Posts Tagged ‘Tamil Nadu’

India sentences 35 crew of US anti-piracy ship

January 11, 2016


India’s coast guard intercepted the Seaman Guard Ohio anti-piracy ship off the coast of Tuticorin in 2013. AFP Photo

CHENNAI (INDIA) (AFP) – An Indian court Monday sentenced 35 sailors, including several from Britain, Estonia and Ukraine, for illegally entering Indian waters carrying weapons aboard a US-operated anti-piracy boat in 2013.A judge in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu ordered all 35 crew present in the court to serve five years in jail, the prosecutor in the case, S Chandrasekar told AFP.

“The convicted crew members can approach the Madras High Court within 30 days for appealing against the verdict,” Chandrasekar said.

India’s coast guard intercepted the ship off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu in October 2013 and arrested and charged the crew for failing to have the proper paperwork to carry weapons in Indian waters.

Almost all of the crew, comprising six Britons, three Ukrainians, 14 Estonians and 12 Indians, were given bail in 2014 on the grounds they remained in the state capital Chennai.

The captain, a Ukrainian, and another officer from Britain were refused bail and remained in prison.

US maritime security firm AdvanFort, which owns the Seaman Guard Ohio vessel, denies the charges against its crew, saying all firearms on board were legally purchased and properly documented.

The southern tip of India is close to major trading routes from Asia to Europe and many cargo ships have armed guards and vessels to deter pirates.

The British High Commission in Delhi told AFP it would continue to provide consular assistance to all six of its nationals but “we cannot interfere in another country’s judicial process”.

An Indian court quashed charges laid against the Seaman Guard Ohio crew in July 2014, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling the following year and ordered their trial.

Judge N Rajasekar on Monday found the crew guilty of illegally carrying weapons and entering Indian waters without a visa.

In addition to the jail sentence, the judge fined each crew member 3000 rupees ($45).



India flooded with criticism after Photoshop disaster drags Modi mission into muck

December 4, 2015

Photoshop fail delights Twitter as wags weigh in, but flood disaster pushed aside

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was looking at the flooded city of Chennai, but his press team sought a clearer picture and offered a dubious improvement. Seen here is the doctored image which was released to media. Photo: Reuters


A doctored photo released by the Indian government showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi surveying severe flooding from a helicopter has been deleted, and his office promised remedial action after criticism on social media.

Modi travelled to Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai on Thursday to get a first-hand view of the disaster, after the strongest rains in a century killed more than 280 people over a month and displaced thousands of residents.

The government’s Press Information Bureau published a photo on its website that showed Modi looking through the round window of a helicopter, through which a clear view of waterlogged buildings was visible. It was later taken down.

A similar photograph, but with a blurred view through the window, was posted on Modi’s personal Twitter feed (@narendramodi). Commentators on social media accused the PIB of digitally manipulating its version of the picture.

The prime minister’s office was shocked to see facts being distorted, said a senior official who declined to be named, adding that officials from the press office have been summoned to reinforce rules and regulations.

“We will not allow anyone to falsify the facts,” another official in Modi’s office said on Friday. “The prime minister will not tolerate this.”

The head of the PIB declined to comment.

Reuters had published the PIB’s photograph with the sharper window view, which was authorised for independent distribution, with a disclaimer that it could not independently verify its authenticity. Later Reuters withdrew the picture.

More than 40,000 people have been rescued in recent days after record rains lashed the coastal state, worsening weeks of flooding that has killed 269 people. Photo: AFP
Humorists published their own photoshopped images of Modi: One showed the premier looking through the helicopter window at planet Earth, as seen from the moon.

“Where no more countries are left to visit,” tweeted @brownbrumby, taking a jibe at Modi’s extensive foreign travel.


Amid India’s Flood — PM Narendra Modi Faces a Deluge of Criticism and Mockery

December 4, 2015


Although rains have ceased, flood warnings remain in place. AP photo 

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s government has faced mockery on social media for tweeting an apparently doctored photo of its image-conscious prime minister surveying the flood-hit southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Narendra Modi tweeted an image of himself looking out of a helicopter window as he flew over the area on Thursday, saying he was “pained by the devastation” he had seen.

The scene through the window was barely visible, but when the government’s press department later tweeted what appeared to be the same image, the view through the window was sharp and clearly showed flooding.

