South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:48:12 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb India court jails five for life for gang-rape imageNEW DELHI: An Indian court Monday jailed five men for life for gang-raping a call centre worker in a case that occurred two years before a fatal sex attack on a student sparked global outrage.

The men abducted the 30-year-old woman at gunpoint in 2010 as she was walking home with a colleague after a late shift in southwest New Delhi, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

They took turns raping the woman, who is from the country's remote northeast, in the back of a truck while driving around the capital, before she was dumped on a secluded stretch of road.

In December 2012 the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi unleashed seething public anger and street protests against India's treatment of women.

Additional sessions judge Virender Bhat handed down the sentences after the five were convicted last week following a trial that relied on the woman's testimony and medical evidence.

"Life imprisonment is awarded to all the convicts for the offence of gang-rape. A fine of 50,000 rupees ($815) is also imposed," Bhatt was quoted by PTI as saying.

The men, aged between 24 and 29, were part of a gang of cattle thieves from the notoriously lawless Mewat region in neighbouring Haryana state.

The case led to an overhaul of safety measures in the country's major IT outsourcing industry, where most shifts end late at night to coincide with time zones in the United States and Europe.

The new initiatives included female workers taken home in groups in a taxi and armed guards escorting the last woman left in each car.

The sentences follow outrage over the fatal attack on the 23-year-old student on a moving bus that led to tougher punishments for rapists and other sex offenders.

Despite the new laws, sexual violence continues unabated in the country where a rape is committed every 22 minutes, according to government figures.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:06:12 +0000
Death toll in India from cyclone Hudhud climbs to 41 imageBHUBANESWAR: The death toll from a cyclone that hit India's east coast last week has risen to 41, as authorities struggle to restore power, transport and communication links and shelter 150,000 people forced to abandon their homes.

Cyclone Hudhud slammed into the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states, tearing down tens of thousands of mud-and-thatch homes, and flattening rice, banana and sugarcane plantations.

"Electricity has been restored in about 60 percent of the affected area. In next three-four days we expect to restore it in all places," A.R. Sukumar, chief of the disaster management department of Andhra Pradesh state, told Reuters on Saturday.

While the death toll jumped to 38 in Andhra Pradesh, officials in Odisha said the number of people who had died there was unchanged at three.

The tail end of Hudhud went on to cause sudden and severe snowstorms further north in Nepal, killing at least 30 people on the Annapurna circuit, a Himalayan trek that is popular with foreign adventure tourists.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Sat, 18 Oct 2014 08:54:16 +0000
speed rail designer gets suspended death sentence in bribe case imageSHANGHAI: The rail engineer credited with designing China's high-speed rail network received a suspended death sentence after a Beijing court found him guilty of taking 47.6 million yuan ($7.8 million) in bribes, Chinese state media reported on Friday.

Zhang Shuguang, former deputy chief engineer and transportation bureau head of China's now-defunct Ministry of Railways, was charged in September of last year for accepting bribes mostly from private Chinese firms vying to win contracts over an 11-year period.

Zhang was given a death sentence suspended for two years, the official Xinhua news agency said. Suspended death sentences are typically commuted to life sentences after a period of good behaviour.

Most of the money which Zhang took in bribes had been recovered, Xinhua said. According to a transcript of the court proceedings, Zhang, who apologised for his actions, said in his defence that he also negotiated hard with Chinese firms in the national interest to lower the costs of building the network.

His deputy at the transport bureau, Su Shunhu, was sentenced separately on Friday by a Beijing court to life in prison for taking 24 million yuan in bribes, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

China's railway ministry was dismantled two years after two high-speed trains crashed in 2011, killing 40 people. The incident prompted further anti-corruption investigations of the ministry and several officials were charged with abuse of power.

China, with the world's longest high-speed rail network at more than 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles), has been striving to repair the sector's reputation as it aims to promote and sell its high-speed technology abroad. It has also promised to open up the sector to private-sector investment.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Saad Jabri) South Asia Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:04:41 +0000
Kerry, Zarif, Ashton start talks on Iran's nuclear programme imageVIENNA: Talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry, his Iranian counterpart and the EU foreign policy chief towards advancing troubled negotiations on Iran's nuclear drive started on Wednesday, an AFP reporter said.

The discussions in Vienna between Kerry, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton come six weeks before a November 24 deadline to strike a deal aimed at easing concerns about Iran's atomic programme.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:24:18 +0000
Relief effort begins after deadly cyclone hits India imageHYDERABAD: A major relief operation was under way Monday after a cyclone pounded India's eastern coast, killing at least six people and leaving a trail of destruction, but officials said mass evacuations helped avert a larger tragedy.

Most of the deaths were caused by falling trees and collapsed buildings in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, which was worst hit by Cyclone Hudhud. A one-year-old child from the port city of Visakhapatnam was among the dead.

The storm struck just before midday on Sunday, bringing torrential rain and winds of nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour before weakening as it barrelled inland.

Authorities in Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Orissa evacuated around 350,000 people before the cyclone hit, in an attempt to avert the mass casualties inflicted on the area by previous cyclones.

"The government was able to reduce loss of life due to the precautionary measures taken," Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu told the Press Trust of India (PTI).

