TIME India

Indian Woman Sues Uber in the U.S. Over Alleged New Delhi Taxi Rape

Members of All India Mahila Congress, women's wing of Congress party, shout slogans and carry placards during a protest against the rape of a female passenger, in New Delhi
Members of All India Mahila Congress, women's wing of Congress party, shout slogans and carry placards during a protest against the rape of a female Uber passenger in New Delhi on Dec. 8, 2014 Anindito Mukherjee—Reuters

Uber has been the subject of controversy all around the globe

An Indian woman who says she was raped by an Uber driver while she was traveling in his cab in December is suing the San Francisco–based online firm in a U.S. federal court in California, claiming it failed to put in place basic safety procedures while running its car service in India.

In her lawsuit, filed on Thursday, the New Delhi woman called the app-based service the “modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking.” The unidentified plaintiff also calls for Uber to overhaul its safety practices, and seeks unspecified damages in the case, according to Reuters.

The news agency quoted Uber as saying that it’s “deepest sympathies remain with the victim of this horrific crime.”

Earlier, the woman was reported to have enlisted the services of Douglas Wigdor, a high-profile U.S. lawyer who represented Nafissatou Diallo, the New York City hotel maid who accused the former International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office went on to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn, while a civil suit was settled out of court.

The rape allegations against the New Delhi Uber driver had prompted protests in the Indian capital, which became the focus of concerns about the safety of women after the horrific gang rape and murder of a student on a moving bus in late 2012.

[Reuters]

TIME India

Indian Woman Looks to Sue Uber in the U.S. Over Alleged New Delhi Rape

The 26-year-old alleged victim has reportedly enlisted the services of high-profile American lawyer Douglas Wigdor

An Indian woman who was allegedly raped by an Uber taxi driver is considering the possibility of taking the tech firm to court in the U.S., according to British daily the Guardian.

Authorities in the Indian capital banned the taxi service in December, when the woman accused Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, of attacking her. Yadav pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation.

As the criminal trial unfolds, the victim is reported to have approached Douglas Wigdor, a high-profile American lawyer who represented Nafissatou Diallo, the New York City hotel maid who accused the former International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office went on to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn, while a civil suit was settled out of court.

“I can confirm that I have been retained by the young lady who was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi, India, last December,” Wigdor told the Guardian, which said he was looking at the possibility of the New Delhi woman suing Uber for negligence in an American court. “Having met extensively with her and her family while in Delhi, I can only compliment them for their bravery and fortitude during this very difficult time. We will use all of our resources to vindicate my client’s rights, hold those responsible for their actions and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

TIME Bangladesh

Political Turmoil Sparks Fresh Violence in Bangladesh

BANGLADESH-POLITICS-UNREST-OPPOSITION
Burning vehicles, set on fire by opposition demonstrators, are pictured during violent protests in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Jan. 6, 2015 STRDEL—AFP/Getty Images

Street protests erupt a day after a senior opposition politician was shot and injured by unidentified assailants

The Bangladeshi capital Dhaka was hit by fresh violence on Thursday morning, with antigovernment protestors torching at least two vehicles a day after an opposition politician was shot and injured in what was reported to be a botched assassination attempt.

The attack on Riaz Rahman, a close aide to former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, drew international condemnation, with U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf condemning the “use of violence for political objectives.” The U.S., she said, was “shocked and saddened” by the attack on the former Bangladeshi Foreign Minister.

A 20-party alliance led by Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has called for a general shutdown today to protest the attack, the Daily Star, a local newspaper, reported.

Earlier, on Wednesday, antigovernment protesters firebombed a packed bus, killing four passengers, including a young child, according to the news agency Agence France-Presse.

Violence in the South Asian nation flared earlier this month when the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blocked opposition plans to hold antigovernment demonstrations on the anniversary of national polls that are disputed by Zia and her supporters. Authorities also confined Zia to her office in Dhaka, where she remains.

The BNP is calling on Prime Minister Hasina to step down and hold fresh elections.

TIME Sri Lanka

Pope Francis Urges Pursuit of Truth in Sri Lanka at Start of Second Asian Tour

Pope Francis stands on his vehicle as devotees gather on the road to see him after he arrived at the Colombo airport
Pope Francis stands on his vehicle as devotees gather on the road to see him after he arrived at the Colombo airport Jan. 13, 2015 Dinuka Liyanawatte—Reuters

The Pontiff will travel to the Philippines later this week

Pope Francis arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, calling for the “pursuit of truth” as he began the first papal visit to the country since the end of a bitter and long-running civil conflict in 2009.

