Sri Lanka: Truth Knowledge And The History Of This Great Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Sri Lanka

Introduction The first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C. probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty established a Tamil kingdom in northern Sri Lanka. The coastal areas of the island were controlled by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century. The island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into war in 1983. Tens of thousands have died in the ethnic conflict that continues to fester. After two decades of fighting, the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formalized a cease-fire in February 2002 with Norway brokering peace negotiations. Violence between the LTTE and government forces intensified in 2006 and the government regained control of the Eastern Province in 2007. In January 2008, the government officially withdrew from the ceasefire, and has begun engaging the LTTE in the northern portion of the country.
History Paleolithic human settlements have been discovered at excavations in several cave sites in the Western Plains region and the South-western face of the Central Hills region. Anthropologists believe that some discovered burial rites and certain decorative artifacts exhibit similarities between the first inhabitants of the island and the early inhabitants of Southern India. Recent bio-anthropological studies have however dismissed these links, and have placed the origin of the people to the northern parts of India. One of the first written references to the island is found in the Indian epic Ramayana, which described the emperor Ravana as monarch of the powerful kingdom of Lanka, which was created by the divine sculptor Vishwakarma for Kubera, the treasurer of the Gods. English historian James Emerson Tennent also theorized Galle, a southern city in Sri Lanka, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory, peacocks and other valuables. The main written accounts of the country’s history are the Buddhist chronicles of Mahavansa and Dipavamsa.

The earliest-known inhabitants of the island now known as Sri Lanka were probably the ancestors of the Wanniyala-Aetto people, also known as Veddahs and numbering roughly 3,000. Linguistic analysis has found a correlation of the Sinhalese language with the languages of the Sindh and Gujarat, although most historians believe that the Sinhala community emerged well after the assimilation of various ethnic groups. From the ancient period date some remarkable archaeological sites including the ruins of Sigiriya, the so-called “Fortress in the Sky”, and huge public works. Among the latter are large “tanks” or reservoirs, important for conserving water in a climate that alternates rainy seasons with dry times, and elaborate aqueducts, some with a slope as finely calibrated as one inch to the mile. Ancient Sri Lanka was also the first in the world to have established a dedicated hospital in Mihintale in the 4th century BCE. Ancient Sri Lanka was also the world’s leading exporter of cinnamon, which was exported to Egypt as early as 1400 BCE. Sri Lanka was also the first Asian nation to have a female ruler in Queen Anula (47–42 BC)

Since ancient times Sri Lanka was ruled by monarchs, most notably of the Sinha royal dynasty that lasted over 2000 years. The island was also infrequently invaded by South Indian kingdoms and parts of the island were ruled intermittently by the Chola dynasty, the Pandya dynasty, the Chera dynasty and the Pallava dynasty. The island was also invaded by the kingdoms of Kalinga (modern Orissa) and those from the Malay Peninsula. Buddhism arrived from India in the 3rd century BCE, brought by Bhikkhu Mahinda, who is believed to have been the son of Mauryan emperor Ashoka. Mahinda’s mission won over the Sinhalese monarch Devanampiyatissa of Mihintale, who embraced the faith and propagated it throughout the Sinhalese population. The Buddhist kingdoms of Sri Lanka would maintain a large number of Buddhist schools and monasteries, and support the propagation of Buddhism into Southeast Asia.

Sri Lanka had always been an important port and trading post in the ancient world, and was increasingly frequented by merchant ships from the Middle East, Persia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. The islands were known to the first European explorers of South Asia and settled by many groups of Arab and Malay merchants. A Portuguese colonial mission arrived on the island in 1505 headed by the Lourenço de Almeida the son of Francisco de Almeida. At that point the island consisted of three kingdoms, namely Kandy in the central hills, Kotte at the Western coast, and Yarlpanam (Anglicised Jaffna) in the north. The Dutch arrived in the 17th century. Although much of the island came under the domain of European powers, the interior, hilly region of the island remained independent, with its capital in Kandy. The British East India Company established control of the island in 1796, declaring it a crown colony in 1802, although the island would not be officially connected with British India. The fall of the kingdom of Kandy in 1815 unified the island under British rule.

European colonists established a series of tea, cinnamon, rubber, sugar, coffee and indigo plantations. The British also brought a large number of indentured workers from Tamil Nadu to work in the plantation economy. The city of Colombo was established as the administrative centre, and the British established modern schools, colleges, roads and churches that brought Western-style education and culture to the native people. Increasing grievances over the denial of civil rights, mistreatment and abuse of natives by colonial authorities gave rise to a struggle for independence in the 1930s, when the Youth Leagues opposed the “Ministers’ Memorandum,” which asked the colonial authority to increase the powers of the board of ministers without granting popular representation or civil freedoms. Buddhist scholars and the Teetotalist Movement also played a vital role in this time. During World War II, the island served as an important Allied military base. A large segment of the British and American fleet were deployed on the island, as were tens of thousands of soldiers committed to the war against Japan in Southeast Asia.