P.K. Mohapatra, special relief commissioner of Orissa, told AFP his state was "better prepared this time", after Cyclone Phailin killed at least 18 people in the state last year.

"People followed our cyclone warning, there was hardly any traffic on the roads," Mohapatra said.

In Visakhapatnam, which bore the brunt of the storm's fury, homes had their roofs ripped off and hundreds of fallen trees and power pylons blocked roads.

Water and power supplies were cut off, and the city's airport and railway lines were also badly damaged.

"There is no power, no water or milk, no electricity. We are not getting petrol. We cannot move on the roads. It is difficult to survive a single day here," PTI quoted a resident as saying.

National Disaster Response Force teams began Monday to try to restore power to affected areas as evacuees left cyclone shelters and returned to their homes, the news agency said.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he would visit Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.

India's east coast and neighbouring Bangladesh are routinely hit by severe storms between April and November that cause deaths and widespread property damage.

Some of the deadliest storms in history have formed in the Bay of Bengal to India's east, including one in 1970 that killed hundreds of thousands in what is now Bangladesh.

Last year India undertook its biggest-ever evacuation before the arrival of Cyclone Phailin, with about a million people moved from their homes along the east coast.

Mohapatra said an additional 230,000 people had been evacuated from areas at risk of flooding in Orissa by late Sunday.

"No one was killed in Orissa by Hudhud," he told AFP, although two children and a fisherman died on Saturday when their boat capsized during an evacuation.

Many evacuees returned on Monday to their homes along the eastern coast, which is mostly populated by fishermen and small farmers living in flimsy huts with thatched roofs or shanties.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:59:53 +0000
Sri Lanka resumes trains to war-battered Jaffna imageJAFFNA: Sri Lanka's president on Monday launched train services to the battle-scarred city of Jaffna nearly 25 years after a bloody ethnic conflict destroyed the region's entire railway network.

President Mahinda Rajapakse boarded a special train from the town of Palai on the southern end of the Jaffna peninsula and travelled to the cultural capital of Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils.

His train stopped at three stations rebuilt as part of the reconstruction of 250-kilometres (157 miles) of track across the former war zone, both in the Jaffna peninsula and the northern mainland.

"The resumption of the train service shows Jaffna is fast becoming a centre of development" after decades of war, Transport Minister Kumara Welgama said.

The train service from Jaffna, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital Colombo, came to a halt in June 1990 after the collapse of a truce between separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces.

The Tigers ruled Jaffna as their de-facto separate state for nearly five years till they were driven out of the peninsula after a major offensive in 1995.

However, train services could not resume because of fighting in the rest of the northern mainland. Tiger rebels had also ripped up rails and sleepers to build bunkers.

After the crushing defeat of the guerrillas in May 2009, the authorities began an ambitious reconstruction effort that included restoration of rail links -- a key bridge between the Sinhalese majority in the south and the minority Tamil-dominated north.

The railways were restored under an $800-million Indian credit line and Ircon International Ltd, India's leading public-sector construction company, began the work in 2011.

The line to Jaffna was initially laid in the early part of the last century with the first train commissioned in 1905 by the then British colonial rulers.

IRCON project director Shyam Lal Gupta said the northern line is Sri Lanka's fastest track, capable of speeds of up to 120 kilometres, triple the average speed elsewhere.

Workers have also relaid tracks to the northwest coast of Mannar on the northern mainland which could allow resumption of a train-and-ferry link to neighbouring south India.

The rail connection with India was disrupted three decades ago when fighting intensified in a conflict that eventually claimed 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Saad Jabri) South Asia Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:52:15 +0000
Child labour can be eradicated in my lifetime, says Nobel winner imageNEW DELHI: Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi told AFP he believes child labour can be eradicated in his lifetime, calling for everyone in the world to "take a stand" against the practice.

Satyarthi, 60, was on Friday jointly awarded the prize with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage education campaigner shot by the Taliban in 2012.

The Indian activist was recognised for decades of doggedly championing children's rights in his home country and worldwide and argues that poverty should not be an excuse for child labour.

The Nobel prize has given the anti-child labour movement new "global visibility" and "should be a mobilising factor", Satyarthi told AFP in an interview.

"I am hopeful this (practice) can end in my lifetime," he said.

But for child labour to be wiped out, "You, me, everyone must take a stand. Otherwise it won't be possible," he pleaded.

"That means saying 'no' to products made by children," Satyarthi added.

"It's a question of humanising the problem and seeing each child as a person caught in a desperate situation."

Satyarthi quit his electrical engineering career in 1980 to set up the grassroots Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save Childhood Movement, based in New Delhi, which rescues children working under often horrifying conditions.

He recounts that he was inspired "by a passion to help child workers" when aged six he saw another boy his age, who could not go to school because his family was too poor, repairing shoes.

The low-profile father-of-two in 1994 started Rugmark, now called GoodWeave International, that tags carpets as child-labour free and heads the Global March Against Child Labour, which unites 2,000 social groups and unions in 140 nations.

The number of child workers worldwide has fallen by one-third since 2000, but still remains as high as 168 million children, according to the International Labour Organization.