“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity,” he said after landing in the capital Colombo, where he was greeted by the country’s newly installed President, Maithripala Sirisena, who displaced Mahinda Rajapaksa in national elections earlier this month.

A former Rajapaksa ally, Sirisena emerged as the unexpected winner of a ballot that, until two months ago, looked set to deliver a third term for the increasingly autocratic Rajapaksa. His defection from the former leader’s camp in November, and his promise to give more power to the legislature and weaken Rajapaksa’s executive presidency, swiftly changed the dynamics of the race, as the opposition came together behind his candidacy.

During the election, Sirisena promised an independent domestic probe into allegations of rights abuses during the civil war that saw years of bloody fighting between the country’s Sinhalese majority and separatists from Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.

Speaking in Colombo on Tuesday, the Pontiff, who will also travel to the Philippines later this week, stressed the need for inclusive society as the country recovers from the conflict, which lasted nearly three decades.

“The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society,” he said.

TIME

Pakistan Failing to Protect Religious Minorities, Report Says

Minorities "face discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives," says Minority Rights Group International

The persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan has reached “critical levels” after intensifying in recent years, according to a new report which says government efforts to address the problem often “lack effective organization, funding or implementation.”

The assessment by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), a London-based NGO, notes how, in a country dominated by Sunni Muslims, discrimination against non-Sunnis has “emboldened extremist groups,” fanning the spread of hate speech. The country’s minorities have also faced regular violence: MRG cites, for example, the attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar in Sept., 2013, when suicide bombers killed at least 85 people. More recently, the report points to the mob attack over the summer on a settlement of the minority Ahmadi Muslim sect that led to the death of a woman and her two grandchildren.

“The Pakistani government has systematically failed to protect the rights of religious minorities, who face discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives,” said Shobha Das, MRG’s director of programs. “The government’s unwillingness to protect all citizens not only violates Pakistan’s international legal commitments, but also helps foster a climate of impunity for the perpetrators of abuse, while minorities suffer in silence.”

TIME India

Tending the Flock

Babar Afzal - Pashmina Story.
Babar Afzal in Stakmo village, situated on the outskirts of Leh. He helps Tsering Dolma with her daily chore of rounding up the goats, counting them and securing for the night. Photograph by Sumit Dayal for time

By saving the pashmina goat, Babar Afzal hopes to rescue an 
entire people

The goats scatter, seeking out foliage to nibble across the rocky terrain of Ladakh, an inhospitable part of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state hard on the Himalayan mountains. Two ethnic Changpa goatherds greet a trio of outside visitors with a friendly juleh—hello in Ladakhi. Their hands busily circling Buddhist prayer beads, they listen as 38-year-old Babar Afzal asks questions, takes notes and explains the Pashmina Goat Project he established in 2012.

Indian pashmina, better known as cashmere, is a highly prized wool. It’s six times thinner than human hair and can cost several thousand dollars on the international market when turned into a single scarf. But the nomadic Changpas, most of whom are poor and illiterate, don’t see much of that money. Middlemen buy the raw pashmina wool for anything from $40 to $80 a kilogram and sell it for up to five times more. “There’s so much struggle in our lives,” says goatherd Tsering Dolma, 39, waving her rough hands at the shabby tent where her 3-year-old son roams in threadbare clothes. “Why would we want our children to continue in this trade?”

Babar believes he has the answer. His Pashmina Goat Project brings together more than 8,000 ethnic Changpa goatherds, some 1.5 million of their livestock and about 300,000 weavers into a cooperative whose aim is empowerment. The co-op educates the Changpas about the worth of their flocks, helps them negotiate better deals for their wool, and informs them about the increasingly erratic weather patterns that hurt the well-being of their goats. “The pashmina ecosystem is a storehouse of ancient culture and religious practices,” says Babar. “It’s important that this community flourish.”

The plight of the Changpas partly reflects that of Kashmir. The region, divided into Jammu and Kashmir on India’s side and Azad Kashmir on Pakistan’s, has been hotly disputed by the two countries since 1947. Besides the face-off between two bristling armies—already three wars have been fought over the territory—Jammu and Kashmir is subject to attacks by Islamic and separatist insurgents. In 1996, Babar left his birthplace of Jammu, the state’s winter capital, for New Delhi, joining thousands of other young Kashmiris desperate to escape a web of militancy and unemployment. After graduating in business management, he worked as a consultant for multinationals like McKinsey & Co. in India and overseas. But he couldn’t get Kashmir out of his mind. “I wanted to be back home,” he says. “The pull was strong.”

