TIME India

When Tigers and People Live Too Closely Together, Everyone Loses

A crowd of tourists photographing two tiger cubs sitting on a road inside Bandhavgarh National Park, India.
Steve Winter—National Geographic/Getty Images A crowd of tourists photographing two tiger cubs sitting on a road inside Bandhavgarh National Park, India.

Forced into ever decreasing habitats, India's tigers have been attacking and killing humans

Armed hunters in northern India are stalking a female tiger that is thought to have killed at least eight people since late December, according to AFP. The tiger is believed to be one of the 200 or so Royal Bengal tigers that live in Jim Corbett National Park, established in the early 20th century to protect the endangered animals. Just weeks ago, another tiger that authorities say killed three people in the southern state of Tamil Nadu was shot dead, and in December, a tiger in the southern state of Karnataka that reportedly killed three people was captured.

Conservationists blame humans moving into tigers’ natural habitat — not tigers’ growing taste for people — for the rise in tiger attacks. Another factor is the well-intentioned, but perhaps ill-planned, overstocking of small conservation areas, forcing too many tigers to compete for the same limited resources. Though some activists have criticized officials for dispatching hunters to kill the tigers, others point out that an unabated spate of deadly attacks may do more harm than good for the overall effort to protect the species. There are only 1706 tigers left in the wild in India, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Their habitat, and their prey’s, is shrinking across the subcontinent, as forests are cleared for roads and development.

TIME Afghanistan

If All Goes Well, Afghanistan Gets Its First Peaceful, Democratic Transition of Power Ever

Afghan workers install an election campaign poster of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in Kabul on Feb. 3, 2014.
Shah Marai—AFP/Getty Images Afghan workers install an election campaign poster of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in Kabul on Feb. 3, 2014.

But that's a big 'if'

What promises to be an interesting campaign season kicked off in Afghanistan over the weekend ahead of national elections scheduled for April 5. Though there is no clear frontrunner in the historic race, a few of the colorful roster of 11 candidates running to become the nation’s next president look better positioned than others to take the lead, including former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, and President Hamid Karzai’s own brother Qayyam Karzai. Karzai, who is constitutionally bound to step down from office come elections, has not officially backed any of the candidates. (Here’s a useful overview of the candidates from Tolo News and an overview of the coming elections from the Guardian.)

If these polls go off smoothly, it will mark Afghanistan’s first peaceful and democratic transition of power. Unfortunately, they’re not off to the smoothest of starts: the day before the campaign officially began, two campaigners for Abdullah were assassinated in the western city of Herat. And there’s plenty more to worry about: that inevitable vote fraud will be so rampant that the successful candidate will not have a credible mandate to govern, for instance, or whether, as NATO troops continue to pack up for their withdrawal later this year, Afghan security forces will be able to fend off insurgents bent on killing the democratic vibe.

But there is occasion to be optimistic as well. Afghanistan’s media landscape has changed drastically in the last decade, and for the first time many Afghan voters will be able to tune in to live debates between the candidates. That means the pressure is on for serious contenders to show voters that they have a plan for the country, and won’t be relying solely on ethnic block voting to garner a win. So far the candidates’ platforms look a little same-same, with issues like women’s rights, improving rule of law, maintaining security and job creation getting lip service across the board. But it’s still encouraging to see the country’s 12 million or so voters given a choice.


India and China Spar for Most Polluted Capital City

Traffic make way in haze mainly caused by air pollution in Delhi, on Jan. 20, 2014.
Kuni Takahashi—Bloomberg/Getty Images Traffic make way in haze mainly caused by air pollution in Delhi on Jan. 20, 2014

Is New Delhi's air pollution worse than Beijing's?

A media kerfuffle broke out in India this week over whether New Delhi has finally surpassed Beijing as having worse air quality than the infamous Chinese capital. A report carried by the Hindustan Times, an Indian daily, claimed that New Delhi had “earned the dubious tag of being the world’s most polluted city,” according to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a report put out by Yale and Columbia. The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that the EPI used national statistics in its indexing, and even if it did compile information city by city, New Delhi does not keep reliable enough data to make a direct comparison to Beijing possible.

(MORE: Beijing Chokes on Record Pollution, and Even the Government Admits There’s a Problem)

I’m just speaking for myself here, but as I look out this morning on a city blanketed by an indistinguishable mix of fog, dust and toxic heavy particles, I find it hard to take great comfort in any win for India in this. Parents may not be sending their kids to school in gas masks … yet, but it’s not exactly a fine day for a jog. (The New York Times’ own findings indicate the Indian capital’s fine particulate matter has, on average, been worse than Beijing in the first weeks of the year.)