- 'Laws must be strengthened' -

The tally of child workers in India is a matter of debate, but Unicef, the UN children's agency, estimates around 28 million Indian children are employed.

In 2010, India passed a landmark Right to Education law, which provides free, compulsory schooling to children up to 14, but the law is only patchily enforced.

"Things have improved in India but the laws must be enforced and strengthened," Satyarthi said.

The Nobel award "shines the light on these voiceless" child workers employed in such jobs as mining, agriculture and construction, making carpets and jewelry and as store helpers and servants, he said.

Children routinely work at least 12 hours a day while many are sexually exploited, according to Indian activists and police.

The Bachpan Bachao Andolan website says the group has "rescued more than 82,800 victims of trafficking, slavery and child labour" and helped them "find promising futures".

The group said it rescued nine boys in a raid last month on automobile repair shops in New Delhi.

"Ironically, thousands of people who see children every day in tea stalls and workshops don't have any empathy with them," the website notes.

While India's expanding economy is burnishing the middle class, there is also desperate misery. Poor families sometimes sell their children for work or as workers because they cannot feed them at home.

But Satyarthi insists otherwise.

"I strongly maintain poverty must not be used as an excuse to perpetuate child labour and if no education is given to children, they remain poor," he said.

"Child labour, illiteracy and poverty can be seen as a triangle," Satyarthi added.

The Nobel prize is "something to fire all of us to carry on the fight against child-trafficking and servitude".

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Sun, 12 Oct 2014 05:57:44 +0000
Powerful typhoon churns toward Okinawa with strong winds imageTOKYO: A large powerful typhoon moved slowly towards Japan's Okinawa island chain on Saturday, packing heavy winds that disrupted flights and knocked out power.

Typhoon Vongfong, Japan's strongest storm this year, at 0500 GMT Saturday was about 150 km (94 miles) southeast of Naha City, the biggest city in Okinawa, and moving north at 15 kph (9 mph), Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

Its winds gusted up to 234 kph (146 mph). Fourteen people in Okinawa and Kagoshima prefecture in Kyushu were injured due to strong winds, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

It was likely to be closest to Okinawa - 1,600 km (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo, and the home of the largest contingent of U.S. troops in Japan - on Sunday morning Japan time, local media reports said.

The typhoon was expected to weaken as it moved north, however, and likely to hit land on Monday morning on the westernmost main island of Kyushu, before moving northeast towards Japan's main island of Honshu on Tuesday.

All flights from and to Okinawa's Naha airport were canceled due to the airport's closure on Saturday, the airport said. About 27,000 homes have been affected by power outages, Okinawa Electric Power Co said.

There are no nuclear plants on Okinawa, but there are two on Kyushu and one on Shikoku island, which borders Kyushu and may be hit. Operations at all were halted, in line with national policy.

Vongfong, which means wasp in Cantonese, was following the path of Phanfone, a typhoon that slammed in Honshu on Monday, disrupting transport and prompting evacuation advisories for hundreds of thousands of people. Seven people were killed, including three U.S. airmen swept out to sea and a man who died while surfing.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 11 Oct 2014 10:23:15 +0000
China sentences two cult members to death for McDonald's murder imageBEIJING: China sentenced two members of a banned religious cult to death on Saturday for the murder of a woman at a McDonald's restaurant after she refused an apparent attempt by the group to recruitment her, state media said.

The 37-year-old woman was attacked in May in the eastern province of Shandong by members of Quannengshen, the Church of Almighty God, which had preached that a global apocalypse would take place in 2012.

The case sparked a national outcry after it was revealed the woman was beaten to death for allegedly refusing to give her telephone number to members of the group.

The Yantai Intermediate People's Court sentenced Zhang Fan and Zhang Lidong to death for intentional homicide and gave another member of the group, Lu Yingchun, life in prison, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian, another two cult members, were sentenced to ten and seven years of jail terms respectively," Xinhua said.

The five defendants were tried in August.

The Quannengshen group, which originated in central Henan province, believes that Jesus was resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect's founder, Zhao Weishan, according to previous Xinhua reports.

Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan, Xinhua has said, adding that the couple fled to the United States in September 2000.

In 2012, China launched a crackdown on the group after it called for a "decisive battle" to slay the "Red Dragon" Communist Party, and preached that the world would end that year.

The party brooks no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability. It has cracked down on cults, which have multiplied in recent years. Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.

In 1999, then-President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to crush the Falun Gong religious group. It was banned as "evil cult" after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official aecognition of their movement.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Saad Jabri) South Asia Sat, 11 Oct 2014 09:31:43 +0000
Ten Chinese among 27 hostages freed in Cameroon - Cameroon presidency imageYAOUNDE: Twenty-seven hostages seized by suspected militants from Boko Haram in Cameroon this year, including 10 Chinese workers, have been released, the Cameroon presidency said on Saturday.

The Chinese workers were seized in May near the town of Waza, 20 km (12 miles) from the Nigerian border.

The others freed include the wife of Cameroon's vice-prime minister who was seized in July, the presidency said.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Saad Jabri) South Asia Sat, 11 Oct 2014 08:30:50 +0000