Since he returned to Jammu with his wife and daughter in 2008, Babar has been running restaurants and businesses promoting local food and handicrafts. He also spotlights the impact of climate change through his abstract art: paintings, mugs, even iPhone covers. “Climate change is Kashmir’s biggest problem, even worse than terrorism,” he says.

Ladakh’s goats, which grow to nearly a meter high and typically live about seven years, produce 80% of India’s pashmina. In recent years, however, supplies have dwindled as the weather changed. Ladakh’s Changtang plateau, which extends into neighboring Tibet, has long been a frosty wasteland where temperatures plunge to –30°C. Though hardy, more than 22,000 pashmina goats starved to death in 2012 because of an unusually harsh winter—more than a meter of snow fell instead of the normal 2 or 3 cm. “The horrific sight of thousands of dead goats and bewildered Changpas haunted me for months,” says Babar.

From this nadir was born the Pashmina Goat Project. Babar holds workshops to educate the goatherds about the exclusivity of pashmina and the consumer market, and how to deal with international buyers directly. They are also taught to add value by spinning the wool into fabric themselves, and will soon sell their own pashmina products through a knitwear brand called Village Pashmina. “If we asked for more money, the traders laughed at us because we had nowhere else to go,” says Sonam Dorjee, a Changpa. “Now we do.”

Babar also campaigns against pashmina that is spun by machines—as opposed to handlooms—and mixed with excessive low-quality wool. He hosts events, fashion shows and fair-trade expos countrywide to promote handspun material. The next phase will be mobile software that sends weather alerts to goatherds, so they can avoid storms and map safer migration routes. “[Babar’s] is the first voice speaking up for the poor and marginalized in the Himalayas,” says Pankaj Chandan, a regional head of WWF-India.

While Jammu and Kashmir has been largely peaceful since 2004, sporadic clashes between India and Pakistan—most recently in October—as well as occasional attacks by militants mean outside investment is virtually nonexistent. India produces only about 1% of the world’s pashmina supply—worth just $160 million a year—compared with neighboring China’s 70%. Babar hopes that by lifting their lives and livelihoods, the Changpa goatherds can also boost the region’s fortunes. “The [Changpa] community is not capable of fighting this battle on its own,” he says. Like the goats he strives to protect, Babar is tenacious to the end.

TIME India

Nobel Co-Winner Kailash Satyarthi: The Whole World Should Protect Children’s Rights

INDIA-SATYARTHI-NOBEL-PEACE-PRIZE
Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi gestures to journalists at this home office after the announcement of him receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, in New Delhi on October 10, 2014. Chandan Khanna—AFP/Getty Images

Nobel Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi says he wants to work with co-recipient Malala Yousafzai to ensure child rights in India and Pakistan.

Kailash Satyarthi, a relatively unknown child rights activist from India, is sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai, a teen campaigner from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban while going to school in 2012. The reclusive Satyarthi, admittedly nowhere near as famous as his co-recipient, is, however, a messiah for India’s close to 50 million child workers. Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (loosely translated as Movement to Save Childhood) has to date rescued and rehabilitated more than 80,000 child laborers. Just last month, it rescued 24 child workers between the ages of eight and 15 from a bag and shoe making plant in New Delhi.

Apart from freeing children from forced labor, Satyarthi has also successfully created international awareness about child workers issue by organizing global marches. The international social tag “Rugmark,” created by Satyarthi, is a widely recognized guarantee that a rug or carpet was made in a child labor-free factory. India is the world’s largest exporter of handmade carpets, and a recent report by Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human rights estimates that out of around two million carpet workers in India, approximately 400,000 are underage laborers. The attention his prize has created around the issue of child labor just in the last few hours, Satyarthi says, is overwhelming.

TIME spoke to Satyarthi Saturday about winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This interview has been edited and condensed for space.

TIME: For probably the first time, the entire world and India especially is talking about child rights and child labor, which was a fringe issue. How does that make you feel?

Satyarthi: It’s the biggest-ever recognition for the plight, struggle and issue of child labor worldwide. It will give tremendous impetus to our fight and will undoubtedly inspire hundreds and thousands of social activists and non-profits on the ground, all over the world. The amount of conversations it has created around child labor in the last 6 to 7 hours has not been seen in the last 600 years.