The department later deleted that tweet, but not before thousands of followers had taken screen grabs of the apparently manipulated image.

An aircraft inundated with floodwaters in Chennai, after the southern Indian city was struck by incessant rainfall, December 3, 2015

Many shared Internet memes, with one showing Modi looking through the helicopter window as Superman flew by.

“Very silly of @PIB-India to photo-shop @PMOIndia aerial survey of Chennai,” tweeted Prashanth Rao, referring to the state capital.

“Worst photoshop ever!” tweeted Wilbur Sargunaraj. “Why does our PM need false and exaggerated propaganda???”

The Press Information Bureau said later that two pictures had been accidentally merged in an “error of judgement”.

“PIB regrets the release of the above mentioned picture,” it said.

Modi travelled to Tamil Nadu on Thursday to survey the damage from weeks of flooding that has killed 269 people.

The prime minister is a prolific tweeter with more than 16 million followers.


BBC News

Floodwaters have started receding from parts of the southern Indian city of Chennai (Madras), hours after it experienced a respite from rain.

More than 7,000 people have been rescued so far, but many are still stranded, reports say.

PM Narendra Modi, who travelled to Chennai, has promised $150m (£99m) to the flood-hit Tamil Nadu state.

More than 260 people have died in the floods in the state after the heaviest rainfall in a century.

A depression in the Bay of Bengal has triggered rains in coastal areas.

Last month, non-stop rain for nearly a week brought the city to a standstill.

Three days of fresh rains have again led to massive flooding, inundating homes, hospitals, roads, railway tracks and the city’s airport. Forecasts of more showers remain in place.

In pictures: Chennai flooding

Indian residents make their way through floodwaters in Chennai on December 3, 2015

Reports say there has been no rain in Chennai on Friday morning and water levels are receding in some parts of the city. AFP photo

Schools, colleges and factories are shut, exams postponed and power supply suspended in most parts of the city. An oil refinery has stopped operations.

Reports say there has been no rain in Chennai on Friday morning and water levels are receding in some parts of the city.

A naval air base at Arakkonam, 70km (43 miles) from the Tamil Nadu state capital, is now being used as a makeshift airport with seven commercial flights expected to operate on Friday and Saturday.

Train services will remain suspended until Saturday, officials say.

At the scene – Sanjoy Majumder, BBC News, Chennai

Flood affected people queue up for food in Chennai, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015

Image copyright AP

It hasn’t rained in Chennai for 24 hours and with the sun out, the water levels have begun dipping in many parts of the city.

Some areas are still badly affected and remain cut off. Rescue teams are now focussing on these neighbourhoods while trying to get food and medicines to thousands of people who have been affected.

Shops and markets have opened as well and people are queuing up to buy food and fuel, although there are shortages of essentials supplies such as milk.

But the airport and the main railway station are still closed – a naval air base outside the city has been cleared for a limited number of civilian flights.

Although the rain is part of the normal monsoon, Chennai received as much rain in two days as it does in a couple of months.

A massive rescue operation is continuing to reach stranded people. Some 5,000 houses are still under water with many people trapped inside them, reports say.

Troops have set up 25 shelters and community kitchens for the flood victims.

Officials said they were investigating the deaths of 14 patients on life support after a power failure at a private hospital in the city.

“The hospital was flooded and it was adjacent to the river. The patients have died over a period of three days. 57 other patients who were also on ventilator support have been shifted to other hospitals in the city,” Tamil Nadu health official J Radhakrishnan told the BBC Hindi.

“The deaths have definitely not occurred due to power cuts. They were all critical patients. This will in any case be a matter of investigation,” he said.

Seema Agarwal, a resident, said she had seen many people queuing at bus stops to leave the city.

“There are people who haven’t eaten for days. They have seen their possessions float away from the house. Food, clothes – all gone,” she told the Reuters news agency.

The federal weather office has predicted two more days of torrential rain in the southern state, where nearly 70 million people live.

A total of 269 people are now known to have died in floods in Tamil Nadu state since last month.

Indian army soldiers rescue flood affected people in Chennai, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.

Troops have set up 25 shelters and community kitchens for the flood victims. AP photo

An aerial view shows a flood affected area in Chennai, India, December 3, 2015.

Schools, colleges and factories are shut, exams postponed and power supply suspended in most parts of the city. Reuters photo

India’s PM Singh Will Skip Commonwealth Summit in Sri-Lanka Because Of Human Rights Violations, Rebel Danger — Is China The Big Winner?

November 11, 2013

By Prem Shanker

Doubts voiced over India-Sri Lanka ties as Manmohan Singh decides to stay away from Commonwealth summit in Colombo.

Chennai, India – The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) will begin in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo this Friday, but Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won’t be attending.

Singh is the second head of state to announce he won’t be going to the summit after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled out citing Sri Lanka’s human rights record, particularly the treatment of the country’s ethnic Tamil minority.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has also expressed concern over the handling of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Singh did not comment on why he declined to attend, but political parties in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state – with strong ties to Sri Lanka’s Tamil community – had pressed the prime minister to take a stand and not show up.

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing October 23, 2013.
Ever since Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war ended, allegations of atrocities by its forces against minority Tamil civilians during the final stages of the conflict have swirled.

About 40,000 civilians were killed in the final five months of the war that finally ended in 2009, according the United Nations. More than 5,670 people remain unaccounted for, it says. Sri Lanka’s government has denied any responsibility.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a panel of experts that recommended the establishment of an international investigation into what happened at the war’s end. That was ignored by the Sri Lankan government, however, which instead launched its own “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” that was widely criticised for failing to address serious human rights violations.

Domestic politics

Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is dependent on host of regional political parties, and with fresh parliamentary elections due next year, the need to keep his regional flock together has grown more pressing.

Some of those regional parties – with their own political interests and vote banks in mind – are becoming more bellicose, even to the point of forcing a change in India’s external affairs policy. Singh’s cancellation of the Colombo visit is overwhelmingly credited to one regional ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Tamil Nadu’s provincial assembly had passed a resolution demanding a total boycott of the CHOGM meet, to emphasise India’s displeasure with the Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

With the summit becoming inseparable from the “Tamil cause”, DMK chief M Karunanidhi recently said: “Tamils in India and the international diaspora expect India to boycott the CHOGM meet in Sri Lanka. What is India going to do?”

Under pressure from such a prominent ally, it appears Singh has finally acquiesced, deciding to send his foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, to Colombo instead.

“I don’t think we should look at any one single dimension to this decision. Let’s not forget that the prime minister doesn’t always go to Commonwealth [meetings],” Khurshid told private television channel NDTV, hours later.

Analysts, however, said they feared India’s absence could be exploited by regional rivals such as China and Pakistan.

“Now we are vacating our backyard for the Chinese to rebuild all of a booming post-war Sri Lanka,” influential columnist and editor Shekhar Gupta wrote in the Indian Express newspaper, describing Singh’s move.

China had provided weapons to Colombo in the final phase of the civil war, and the Sri Lankan government has awarded more than $4 billion worth of infrastructure projects to China, mainly with Chinese loans.

‘Greater stakes’

The worries are that the Colombo-Beijing relationship will now get cozier to the detriment of India.

“This could clear the path for China and Pakistan to claim greater stakes in their relationship with Sri Lanka, which is definitely against India’s interest,” strategic affairs analyst Maroof Raza said.

Colonel R. Hariharan, formerly the intelligence head of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) that was sent to Sri Lanka in the late 1980s to enforce peace, said the prime minister’s absence could undo India’s efforts to build bridges with the island-nation across the narrow Palk Straits.

The IPKF was one measure that India had taken to strengthen ties with Sri Lanka, though many felt it was misguided.

According to Hariharan, India’s business ties with Sri Lanka could take a hit as New Delhi distances itself from Colombo.

“India had a lead of more than seven years over China in signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka, but China is making it up at a rapid pace,” said Hariharan.

He pointed out that “India-Sri Lanka trade grew from $600m in 2000 to $5bn in 2012. As against this, China-Sri Lanka trade even without an FTA has grown from $658.4m in 2005 to $2.67bn by 2012.”
“China-Sri Lanka trade aided by an FTA would retard the growth of India’s trade with Sri Lanka,” Hariharan said.

China-Sri Lanka ties have grown exponentially in recent years.  Getty Photo

So is China going to gleefully accept what India cedes to it, owing to India’s own internal political considerations?

The likes of Gupta, Raza and Hariharan feel that China’s footprint on Sri Lanka will increase further.