Wherever New Delhi lands, the EPI did rank India’s air quality 174th out of 178 countries measured; only Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bangladesh came in lower. So one would hope Indian authorities do not interpret this as a pass. A 2012 study showed that pollution levels have been growing faster in Indian cities than in China. If it’s not a matter of now, it might simply be a matter of when.

MORE: India’s Air Pollution: Is It Worse Than China’s?

TIME India

Rahul on Rahul: Indian Voters Get a Prime-Time Look at Congress’ Main Man

Adnan Abidi / Reuters Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi speaks during the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in New Delhi Jan. 17, 2014

A mixed performance from the political scion who will head his party's next election campaign

It was the interview every political junkie in India has been waiting for. After ten years in elected office, political scion and Congress Party vice president Rahul Gandhi sat down for his first formal prime-time grilling, delivered by TimesNow’s editor-in-chief, Arnab Goswami. In the hour and twenty minutes that followed, Gandhi was at turns confident and worryingly vague, expressing some broad political goals like empowering women and opening the political system while coming up short on what, exactly, another term for Congress would look like as India gets ready to vote this spring.

Goswami did not spare his high-profile guest, and rightly so. Congress recently announced Gandhi would lead the party in its campaign ahead of national elections scheduled for May, but stopped short of naming him as a prime ministerial candidate, ending speculation over whether he would go head to head with opposition candidate Narendra Modi in the coming months. The move was interpreted by many as a play on Congress’ part to shield Gandhi, 43, from a potential trouncing by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in May’s polls — or even worse, given the fates of his grandmother and father, both of whom were assassinated.

But the announcement still left India’s ruling party with a frontman who has not exactly been front and center. Though Gandhi’s public appearances have increased since Congress’ drubbing in key state polls last month, Indian voters have not had much of a chance to hear Gandhi riff on his ideas for the country or on the controversies facing the sitting government.

(MORE: Gandhi Scion Declines Chance to Be India’s Next Leader)

Last night, they did. In course of the long interview, certain things were clear. Gandhi’s sincerity on his pet issues like getting India’s youth involved in politics, for instance, came through. So did his conflicted attitude toward his own role in India’s dynastic political system and the expectations swirling around him, most obvious when he started referring to himself in the third person. When asked if he was avoiding a direct face-off with Modi, Gandhi gave this reply: “To understand that question you have to understand who Rahul Gandhi is and what Rahul Gandhi’s circumstances have been and if you delve into that you will get an answer to the question of what Rahul Gandhi is scared of what he is not scared of.” (The answer: “absolutely nothing,” he said.)

What also seems clear now is that anybody still waiting for a Modi-Gandhi showdown is likely to be disappointed. Gandhi skirted the question of whether he would debate Modi, and refused to take Goswami’s bait to directly attack the polarizing and popular candidate. “The BJP has a PM candidate, the BJP believes in concentration of power in the hands of one person,” he said. “I fundamentally disagree with that.” When asked about Modi’s involvement in Gujarat’s 2002 communal riots — which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently characterized as presiding over the “massacre of innocent citizens of the streets”— Gandhi said that Modi’s government was complicit in “abetting and pushing the riots further,” but offered no specifics. He also dodged giving an apology on behalf of Congress for lives lost during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Goswami’s audience no doubt appreciated that he did not let Gandhi off the hook on these important issues and others, including the allegations of corruption that continue to dog the current government. But drilling down into a few specific topics so deeply did sort of suck the air out conversation, and left little room for voters to hear about what a third Congress led government would look like next year. A few moments contained more focused information, such as Gandhi saying he wanted to increasing manufacturing jobs and was open to further debate on whether political parties should be subject to India’s Right to Information (RTI) law. But as much as it was a window for Goswami to grill, it was a moment for Gandhi to use his generous airtime to directly communicate with voters. Showing up under the glare of the camera lights signals Gandhi may finally be embracing his new role at this crucial moment for his party. But to lead it to victory, he’s going to need more than 80 minutes.