Following the war, popular pressure for independence intensified. The office of Prime Minister of Ceylon was created in advance of independence on 14 October 1947, Don Stephen Senanayake being the first prime minister. On February 4, 1948 the country won its independence as the Commonwealth of Ceylon. On July 21, 1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike took office as prime minister, and became the world’s first female prime minister and the first female head of government in post-colonial Asia. In 1972, during Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s second term as prime minister, the country became a republic within the Commonwealth, and the name was changed to Sri Lanka. The island enjoyed good relations with the United Kingdom and had the British Royal Navy stationed at Trincomalee.

Since 1983, there has been on-and-off civil war, predominantly between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), a separatist militant organization who fight to create an independent state named Tamil Eelam in the North and East of the island.

Geography Location: Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Geographic coordinates: 7 00 N, 81 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 65,610 sq km
land: 64,740 sq km
water: 870 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,340 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)
Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m
Natural resources: limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 13.96%
permanent crops: 15.24%
other: 70.8% (2005)
Irrigated land: 7,430 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 50 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 12.61 cu km/yr (2%/2%/95%)
per capita: 608 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional cyclones and tornadoes
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes
Politics The Constitution of Sri Lanka establishes a democratic, socialist republic in Sri Lanka, which is also a unitary state. The government is a mixture of the presidential system and the parliamentary system. The President of Sri Lanka is the head of state, the commander in chief of the armed forces, as well as head of government, and is popularly elected for a six-year term. In the exercise of duties, the President is responsible to the Parliament of Sri Lanka, which is a unicameral 225-member legislature. The President appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers composed of elected members of parliament. The President’s deputy is the Prime Minister, who leads the ruling party in parliament and shares many executive responsibilities, mainly in domestic affairs.

Members of parliament are elected by universal (adult) suffrage based on a modified proportional representation system by district to a six-year term. The primary modification is that, the party that receives the largest number of valid votes in each constituency gains a unique “bonus seat.” The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve Parliament any time after it has served for one year. The parliament reserves the power to make all laws. On July 1, 1960 the people of Sri Lanka elected the first-ever female head of government in Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga served multiple terms as prime minister and as president from 1999 to 2005. The current president and prime minister, both of whom took office on November 21, 2005, are Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ratnasiri Wickremanayake respectively.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed democracy with universal suffrage since 1931. Politics in Sri Lanka are controlled by rival coalitions led by the left-wing Sri Lanka Freedom Party, headed by President Rajapaksa, the comparatively right-wing United National Party led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Marxist-Nationalist JVP. There are also many smaller Buddhist, socialist and Tamil nationalist political parties that oppose the separatism of the LTTE but demand regional autonomy and increased civil rights. Since 1948, Sri Lanka has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. It is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Colombo Plan, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Through the Cold War-era, Sri Lanka followed a foreign policy of non-alignment but has remained closer to the United States and Western Europe. The military of Sri Lanka comprises the Sri Lankan Army, the Sri Lankan Navy and the Sri Lankan Air Force. These are administered by the Ministry of Defence. Since the 1980s, the army has led the government response against the Marxist militants of the JVP and now the LTTE militant forces. Sri Lanka receives considerable military assistance from Pakistan and China.

Sri Lanka was considered one of the “world’s most politically unstable countries” by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank in 2004. The Economist labels Sri Lanka a “flawed democracy” in its 2006 rankings (ranking 57 and positioned among 54 other flawed ranked ones) and Foreign Policy ranks Sri Lanka 25th (Alert Category) in its Failed States Index for 2007. However, Sri Lanka, according to the US State Department in 2005, was classified a “stable democracy” amidst a ceasefire period of the long running civil war.