According to a recent announcement by the Sri Lankan authorities, even one of the major venues of the 2013 CHOGM summit – the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall – is an “outright gift from the Government and People of the People’s Republic of China”.

With forces pulling him in various directions, the Indian prime minister seems to have buckled and prioritised internal political interest above external affairs.

And pundits see a short-term outlook in this.

“Unlike the Congress-led government in India which is walking on thin ice, the Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka is here to stay,” said Raza.

“India should understand the long-term implications of upsetting a neighbour whose government is firmly entrenched.”

Food Supply Around the World Threatened By Water Shortage

July 7, 2013

Lester Brown says grain harvests are already shrinking as US, India and China come close to ‘peak water’

For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline

, environment editor

The Observer

An Iraqi shepherd boy
Iraq is among the countries in the Middle East facing severe water shortages. Photograph: Ali al-Saadi/AFP

Wells are drying up and underwater tables falling so fast in the Middle East and parts of India, China and the US that food supplies are seriously threatened, one of the world’s leading resource analysts has warned.

In a major new essay  Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, claims that 18 countries, together containing half the world’s people, are now overpumping their underground water tables to the point – known as “peak water” – where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year.

The situation is most serious in the Middle East. According to Brown: “Among the countries whose water supply has peaked and begun to decline are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. By 2016 Saudi Arabia projects it will be importing some 15m tonnes of wheat, rice, corn and barley to feed its population of 30 million people. It is the first country to publicly project how aquifer depletion will shrink its grain harvest.

“The world is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline. Because of the failure of governments in the region to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed and less irrigation water with which to feed them.”

Brown warns that Syria’s grain production peaked in 2002 and since then has dropped 30%; Iraq has dropped its grain production 33% since 2004; and production in Iran dropped 10% between 2007 and 2012 as its irrigation wells started to go dry.

“Iran is already in deep trouble. It is feeling the effects of shrinking water supplies from overpumping. Yemen is fast becoming a hydrological basket case. Grain production has fallen there by half over the last 35 years. By 2015 irrigated fields will be a rarity and the country will be importing virtually all of its grain.”

Running LowThere is also concern about falling water tables in China, India and the US, the world’s three largest food-producing countries. “In India, 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping, in China 130 million. In the United States the irrigated area is shrinking in leading farm states with rapid population growth, such as California and Texas, as aquifers are depleted and irrigation water is diverted to cities.”

Falling water tables are already adversely affecting harvest prospects in China, which rivals the US as the world’s largest grain producer, says Brown. “The water table under the North China Plain, an area that produces more than half of the country’s wheat and a third of its maize is falling fast. Overpumping has largely depleted the shallow aquifer, forcing well drillers to turn to the region’s deep aquifer, which is not replenishable.”

The situation in India may be even worse, given that well drillers are now using modified oil-drilling technology to reach water half a mile or more deep. “The harvest has been expanding rapidly in recent years, but only because of massive overpumping from the water table. The margin between food consumption and survival is precarious in India, whose population is growing by 18 million per year and where irrigation depends almost entirely on underground water. Farmers have drilled some 21m irrigation wells and are pumping vast amounts of underground water, and water tables are declining at an accelerating rate in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.”

In the US, farmers are overpumping in the Western Great Plains, including in several leading grain-producing states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Irrigated agriculture has thrived in these states, but the water is drawn from the Ogallala aquifer, a huge underground water body that stretches from Nebraska southwards to the Texas Panhandle. “It is, unfortunately, a fossil aquifer, one that does not recharge. Once it is depleted, the wells go dry and farmers either go back to dryland farming or abandon farming altogether, depending on local conditions,” says Brown.

“In Texas, located on the shallow end of the aquifer, the irrigated area peaked in 1975 and has dropped 37% since then. In Oklahoma irrigation peaked in 1982 and has dropped by 25%. In Kansas the peak did not come until 2009, but during the three years since then it has dropped precipitously, falling nearly 30%. Nebraska saw its irrigated area peak in 2007. Since then its grain harvest has shrunk by 15%.”

Brown warned that many other countries may be on the verge of declining harvests. “With less water for irrigation, Mexico may be on the verge of a downturn in its grain harvest. Pakistan may also have reached peak water. If so, peak grain may not be far behind.”