nitish Kumar gave his career a downfall drift

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Chief Minister of Bihar
Nitish Kumar

Amulya Ganguly

At one time, he was the poster boy of Indian politics. Not only did he slay the villain of Bihar’s “jungle raj” in 2005 by rounding up lawless elements after winning an election and launching social and economic development projects, he also scored another resounding electoral victory in the company of a new set of friends, including the “villain”, in 2015.

It appeared at the time that he could do no wrong. So much so that he was seen as a possible prime ministerial candidate of the “secular” front.

But, then, the rise and rise of Nitish Kumar came to an abrupt halt. He remains Bihar’s Chief Minister, but the halo round his head has frayed.

The reason is not only his switching of friends in what is seen as an exercise in crass opportunism, but also his pursuit of policies which are out of sync with the modern world and threatens to reinforce Bihar’s reputation for backwardness by turning the entire state into a virtual dehat or village.

The first step in this bucolic direction was the imposition of prohibition which has robbed Bihar’s clubs, hotels and intellectual watering holes of cosmopolitanism. Now, Nitish Kumar has taken yet another step backwards by demanding 50 per cent reservations for the backward castes in the private sector.

To begin with the second step, it is obvious that by threatening to take the quota system to such an absurd level, the Chief Minister has scotched any hope of industrial growth in a state which is crying out for investment.

In 2012, Bihar received investment proposals worth Rs 24,000 crore. In the post-liquor ban period, they have dropped to Rs 6,500 crore.

If his new ally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had any hope, therefore, of making Bihar the beneficiary of his Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas goals, he can bid it goodbye.

Nitish Kumar’s latest pitch in favour of the backward castes is all the more strange because he cannot seriously expect that his proposal will pass muster at the judicial level.

Like most Indian politicians, he is more interested in posing as a champion of whichever group he is courting at a given moment than in adopting measures which have a reasonable chance of success.

He merely wants to impress his targeted audience by showing that he did make an honest effort, but was stymied by the “system”.

Whether it is prohibition or reservations, Nitish Kumar’s ploys tend to underline crafty political manoeuvres rather than any genuine intention of acting in the state’s interest.

Unfortunately for the Janata Dal (United) leader, his gambits are too palpable to deceive anyone. In the case of the reservations, it is clear that Nitish Kumar is still battling his old adversary-cum-ally-cum-adversary, Lalu Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Since Nitish Kumar belongs to a numerically small and politically less influential caste — the Kurmis — than the RJD’s powerful Yadavs, he has never been at ease in Lalu Prasad’s company whether at the time of their camaraderie during Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-Congress movement or when they were a part of the state government after the 2015 election victory.

The focal point of Nitish Kumar’s political career has been to establish himself as the foremost leader in the state. Lalu Prasad’s conviction in the fodder scam case enabled Nitish Kumar to be the No. 1 in the Janata Dal (United)-RJD-Congress government.

But he appeared to be forever looking over his shoulder to check whether he was being undermined by the RJD which has more MLAs than the Janata Dal (United).

Prohibition was the policy which he embraced to win over the lower middle class and rural women to his side. But, predictably, the liquor ban has led to an increase in drug abuse with 25 per cent of the cases in de-addiction centres now dealing with the users of cannabis, inhalants and sedatives.

Unlike prohibition which is not aimed at any caste, the demand for the 50 per cent reservations is intended by Nitish Kumar to bolster his position vis-a-vis Lalu Prasad since both are intent on playing the backward caste card.

It is also a message to his partner in the government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), about the importance of the quota system for the Chief Minister, especially when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, is in favour of doing away with reservations altogether.

Nitish Kumar's self demolition
Bihar’s chief minister gave his political career a U-turn.

When Bhagwat expressed his views during the 2015 election campaign, the BJP quickly distanced itself from them for fear of losing the backward caste and Dalit votes. Even then, the BJP’s reputation as a brahmin-bania party remains intact. Besides, it is now more focused on playing the nationalist card than on wooing the backward castes.

Nitish Kumar must have thought, therefore, that the time was ripe for him to up the ante on the caste issue if only to let the BJP know that he cannot be marginalised as the BJP has been tending to do since tying the knot with the Janata Dal (United).

But, whatever his intention, Nitish Kumar cannot but be aware that his position is much weaker now than when he was in the “secular” camp. Nor is there any chance that he will regain his earlier status any time in the near future.(IANS)