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Society

Crimes against children lowest in Nagaland: Child-Trafficking Increases in Assam

 

The crime graph on the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) points to a steady uptrend in crimes committed against children in Nagaland. As per the NCRB’s latest but delayed Crime in India (2017) compendium, from 61 reported cases in 2015, crimes against children rose to 78 in 2016 to reach a high of 93 at a rate of 13.9 per lakh of population in 2017 against the national rate of 28.9.

Despite the visible increase from a state perspective, Nagaland ranked lowest among the states in terms of incidence and was the only state with fewer than hundred cases reported. Only the Union Territories of Puducherry, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep reported lesser cases than Nagaland.

In terms of frequency, the then state of Jammu & Kashmir ranked lowest at 8 per lakh of population. J & K had a total of 359 reported cases. The all-India total of reported cases was 1,29,032.

Kidnappings and abductions (46 victims) and cases cognizable under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (43 victims) dominated, registering 42 and 41 cases, respectively. It also included 1 rape, 2 attempted rapes, 2 under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and five others.

The two attempted rapes were also featured in the data for Crime against Women.

With the inclusion of 5 other victims, the total number of victims under this category stood at 101.

The state police investigated as many as 143 cases relating to crimes committed on children, inclusive of 50 pending from 2016. Of the outstanding total, 53 were charge-sheeted, inclusive of 12 pending cases from 2016. There were 2 abatements and 60 others deemed and disposed as false report, mistake of fact or of law or civil dispute, insufficient evidence. The year ended with 28 in the process of investigations.

During the year, the courts tried as many as 94 cases, including 41 cases pending from 2016. Hearings were concluded in 22 of the court trials, resulting in 15 convictions, 4 acquittals and 3 discharges. The number of persons convicted included 25 men and 1 woman.

There were relatively swift trials too, as 8 of the convictions were of cases that reached the court during the year. Cases pending trial at the end of the year stood at 72— in other words, a pendency rate of 76.6 percent.

The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) on Tuesday said child trafficking cases has increased by at least 55 per cent in 2019 across the state.

A total of 125 cases of different crimes against children were registered with the organization during the current year. Till November 10 this year, we have registered 17 cases of child trafficking. This figure was 11 for the whole year of 2018.

ASCPCR has registered 43 cases of child sexual abuse in the same period this year against 53 in 2018. There were five cases of child marriage too compared to six in last year.

Instances of violation of right to education for children has also seen a considerable rise with 13 cases being already registered this year, while the same was just nine in 2018.

ASCPCR registered 24 cases of child in need of care and protection till November 10 as against 36 in 2018, she added.

There are five cases of other crimes this year as against one in last year.

ASCPCR on Tuesday rolled out a mobile application for lodging complaints of child rights violations.

 

Economy

Seeking Happiness – The Bhutanese Way

by Dasho Kinely Dorji 

People and organisations in many countries around the world claim to have adopted Bhutan’s human development vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

However, what they actually portray is different people’s perceptions of GNH. Some are philosophical, some are well researched academic constructions, while the others are spaced-out theories.

GNH has been described as an esoteric philosophy, an inspiring concept, a developmental goal, a measure of development, a wake-up call, and so on.

It is also being criticised as a platform for ambitious politicians, a mere catchphrase, an empty promise, meaningless platitudes, a purely intellectual concept, as well as an academic redundancy.

If confusion is truly the beginning of wisdom, all these are ‘wonderful’. I, too, would like to add to the confusion by sharing my understanding of GNH, by attempting some responses and clarifications to ideas that are being exchanged.

What exactly is ‘Happiness’?

To talk about GNH, I believe that we have to first define what happiness is.

I know that the world’s greatest minds have been trying to define happiness for centuries but I have my own idea of a GNH perspective on happiness.

The happiness in GNH is not fun, pleasure, thrill, excitement – or any other fleeting emotions, it is the deeper and permanent sense of contentment that we consciously or, in our sub-conscience, seek.

Have we achieved GNH in Bhutan? The answer is ‘No’. But has GNH had an impact on Bhutanese society? Yes.

 

 

Everyone who has visited Bhutan senses a different atmosphere from the moment he or she arrives. I believe that this sense comes from the values that have been nurtured over the centuries.

Today, we are calling it GNH, therefore, I offer my understanding of GNH as it exists today.

I see GNH in four forms – the intuitive, the intellectual, the responsibility and the emerging global.

The intuitive

First of all, I see intuitive GNH values in past generations of Bhutanese who had strong mutual understanding and enjoyed interdependent existence as members of small rural communities.

The village astrologer, the lay monk, the lead singer, the carpenter, the arrow maker, the elders and the youth, all of them had their own responsibilities.

The values, drawn from Buddhist teachings, from the experience and wisdom of our ancestors and from the very practical needs of a subsistence farming lifestyle, inculcated a reverence for an interdependent existence with all life forms, or all sentient beings.

Some examples of these are seen in the reluctance to hunt and fish (both of which are banned in the country), the sometimes frustrating tendency to be less ‘productive’ to avoid hurting or upsetting someone, and putting up with the cacophony of an unruly stray dog population. To put it simply, people basically identified with their own priorities in life.

In the 1980s, farmers of one village were taught successfully to do a double crop of paddy, meaning that they doubled their rice production that year.

However, they refused to do it the following year because, as one farmer said, “We did not have time to play archery, to enjoy our festivals or to bask in the sun.”