People Population: 21,128,772
note: since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatists in the mid-1980s, several hundred thousand Tamil civilians have fled the island and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.1% (male 2,596,463/female 2,495,136)
15-64 years: 68% (male 7,019,446/female 7,340,809)
65 years and over: 7.9% (male 783,823/female 893,096) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 30.4 years
male: 29.5 years
female: 31.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.943% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 16.63 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.07 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 19.01 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 20.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 17.17 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.97 years
male: 72.95 years
female: 77.08 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.02 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,500 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Sri Lankan(s)
adjective: Sri Lankan
Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)
Religions: Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian 6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)
Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%
note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.7%
male: 92.3%
female: 89.1% (2001 census)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
conventional short form: Sri Lanka
local long form: Shri Lamka Prajatantrika Samajaya di Janarajaya/Ilankai Jananayaka Choshalichak Kutiyarachu
local short form: Shri Lamka/Ilankai
former: Serendib, Ceylon
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Colombo
geographic coordinates: 6 56 N, 79 51 E
time difference: UTC+5.5 (10.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative capital)
Administrative divisions: 8 provinces; Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western
note: in October 2006, a Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruling voided a presidential directive merging the North and Eastern Provinces; many have defended the merger as a prerequisite for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict; a parliamentary decision on the issue is pending
Independence: 4 February 1948 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 4 February (1948)
Constitution: adopted 16 August 1978, certified 31 August 1978
Legal system: a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Kandyan, and Jaffna Tamil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Mahinda RAJAPAKSA (since 19 November 2005); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government; Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE (since 21 November 2005) holds the largely ceremonial title of prime minister
head of government: President Mahinda RAJAPAKSA (since 19 November 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 17 November 2005 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA elected president; percent of vote – Mahinda RAJAPAKSA 50.3%, Ranil WICKREMESINGHE 48.4%, other 1.3%
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (225 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of an open-list, proportional representation system by electoral district to serve six-year terms)
elections: last held on 2 April 2004 (next to be held by 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party or electoral alliance – SLFP and JVP (no longer in formal UPFA alliance) 45.6%, UNP 37.8%, TNA 6.8%, JHU 6%, SLMC 2%, UPF 0.5%, EPDP 0.3%, other 1%; seats by party – UNP 68, SLFP 57, JVP 39, TNA 22, CWC 8, JHU 7, SLMC 6, SLMC dissidents 4, Communist Party 2, JHU dissidents 2, LSSP 2, MEP 2, NUA 2, UPF 2, EPDP 1, UNP dissident 1
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Court of Appeals; judges for both courts are appointed by the president
Political parties and leaders: All Ceylon Tamil Congress or ACTC [G.PONNAMBALAM]; Ceylon Workers Congress or CWC [Arumugam THONDAMAN]; Communist Party or CP [D. GUNASEKERA]; Eelam People’s Democratic Party or EPDP [Douglas DEVANANDA]; Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front or EPRLF [Suresh PREMACHANDRAN]; Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP [Somawansa AMARASINGHE]; Lanka Sama Samaja Party or LSSP [Tissa VITHARANA]; Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (People’s United Front) or MEP [D. GUNAWARDENE]; National Heritage Party or JHU [Ellawala METHANANDA]; National Unity Alliance or NUA [Ferial ASHRAFF]; People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam or PLOTE [D. SIDHARTHAN]; Sri Lanka Freedom Party or SLFP [Mahinda RAJAPAKSA]; Sri Lanka Muslim Congress or SLMC [Rauff HAKEEM]; Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization or TELO [Selvam ADAIKALANATHAN]; Tamil National Alliance or TNA [R. SAMPANTHAN]; Tamil United Liberation Front or TULF [V. ANANDASANGAREE]; United National Party or UNP [Ranil WICKREMASINGHE]; Up-country People’s Front or UPF [P. CHANDRASEKARAN]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE [Velupillai PRABHAKARAN](insurgent group fighting for a separate state); Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) or Karuna Faction [Vinayagamurthi MURALITHARAN] (paramilitary breakaway from LTTE and fighting LTTE)
other: Buddhist clergy; labor unions; radical chauvinist Sinhalese groups such as the National Movement Against Terrorism; Sinhalese Buddhist lay groups

Taiwan’s law on language show China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

 

Taiwan’s laws on language are showing China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country

OBSESSION

Language

May 09, 2018

Taiwan was once considered an economic miracle. Now economic progress there has slowed to a halt as China, Taiwan’s imposing neighbor, grows bigger by the day.

But in terms of social progress, Taiwan is decades ahead—showing people in China that a modern, multicultural, and tolerant Chinese society is possible.

Consider the difference between Taiwan and China’s language policies. Legislators in Taiwan are preparing to redefine what constitutes a “national language.” If the new definition is enacted, which is likely, Taiwanese—the local variant of the Minnan language of southern China—will receive equal treatment with Mandarin. That would be unthinkable in China, where Mandarin’s status as the sole standard language is absolute.

The Taiwanese language is everywhere in Taiwan. It is spoken at home by over 80% of the population. Would-be politicians feel the need to campaign in Taiwanese in order to win elections. Yet it has not been given the status of a national language. That is in part because the language has endured long periods of inequity relative to Mandarin, even in Taiwan. When the Kuomintang party arrived on the island in the 1940s, fleeing its losing battle with the Chinese communists, it banned the use of Taiwanese in schools and in the media, declaring that Mandarin should be the language of the island.

The new rule would change that, expanding on a separate act passed last year that gave several indigenous languages “national” status. Areas with large populations that speak Taiwanese will be allowed to use them in official documents and legal affairs. And the government will have an obligation to teach Taiwanese and the indigenous languages as part of the standard, 12-year curriculum, as well as to develop writing systems and dictionaries in those languages.

That level of commitment to minority languages would be impressive even for a Western country. In the United States, for example, it is hard to find national efforts to support any language other than English. But more than anything, the new rule reveals the growing cultural distance between Taiwan and China, and how much Taiwan has developed socially.

China doesn’t like the Minnan that can be heard in shops and food stalls across Taiwan. It considers Minnan, or Taiwanese, the language of the Taiwan independence movement. The prospect of possible retaliation from Beijing has long delayed Taiwan from giving the language a more official status.

China’s policies on minority languages, meanwhile, are stuck in the 20th century. Linguistically, China is extremely diverse. It is home to at least 100 distinct languages. Yet the Chinese government’s policy is based on the Stalinist assertion that a nation must have a single shared language, and that everyone in the nation must speak it. “A national community is inconceivable without a common language,” Stalin wrotein 1913. In 2000, China enacted a law to that effect, establishing putonghua—or “common speech,” as Mandarin is called in China—as the sole national language for the “unification of the country.” That means that Mandarin should come before all other languages.