Japan and India Bolster Trade and Defense Ties

Graham Crouch / Bloomberg / Getty Images Shinzo Abe, Japans prime minister, left, and Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, attend a news conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, on Jan. 25, 2014

Tokyo and New Delhi are cosying up, reflecting a shared desire to keep Beijing's growing might in check

On the surface, the pictures of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe standing next to a stiffly saluting President Pranab Mukherjee during India’s Jan. 26 Republic Day parade look like the pomp of your average high-level diplomatic visit. But making Abe, who was on a three-day visit to New Delhi, a guest of honor at India’s annual display of military might was a carefully aimed move. As the camouflaged tanks, high-stepping soldiers and missile launchers made their coordinated way through the foggy capital, New Delhi and Tokyo sent a clear message to the world — and to Beijing in particular — that the strategic bond between these two Asian allies is strong, and getting stronger.

Abe, whose trip comes close on the heels of a visit last month from Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, was in India over the weekend to try and make headway on a potential civil nuclear energy agreement and what could be Japan’s first military equipment sale in decades, among other things. India has expressed interest in a Japanese-made amphibious aircraft, and the two countries have reportedly been working on the terms of a sale.

Both deals would boost trade relations, but the meeting also underscored an intensifying mutual interest between the two nations — namely keeping China’s military expansionism in check. During Abe’s visit, the nations signed energy and telecommunications agreements, but also agreed on regularizing joint naval exercises. On Jan. 25, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made special mention in a media statement of the nations’ “expanding defence and security cooperation.”

Japan and India have a history of good relations, and this trip seemed to reinforce that goodwill as well as Japan’s ongoing investments in both infrastructure and business in India. Last year, Japan granted India $2.32 billion in aid for infrastructure projects and agreed to loan a further $753 million to help fund a metro system in Mumbai. During this visit, Abe announced Japan would loan India another $2 billion to expand the capital’s metro system, which Japan also helped fund. Japanese businesses have also been at the forefront of trying to tap the huge Indian market, with giants like Hitachi and Suzuki paving the way.

Chinese news outlets were predictably dismissive of the notion that Japan and India are growing politically closer. According to the BBC, several Chinese media outlets carried reports of Abe’s visit, but analysts quoted in the papers were skeptical that India could be persuaded to tighten strategic ties. “India’s main purpose is to obtain practical interests from Japan, and Abe’s wooing of India to resist China is more of his own wishful thinking,” an analyst at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations told the state-backed Global Times.

TIME photo essay

Treasure Land: The Mines of Afghanistan by Yuri Kozyrev

Afghanistan’s mountains are rich in untapped minerals that could prove to be a blessing — and a curse. TIME sent contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev to photograph the country with a mineral wealth worth as much as $1 trillion.

Afghanistan’s transition out of war is not shaping up to be very peaceful. Every day seems to bring another militant attack and more civilian lives lost as Afghan forces struggle to take over security ahead of the pullout of most foreign troops next year. Powerful women are being targeted with violence and kidnapping in parts of the country that are slipping back under Taliban control, and the no one is quite sure what will happen come elections next spring, when long-time leader President Hamid Karzai has said he will step down from power.

Whether Afghanistan can find more stable ground depends in no small part on the government’s ability to wean itself off outside aid. Many think the country’s rich natural resources are destined to be part of that. Oil and gas exploitation are in their nascent stages, and the U.S. government has estimated that the nation’s mineral wealth could be worth as much as $1 trillion. Over several decades, geologist have identified rich deposits of copper, gold, iron ore, lithium and rare earths around the country. The challenge is getting people to show up and put some money into digging them up. Though artisanal mining for stones like emeralds and lapis lazuli has been done here for centuries, large investment in the potentially lucrative industrial mining sector has a long way to go. Part of the problem is safety, part of the problem is that not enough exploration has been done to attract even risk-prone investors, and part of the problem is concern over what will happen to the money once it does start to come.

“There is potential in the country, but it’s how you manage it,” says Atiq Sediqi, an adviser to the Ministry of Mines. “If it goes into pockets, like it has in Congo or Nigeria, then we’re doomed.”

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

Krista Mahr is TIME’s South Asia Bureau Chief and correspondent in New Delhi, India.

TIME photo essay

Drug-Resistant TB in India: Photographs by James Nachtwey

TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey traveled to Mumbai to document the battle against drug-resistant tuberculosis.

India’s urgent battle against tuberculosis is almost invisible, until you start to look for it. Then you will find it everywhere: in the hospital down the street, in the corner pharmacy, in labs, offices, and schools. With some two million new cases each year, India has more TB patients than any other single country. The government is fighting this ancient, airborne bacteria in both small, far-flung villages and the some of the biggest cities in the world.