You received the award jointly with Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan are struggling to ensure child rights. Can they work together towards solutions?

I spoke to Malala yesterday after the prize was announced, and invited her to join an additional dimension in the fight for child rights, and that is the right to be free. No child should be born or grow [up] into violence and conflict in any part of the world. Saying that, why just India and Pakistan? The whole world should work together to protect child rights. This is the 25th year of U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and to celebrate this, there is a need on the part of all stakeholders — the civil society, the masses, governments, corporates and even religious institutions — to accept collective responsibility [and stand up to this social evil].

Not many in India knew Kailash Satyarthi before Friday – did you deliberately keep yourself away from the public eye?

I don’t believe in personality cults; I don’t believe in personal image building exercises. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is not merely a non-profit or social or political movement for me – it is my life’s mission. We work in thousands of villages in India and over 140 countries, with limited reach, manpower and resources. The choice was either to invest in image building or in building the movement.

What has been your biggest challenge in the last three decades?

My biggest challenge was, and still is, changing social mindsets and working around political priorities. Child labor is a non-issue in India. It is a social evil and a development disaster. Indians treat poor children either as beggars, giving them food and clothes in charity or employ them as child laborers. There is nothing in between. And when it comes to the notion of child rights, there is zero awareness. I have been fighting to establish that notion, concept and eventually culture that teaches one to respect childhood and treat children with the dignity and respect they deserve.

How is your work different from that of other child rights organizations?

We believe in direct action. We want to free children from modern day slavery and ensure they receive proper rehabilitation. We avoid taking the overall responsibilities of the overall rehabilitation of hundreds and thousands of children as we have limited resources and manpower. What we have instead tried doing is to build a social movement around the issue rather than being a conventional non-profit.

Despite your limited resources, you did not keep your movement confined to India. Instead, you took it to the world stage through your global marches against child labor.

Child labor is not an isolated problem. There are geopolitical issues. There are transnational corporations and industries; there are globalized markets and economies and all these cumulatively create and perpetuate child labor globally. The issues are globally interlinked and that is why it is critical that we build a worldwide movement.

 

TIME India

India’s Kailash Satyarthi Wins Nobel Peace Prize for Fighting Child Labor

Indian Children Right Activist Kailash Satyarthi Won 2014 Nobel Peace Prize
Indian childrens right activist and 2014 Nobel peace prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi greets media persons and well-wishers at his residence after the announcement of prize on October 10, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Hindustan Times—Hindustan Times via Getty Images

He's been leading India's fight against child slavery

Updated Saturday, Oct. 11

Since early evening on Friday, many in India were furiously searching the web for the name “Kailash Satyarthi” as it started trending on social media. This was right after the Nobel Prize committee in Sweden announced that Satyarthi, from India, was one of this year’s (and India’s second) Nobel Peace Prize winners.

The highly coveted Nobel Peace Prize goes out every year to trailblazers in world peace and activism. U.S. President Barack Obama, Mother Teresa, the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Burmese political activist Aung San Suu Kyi and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela are just some of the world’s foremost leaders who have won the award.

But Satyarthi is nowhere as well known as any of them. In fact, he’s even lesser known than his young co-recipient Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen activist shot in the head by the Taliban while going to school in 2012 and has since been fighting for children’s right to education in her home country and abroad.

But the 60-year-old New Delhi-based activist, originally from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has been almost singlehandedly leading India’s fight against child slavery for over three decades. To that end, he founded a grassroots nonprofit, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save Childhood Movement, in 1980, which has to date rescued more than 80,000 Indian children from various forms of exploitation, like child labor and child trafficking.

India has one of the largest working child populations in the world. There are close to 50 million child laborers in the country, more than 10 million of them in bonded labor, having been sold by their families to work off loans they couldn’t repay.

But despite the remarkable success of his organization, Satyarthi, who is trained as an electrical engineer, has preferred working almost anonymously in the backdrop. His work has involved organizing almost weekly raids on Indian manufacturing plants and other workplaces that employ children often forced into bonded labor. Since 2001, Satyarthi’s organization has convinced families in more than 300 Indian villages across 11 states to avoid sending their children to work, and instead put them in school and send them to various youth programs.

“He never wanted his name to come before the work of the organization,” R.S. Chaurasia, chairperson of the movement and Satyarthi’s long time associate, told TIME. “Very few people have the kind of conviction he possesses.”

