South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:13:59 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb Indians muck in for cleaner communities imageGHAZIABAD: Armed with rakes, shovels and carts, a group of residents in a suburb of the northern Indian city of Ghaziabad head purposefully for an unsightly corner of their neighbourhood.

With loud music blaring to spur them on, the two-dozen-strong team tackles the neglected patch with zeal, transforming it over the course of the morning from an overgrown eyesore, strewn with litter, to a clear open space.

"In this sector there has been a complete social revolution," says Gireesh Sharma, one of the founders of the group known as the "Cleaning Express", which has been organising weekly tidying sessions in their local area for the past 15 months.

"People now hate dirt. They stop each other from throwing litter."

Capturing this spirit, and triggering a mass movement for cleanliness in a densely populated country of 1.2 billion people, is the aim of the government's "Clean India" campaign.

It was launched with fanfare last month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took to the streets himself with a broom to urge all citizens to take part.

Promising millions in central government funding for the drive to get the nation clean in time for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, Modi has said eradicating filth is a patriotic duty.

But the Ghaziabad activists say despite their efforts in their community, the rest of the city suffers from inadequate infrastructure to collect and dispose of waste.

"We have very limited landfill sites... we don't have any place in the colonies (residential areas) where garbage can be dumped properly," said Rakesh Kumar Singh, Ghaziabad's municipal commissioner.

"We will need more dumping grounds and processing plants, we will require lots of land," he said, referring to the challenges resulting from rapid growth in the city's population, which already numbers close to two million.

Critics of the government's cleanliness drive say it glosses over the connection between sanitation and India's caste system, with its rigid hierarchy of social groups and their associated traditional occupations.

Campaigners say it fails to acknowledge that filthy cleaning tasks, including separating rubbish and clearing drains and gutters, fall exclusively to those at the very bottom of the caste spectrum.

"As long as you have this caste-ist mindset, thinking there is someone else to clean, no campaign can get success in this country," says Bezwada Wilson, founder of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, which works to free sanitation workers from their hereditary roles.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Sat, 22 Nov 2014 06:06:57 +0000
Sri Lanka minister defects to challenge president imageCOLOMBO: A senior member of Sri Lanka's government announced Friday he was quitting the ruling party to stand as the main opposition's candidate against President Mahinda Rajapakse in upcoming elections.

"I thank the UNP (United National Party) for choosing me as the common opposition candidate," Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who also held the post of general secretary in Rajapakse's party, told a press conference in Colombo.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:17:02 +0000
Iran lawmakers reject Rouhani's science minister pick imageTEHRAN: The Iranian parliament overwhelmingly rejected President Hassan Rouhani's pick for science minister on Tuesday -- the third time they have done so in little more than a year.

The rebuff underscores the pressure that Rouhani, a moderate elected in June 2013, faces from a parliament dominated by conservatives at odds with his desire to open up the country to the West.

The post of Minister of Science, Research and Technology is sensitive because it involves oversight of Iran's universities and students, whose political activities are heavily monitored by the regime.

Fakhroddin Ahmadi Danesh-Ashtiani, whose candidacy Rouhani spoke up for in the chamber, received only 70 votes from the 257 lawmakers present -- 171 voted against him and 16 abstained.

Danesh-Ashtiani, a civil engineer by training, was a vice minister for education under Iran's last reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who was in power between 1997 and 2005.

On Tuesday, lawmakers aired a video of Danesh-Ashtiani in 2009, in which he was shown to call for the closure of universities in protest at the controversial re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A previous science minister candidate of Rouhani's was rejected in October by parliament, which two months earlier had sacked the last minister, Reza Faraji Dana, who was deemed too close to reformists.

Lawmakers criticised Faraji Dana -- who was Rouhani's second choice -- for appointing too many officials with links to the so-called "seditionist" movement that took to the streets in protest after Ahmadinejad's re-election.

The challenge was crushed by the regime but dozens of people died and thousands, many of them students, were arrested.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:14:04 +0000
Modi talks 'shirtfronting' and cricket Down Under imageSYDNEY: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi injected some humour into his address to Australia's parliament on Tuesday, using the term "shirtfront" to make fun of his host while also talking cricket.

Modi's official visit, the first by an Indian leader in 28 years, follows on from Prime Minister Tony Abbott's hosting of G20 world leaders in Brisbane on the weekend.

"(As) the third head of the government you are listening to this week, I do not know how you are doing this," Modi told members of parliament, who were addressed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday and Britain's David Cameron last Friday.

"Maybe this is Prime Minister Abbott's way of shirtfronting you!"

Abbott made "shirtfront" -- which describes a confrontation in Australian Rules Football -- a global concept when in October he threatened to do it to Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the G20 over the crisis in Ukraine.

In the end, the two men were all smiles for the cameras.

Modi is the second leader to use the obscure term in his address, after Cameron recalled his concern when Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was purposefully heading his way at a summit in Italy.