20130304_600And so when news hit in late 2011 that there were patients in India who had cases of TB that weren’t responding to any known drug, the alarm bells went off — loudly. The government has been providing free supervised drugs for TB across the country since 2006. But a TB sufferer can also walk into any number of pharmacies around the country and pick up a prescription to treat his or her own disease. Sometimes it’s the right combination of drugs. Sometimes it’s terribly wrong. As a result, like in other countries, more and more Indians have been developing or catching drug resistant strains of TB, and those strains are getting harder and harder to treat.

Last year, TIME photographer James Nachtwey and I visited Mumbai, India’s glitzy financial capital, and Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, to see what is happening on the frontline. The government is now working hard in both places – and many more like it – to stem the tide of both multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB. How that battle is won — or lost — could determine the fate of millions in India, and millions more around the world who are expected to contract MDR TB in the next few years.

Nachtwey has documented the global emergence of MDR and XDR TB in India, Cambodia, Lesotho, South Africa, Siberia, Swaziland and Thailand. You can see a multimedia project resulting from his earlier work at XDRTB.org.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer who has covered Sept. 11 and the 2011 Japanese tsunami, among other topics, for the magazine. He was awarded the 2012 Dresden Peace Prize.

Krista Mahr is TIME’s South Asia Bureau Chief and correspondent in New Delhi, India.

TIME photo essay

One Year Later at Minori-kai: James Nachtwey Returns to Japan

In a city on Japan's northeast coast, at a care center for the mentally and physically disabled, discussions about rebuilding what last year's tsunami destroyed are only just beginning.

Shingo Kobayashi remembers what happened on March 11 of last year all too well. “It was the day our center was destroyed,” he says, resting his long fingers on a table at Minori-kai, a facility for the disabled in Natori, Japan. “It’s not there anymore.” He would be happy to talk about it but—he turns his wrist to show the face of his watch—it’s already a minute past 3:00 pm. And that’s when he leaves. Everyday. No matter what.

At Minori-kai, everyone’s day revolves around routine. And until 2:46 pm, March 11 was no exception. This center on Japan’s northeast coast, dedicated to the care of mentally and physically disabled members of the city, was established in 1984 as a support group for parents, but quickly evolved into the only option to help families care for adults with severe disabilities. Last March, four of Minori-kai’s five facilities, which serve 120 individuals, were destroyed, including a state-of-the-art center that the social welfare group had recently scraped together nearly $4 million to build.

At 2:46 pm, the staff and members of Minori-kai were having afternoon tea in the new center when a violent shaking rocked the building.“Everyone panicked,” recalls Akira Kasai, Minori-kai’s director. A staff member was able to check the news on his mobile phone and saw that there was a tsunami alert. As the center was less than a kilometer away from the sea, the staff made the immediate—and lifesaving—decision to pack everyone into the center’s buses and leave. “We threw away people’s wheelchairs and were carrying people to the buses,” recalls Kasai. As their caravan of buses raced inland toward the city hall, the members were quiet. “Nobody knew what was coming,” he says.

What was coming destroyed the huge swath of Natori that is still barren today. The debris of thousands of homes and businesses is heaped in massive piles on the water’s edge; the building where Minori-kai once stood is an empty dirt lot. Five members, including Kobayashi, lost their entire families. “It took a long time to confirm that their families had died,” says Suzuki. “It took even more time for them to understand. They slowly started to grasp that their family was gone.”

Without a live-in group home in Natori, all of the members whose caretakers died have had to leave town for facilities that could take them. Kobayashi was one of them. His mother, who was his sole guardian and who Suzuki says he rushed home to see at 3:00 pm each day, was killed in the tsunami. Suddenly, he was living with strangers for the first time in his life. Suzuki says it was not an easy transition. During a lunch break at an industrial waste recycling plant in Natori where he works during the day, Kobayashi polishes off his bento lunch and sits for a few minutes before going back on the clock. When asked about living at the group home, his eyes get red and he stares out the window over a steaming cup of miso. “Now, I like it,” he says. Tears let loose and track down his cheeks. “Now, I like it.”

Before the tsunami, Minori-kai had appealed to the city of Natori to put more money into welfare services for the disabled citizens like Kobayashi in the city. His mother knew she was getting older, and she and other parents had been increasingly anxious about what would happen to their children in the future. What was lost that day on March 11 was not only Minori-kai’s building. It was also their effort to reform this conservative town’s attitude toward the disabled. “The tsunami revealed the vulnerability of these people,” says Suzuki. “It revealed the necessity to take care of them.”

