The Human Impact

Death in “Dev Bhoomi” – Disaster in Hinduism’s holiest place

Prakash Kabra recites his elder brother’s mobile number and I carefully tap it into my phone – already knowing the response, but still with a naïve sense of hope.

“The number you are calling is either switched off or unreachable at the moment. Please try again later,” says the automated reply.

It’s a response Prakash has heard countless times over the last six weeks. Yet he continues to call, hoping against hope that his brother – missing since deadly floods and landslides devastated India’s Himalayas – will answer.

Along with 14 other family members, Prakash’s brother, a businessman from the city of Lucknow, had travelled to the scenic northern region of Uttarakhand for the “Char Dham Yatra” – the most sacred of pilgrimages for the world’s one billion Hindus.

But the Kabra family did not return home and their faces, along with thousands of others, now stare out from posters plastered on the walls of police stations, hospitals and bus stations in towns and villages across the area.

Italy acid attack victim fights back to regain her smile

Lucia remembers a hooded man running away. “He looked at me for an instant, I saw he was holding a can…”

The man runs down the stairs and his footsteps echo in Lucia’s memory. “I told myself a million times that maybe I could have escaped, maybe I could have shielded myself a little better.”

The man is now far away, Lucia sees herself again standing in the doorway of her home as she recounts those terrible moments to Corriere della Sera’s reporter Giusi Fasano.

The night the rain fell: Living in fear in India’s Himalayas

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

It poured and poured and didn’t seem to let up. I could hear it crashing down relentlessly. It was so loud that I had to get out of bed to check whether the window of my hotel room was open. It wasn’t.

The pitch blackness outside didn’t help to allay my anxiety. All I could hear was the thunderous noise of the rain beating down and rushing waters of the Alaknanda River on the banks of which my hotel in the Indian Himalayas was located.

Being the Twitter-freak I am, I shared my discomfort with the rest of the world.

Heroes and politicians, Indian floods show the good, bad and ugly

What many journalists and aid workers say is true – it is only in times of crisis, such as disasters and war, that you observe the best and worst of humanity.

In displacement camps where survivors have fled, for example, a cyclone which has flattened their village or a raging insurgency which has killed their loved ones, amid stories of pain and suffering, you will often hear incredible accounts of survival and hope.

It is no different in India.

In the two weeks since deadly floods hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, there have been tales of young children being rescued by strangers, of local shopkeepers opening up kitchens to feed hundreds of marooned survivors, and of the tireless work of army, air force and other service personnel who have evacuated over 100,000 people by land and air in the largest ever rescue operation in India. Tragically, they lost 20 men when a helicopter crashed during the operation.

Child rape victim jailed in India: A journalist’s “immunity” breaks down

Her story is like so many I have heard in my years of reporting on the plight of girls and women in India.

It is a story of rape. A story of police insensitivity, of ostracism, of fear.

I think I’ve heard enough of these stories to be immune, unaffected by the tale of suffering that each victim recounts in the aftermath of her sexual assault.

But I am wrong — perhaps because this girl is just 10 years old.

Her vulnerability is overwhelming as the shy, dark-skinned little girl with sun-bleached black bobbed hair sits nervously on a charpoy, in a pretty turquoise salwar-kameez with bright pink trim.

What’s the climate friendly way to go on holiday?

 

Before you pack the bags for this year’s holidays, it’s worth considering how you’re going to get there – and how much of a problem that might create for the world’s climate. Turns out there’s some unconventional wisdom from scientists – and if you can stand a little company, a road trip might be greener than you think….

What’s the climate friendly way to go on holiday this year?

Turns out the answer is much the same whether you live in London, Los Angeles or Lagos – and it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your car at home.

New research by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway and the Austria-basedInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis tracked the climate impacts of various ways of taking trips of 500 to 1,000 kilometres (300 to 600 miles).

Postcard from Brazil: A woman free in Rio, not in Delhi

I have lived in the Indian capital for several years and, like many other women in this metropolis of 16 million, I soon learned how to deal with the lecherous stares and dirty comments, the drunken men in cars who follow my auto-rickshaw home from work at night.

I have learnt to be aggressive, to talk straight and serious when addressing male strangers, to not make eye contact, to not extend a handshake and to certainly not smile, share personal details or be friendly when dealing with men I do not know.

Some may think this is a little severe, but when you are bombarded with reports of crimes against women — of men throwing acid in women’s faces, of women being dragged off the street and gang-raped in moving cars, of little girls being lured, raped and murdered, of women being stalked and harassed, most here will likely agree my actions make sense.

Will China end its forced abortions?

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng made international headlines last year when he escaped house arrest, foiling guards and security cameras around his home in rural China, to flee to Beijing where he took refuge in the U.S. embassy. He was eventually given permission to go to the United States to study.

But before his dramatic escape, Chen, one of China’s best-known human rights icons, came to national prominence in 2005 when he accused officials in his home province, Shandong, of forcing pregnant women to undergo late-term abortions to comply with China’s strict family-planning policies.

Chen’s whistleblowing initially prompted the government to sack and detain several officials. However, he was later jailed for four years on what he and his supporters contend were trumped-up charges designed to end his rights advocacy.

Extreme measures to “protect” daughters in India

Gurpreet Singh is a determined man. But he is an even more concerned father.

The 32-year-old investment adviser is leaving India and migrating to Australia. There is nothing new in that — tens of thousands of professional Indians emigrate every year.

Unlike most of them, Singh’s reason for leaving is not the pursuit of greater economic returns, but a search for something increasingly perceived by parents to be lacking in India — security for their daughters.

It was the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi last December that jolted Singh, like millions of middle-class urban Indians, and awakened him to the brutalities women and girls face in this largely patriarchal country.

Actor, dressed as woman, feels Egypt’s sexual harassment

Would men stop sexually harassing women, or at least understand what it feels like to be verbally and physically abused, if they were to experience it themselves?

One TV programme in Egypt has looked at the issue of sexual harassment by doing just that.

“Awel el Khayt” – roughly translated as “The Thread” – is a seven-episode series aimed at covering longstanding socio-political and economic problems in the north African country.

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