The official rules in China don’t ban minority languages. And the same law that established Mandarin as the national language states that citizens “shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.”

But in many cases, the Communist Party perceives minority languages as being in conflict with higher-priority concerns, such as the nationwide promotion of Mandarin, national sovereignty, and cultural unification of the kind that Stalin advocated.

“If you promote the use of those [minority] languages in public domains, then the government might have a different view,” says Minglang Zhou, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies minority language policy in China. “They think that threatens the use of putonghua, and citizens’ identification with the Chinese nation.”

The Tibetan language is a good example of how these priorities shake out in practice.

“If you look at Tibetan, you can see this gradual shift from using Tibetan for instruction in classrooms to using Chinese,” Zhou adds. This is mostly the result of the 2000 language law. China might allow minority groups to develop their own languages, but the national effort is focused on getting 80% of citizens speaking Mandarin.

The two goals can be mutually exclusive. Mandarin-speaking teachers are sent to areas where Chinese is not spoken as well, and where they might not be able to speak the local language. The result is that in Tibet, the local language is, at best, relegated to a language class, and not used as the medium of instruction.

In addition to challenging the primacy of Mandarin, the party views the Tibetan language as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and identification with the nation of China. It doesn’t want citizens seeing themselves as Tibetans first. A strong Tibetan language movement might bring that about. China may claim that minorities have the right to develop their languages, but it also put on trial an activist who wanted more Tibetan in schools, accusing him of “inciting separatism.”

Essentially, China is not concerned with making minority languages more frequently spoken. It wants them to be preserved as interesting bits of Chinese history, like artifacts in a museum.

Therein lies the difference with Taiwan. Giving Taiwanese equal status will allow the language to thrive in everyday life, whether in schools, official documents, or popular media. It is not meant to be a historical artifact. If Mandarin is preferred in some setting, it will be because it is a common language, not because it has been deemed so from on high.

Taiwan has had enough time being governed independently from China to develop its own identity. The renewed emphasis on the Taiwanese language is one symptom of that. At the same time, its language policies show how Taiwan has developed into a pluralistic democracy, even as China moves in the opposite direction, toward greater unification. Taiwan’s renewed promotion of indigenous languages tries to reckon with historical injustices, even as China arrests Tibetan language activists. Last year, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage as China shut down a popular lesbian dating app.

In addition to being an act of pluralism, Taiwan’s proposed language law probably has political motivations. It sends a message to China that Taiwan does not need, or want, to abide by Beijing’s rules. But it also shows people in China that top-down unification is not the only way to govern an ethnically and linguistically diverse country where Mandarin is the lingua franca.

Extreme weather in India has killed 61 people in a day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

 

Extreme weather in India has killed 61 people in a day

29 mins ago Quartz India

Extreme weather is once again wreaking havoc across India.

On May 13, at least 61 people were reportedly killed as heavy thunderstorms and dust storms struck Uttar Pradesh (UP), West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh, besides the capital city of New Delhi.

While a thunderstorm and hail left 38 people dead in UP, lightning reportedly killed 12 people in West Bengal and nine in Andhra Pradesh. Another two lost their lives in Delhi, where a strong dust storm accompanied by heavy rain and winds of up to 109 kmph uprooted nearly 200 trees and brought traffic to a standstill. The Indira Gandhi International Airport was reportedly forced to suspend operations for over two hours, and around 70 flights were diverted; parts of Delhi’s metro line were also stalled.

The latest storms come just a few weeks after a freak dust storm, the worst in at least 20 years, crushed houses in UP and Rajasthan, killing over 100 people and injuring many more. At around the same time, Andhra Pradesh was struck by over 4,000 bolts of lightning that killed 14 people in a single day.

The recent bad weather has been caused by the combination of a north-south trough (a low-pressure system) currently stretching from northwest Rajasthan to Maharashtra and a cyclonic circulation that is now over West Bengal, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). High temperatures have created heatwave conditions in many states and made the atmosphere more unstable, prompting the thunderstorms and heavy winds that have left a trail of destruction across India.

While temperatures are expected to come down once the pre-monsoon hits, the IMD has forecast more thunderstorms and heavy winds this week. On May 14 and 15, states such as Punjab, Haryana, UP, and West Bengal, besides Delhi, Karnataka, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu are all expected to be lashed by bad weather. And in its latest All-India Weather Warning Bulletin, the IMD also added that another dust storm was “very likely” in Rajasthan on May 14.

Weather experts say the intensity of these events is linked to the effects of rising temperatures. In recent years, average and extreme temperatures have been on the rise across India, and heatwaves have become even more deadly, especially in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. With this spate of extreme weather aggravated by high temperatures, it’s clear that climate change is increasingly taking a toll on Indian lives.

Killer dust storm blasts India, leaving at least 125 dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

‘It was a nightmare’: Killer dust storm blasts India, leaving at least 125 dead

 May 3 at 2:18 PM 

Severe storms brought flooding, tornadoes and hail across the country April 15, leaving thousands without power and downing buildings. 

Severe winds and rapid-fire lightning strikes from a violent dust storm demolished homes and displaced trees across India on Wednesday, killing at least 125 people and injuring more than 200 others — with more potentially deadly weather still to come, officials said.