The philosophical

Another perception level I see is the attempt to define, explain and measure GNH, along with the academic construction of the concept.

The four pillars and nine domains of GNH

As discussed earlier, the best accepted definition of happiness is the abiding sense of inter-relatedness with all life forms and of contentment that lies within the self.

This is related to the happiness that Buddhists seek from the practice of meditation.

In one understanding of GNH as a development vision, a representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) described it as a much more advanced concept of the Human Development Index that the UNDP has been refining.

The responsibility

This takes me to the third perception: GNH as a government responsibility.

As discussed, I think the definition of happiness as the abiding sense of contentment as well as GNH as a government responsibility make basic sense, although the translation of these into policy, legislation and prioritised activities is very much still a work in progress.

In other words, we may agree on goals, values, and responsibilities, but differ sharply on the best strategies to achieve these goals.

And yet, it is the recognition that GNH must be the basis of mainstream policy thinking that sets Bhutan apart from some countries that have expressed interest in harnessing the values of GNH.

As we have seen during the GNH conferences in Thailand, Brazil, and Canada, some people doing good work among their communities, such as the NGOs and civil society organisations, thought that they have found an identity in GNH.

In Bhutan, however, the four pillars and nine domains of GNH have given politicians and bureaucrats some idea of national priorities.

This is useful because public servants do not intellectualise policy but make decisions that have an impact on all citizens.

The international discourse

The fourth perception level is the “internationalisation” of the GNH discussion.

(Source: Chencho Dorji)

Bhutan has certainly not worked out the solutions to the world’s problems, but I think we have opened up an amazing conversation and we need to give this conversation coherence and direction.

The concept of GNH, even partially understood, excites and inspires people. After five international conferences on GNH and the April 2 meeting in New York, one criticism at home has been –  stop preaching GNH overseas and make it work in Bhutan.

This is a resounding example of the need for clarity in GNH thinking and understanding. Here, I emphasise the point that we are not preaching to anyone, rather, we ourselves are learning.

There is a vast amount of research, analysis and experimentation done on GNH-related issues such as sustainability, well-being, climate change and much more, by intellectuals including Nobel laureates, by universities and institutions and by civil societies.

Bhutan must learn from them to in order to deepen its own understanding of GNH.

International discourse can only benefit Bhutan because we ourselves do not have the capacity to undertake the necessary research and analysis required to implement the tenets of GNH fully at home.

In conclusion, there is a growing understanding of, and even fear that the human population, driven by the values of GDP, is literally consuming the earth.

That is why GNH is a pun on GDP which used to be known as Gross National Product. The loud message is that human development needs a higher goal, that is, beyond GDP.

Society

Thimphu was choosed as the capital of Bhutan in 1952

Tshering Tashi

“The favourable aspects of a site in Thimphu valley have made it eminently suitable for the capital.” A recently discovered report titled, “New Capital for Bhutan in the Thimphu Valley,” dated April 1963, reasons why Thimphu was eminently suitable as the new capital of Bhutan.

The first reason was that Thimphu was suitable for round-the-year living. It was also found that the practice of shifting the capital from Thimphu to Punakha during the winter was found expensive for the state. Although the report does not state, it implies that by moving the capital permanently to Thimphu, the state would be absolved of this financial burden. 

Secondly, the proposed site for the capital adjoins the Tashichhodzong and it would be in the proximity of His Majesty’s Palace. In the life of the Bhutanese, these two institutions are of great significance.

Thirdly, Thimphu had the land required for housing a population of 12,000 to 20,000. Fourthly, Thimphu could be reached in about 10 to 15 hours from the Indian airstrip of Hasimara. This factor was considered of great consequence in a country where access in the mountainous terrain was hazardous, time consuming and expensive. 

Fifthly as the site of the capital, Thimphu could maintain effective control on movement in the highways from the north as well as from the South.  

Sixthly, the physical features of Thimphu made it scenic and impressive. Located at an altitude of 8,000 ft. and in between two sub-Himalayan ranges rising sharply to about 12,000 ft., Thimphu provided a good aspect for the capital. Lastly, Thimphu commanded a perennial source of water supply. The terrain was found suitable for good drainage and sewage disposal systems.

The Report

The neatly typed seven-page report has been classified under four broad categories. The categories are;  Preliminary Framework of the capital, Social Base, Economic Base and fourthly the Plan. Under each broad category there are subsections. For example under the first category, the subheadings are, “ Need for a governmental centre, the Site and Scope of Planning. Given the significance of the historical data extracts of the report are being reproduced.  

The Contents 

Under the first broad heading of Preliminary framework of the capital, the need for a governmental centre is justified as “ the opening of the 120 mile highway from Phuntsholing to the Thimphu valley and beyond augurs an era of a development and progress in Bhutan. Activities of varied nature will spring up a consequence of the inter-communication made possible by the highway. It is appropriate that a governmental centre, from which the nation building activities can be conceived, directed, co-ordinated and controlled, be established and developed.”

In the scope of planning, the report states that, “the planning of a township of the size envisaged in a country such as Bhutan, presents problems of adaptation common to all places where such work is being done for the first time. Such problems as arises need to be solved during the first five-year development. The resources of the country have to be harnessed and geared to this end. This work itself will be the  bulk of the programme for the first five years. The growth of the township immediately after this period will be faster. It is possible for the capital to reach the planned size in about 15 years on the whole. A comprehensive plan for 15 years has been envisaged.”

