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Indian woman NGO worker kidnapped in Afghanistan

Judith's family on Friday expressed hope that India and Afghanistan would act soon to have her released.

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Afghanistan (Representational Image). Image source:
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  • The aid agency also confirmed to IANS that a “staff member of the Aga Khan Foundation” was abducted, but it did not name her
  • Judith’s family on Friday expressed hope that India and Afghanistan would act soon to have her released
  • The latest in a series of terror strikes on Indian interests in Afghanistan was on an Indian consulate on March 2

The Indian embassy in Kabul is in touch with senior Afghan authorities and the government, the sources said, adding that officials in Delhi were also in contact with her family in Kolkata.

They said all efforts are being made by the Afghan authorities to secure her release.

Judith DSouza, kidnapped in Afghanistan. Image Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Judith DSouza, kidnapped in Afghanistan. Image Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

The aid agency also confirmed to IANS that a “staff member of the Aga Khan Foundation” was abducted, but it did not name her.

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“An investigation by the authorities has been launched, in conjunction with security officials and various partners. Every effort is being made to secure the safe release of the staff member,” Aga Khan spokesperson Sam Pickens said in an email response.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that she has spoken to D’Souza’s sister.

“I have spoken to the sister of Judith D’Souza. We will spare no efforts to rescue her,” she tweeted.

“She is your sister and India’s daughter. We are doing everything to rescue her. Please take care of your sick father,” Sushma Swaraj added.

Agnes D'Souza the sister of Indian aid worker Judith D'Souza. Image Source: www.arabnews.com
Agnes D’Souza the sister of Indian aid worker Judith D’Souza. Image Source: www.arabnews.com

Judith’s family on Friday expressed hope that India and Afghanistan would act soon to have her released.

“It happened in a different country. The government of that country should take steps. She liked the place as she said there was a lot of work to be done,” Judith’s sister Agnes D’Souza told the media in Kolkata.

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“But if such a thing happens, who would want to go back? I am asking every channel to do their part. The government of India must do something and get my sister back. I want her back,” she added.

Asked about Taliban involvement in the crime, Agnes said: “I don’t know.”

Judith’s family came to know about the development around 1.30 a.m. on Friday from the Indian embassy in Kabul.

This is not the first time that an Indian aid worker has been kidnapped in Afghanistan. Taliban militants have mostly been blamed for the kidnappings.

Many Indian establishments have also been targeted in the past in Afghanistan where New Delhi has pledged and made huge investments to rebuild the war-torn country.

Family of Judith D'Souza. Image Source: Indian Express
Family of Judith D’Souza. Image Source: Indian Express

The latest in a series of terror strikes on Indian interests in Afghanistan was on an Indian consulate on March 2.

The abduction comes as the Indian embassy issued a security alert earlier last month for Indians residing in Afghanistan and travelling to the country.

“All Indians residing and travelling to Afghanistan are advised that the security situation in the country remains highly volatile. Terrorist attacks have taken place in the country against foreigners and are expected to continue. There is also the risk of kidnapping and hostage taking throughout the Afghanistan,” the embassy statement warned. (IANS)

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Most Terrible Water Crisis Ever In History Leaves Millions Of Indians Thirsty

6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water.

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A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017.
A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017. VOA

Weak infrastructure and a national shortage have made water costly all over India, but Sushila Devi paid a higher price than most. It took the deaths of her husband and son to force authorities to supply it to the slum she calls home.

“They died because of the water problem, nothing else,” said Devi, 40, as she recalled how a brawl over a water tanker carrying clean drinking water in March killed her two relatives and finally prompted the government to drill a tubewell.

“Now things are better. But earlier … the water used to be rusty, we could not even wash our hands or feet with that kind of water,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Delhi.

India is “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history”, threatening hundreds of millions of lives and jeopardising economic growth, a government think-tank report said in June.

From the northern Himalayas to the sandy, palm-fringed beaches in the south, 600 million people – nearly half India’s population – face acute water shortage, with close to 200,000 dying each year from polluted water.

Residents like Devi queue daily with pipes, jerry cans and buckets in hand for water from tankers – a common lifeline for those without a safe, reliable municipal supply – often involving elbowing, pushing and punching.

On the rare occasions water does flow from taps, it is often dirty, leading to disease, infection, disability and even death, experts say.

“The water was like poison,” said Devi, who still relies on the tanker for drinking water, outside her one-room shanty in the chronically water-stressed Wazirpur area of the capital Delhi.

“It is better now, but still it is not completely drinkable. It is alright for bathing and washing the dishes.”

Water pollution is a major challenge, the report said, with nearly 70 percent of India’s water contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.

Yet only one-third of its wastewater is currently treated, meaning raw sewage flows into rivers, lakes and ponds – and eventually gets into the groundwater.

“Our surface water is contaminated, our groundwater is contaminated. See, everywhere water is being contaminated because we are not managing our solid waste properly,” said the report’s author Avinash Mishra.
Loss of livelihood

Meanwhile, unchecked extraction by farmers and wealthy residents has caused groundwater levels to plunge to record lows, says the report.

It predicts that 21 major cities, including New Delhi and India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.

The head of WaterAid India VK Madhavan said the country’s groundwater was now heavily contaminated.

“We are grappling with issues, with areas that have arsenic contamination, fluoride contamination, with salinity, with nitrates,” he said, listing chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

Arsenic and fluoride occur naturally in the groundwater, but become more concentrated as the water becomes scarcer, while nitrates come from fertilisers, pesticides and other industrial waste that has seeped into the supply.

The level of chemicals in the water was so high, he said, that bacterial contamination – the source of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid – “is in the second order of problems”.

“Poor quality of water – that is loss of livelihood. You fall ill because you don’t have access to safe drinking water, because your water is contaminated.”

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.
Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater. pixabay

“The burden of not having access to safe drinking water, that burden is greatest on the poor and the price is paid by them.”

Frothy lakes and rivers

Crippling water problems could shave 6 percent off India’s gross domestic product, according to the report by the government think-tank, Niti Aayog.

“This 6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water. Our industry, our food security, everything will be at stake,” said Mishra.

“It is a finite resource. It is not infinite. One day it can (become) extinct,” he said, warning that by 2030 India’s water supply will be half of the demand.

To tackle this crisis, which is predicted to get worse, the government has urged states – responsible for supplying clean water to residents – to prioritise treating waste water to bridge the supply and demand gap and to save lives.

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.

Every year, Bengaluru and New Delhi make global headlines as their heavily polluted water bodies emit clouds of white toxic froth due to a mix of industrial effluents and domestic garbage dumped into them.

In Bengaluru – once known as the “city of lakes” and now doomed to go dry – the Bellandur Lake bursts into flames often, sending plumes of black smoke into sky.

The Yamuna river that flows through New Delhi can be seen covered under a thick, detergent-like foam on some days.

On other days, faeces, chemicals and ashes from human cremations float on top, forcing passers-by to cover their mouths and noses against the stench.

That does not stop 10-year-old Gauri, who lives in a nearby slum, from jumping in every day.

With no access to water, it is the only way to cool herself down during India’s scorching summers, when temperatures soar to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

“There usually is not enough water for us to take a shower, so we come here,” said Gauri, who only gave her first name, as she and her brother splashed around in the filthy river.

Also read: India’s bulging water crisis: Is it too late for us to do something?

“It makes us itchy and sick, but only for some time. We are happy to have this, everyone can use it.” (VOA)