At least 111 people were killed in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, with many of them in Agra, the city that houses the Taj Mahal, according to BBC News and Agence France-Presse.

Another 14 people were killed in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, “which was hammered by more than 41,000 lightning strikes on Wednesday,” AFP reported.

Homes and businesses now lay in rubble littered with downed trees and electrical lines.

Livestock are dead. Schools are closed.

And residents are bracing for another storm that’s predicted to strike in a few days: The Indian Express reported early Thursday that Indian Meteorological Department scientist Himanshu Sharma warned of another round of dangerous weather likely to strike the area.

“There is a high probability that winds will intensify in the next 48 hours in Rajasthan, which may lead to another dust storm,” he told the Press Trust of India. “It will affect areas of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan border, especially Karauli and Dholpur.”

The majority of the deaths were in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, in the north.

The death toll in Rajasthan soared past three dozen, and the number may continue to climb, according to the Indian Express. The worst damage was in the Bharatpur district, according to the newspaper. “Most of the deaths occurred after walls and roofs of houses collapsed in the middle of the night,” T. Ravikanth, the district divisional commissioner in the state capital, Jaipur, told CNN.

Dust storms have hit India in the past, but officials said what made this storm so deadly was the fallen debris.

“Many houses collapsed due to high intensity winds, or the trees fell over onto the houses,” Sanjay Kumar, Uttar Pradesh’s state relief commissioner for the National Disaster Management Authority in India, told CNN, explaining how residents had become trapped and died.

India’s National Disaster Management Authority issued an alert earlier in the week, warning residents about “severe thunderstorm activity” with hail and strong wind gusts in Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha, as well as other areas in eastern and northeastern India — but not specifically Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

“I’ve been in office for 20 years, and this is the worst I’ve seen,” Hemant Gera, secretary for disaster management and relief in Rajasthan, told BBC News about the storm.

“We had a high intensity dust storm on 11 April — 19 people died then — but this time it struck during the night, so many people sleeping and couldn’t get out of their houses when mud walls collapsed.”

Shivam Lohia, who owns a resort hotel in Rajasthan, told AFP that his car was almost blown away in the storm. He abandoned the vehicle on a road, he said, and ran for his life.

“Everyone was scared and running for cover as trees and homes were getting blown away,” Lohia said. “It was a nightmare.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement Thursday that he was “saddened by the loss of lives” and that he has asked state governments to provide assistance to those who need it.

PMO India

@PMOIndia

Saddened by the loss of lives due to dust storms in various parts of India. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.

Have asked officials to coordinate with the respective state governments and work towards assisting those who have been affected: PM

Pakistan And India: Can There Ever Be True Peace Between Them

(This article is courtesy of the Pakistan Observer News Paper)