Rebuilding the facility will be the first step. For now, the day care for Minori-kai’s most disabled members is running out of an old veterinary hospital. On a Monday morning in late February, members arrive in the morning in a bluster, taking off their shoes in the entry hall and charging into the main activity room. Once inside, they visibly relax. Everyone finds their favorite spot—a chair at the table, a spot on the couch with the keyboard playing a bossanova track—and the day begins. It’s working, says Suzuki, but the space is not big enough. There is not enough room for the members to get outside and exercise and do sports, and no beds for them to rest during the day. “It’s a closed space,” she says. “Tension between the members is growing. They are louder and angrier than they were before.”

To rebuild a new facility, Minori-kai not only needs another $4 million—it needs land. But with everybody moving away from the coastal neighborhoods, inland plots are going for a premium that Minori-kai can’t afford. “Until we find the land, the city won’t approve the funding for the project,” says Suzuki. The organization has received some individual donations since the tsunami, and still gets about $85 per day for each patient from the national government. But all of this funding is only going to keeping up daily activities in the temporary facility, not toward building a new place that suits the needs of the members. “One year later, we’ve just started discussing the plan with the city government,” says Kasai. “In reality, these people don’t have any place to go if we aren’t doing this.”

Minori-kai is located at Miyagi prefecture, Natori City, Masuda. The organization accepts PayPal donations to la-minorikai@io.ocn.ne.jp and can be contacted by mail at Minori-kai / Miyagi-prefecture, Natori City , Masuda 5-3-12 / Japan 981-1224 / Attn: Mrs. H. Suzuki.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer. Follow him on Facebook here.

TIME photo essay

Japan One Year Later: Photographs by James Nachtwey

James Nachtwey, who photographed Japan for TIME in the wake of last year's earthquake, tsunami and triple nuclear meltdown, returns to observe the anniversary of the tragedy.

A year ago, it was hard to know what to expect. The three disasters that blindsided Japan on March 11, 2011—a 9.0 earthquake, a massive tsunami and a triple nuclear meltdown—created an unprecedented crisis for which there was no rulebook. After the water receded that Friday afternoon, leaving as many as 20,000 dead and tens of thousands of homes and businesses in ruins, a terrible stillness settled over Japan’s northeast coast. A dusting of snow fell onto empty highways, void of aid vehicles carrying food, fuel, water and blankets. Tsunami warnings were still in effect, keeping search-and-rescue teams away from obliterated seaside neighborhoods. As workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant scrambled to get the damaged reactors under control, loudspeakers echoed onto empty streets, instructing people to stay indoors to avoid radiation exposure.

Soon enough, of course, Japan emerged from its state of shock: Self Defense Forces, aid workers and hundreds of thousands of volunteers poured into the region to help. But a year later, the region’s physical recovery is not as far along as one might hope. Only 5% of the nearly 23 million tons of debris have disposed of, the looming piles at the edge of the sea a daily reminder of the huge task ahead. Town councils still argue over how and where to rebuild, and inside the closed-off evacuation zone around the crippled plant, policeman still search for victims whose remains were never recovered.

Rebuilding all that was lost will take time, but other things will take longer. In two towns in Miyagi prefecture, one of the worst-hit areas, 20% of residents report having chronic insomnia, and 5% report having a member of their household who is suicidal or having serious psychiatric problems. In Tokyo, people talk about the collective funk that the city can’t seem to shake. The crushing loss of life, community and faith in the nation’s public institutions all fuel this dark mood, and the dwindling spirit of volunteerism is reinforcing the feeling that Japan is fated to slip ever further from the perch of power and vitality it enjoyed in the late 20th century into a rudderless murk in which things are getting worse and may not get better.

Others are more optimistic. “In some ways, the earthquake was a great commodity,” says Kazuma Watanabe, the founder of Five Bridge, a Sendai-based group that has helped organize volunteers in Tohoku in the past year. “The sadness was consumed. The desire to volunteer was consumed. But like all consumption, it reached its limits. This is how a disaster works.” People may not be beating down the door to help like they were a year ago, but Watanabe says the chance to create something lasting from that wave of enthusiasm has not passed. What Japan needs now, he says, “is to turn that reaction into action.”

Krista Mahr is a correspondent at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kristamahr.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer. Keep us with his work on his Facebook page.

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