Point 2.1 is classified as Population and its characteristics; “ In the absence of Census data, population estimates can be made only approximately, based on the employment potential of the community. An estimate of the total employment generated in the capital at Thimphu is worked out in paragraph three. It is assumed that the family size will continue to be between three and four persons. Adjustments for factors such as average life expectation, fertility rate, infant mortality, etc., are made on the basis of available information. The estimate of population is as follows:

1967, 5,000 persons, 1972, 7,000 persons, 1977, 10,000-12,000 persons may achieve a high figure of 20,000.”

The report states that the housing policy for the capital must include the provisions to be made by the various departments of the government to house their staff, the extent to which private housing will come up in the capital and also on the clusters to which the Bhutanese workers would like to move in the capital. Adaptations of the prevalent building techniques in rubble, rammed earth and timber will have to be evolved. The resources for putting up a large number of buildings need to be studied. 

To realise the housing facilities demanded, the report assumes that Bhutanese who move to the new capital will continue to build on developed land made available to them. The houses would be similar to or a little improved versions over the traditional adobe houses. It is expected of the government to build houses for their employees on a scale determined by the number of institutions set up in the new capital.

The report states that the extent of development of Thimphu town will span over an area of 700 acres. However, only 400 acres will be used for the development of the town and the balance of 300 acres will be used for agricultural purposes. 

The report proposes to keep a provision for an orchard or alternatively a plantation. The designated area would be north of the Tashichhodzong and cover an area of 20-25 acres. It will also have an agricultural experimental station with a piggery and poultry.

The consultants estimate the rate of development of Thimphu as Rs. 8,000 per acre. The town plan is based on the population estimate of 12,000 with a maximum projection of 20,000 people living in the capital city. The city dwellers were categorised in five income groups starting from those earning Rs. 300 per month to 1,200 per month. Subsistence farmers are also included in the category.  

The report proposes to have a police force of 50 personnel, a school with enrolment of 300-400 and ultimately 600 students. At that time, there was already a hospital and the report recommends adding a T.B Ward to the hospital. 

The April report has a list of maps. Out of the 11 maps, only three were attached to the report; Housing Layout, Road Hierarchy and the Design Report for the Water Supply & Drainage Scheme of the City at Thimphu Valley-Bhutan. The missing eight maps are, Comprehensive Plan 1962-77, Plan for the first stage, Housing Sector D, Housing Sector C, House Design, Perspective of Cluster, Industrial District, Plot and Building Analysis and lastly the Road Hierarchy. 

One of the first documents reflecting the intentions of His Late Majesty to make Thimphu the capital is reflected in a letter dated 3 June 1962. While details are not available, apparently, the Royal Government of Bhutan wrote the letter to the Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur to review the terms of contract. 

The outcome of the letter was the first town plan meeting held in Phuntsholing. The meeting was held on 9 August. The Bhutanese delegation was led by Dasho Lhendup Dorji and consisted of Rai Bahadur T.D. Densapa, Sri M.S Nair and Sri O.P Mathur. The two Indian professors, Prof. R.K. Dhar and A. Subbakrishniah from the Indian Institute of Technology travelled from Kharagpur to Phuntsholing to present the preliminary plan in the form of 22 points. Nine months later, in April 1963, the seven-page report, “New Capital for Bhutan in the Thimphu Valley,” was drafted.  

The process of shifting the capital to Thimphu started much earlier. In 1952, His Majesty the Second Druk Gyalpo passed away and his dying wish was for his son to move the capital from Bumthang to Thimphu. After completing all the funeral rites His Late Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo and Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck moved to Paro and embarked on setting up Thimphu as the new capital of Bhutan.

 

Society

Naga Rebel’s Son and His Wife Arrested for Posing With Assault Rifles at Their Wedding, Released on Bail

  • In Wedding Pics, Nagaland Rebel Leader’s Son, Bride Pose With Assault Rifles

Dimapur: Nagaland Police on Wednesday arrested the couple who posed with automatic assault rifles at their wedding reception in this commercial town of Nagaland. The couple was released on bail bond later.

Two National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Unification (NSCN-U) militants — Ato Sumi and Mughaho — and the bodyguards of the home minister of the NSCN-U, Bohoto Kiba, were also arrested for giving their assault rifles to the couple, a police officer said.

The photographs and a video of the son of Bohoto Kiba and the bride brandishing assault rifles — M4 and AK 56 — at their wedding reception had gone viral on the social media.

“We have arrested the couple and two NSCN-U militants in connection with a suo moto case registered in Diphupar police station for displaying firearms at a wedding reception,” a police officer told IANS.

The couple got married on November 9 at the 5th Mile in Dimapur.

“We have recorded the statements of the couple. They said that the bodyguards of their father handed them the weapons (for photography) at the reception,” he said.

The police have seized the weapons and a case has been registered under the Arms Act, 1959.

Kiba is a powerful Naga rebel leader, who had courted controversy by threatening journalists in Nagaland in 2012. The top militant leader had threatened to shoot the members of the press.

The NSCN-U was formed by breakaway leaders of the Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak-Muivah and the Myanmar-based Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang.

The NSCN-U faction is also one of the seven Naga groups holding peace talks with the government.

International

Jeanine Anez declares herself Bolivia interim president

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Clashes broke out in the streets of Bolivia’s capital Tuesday evening when an opposition leader in the Senate declared herself the country’s interim president after Evo Morales fled to Mexico following his surprise weekend resignation.

Jeanine Añez claimed the post of Senate leader late in the day, a position next in line for the presidency, even though she lacked a quorum because of a boycott by Morales’ Movement for Socialism party. Without being sworn in by anyone, she then appeared on a balcony of the old presidential palace wearing the presidential sash and holding a Bible in her hand.

“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country,” she said. “They can never again steal our vote.”

It was uncertain how much support Añez could count on from other power centers in her bid to replace Morales, who stepped down Sunday under pressure from Bolivia’s military following weeks of violent protests fed by allegations of electoral fraud in the Oct. 20 presidential election.

Some Bolivians quickly took to the streets cheering and waving national flags in opposition strongholds like the cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, but angry Morales’ supporters tried to reach the Congress building in La Paz screaming, “She must quit!” Police and soldiers fired tear gas trying to disperse the crowd and detained some demonstrators.

Morales, who sought to transform Bolivia as its first indigenous president, had faced weeks of widespread outrage over his claim to have won the election outright. He stepped down soon after an Organization of American States audit reported widespread irregularities in the vote count.

He arrived in Mexico on Tuesday under a grant of asylum. But his resignation still needed to be approved by both houses of Congress, and lawmakers could not assemble the numbers needed for formal sessions.

Añez, a 52-year-old lawmaker, women’s rights activist and television presenter, forged ahead anyway, arguing that Bolivia could not wait and be left in a power vacuum. After Morales quit, resignations by allies left vacancies in the only posts listed by the constitution as presidential successors — the vice president, the head of the Senate and the leader of the lower house.

Añez was a second-tier opposition figure until Morales resigned Sunday after nearly 14 years in power, the longest presidential reign ever in Bolivia.

From the start, she tried to set differences with the socialist leader. She greeted supporters at an old palace instead of the nearby modern 26-story presidential palace with a heliport that was built by Morales and that his foes had criticized as one of his excesses. She also carried a Bible, which had been banned by Morales from the presidential palace.

Morales said on Twitter from Mexico that Añez’s “self-proclamation” was an affront to constitutional government. “Bolivia is suffering an assault on the power of the people,” he wrote.

Even before Añez acted, thousands of his supporters were in the streets of the capital in peaceful demonstrations clamoring for his return. Military fighter jets flew repeatedly over La Paz in a show of force that infuriated Morales loyalists who were blocked by police and soldiers from marching to the main square.

“We’re not afraid!” shouted demonstrators, who believe Morales’ departure was a coup d’etat and an act of discrimination against Bolivia’s indigenous communities.

“Evo was like a father to me. We had a voice, we had rights,” said Maria Apasa, who like Morales is a member of the Aymara indigenous group.

Morales’ detractors accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian and rigging the election.

Morales was met at Mexico City’s airport by Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard after a flight from Bolivia on a Mexican government plane and repeated his allegations he had been forced to resign by a coup.

“The president of Mexico saved my life,” Morales said, thanking President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for granting him asylum. He vowed to “continue the struggle.”

Ebrard said Mexican diplomats had to scramble to arrange a flight path for the plane because some nations initially closed airspace to it. The plane stopped in Paraguay to refuel.

Morales’ departure was a dramatic fall for the one-time llama shepherd from the Bolivian highlands and former coca growers’ union leader who as president helped lift millions out poverty, increased social rights and presided over nearly 14 years of stability and high economic growth in South America’s poorest country.

In the end, his downfall was prompted by his insistence on holding onto power. He ran for a fourth term after refusing to accept the results of a referendum that upheld term limits for the president — restrictions thrown out by a top court that critics contend was stacked in his favor.

Gen. Williams Kaliman, chief of the armed forces, announced a joint police-military operation in a television address Monday seeking to calm street fighting. He said the hope was to “avoid bloodshed and mourning of the Bolivian family,” and he urged Bolivians to help restore peace.

Ronald Arias said he had left his home in El Alto and walked for three hours to his job in downtown La Paz because the cable car connecting the cities was suspended for security reasons and barricades blocked access to public transportation.

Arias, a native Aymara, said that thanks to Morales, his parents in the countryside gained access for the first time to running water and gas for cooking.

“I was so saddened by his resignation,” he said. “A lot of people in El Alto shed tears for the president.”

___

Associated Press writers Paola Flores in La Paz and Christopher Torchia in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Society

Between Oolong and Darjeeling

by Simon Winchester | NYT

I had initially thought the book might be little more than an extended advertisement for Ms Lovell’s business. But then I found myself quite caught up in her infectious enthusiasm

Simon Winchester | NYT

It was in Calcutta, 40 years ago, a steaming hot Friday monsoon morning, and I had come down from my newspaper’s office in Delhi to write about the industrial tea trade. I was at the headquarters of Macneill and Magor, a tea giant of the time, whose red brick godowns lined the banks of the Hooghly River. I had a breakfast-time appointment with the company spokesman, a genial Anglo-Indian named Pearson Surita, a man possessed of an accent so plummy that on the side he did cricket commentaries for All-India Radio.

56GlenburnTeaEstatebungalow Brew and a view: A visitor at a Glenburn Tea Estate bungalow in Darjeeling.

The elevator creaked us up to the penthouse, with its fine view of the Maidan. Pearson sat me down by his desk, then promptly called the bearer and demanded two pink gins. But it wasn’t even 8 o’clock, I protested. “Don’t worry, old boy,” Pearson replied. “It’s Poets Day.” Puzzled, I sipped timidly at my gin while Pearson threw his down in one gulp, then called the departing bearer. Another two, he demanded. I yowled still more forcefully. It was early morning. Pink gin? “Don’t be silly,” he repeated. “It’s Poets Day.”

What poet? I ventured — Yeats? Auden? Tagore (who was, after all, a Bengali). “Damn fool,” Pearson said to me genially, though by now he had turned bright red and was sweating majestically. “Poets Day here in Calcutta. Stands for ‘Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.’”

To Pearson, tea was merely a commodity, something that came in large chests, consisting in the main of dried black twigs, crushed by brass engine rollers after being picked in goodness knows how many dozens of estates far away in Assam and Meghalaya and Upper Burma, where the pickers lived in execrable conditions and were paid a pittance. And the customers at the other end: philistine Britons, mainly, who drank the stuff with sugar and milk and let it stew in the pot for hours. No, tea was just a job, and a job that paid nicely, though Pearson would rather have gin. He really didn’t care about tea.

But Henrietta Lovell most certainly does, and these days publicly decries those people, and those industries, whose cavalier attitude to this most divine of nectars and the Camellia strains from which it is made is, in her view, little short of sacrilege. So she is now on a holy mission to educate us all so that we can know the difference between a pu’er and an oolong, between a rooibos and a Darjeeling, and why it matters, greatly.

Ms Lovell is a hearty, galumphing Briton of good pedigree and even better connections who once worked in corporate finance in New York. But on a whim, 15 years ago, she chucked that career to start the Rare Tea Company in London and has since devoted her life to advancing the cause of leaf tea (and to denouncing that epitome of foulness known as the tea bag). More important, she busies herself promoting those farmers around the world who grow tea and tend to it with the care and compassion that so ancient and elemental a beverage deserves and rightly demands. Her visits over a decade and a half to these faraway rural geniuses are what Infused: Adventures in Tea is about.

I had initially thought the book might be little more than an extended advertisement for Ms Lovell’s business. But then I found myself quite caught up in her infectious enthusiasm as she ventured — twice defeating her own cancer, which tried in vain to slow her down — out into the world in search of the green tea hills in China, Japan and India, of course, but also in Malawi, Nepal and South Africa. On occasion, her style can be a little exhausting, with her bursts of Pete Wells-ian polychrome, but one can excuse her. This is a love letter, after all.

I read the book in one contented go on a flight from Sydney to Hong Kong, where I had a few hours’ wait before moving on to New York. Nowadays, it’s surprisingly tricky to find a good loose-tea store in Hong Kong’s vast Starbucksian airport. But it was a long layover and eventually I winkled out the shoe box of Fook Ming Tong, tucked away on an upper floor, and handed over a not insubstantial wad of folding money for a package of Lovell’s most highly recommended ambrosia: white silver tip tea from Fujian Province in southeastern China. Once home, I found myself a graduated-temperature electric kettle, as also suggested, heated fresh water to 75 degrees Celsius and infused three grams of the unprocessed leaves for 90 seconds flat. I then poured the pale and steaming liquid into two fine china cups and took them upstairs.

One careful sip, then two, then a bold draining — whereupon my wife and I declared this tea to be quite sublime, perfect, entirely unlike anything we’d ever tasted before. An impeccably caffeine-loaded, faintly perfumed start to the day. And far, far better and more efficacious in inducing wakefulness and good cheer than ever was gin, pink or otherwise, most especially when taken before breakfast.

Infused: Adventures in Tea

Human Rights

Gambia, the small African country files Lawsuit on behalf of human rights of Rohingya

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar after crossing into Bangladesh in September 2017.
Credit:Adam Dean, The New York Times

An arsenal of international laws has failed to confront the impunity of Myanmar’s government and security forces for their deadly purge of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee a campaign of rape, arson and killing.

But on Monday, Gambia filed a lawsuit accusing Myanmar of genocide, summoning the case before the United Nations’ highest court in an effort to open a legal path against the country’s authorities.

In the suit, filed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Gambia requested that the court condemn Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention with its campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Gambia, a small West African country with a largely Muslim population, was chosen to file the suit on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is also paying for the team of top international law experts handling the case.

The filing amounts to a last-ditch effort to impose an international ruling against Myanmar: Despite a wide outcry over cruelty to the Rohingya, no other court has jurisdiction to pursue a genocide case against the country.

Gambia also requested that the International Court of Justice issue an urgent temporary injunction ordering Myanmar to halt all actions that could aggravate or expand the existing situation. That could mean a demand to stop further extrajudicial killings, rape, hate speech, or leveling of the homes where Rohingya once lived in Rakhine State.

“It is clear that Myanmar has no intention of ending these genocidal acts and continues to pursue the destruction of the group within its territory,” the lawsuit said, adding that the government “is deliberately destroying evidence of its wrongdoings to cover up the crimes.’’

The court’s 15 judges rarely deal with genocide. Based in the stately Peace Palace in The Hague, the Court of Justice was set up by the United Nations to rule on disputes between nations. It acts more like a court of appeal, focusing on questions of international law, such as disputes over borders or disagreements over international conventions.

But that can also include disputes arising from the Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide, established in an earlier case when Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide. The convention covers “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.’’

In its suit, Gambia claims that applies to Myanmar. The novelty in this case, though, is that Gambia is not at war with Myanmar, as Bosnia and Serbia were. But the Genocide Convention treaty does establish a mandate for member nations to act against genocide, wherever they are.

Experts say that if the court accepts the case, whatever the outcome, it will draw renewed attention to the immense suffering of the Rohingya people, most of whom fled to Bangladesh and now live in refugee camps there.

It is not clear how Myanmar, which has always denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide and argues that it was defending itself against an insurgency, will respond to the case.

“Myanmar will ignore this at its peril,’’ said John Packer, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa who has long studied the Rohingya’s plight. If the court hears the case, he said, “there will be a sort of public truth-finding exercise. Myanmar’s simple denials will not stand up to scrutiny.’’

A different body, the International Criminal Court, was specifically created to prosecute genocide and other atrocities. But that court has no jurisdiction over cases in Myanmar because the country has not signed on to the court’s treaty. (Neither have the United States, China, India, Israel and several other countries.)

But the I.C.C. did set itself up to at least partly take up the case against Myanmar last year, when it ruled that it could prosecute for “deportation” and associated crimes against Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh, which is a court member. But judges have not yet approved a criminal investigation by the court’s prosecutor.

Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Gambia’s lawsuit against Myanmar was born out of a series of meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at which the country’s attorney general, Abubacarr M. Tambadou, assumed a position of leadership because of his special expertise. He had worked more than a decade as a lawyer at the United Nations tribunal dealing with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Tambadou said he had been very moved by his visit to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

“The world failed Rwanda when the international community did not prevent the genocide while it was unfolding,’’ he said. “The treatment of the Rohingya is illustrative of the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Myanmar. I thought this was not right. The world cannot stand by and do nothing.’’

The resulting lawsuit, seen by The New York Times, leans heavily on reports by United Nations fact-finding missions and what it calls other credible sources.

Multiple United Nations investigations have underscored what they called a genocidal intent behind the campaign against the Rohingya.

It says that all members of the Rohingya group in Myanmar are presently in grave danger of further genocidal acts because of Myanmar’s deliberate and intentional efforts to destroy them as a group. It also stresses that the remaining Rohingya communities and individuals in Myanmar continue to face daily threats of death, torture, rape, starvation and other deliberate actions aimed at their collective destruction, in whole or in part.

The lawsuit notes that Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to persecution for decades in Myanmar, which denies that the Rohingya even exist as an established ethnic minority, despite hundreds of years of history in the country.

But pressure increased greatly in late 2016, according to the lawsuit. It cites examples of “attacks in which homes were set ablaze by security forces, in many cases with people trapped inside, and entire villages razed to the ground.”

One investigator documented cases where parents saw their young children being thrown into fires. The suit cites incidents of Myanmar’s “security forces calling families out of their homes, separating men and boys to be executed in front of their families or taken away.” It cites testimony about women and girls being raped and then killed.

The suit says that so-called “clearance operations’’ were genocidal acts, “intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses.”

It said that from August 2017 onward, such “clearance operations’’ intensified.

Paul Reichler, the lead lawyer on the Gambia team, said he hoped that the court would issue an injunction against Myanmar as soon as possible.

“We are confident that genocide has been committed in this case, and we are very confident in the fairness of the court.’’  (New York Times)

 

Environment

ACID RAIN IN GUWAHATI

A view of Guwahati along the Brahmaputra. Pic: Anushila Bharali/Wikimedia Commons

by Sahana Ghose: As rapidly-expanding Guwahati, northeast India’s largest metropolis, gears up to clean its air under the National Clean Air Policy (NCAP), a study suggests a cocktail of natural and man-made pollutants wafting through the air is tinkering with the city’s rainwater quality.

Guwahati in Assam is among the 122 ‘non-attainment’ cities identified for implementing mitigation actions under the national policy, which means it does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Researchers said pinpointing critical sources of air pollution and their contributions to the problem are essential to crafting effective city and region-specific air pollution control plans.

Connecting the dots between the origin of raindrops, the chemical makeup of the rainwater and air pollutants, an IIT Guwahati-led study, from June 2016 to June 2017, shows that 64 percent of the rainfall during monsoon was acidic, which means the rainfall in this form is damaging the environment. Acid deposition, or acid rain, is the term used when the pH of precipitation drops below 5.6.

“We examined rainwater samples during June 2016-June 2017 and found that 75 percent of rainwater samples collected were acidic,” Rajyalakshmi Garaga, a research scholar at IIT Guwahati and study author, told Mongabay-India.

Garaga said such acidic rain events occurred throughout the year, with a frequency of 64 percent and 87 percent during monsoon and non-monsoon seasons, respectively.

The study identified particles from the sea (sea salt or marine source), dust, industrial and vehicular emissions, and coal combustion as the major sources that turn the rainfall acidic.

“Our study shows that both natural (marine source) and man-made air pollutants (emissions) are turning the rainfall acidic in the northeast Indian state of Assam. And while we can’t tweak the natural causes we can mitigate emissions stemming from human activities,” Garaga said.

One of the fastest-growing cities in India, Guwahati lies on the south bank of the Brahmaputra river. Map from study.

Gases such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which are also PM2.5 precursors, generated from the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas are the primary emissions responsible for acid deposition. These combustion compounds react with water, oxygen and other substances in the atmosphere to form sulfuric and nitric acid, which are transported downwind before they settle on earth.

Acid rain can occur as wet or dry deposition. When the airborne pollutants settle on earth from the atmosphere in the form of rain or snow the phenomenon is known as wet deposition. Dry deposition is when gases and dust particles become acidic.

When too much acid accumulates, it impacts soil chemistry, plant activities and the acidity of aquatic bodies such as lakes, water, streams. Breathing in acid particles can cause lung and respiratory problems. It can damage buildings and historic monuments. One example is the yellowing of the Taj Mahal from industrialisation and subsequent acid rain.

Greenpeace report shows India as the top emitter of sulfur dioxide in the world, contributing more than 15 percent of the global anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions from the point sources tracked by NASA.

Garaga explained the Assam-based project began with the collection of rainwater to analyse its chemical characteristics and to tease apart the emission sources using an air quality model for this region. To pinpoint the source origin of rain droplets, a technique called isotopic fingerprinting was used to understand whether the rain was due to evaporation of water inland or on the ocean.

Assam sits between the great Himalayas and vast flood plains of the Brahmaputra, one of India’s major transboundary rivers. Guwahati, the largest urban corridor of northeast India, lies on the south bank of the river. The city is set to get a makeover to transform into a Smart City with an aim to have healthy air quality, among other targets.

“The current levels of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) in Guwahati and other cities of Assam are alarming and show increasing trends. Zeroing in on the critical sources of air pollution and their contributions to the problem is essential to building an effective air pollution control plan for the cities and regions,” explained Sharad Gokhale, study co-author, and IIT-Guwahati scientist.

Coarse dust particles (PM10) are particulate matter ranging from 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter. Sources include sea salt, pollen, combustion activities such as motor vehicles, industrial processes, crushing or grinding operations and dust stirred up by vehicles on roads.

PM2.5 are fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller. This means the average human hair is 30 times larger than the largest fine particle. Sources of PM2.5 pollutants include human activity-derived particles (such as black carbon, organic carbon, sulfates, nitrates, and ammonia) and fine dust.

Besides Guwahati, four other cities in Assam (Nagaon, Nalbari, Sibsagar, Silchar) are labeled as ‘non-attainment’ cities in the NCAP for violating prescribed ambient air quality standards. These are cities where particle levels (PM10) exceed the annual average (60 micrograms per cubic meter) ambient air quality standards. Assam has 24 air quality monitoring stations, including six in Guwahati, under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme.

Under the national policy, the state is all set to prepare city-specific interventions and action plans, targeting about 20 to 30 percent reduction of PM 2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, according to an agreement between the Pollution Control Board Assam and IIT-Guwahati.

“Once we know what are the sources we can target the sectors specifically for emission reduction. This is necessary if we want cities to attain prescribed air quality standards,” said Gokhale, adding that this is where studies such as the current one come in handy.

Multiple actors at play in ruining rainwater quality

For the study, rainwater and PM 2.5 sampling was carried out in urban and non-urban areas in the city of Guwahati. Non-urban areas have relatively fewer vehicles but several small factories said Gokhale. The presence of a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) bottling plant in the city premises has further aggravated the worsening of air quality.

Running through the year (2016-2017) the study identified particles from the sea, dust, industrial and vehicular emissions, and coal combustion as the major sources that are turning the rainfall acidic.

“Marine sources appear to have a significant impact on rainwater quality. These sources refer to the salt particles such as chloride, nitrate that are blown inland from the ocean and contribute to the acidity of the atmosphere. When the rain washes or scrubs these particles out, these particles interact with the raindrops and increase the acidity of the rainwater,” Gokhale said.

Because of the interplay of meteorological factors such as humidity, temperature, and rainfall, the part played by each of these sources (natural to man-made) in making the rainfall acidic see-saws over the year.

For example, the authors note that in rainwater samples collected during monsoon, marine source (40 percent) and vehicular emissions (36 percent) were the major contributors in lowering the pH (increasing acidity) while in the pre-monsoon phase the contributions from the marine source decreased by 16 percent and industrial emissions increased by 20 percent.

“For one thing, the decreasing difference between day and night-time temperatures may be responsible for the quick conversion of precursor gases into sulfates and nitrates,” noted Gokhale. This quick conversion could possibly explain why the gaseous pollutants (such as SO2 and NOx) have remained in the low pollution level category in the state, as documented by the Pollution Control Board Assam.

Further, the acid neutralising capacity in this region was negligible, the researchers said. “This is because the levels of sulfates and nitrates are much higher than the neutralising elements such as calcium, magnesium and potassium ions. And there is a huge imbalance of anions and cations in the atmosphere,” said Gokhale.

The other important finding is the moisture source during monsoons and non-monsoon periods.

While the southwest monsoon arriving from the Bay of Bengal branch brings in the largest share of moisture during the summer monsoon phase, in-land water bodies in the state and transpiration from surrounding green cover result in maximum rain during the rest of the year, the researchers said.

Jaideep Baruah of Assam Science Technology and Environment Council batted for long-term monitoring and research to flesh out acid rain issues in the state.

“One of the problematic areas in Assam is the heavy load of dust stirred up vehicular movement and also from denudation of hills,” Baruah told Mongabay-India, referring to the contribution of dust particles revealed in the study.

Assam is rich in its minerals deposit and is well-known for its fertile land, contributing $46 billion to the nation’s total gross domestic product (GDP), and engaging 69 percent of the state’s population in agriculture, the study said. However, the soil of the state is acidic which restricts the productivity potential necessitating investigation to understand the cause of acidic nature, said Garaga.

Binoy K. Saikia, a scientist in CSIR-North East Institute of Science and Technology, who studies coal chemistry, and who was not associated with the current study, highlighted that the research also reveals the significance of coal combustion activities in the surrounding regions which are responsible for emission of SOx and NOx, the precursor of acid rain.

“The coke oven near Guwahati may be one of the cause for the SOx if they use the feed coals from the northeast region since coal from this part of the country are high in sulfur, particularly organic sulfur,” Saikia told Mongabay-India, stressing on regulatory control and monitoring of emissions.

Sprucing up monitoring and building onto research data

Under the agreement between IIT-Guwahati and the state’s pollution control board, one of the areas researchers are looking at is evaluating the air quality monitoring stations in the state.

“They are not scientifically stationed. For instance, you may not find the monitors in areas where there is heavy traffic congestion but where there is a relatively low volume of traffic. They are arbitrarily stationed so they do not reveal the true nature of the air quality,” said Gokhale.

“We may also restructure the network of these monitors and also convert them to automated systems,” he said.

As for the research component, Garaga said the scientists are also working on a dry deposition study, which means collecting particulate matter on a filter paper and subjecting them to a similar analysis as the wet deposition (acid rain) work.

“Thereafter, the results will be compared and sources contributing to such high concentrations will be identified in order to inform policymakers in designing better mitigation strategies,” she signed-off.

 

Environment

Elephant trade may resume in Sonepur Fair

by ANIRBAN ROY

As the Asia’s oldest and biggest cattle fair, the Sonepur fair began in Bihar’s Saran district on Monday, conservationists are worried that the fair may resume trade of elephants.

The fear is obvious because the Bihar government has constituted a nine-member committee to invite elephant owners from all over Bihar, Uttar Prdaesh and Jharkhand to the Sonepur Fair.

Arrival of elephants at Sonepur fair had stopped after a ban on sale in 2000. In 2018, only one elephant arrived at the fair.

Munmun Singh, a member of the committee said they are expecting at least 50 elephants at the Sonepur fair this year.

Sonepur Fair is held on the eve of Kartik Poornima in the month of November- December on the confluence of river Ganges and Gandak. This year, the fair will be from November 11 to December 11.

The Sonepur Fair existed when Chandragupta Maurya (340 – 297 BCE) used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganges. The biggest attraction of the fair was the Haathi Bazaar where elephants used to be lined up for sale.

Elephants used to be openly sold at the fair. As per records, 92 elephants were sold in Sonepur Fair in 2001. The highest of 354 elephants were sold in 2004.

Most of the elephants sold in the Sonepur Fair were originally from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and had buyers from other states, mostly Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Conservationists in Assam are now worried with the Bihar governments decision to invite elephants to the Sonepur fair. “This is illegal,” one of them, said.

“It would open a floodgate, and poachers would go all out to catch juvenile elephants from in the jungles in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” he added.

It was reported that 167 elephants were transported to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh from Assam between 2005 and 2008, and almost all of them were reportedly sold at the infamous Sonepur fair.

As per the record, 77 elephants were transported in 2006 from Assam, the highest in the conservation history of the state.

While captive elephants from Assam were the victims of the smuggling network, a significant number of them were caught from the wild.

The elephants caught from the wild were transported from Assam with forged documents and that too, in connivance with a section of corrupt forest officials.

But, as per the law, any such sale of elephants is illegal. The transportation could have been justified and supported with adequate documentation, but the sale was totally illegal.

As per She Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, sale, purchase or transfers of captive elephants from one person to another for monetary consideration or any other profitable gain, is totally illegal.

Unfortunately, the Assam Forest Department never tried to locate the elephants which were transported outside the state and did not try to bring them back. (This story first published in NE Now)

Climate Change

Italy Makes Climate Change Mandatory Part of Curriculum in Schools

Italy will now make climate change a compulsory part of education, Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti announced on November 5th.

Starting next September, all state schools will require 33 hours each year to climate change. This amounts to one hour a week of instruction on sustainability and climate change. According to Fioramonti, Italy is the first country to make an education change like this.

Fioramonti told Reuters in an interview, “The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the center of the education model. I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.” He said that lessons in geography, math and physics would also be taught through the lens of sustainable development.

An outspoken climate change activist, Fioramonti received criticism for encouraging students to skip school to take part in the climate protests, according to Reuters. He said that “The 21st-century citizen must be a sustainable citizen.”

The climate change curriculum will be developed over the coming year and will include input from environmental experts. It will also vary by age group, high school will focus on the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, middle school will be learning technical information and elementary school will connect environmental stories to cultures.

In another move to help the planet, Italy said this month it would tax plastics and sugar starting in 2020.

Read more about climate change in schools, including New York City Schools Ban Processed Meats! and Tel Aviv Schools Ban Single Use Plastic for Meals.

The United Nation recently released a report warning countries about the dangers of climate change and has urged people to eat more plant-based as a way to curb it. We highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App on iTunes — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, plant-based, vegan and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.