A mature policy towards India

Masood Khan

Tension between India and Pakistan, and the hostility that goes with it, is a ‘constant’ not a ‘variable’. This is what our history of the past seven decades has manifested. This evaluation is neither negativist nor pessimistic. It captures a reality and a trend that has proved to be enduring.
Of course, from time to time nations have transcended their past to seek peace but conditions are not ripe for such a breakthrough between India and Pakistan. Pakistan would not abandon its stance on Kashmir, India would not address it the way Pakistan wants, and India would continue to use its new-found diplomatic space and economic prowess to isolate and undermine Pakistan. India would not let go of its accusations of terrorism against Pakistan to delegitimize the Kashmir issue and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. The UN, in this fight, will remain a bystander and India would use its clout with the US, Europe and the Gulf states to diminish Pakistan’s outreach and deny it opportunities to develop its economic and military strength.
Pakistan has secured itself by acquiring nuclear capability and its economy is showing promise. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) alone has given a big boost to Pakistan’s economy and the good news is that many global investors are also taking keen interest in Pakistan.
Pakistan has also pursued a very sophisticated and constructive policy towards India in the past several years. The crux of the policy is: try to engage but do not compromise on the core principles.
But quite a few of Pakistan’s flanks remain vulnerable involving the Indian factor. In Afghanistan, India’s influence, among others, hampers normalization and reconciliation and that has a direct bearing on Pakistan. Indian commander Kulbhushan Jadhav’s arrest confirms that India has been using Iran’s territory to plan and execute terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan. In the US, Indian lobby has become so powerful that, in many areas, it holds a veto over the United States’ Pakistan policy. This past week, for instance, pro-India US legislators have been objecting to a sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. The voices are American; but the agenda is India’s. Delhi is making new inroads into the Gulf region among the nations disaffected with Pakistan because of its rather balanced position on Iran-Gulf relations. It is also working constantly on China to dilute its positions in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council that seem to help Pakistan; and India has protested to China for taking the CPEC through Gilgit-Baltistan. India is demonstrating its ability to hurt Pakistan beyond South Asian borders and shrink its space.
In the first few months of 2016, some new patterns have emerged. After the terrorists attack, the Pathankot airbase in India, there wasn’t a general break-drown though this scuttled the proposed talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries. Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team to look into to the leads on the Pathankot incident was received in India but the team was given limited access defeating the very purpose of the visit. After the arrest of Jadhav, a serving Indian naval officer, Pakistan did not cut off communication with India. Ranking foreign ministry officials have been meeting on the sidelines of multilateral conferences. So a model of grudging, cautious cooperation, albeit fragile and brittle, seems to be emerging.
Pakistan should take the following steps to deal effectively with the emerging scenarios:
One, it should not take its strong ties with China for granted. There should be no complacency in promoting and expanding ties with our closest strategic cooperative partner. The onus for sustaining and strengthening the relationship is not just on China, but on Pakistan too. Pakistan should have its own people to people contact policy towards China so as to give depth to our ties.
Two, do not neglect the US. Though, over the decades, we have lost ground in Washington, the situation is not irredeemable. Pakistan too should use its expanding Diaspora community in the US. A new base has been furnished by the recent high-level bilateral contacts to broaden our relationship to non-security areas. In that realm, development of the Knowledge Corridor will be most productive.
Three, through quiet diplomacy repair the damage in the Gulf region and the Middle East. The Gulf countries, though annoyed, still have a bond with Pakistan that would not be snapped, ever. In the Arab Street, Pakistan is seen as a beacon of hope for the Muslims. Besides, today we need Arabs, tomorrow they would need Pakistan, for sure, for economic progress and linkages.
Four, Pakistan should explore two new corridors. One should go through Iran branching off to Turkey, the Caucuses, and Europe, in the west, and to Central Asia and Russia, in the north, the other should be our corridor to Africa, the most underutilized potential of our external policy.
Five, we should realize that Afghanistan will take a long time to settle down. This year and in 2017, we should brace for a civil war that would have adverse consequences for Pakistan. The Afghan factions would continue to drag Pakistan into their fights and then berate it for all their troubles. So Pakistan should take a very patient and resolute approach. Afghans are now saying that they do not need Pakistan for facilitating peace and reconciliation process; all they want is that we start military operations against Afghan Taliban. At least one Afghan official has said that Afghanistan would send its own squads for attacks on Pakistani soil. This may not just be bluster.
Six, with India we should continue to give signals for engagement in a dignified manner. The prospects of resolving problems with India are very slim. There would be escalation whether or not we like it, but we should never let it spin out of control. We need a period of relative calm till 2030 to develop economically and militarily. This is a critical transformative phase in our history as a nation. We should not let it be disrupted by tensions with India; and we should not squander this precious opportunity.
Investors are coming to Pakistan; they should not flee.

Vietnam’s Fishing ‘Militia’ to Defend Against China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘VOICE OF AMERICA’)

 

Vietnam’s Fishing ‘Militia’ to Defend Against China


FILE - A Vietnamese boat (L) which was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands in 2014.
FILE – A Vietnamese boat (L) which was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands in 2014.

Vietnam is reported to be quietly developing a state-supported fishing boat militia to hold off China at sea. The fishing militia is being created at a time when the two sides talk about easing territorial disputes.

That is the opinion of experts who follow those disputes.

Vietnam watchers say the country is asking its commercial fishers to use stronger boats and take military-trained people to sea in case of a clash with Chinese fishers. China has its own fishing militia operating in the same waters.

“I think it’s a good policy to avoid future conflicts where militia fishermen are out in the sea,” said Trung Nguyen. He serves as dean of international relations at the Ho Chi Minh University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Vietnam has been working to develop the fishing militia since at least 2009. Over that time, the two countries have been holding talks. Just last week, Vietnam’s Communist Party general secretary met the visiting Chinese foreign minister. The party official suggested “joint safeguarding (of) maritime peace,” China’s Xinhua News Agency reported.

Vietnam may be trying to appear strong now in case talks fail to produce results, noted Eduardo Araral of the National University of Singapore’s school of public diplomacy.

FILE - A Vietnamese naval soldier stands quard at Thuyen Chai island in the Spratly archipelago.
FILE – A Vietnamese naval soldier stands quard at Thuyen Chai island in the Spratly archipelago.

How the militia works

The Vietnamese fishing militia has not gone to battle with China. If the militia did, it would risk facing the third largest military in the world.

But Vietnamese military forces are arming fishing boats, said Southeast Asia expert Carl Thayer. That may be similar to the deployment of former soldiers to help keep order as needed on land in Vietnam, Thayer noted.

The Vietnamese government requires conscription, he added, so fishermen would already have some military skills.

“Putting them at sea would just be getting people the right age and giving them that training,” he said. “All they did is move what they do on land, how to defend factories … and extend that to sea.

Thayer is emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Thirteen fishing militia platoons have been helping more than 3,000 fishermen work near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. That information comes from a 2017 study by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. China controls the Paracels, but Vietnam also claims the islands.

The study found that more than 10,000 fishermen and about 2,000 fishing boats in southern Vietnam have received military equipment.
In 2014, Vietnam prepared a list of rules to aid fishermen who build “modern large capacity ships” to expand their reach, the study found. It said Vietnamese banks had lent $176 million to fishermen for improvements to about 400 ships.