"I wondered for a moment whether I was heading for what I'm told we now need to call a 'shirtfronting'," he said, before going on to say she had merely wanted to offer help to fight Ebola.

Modi's speech also included a reference to cricket, saying that both Australia and India celebrated the legend of Australian batsman Don Bradman and the class of India's Sachin Tendulkar.

But he noted this relationship broke down somewhat when Australian Shane Warne came along, mastering India's traditional strength of spin bowling.

"I wish you the best for hosting a great and successful World Cup next year," he added, referring to the one-day tournament being hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand in 2015.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Tue, 18 Nov 2014 03:44:16 +0000
Sri Lanka president accuses Oslo peace envoy of funding rebels imageCOLOMBO: Sri Lanka's president has accused a top Norwegian envoy of covertly financing the island's separatist Tamil Tigers during peace talks ahead of a military campaign that crushed the rebels in 2009.

President Mahinda Rajapakse told a public rally on Saturday that he wanted Oslo to probe the role of Erik Solheim, a former Norwegian international development minister and a peace envoy to Sri Lanka.

Solheim failed to secure a peace deal despite arranging a truce which broke down in April 2006. Three years later, Sri Lankan forces extinguished the campaign for a separate homeland in a controversial military campaign.

Rajapakse in his address, a copy of which was obtained from his office on Sunday, said Solheim gave money to the guerrillas even while peace moves were underway.

Solheim, a key figure who led Norwegian peace efforts between 1999 and 2006, recently announced his willingness to give evidence before any international tribunal investigating Sri Lanka's war record.

Sri Lanka crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by May 2009 in a massive military operation that also triggered allegations that troops killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians, a charge Colombo denies.

"Solheim told me that our forces will never be able to defeat the LTTE. He said (leader Velupillai) Prabhakaran is a very very clear man. A military genius," Rajapakse said.

"Today Solheim is trying to jump up and give evidence against us. The Norwegian government should investigate his conduct. We have evidence of him giving money to the LTTE. We are ready to share that evidence."

Solheim was not immediately available for comment.

In June, Solheim said atrocities were committed in the final months of the war, including shelling of hospitals in the battle zone and executions of surrendering rebels.

The UN Human Rights Council in March voted in favour of setting up an international probe into Sri Lanka's war record.

Sri Lanka invited Norway to broker peace in December 1999 and a ceasefire arranged by Oslo was torn up after Tamil Tigers tried to assassinate then army chief Sarath Fonseka in April 2006.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Sun, 16 Nov 2014 08:42:43 +0000
Female Afghan MP survives suicide attack, 3 dead imageKABUL: A suicide bomber on Sunday attacked a vehicle convoy carrying Afghan lawmakers including a prominent female MP, killing three civilians and injuring 22 others, officials said.

The blast, in which the attacker detonated an explosives-packed car, left the MPs' vehicles badly damaged on a main road in the west of Kabul, close to the parliament.

"(Shukria) Barakzai -- she is fine and suffers small injuries," interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said of the politician via Twitter.

"Three people (were) martyred and 22 people injured," he said.

Barakzai is a renowned campaigner for women's rights in Afghanistan, a stance that attracts fierce opposition from many militant groups and conservatives.

She has spoken about receiving regular death threats, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday's blast.

Television footage showed a clearly shaken Barakzai walking away from her wrecked car while other passengers were covered in blood.

Shinkay Karokhil, another female MP, told AFP: "The target was a convoy of MPs who were driving toward the parliament. Shukria Barakzai was affected by the attack but she is fine."

The blast came the day after President Ashraf Ghani completed a two-day visit to neighbouring Pakistan, which is blamed for sheltering insurgent leaders behind many of the attacks in Afghanistan.

Ghani said improved relations with Pakistan could help security in the troubled region as US-led NATO combat troops leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting the Taliban.

Barakzai is a close supporter of Ghani, who has stressed the need for better women's rights since he came to power in September.

Female officials have often been targeted by insurgents in Afghanistan.

The country's most senior female police officer was shot dead last year in Helmand province, months after her predecessor was also gunned down.

Female MP Fariba Ahmadi Kakar was seized at gunpoint on a highway and held hostage by the Taliban for a month last year before being freed.

Barakzai voiced strong criticism of US-led efforts last year to open peace talks with the Taliban, whom she described as "a terror network who are killing every single day Afghan civilians, women and children".

Women's rights have been central to the multi-billion-dollar international development effort in Afghanistan, but women still endure routine discrimination, abuse and violence.

Under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, women were forced to wear the all-enveloping burqa, banned from jobs and forbidden even to leave the house without a male chaperone.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Sun, 16 Nov 2014 08:40:59 +0000
India, US breakthrough breathes 'new life' into trade talks: WTO chief imageBRISBANE: World Trade Organization Secretary-General Roberto Azevedo on Friday said recent developments including the resolution by India and the United States of a row over food subsidies had revived the organisation.