Satyarthi’s biggest achievement, however, has been to grab and retain the world’s glare on the problem. He organized the Global March Against Child Labor in the 1990s to raise awareness and free millions of children shackled in various forms of modern slavery.

“To employ children is illegal and unethical,” Satyarthi has written on the Global March Against Child Labor website. “If not now, then when? If not you, then who? If we are able to answer these fundamental questions, then perhaps we can wipe away the blot of human slavery.”

He also founded the widely recognized international tag “RugMark” that guarantees carpets being sold were made in factories free of child labor. India is the largest exporter of handmade carpets and a large number of the weavers are underage child workers. Satyarthi hopes his prize will renew focus on the plight of these children.

“It’s the biggest ever recognition for the struggle of these children and the issue of child labor worldwide,” Satyarthi had told TIME over the phone on Saturday morning. “The amount of conversations it has created around the issue in the last six to seven hours has not been seen in the last 600 years!”

In one of his initial reactions to the award, Satyarthi told an Indian news channel that he hopes the recognition will once again bring and keep the spotlight on the exploitation of children globally. In India, for sure, the often-fringe topic of child labor has gained some mainstream clout—and Satyarthi’s Nobel prize will only bring more.

TIME India

In Unpredictable India, Security Services Embrace the Drone Revolution

Members of Sikh community stage a protest demonstration in Jammu against Uttar Pradesh government
Members of the Sikh community shout slogans as they burn tires during a protest in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on July 27, 2014. Jaipal Singh—EPA

South Asia's diverse topography, chaotic overpopulation and vast, unplanned cities make drones especially useful

Late last month, a land dispute in Saharanpur, in north India’s Uttar Pradesh state, snowballed into a riot between the local Sikh and Muslim communities, leaving three people dead and injuring over a dozen. Sadly, such clashes are nothing new in this highly polarized state of 200 million. Just last year, communal violence in nearby Muzaffarnagar district claimed 62 lives.

Nevertheless, there was something novel about how this latest bout of violence was addressed. The state’s police called upon a young entrepreneur to help monitor and advise security operations using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more popularly known as drones.

Within hours, drone cameras were up and running in Saharanpur town, keeping close tabs on the volatile and unfolding situation, even in areas security personnel couldn’t reach by car or foot. This helped direct resources to where they were needed most.

“Some of the roads and streets in Saharanpur — and this is pretty typical of most Indian towns — are so narrow that the forces cannot enter there,” says Ankit Mehta, co-founder and CEO of IdeaForge, which manufactures UAVs in India. “But a drone-assisted camera can easily fly in and monitor the situation for the cops.”

In India, drone entrepreneurs like Mehta have been quick to realize that the nation’s diverse topography, chaotic overpopulation and vast, unplanned cities severely hobble traditional security operations, making airborne technology particularly advantageous.

Drones are now being used for monitoring large public gatherings — such as Ramadan processions in Lucknow, also in Uttar Pradesh, where sectarian clashes last year claimed three lives — which frequently spiral out of control due to large, unwieldy crowds. (India regularly suffers stampede-related tragedies.)

More conventionally, drones have also been used in disaster management. Last year, they played a low-key but invaluable role in relief operations in Uttarakhand, a hilly and inhospitable terrain where flash floods killed thousands and displaced many more.

Another Mumbai-based drone company called Airpix partnered with NGOs to carry out aerial surveillance of the flood-hit areas for rebuilding purposes, better planning and enhanced communications. Airpix also helps the Mumbai police monitor major gatherings including Ganesh Chaturthi, an Indian festival that culminates with hundreds of thousands of devotees ferrying idols to be immersed in the sea, creating traffic gridlock all over the city.

But despite a bevy of humanitarian and public-safety work, the image of drones as instruments of war remains hard to shake off. “The misconception that drones are meant more for destructive purposes seems to still linger around,” says Shinil Shekar, head of sales and marketing at Airpix. “And it is important that people be more educated about their potential civilian applications.”

Even so, India is tipped to be “booming” for micro and mini-unmanned aerial vehicles for both civilian and military use by the U.S.-based Advanced Defense Technologies Inc., which calls the market a “multimillion-dollar business that will grow steadily.”

Certainly, Mehta is confident about the future; IdeaForge currently boasts an annual turnover in excess of $1 million, and Mehta expects this to increase by five or six times this year. “It is a scalable opportunity for indigenous entrepreneurs,” he says.

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