South China Sea territorial claims map
South China Sea territorial claims map

Record of clashes

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea. Vietnam says it should control the sea’s waters off its long north-south coastline, extending into the Paracels and Spratly Islands.

Sailors died in clashes between the two countries in 1974 and 1988. In 2014, the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea caused a boat-rammingincident at sea and deadly rioting in Vietnam against Chinese interests.

China has long had its own fishing militia with military support and attention from the Chinese President, notes the United States-based Naval War College. Armed fishing boats help defend China’s maritime claims by pushing away foreign boats, the political intelligence service Stratfor reported in 2016.

Five other governments claim all or parts of the South China Sea. They oppose Chinese efforts to build up and expand islands in the waterway.

Vietnam and China often hold talks about settling maritime problems, but talks often fall short of a decision because of historic distrust, Araral said. He added that Vietnam may be sending China the message that while we talk, we assert our rights.

A Vietnamese fishing militia will not be as large as China’s militia, he said, but Vietnam feels it must try.

I’m Susan Shand

Susan Shand adapted this story from VOA. George Grow was the editor.

Indore India: 4 Story Hotel Collapsed Killing At Least 10

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

(NEW DELHI) — A four-story rickety hotel building collapsed in central India, killing at least 10 people and injuring three, police said Sunday.

Rescuers working through the night with sledgehammers and chain saws pulled alive 10 people from the debris of the building, which came crashing down Saturday night in Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh state, said police officer Sanju Kamle.

Up to five people may still be trapped under the rubble, said Nishant Warwade, the district collector.

The Times of India newspaper said the dilapidated building collapsed after a car smashed into its front portion.

The hotel with 25 rooms was located in the commercial hub of Indore, close to railway and bus stations. Indore is around 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of New Delhi.

Building collapses are common in India as builders try to cut corners by using substandard materials, and as multi-story structures are erected with inadequate supervision. The massive demand for housing around India’s cities and pervasive corruption often result in builders adding unauthorized floors or putting up illegal buildings.

In August 2017, 33 people were killed when an apartment building collapsed in India’s financial capital of Mumbai.

India’s Top Army General: “Chinese Have Finally Arrived”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S NDTV)

 

“Chinese Have Finally Arrived”: Army Chief’s Take On Beijing’s Strengths

General Bipin Rawat said China did not forget that military power should rise simultaneously with economy.

 SHARE
EMAIL
PRINT
1COMMENTS
'Chinese Have Finally Arrived': Army Chief's Take On Beijing's Strengths

Army chief General Bipin Rawat said the world is looking to India to counterbalance China.

NEW DELHI:  Army chief General Bipin Rawat today lauded China’s military might, saying they understood the importance of ratcheting up defence prowess alongside their economy. The world, he said, is looking at India to provide a counterbalance and added a criticism of what he called “a belief” regarding defence expenditure at home.

“The Chinese have finally arrived. I can say that,” General Rawat declared at a function in Delhi. “They did not forget that military power should rise simultaneously with economy. That is why they stand strong today in international world order, challenging the might of USA.”

In the current situation, India, he said, needs to focus on its military. “The world community is looking to us as a net security provider… to counterbalance the rise of China”.

Indicating what might be a hindrance to that goal, General Rawat said there is a “belief” that defence expenditure is a burden on the state. “They believe that whatever is put in defence – it is something that comes without any returns. I want to dispel that myth”.

The army has already said the defence allocation in this year’s budget, Rs. 21,338 crore, is inadequate. A senior army officer, Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand, has also told a parliamentary panel that a whopping 68 per cent of army equipment is vintage and its budget is cannot cover the existing projects, let alone fund modernisation.

1COMMENTS

The army chief also said today that military exercises with China will resume soon, marking an upswing in the relation between the two nations, which took a downturn last year following the 73-day stand-off at Doklam, which was resolved in August. Following the stand-off, the annual military exercise did not take place. “The relationship had turned sour, but I think it is all getting over now,” General Rawat said.

The diplomatic engagement between the two nations has been back on track with the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to India to attend the Russia India China Foreign Ministers meeting. Next month, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to visit Chi

Christian Integrity, What Is It

Christian Integrity, What Is It

 

Last evening I had a phone conversation with a man who has been in the states for many years but who’s family members still live in their original homeland. This is a man I have been coming to know the past couple of months because of a business deal we both have interest in. I have met this man, his wife and their children a couple of times in person and among the things my wife and I both noticed was their integrity as individuals and as a family unit. This helps bring me to one of the points that came up last evening during our phone conversation, the integrity of the people in the area (and those that stop in off of the interstate and stop in at his business). There were a few other issues that we spoke of like education and basic intelligence of the area but I would like to stick to the one issue today. The issue is/was about the people in this area and our faith as a Christian people, and our overall attitudes as a people concerning our/the personal level of Christian ethics and integrity.

 

The man I spoke of in the previous paragraph was from India, these next people are from Saudi Arabia. They own a local convenience store in my neighborhood so I got used to their faces and they to mine. The main sellers at this store was gas, beer, and cigarettes. As I got to know this family (just the men, no women) one of the things they were having to get used to was having the “customers” stealing from them. I am sorry to burst any bubbles but if we steal from anyone, that is a major red flag that we are lacking in our personal integrity. A couple of times these gentlemen spoke of their homeland where store owners could leave their wares on tables on the sidewalks and go home at night without worry of being robbed. Unfortunately I don’t know of places like that here in the States where I would feel totally secure doing this, do you? I hope you do but I just don’t.