"I commend the leadership that has been shown on all fronts in recent days, it certainly has breathed new life into the WTO," he told reporters at the G20 in Brisbane.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 14 Nov 2014 09:47:40 +0000
Eight Indian women die, dozens critical after mass sterilisation imageRAIPUR: Eight women have died in central India and dozens more are in hospital, many in a critical condition, after a state-run mass sterilisation, a local official said Tuesday.

"Since Monday eight women have died and 64 are in various hospitals," said Sonmani Borah, a government official in the state of Chhattisgarh where the sterilisation camp was held.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Tue, 11 Nov 2014 05:06:15 +0000
Child labour: Ice cream is a job, not a treat, for Afghan girl imageHEART: The gaggle of girls outside a school in Herat are all about the same age, but one of them sticks out.

Fatima, eight, isn't wearing a neat black and white uniform, or laughing and playing with classmates.

She is hard at work, selling ice creams to the other girls from her small cart as she tries to make enough money to feed her disabled father and the rest of her family.

Fatima yearns to go to school like her noisy, cheerful customers, but she is her family's only regular money-earner.

Her father, his two wives and six daughters all live in a dilapidated two-room, rented house with one bed and few other possessions.

She works from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, starting her long day by picking up boxes of ice cream from a wholesaler and then pushing her cart through the rough and uneven streets of Herat city in the west of Afghanistan.

"My only and biggest dream is to have some money, so that I don't need to work anymore and can go to school and study just like other girls," Fatima told AFP.

"When I'm selling ice cream in front of this school and see other girls go inside, laughing and happy, I really wish I could go too."

Child labour is common in Afghanistan, with 17 percent of all girls aged between 7 and 14 either working outside the home or doing full-time household chores, according to UNICEF.

Fatima makes just a few dollars a day, and spends it all looking after her family, who eat a simple daily meal of vegetables, rice and bread.

Her father Ab Zahir is in a wheelchair, with his legs paralysed after a spine accident when he was working as a labourer in neighbouring Iran four years ago.

On days when he feels well enough, he tries to help his daughter by selling mobile phone cards.

Back at their home, Fatima helps him move laboriously from his bed to his wheelchair, and she also fixes on his feet braces and massages and cleans his withered limbs.

It is a heavy burden for a young child.

"I cannot afford to eat ice cream. I like it, though," she said. "I don't like being poor."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Tue, 11 Nov 2014 03:25:52 +0000
India's Modi names yoga minister in major reshuffle imageNEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed a yoga minister as part of a major revamp of his government after storming to power in May.

Hindu nationalist Modi, a vegetarian who practises yoga daily, strengthened his right-wing government on Sunday by appointing 21 new ministers as he tries to speed up reform of the faltering economy.

Among the portfolios designated late Sunday was that of AAYUSH, whose minister will be charged with promoting the traditional medicines and practices of Ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homeopathy.

Modi asked the United Nations in September to consider an international yoga day and also discussed the ancient Indian discipline with President Barack Obama during his visit to the United States.

"Congratulations to all colleagues who have taken oath today. Looking forward to working with them to accelerate India's development journey," Modi said in a tweet late Sunday.

Modi added four new ministers to his cabinet and 17 junior ministers for a 66-strong government.

AAYUSH was previously part of the health minister's responsibility, but has become a separate portfolio under former tourism minister Shripad Yesso Naik after Sunday's reshuffle.

Among other changes, suave regional leader Manohar Parrikar was handed the defence ministry and charged with modernising the ageing armed forces.

Parrikar's appointment will ease the burden on Arun Jaitley, who had been juggling both the defence and finance ministries since the government took office in May, while battling ill-health.

Jaitley also takes information and broadcasting under the revamp, but will be mostly free to focus on steering through difficult reforms pledged during the election campaign to revive the faltering economy.

Parrikar, with a reputation for clean government during his time as chief minister of tourism state Goa, will be expected to speed up long-delayed defence orders and overhaul the country's Soviet-era military hardware.

A series of corruption scandals under the previous Congress government had brought defence procurement to a near-standstill.

Jayant Sinha, the Harvard-educated son of a former finance minister, was named junior minister for finance, underlining Modi's priority to boost business and attract foreign investment.

In recent days Modi has unleashed a series of reforms, scrapping fuel subsidies, simplifying labour rules and pledging to open coal mining to private players.

But the government has so far steered clear of "big bang" initiatives that economists say are needed to boost investment and manufacturing.

Sinha said his priorities would be to create jobs and keep inflation in check.

"First and foremost, creating jobs is very important for us and for the economy," Sinha told reporters in Delhi after taking charge.

"The second (priority) area is obviously managing inflation... this year we are expecting growth to pick up and then to be on the accelerating growth trajectory."

The economy last year grew by 4.7 percent, the weakest pace in nearly a decade, while steep interest rates aimed at fighting stubborn inflation and a fall in the rupee have eaten into corporate profits.

The railways portfolio was given to Suresh Prabhu, a veteran leader of the Hindu hardline regional Shiv Sena party who switched allegiance to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just before Sunday's swearing-in ceremony.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:22:22 +0000