 

To be honest with you when I started typing the title I realized that I didn’t know how to spell the word integrity. I don’t know how many years it had been since I spelled the word. Come to think of it, integrity isn’t a word that I ever hear bounced along our airwaves or in personal daily conversation, do you? When I looked the word up in the dictionary it gave me three definitions which I would like to relay to you to see what you think. (1) Adherence to a moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. (2) The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished. (3) A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition. Am I pointing a finger at you, only if I am also pointing a finger at myself. I’m not here to point any fingers though, I’m here to ask each of us to look inside our own selves if we say we are Christians (followers of Christ) and asking those of you who are not to please also take some quiet time to be honest with our self, our family, and with God. To be honest with you, God already knows just how honest we are, He already knows our integrity level. Folks, our family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, these people all (most likely) already know what our moral character really is, even if we don’t.

Tense Face-Off Between Tiger And Bear Caught On Camera

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NDTV)

 

At Tadoba Reserve, Tense Face-Off Between Tiger And Bear Caught On Camera

A vicious encounter between an adult tiger and a sloth bear at Maharashtra’s Tadoba National Park has been caught on camera. Scroll down to see the startling footage.

 SHARE
EMAIL
PRINT
9COMMENTS

At Tadoba Reserve, Tense Face-Off Between Tiger And Bear Caught On Camera

Caught on camera: A face-off between a tiger and sloth bear at Maharashtra’s Tadoba National Park

NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Viral video captures face-off between tiger, bear at Tadoba National Park
  2. Sloth bear was protecting her cub, says naturalist who filmed footage
  3. Fur saved injured sloth bear from further attack, explains animal expert

A viral video from Maharashtra’s Tadoba National Park captures a violent face-off between an adult tiger and a sloth bear. The video, taken on Wednesday during an afternoon safari, shows the encounter between two fierce members of the animal kingdom.

The video begins with the tiger chasing away the bear but suddenly, the sloth bear charges at the tiger. A battle ensues and it is far from a playful fight. As the video progresses, the tiger tries to pin the bear down. The sloth bear tries desperately to escape the tiger’s grip. The next few tense minutes see both the tiger and the sloth bear viciously charge at each other trying to assert their dominance.

tiger vs sloth bear 650 1

The video captures a tiger and sloth bear battle it out near a water body in Tadoba National Park

Akshay Kumar, the chief naturalist at Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge, tells NDTV that the tiger is 7-year-old Matkasur, a dominant male from the park who has marked the water body called Jamun Bodi, seen in the video, as his territory.

The sloth bear, a female, was headed to the water body with her young cub in search of water when the tiger, which was cooling off in the water, attacked. The mother bear, in order to protect her cub, fought back. The distressed cub roared as its mother took on the big cat.

tiger vs sloth bear 650 2

Akshay Kumar, the chief naturalist at Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge, caught the incredible encounter on camera

For the defensive sloth bear, not known to be territorial, it was her motherly instinct to fight back.

“The tiger attacked the bear more than five minutes. It went after the sloth bear but she kept charging in order to protect her cub,” Mr Kumar tells NDTV. “It went on for 15 minutes. The tiger was roaring. It was a severe fight.”

Both the tiger and sloth bear suffered injuries in the attack. The young cub ran away during the fight.

Mr Kumar, who shot the video, was leading a safari with tourists when they spotted the face-off between the bear and tiger. The video went viral on social media.

Watch the incredible viral video below:

https://www.ndtv.com/video/embed-player/?site=classic&id=479906&autostart=false&autoplay=0&pWidth=650&pHeight=470&category=embed&autostart=0&i

“Sloth bears are easy game,” says Dr Anish Andheria, President of Wildlife Conservation Trust. “As you can see in the video, the sloth bear was so exhausted. They can’t outrun tigers,” he tells NDTV.

Although injured, what saved the sloth bear from further attack by the apex predator of the jungle was her fur.

9COMMENTS

“The only thing that saves the bear is the hair on the body, because tiger doesn’t get a grip,” Dr Andheria explains.

Tadoba National Park in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district experiences high temperatures during summer months. Due to the scarcity of water, animals congregate at a common water hole to have a drink. Although such encounters are not uncommon in the wild, it was the first time it was seen in the tourist area of the reserve.

Click for more trending news

For the latest Election News & Live Updates from Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya log on to NDTV.com. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for updates

simulbd

https//simulbd.wordpress.com

Alphabet City

Thoughts from the Lower East Side by Carlos Chagall

The Lavender Letters

Deepest thoughts retold from dreams

Confident Hope

Empowering Women to Develop Healthy Relationships

All About Fame

Bookish Fame Writes

Take Nothing but Memories

Leave Only Footprints

Simplify Tasks

Want to learn the simple way?

rivrvlogr

Looking ahead, without looking back (too often)

%d bloggers like this: