TIME India

This U.K. Lawmaker Wants a Huge Diamond in the Queen’s Crown Returned to India

Crown Koh-i-noor Diamond
Tim Graham/Getty Images The Crown Of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1937) Made Of Platinum And Containing The Famous Koh-i-noor Diamond Along With Other Gems.

The Koh-i-noor diamond was taken by the East India Company in the 19th century

In the midst of a recently reignited conversation about Great Britain’s colonial debt, particularly to India, one member of the country’s parliament has proposed a preliminary step in repaying the South Asian nation — the return of the famous Koh-i-noor diamond.

U.K. lawmaker Keith Vaz called for the return of the famous jewel on Tuesday and urged Prime Minister David Cameron to promise as much during his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s visit this November, the Press Trust of India reports.

Vaz, himself of Indian origin and the longest-serving British MP of Asian descent, also referenced Indian lawmaker Shashi Tharoor’s much-lauded speech at the Oxford Union that recently went viral on social media. Tharoor argued that Britain owes India and its numerous other colonies reparations for centuries of oppression, a position endorsed by Modi.

“I welcome Dr. Tharoor’s speech and the endorsement of its message by Prime Minister Modi. I share their views,” Vaz said. “These are genuine grievances which must be addressed.”

While he recognized that calculating the monetary reparations is anything but straightforward, the British MP said giving back the iconic diamond — which currently adorns the Queen of England’s crown — is one tangible step.

“Pursuing monetary reparations is complex, time consuming and potentially fruitless, but there is no excuse for not returning precious items such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a campaign I have backed for many years,” he added.

Once considered the largest diamond in the world, the Koh-i-Noor is said to have been 793 carats uncut when originally mined in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh during medieval times, following which it passed through the hands of various invaders — most notably Persian ruler Nadir Shah who gave the precious stone its current name — before being seized by the British East India Company in the mid-19th century.

“What a wonderful moment it would be, if and when Prime Minister Modi finishes his visit, which is much overdue, he returns to India with the promise of the diamond’s return,” Vaz said.

TIME India

Dr. Suniti Solomon, Pioneering Indian HIV/AIDS Researcher, Dies at 76

EVANGELISTA AND GAITONDE
Rajesh Nirgude—AP Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista, left, and Director of Y.R. Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education Suniti Solomon at a charity function in Mumbai, India on Oct. 21, 2005

The Chennai native documented the country's first case of HIV infection in 1986

India’s foremost HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Suniti Solomon, who documented the nation’s first HIV case before setting up the first voluntary testing and counseling center for the disease, died Tuesday at her home in the southern city of Chennai.

Solomon, who was 76, began tracking the infection at a time when many in the country were reluctant to delve into what was a little known field. In 1986, her discovery of the infection in six blood samples collected from female sex workers in southern India generated headlines internationally. Speaking to TIME in September 1986, after the first Indian cases had been documented, a former senior medical official said: “We in India have been shaken and face a moment of truth.”

Trained in the U.K., the U.S. and Australia, Solomon won a string of awards for her HIV/AIDS work. Her pioneering research was prompted by reports on HIV in international journals. “Those were the days when I was reading a lot of foreign journals on the HIV and its effect in the U.S. In a quest to determine whether the virus was spreading here, my postgraduate student Nirmala and I identified a few female sex-workers lodged at the government home on Kutchery Road in Mylapore [in Chennai],” she told the Hindu newspaper last year.

Among the first six cases uncovered by Solomon was of a 13-year-old girl who had been forced into the sex trade after being kidnapped. “She was the first girl we tested that I spoke to, and she changed me,” Solomon recalled in a 2009 interview with India’s Mint newspaper.

The samples collected by Solomon, who was being treated for cancer when she died, and her team were eventually sent to Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. for further testing and confirmation.

“It was frightening really,” she told Mint. “My husband was a little worried and didn’t want me to work with HIV-positive patients, most of whom at that time were homosexuals, those who self-injected drugs and sex workers. And I said, look, you have to listen to their stories and you wouldn’t say the same thing.”

TIME India

When India’s Late President Kalam Trained as a Rocket Scientist With NASA

Before he became India’s head of state, Dr. Kalam, who died on Monday aged 83, was one of the country’s most distinguished scientists. Here, a former colleague and friend recalls his time training with a young Kalam in the U.S. in the early 1960s

Back in the 1960s, we were both rookie engineers working for government organizations in India with just a few years of experience behind us—I worked in electronics and he specialized in aeronautics. Both of us had passed out from the Madras Institute of Technology in southern India, although he was older than me and graduated a few years ahead.

But the first time I met A.P.J. Abdul Kalam—or Kalam, as I always knew him—was in a foreign country: the U.S. I’d gone there in December, 1962, and he followed in March, 1963. We were part of a seven-member team dispatched by Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space program, to train with NASA and learn the art of assembling and launching small rockets for collecting scientific data.

I’d already spent a few months training at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, when Kalam arrived from India. Soon, we were working side by side at NASA’s launch facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. Our lodgings were called the B.O.Q., or the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters, and we’d lunch together at the cafeteria where, because we were both vegetarians, we survived mainly on mashed potatoes, boiled beans, peas, bread and milk. Weekends in Wallops Island were lonely affairs, as the nearest town of Pocomoke City was an hour’s drive away. Thankfully for us, NASA put on a free flight to Washington D.C. for its recruits, so we would head up the to American capital on Friday nights and return to Wallops on the Monday morning shuttle.

It was a memorable experience. I remember one training session where Kalam had to fire a dummy rocket when the countdown hit zero. It was only after half a dozen attempts when he kept firing the rocket either a few seconds too early or too late that the man who went on to become one of India’s best known rocket scientists managed to get it right.

Our American sojourn ended in December, 1963, when we returned to India to help set up a domestic rocket launching facility on the outskirts of Trivandrum, the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. It was very different world from NASA. India’s space program was still in its early years and we had to swap our weekend shuttles to Washington for bicycles, our sole mode of transportation in those days.

Quite apart from the change, this presented a practical problem for Kalam: he didn’t know how to ride a bike! He was forced to depend on me or one of the other engineers to ferry him to and from work. When it came to food, if we’d lacked options at the canteen in Wallops Island, in Kerala we had to fend entirely for ourselves: there was no canteen at the nascent launch facility, and we had purchase our lunch at the Trivandrum railway station on the way to work.

Over the next decade and a half, Kalam and I worked closely on building India’s space program. Kalam eventually became the director of the project to develop the country’s first satellite launch vehicle, a task he pursued with single-minded devotion. He made his team work hard and set the benchmark for them by working twice as hard himself. He had a knack for getting things done and did not let initial failures deter his team. He pushed and pushed until eventually, in 1980, he succeeded with the launch of SLV3, India’s first experimental satellite vehicle which took off from Sriharikota on the country’s southeastern coast.

The same year, Kalam moved to India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and took on the task of building the country’s missiles. He injected a new sense of urgency and energy in the organization, and in 1998, led the team behind the country’s nuclear tests at Pokhran in northwestern India.

His unexpected election in 2002 as India’s President took him to a different plane, transforming him into a statesman and, rightly, a national legend. But he never forgot his early friendships. In 2007, when he was about step down from the presidency, he invited my wife Gita and me to stay with him at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the grand presidential residence in New Delhi.

He never allowed his high office to come in the way of his natural informality, a quality that so endeared to so many across India and the world. One evening during our stay, he invited me and my wife to attend a national awards ceremony that he was hosting in his capacity as President. The ceremony was followed by a reception for the guests, among whom were many dignitaries. Suddenly, Gita and I found that our host had disappeared. I was looking around trying to find him when an aide came up to me and whispered a message from India’s head of state: the President wanted us to leave the other guests behind and join him in the building’s magnificent gardens. It turned out that the great man needed a break from the formality of the awards function and wanted to get some fresh air. For more than an hour, we walked up and down the beautiful gardens, reminiscing about the old days in Trivandrum and the badminton games we used to play at the Rocket Recreation Club.

He returned to his Presidential duties quite recharged.

Aravamudan is a former Director of the Indian Space Research Organization’s Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, India

TIME India

India Pays Tribute to ‘People’s President’ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Kalam died on Monday aged 83

India continued to mourn one of its most beloved Presidents and iconic leaders on Tuesday, as tributes and condolences poured in for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam following his sudden passing Monday evening.

The Indian government declared a seven-day state mourning until Aug. 2 during which national flags across the country will be flown at half-mast, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Kalam, 83, collapsed from an apparent cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture to a group of students in India’s northeastern city of Shillong and was declared dead at the hospital about two hours later. His body was flown to the country’s capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday afternoon, where it was received by the chiefs of all three military branches as well as several politicians including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and current President Pranab Mukherjee. It will then be taken to his residence in the city in order for people to pay their respects before being flown to his hometown Rameshwaram, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, for the last rites, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

Modi earlier mourned Kalam’s loss on Twitter, calling him “a great scientist, a wonderful President and above all an inspiring individual.”

Mukherjee, who took office after Kalam’s successor Pratibha Patil, also tweeted a heartfelt tribute before announcing that he would make an unscheduled return to New Delhi from his tour of the country’s south.

International leaders like former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also added their condolences via social media.

Although the office of the President in India is a largely ceremonial one, with the Prime Minister as the de facto head of state, Kalam used his tenure to reach out to the masses — India’s youth in particular — which earned him the moniker the People’s President.

He is also commonly referred to as the Missile Man of India, a reference to his role in shaping India’s missile program during his tenures at India’s space and defense-research agencies respectively from the 1960s to the 1990s. He was also a key player in India’s emergence as a nuclear power, playing an integral part in the country’s infamous nuclear tests of 1998.

Few Indian leaders in the 21st century enjoyed the kind of popular support experienced by Kalam, evidenced by the near-unanimous backing of his election as India’s 11th President in 2002 among all the parties across India’s fractious political spectrum, as well as the overwhelming outpouring of grief at his death.

Born in a small town in Tamil Nadu in 1931 to a boatman father, Kalam always encouraged young people to follow their dreams and genuinely believed India could be the next superpower. He advocated as much through his best-selling books like India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium and Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India, as well as his iconic autobiography Wings of Fire.

“My message, especially to young people, is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed,” he once said. “These are the great qualities that they must work towards.”

TIME

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, Dies at 83

The renowned rocket scientist served as the nation's 11th President

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, one of India’s most renowned rocket scientists who served as the nation’s 11th President, died of cardiac arrest on Monday at the age of 83.

Kalam was hospitalized after collapsing during a lecture in the northeastern city of Shillong, local media station NDTV reports. He held long-standing leadership positions for India’s defense and space programs, and was elected President with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in July of 2002.

Tributes poured in from Indian luminaries on social media, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and world-renowned cricket player Sachin Tendulkar:

Kalam told TIME in a 1998 interview that he developed an early fascination with flight while growing up on the south Indian isle of Rameshwaram. “Then there were a lot of birds on the island,” he said, “and I used to watch their beautiful flight paths. That got me interested in aeronautics.”

TIME

Six Dead as Armed Gunmen Storm a Police Station in North India

India Punjab Terror Attack
Munish Sharma—Reuters Indian policemen take their positions as their colleagues watch next to a police station during a gunfight at Dinanagar town in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India on July 27, 2015.

The attack took place in a small town near India's border with Pakistan

At least six people have died in the northern Indian state of Punjab after gunmen dressed in army uniforms opened fire at a passenger bus and a community health centre early on Monday morning before storming a police station, resulting in a siege that as security forces surrounded the area near India’s international border with Pakistan.

Five bombs were also found on a railway track near the site of the siege in Dinanagar, a small town located around 10 miles from the border. Local and federal officials said initial media reports suggesting that the gunmen might be holding hostages were false.

“We have been able to limit [the attack], they are surrounded, they are holed up in the police station. We are on top of the situation,” Harcharan Bains, an adviser to Punjab’s chief minister, the state’s top elected official, told the Reuters news agency. Indian TV later reported that the siege ended at 5pm local time.

As the siege continued, the country’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, ordered increased security on India’s border with Pakistan. India’s defense minister, Manohar Parrikar, said special forces had been dispatched to the site of the attacks. “The counter insurgency and counter terror special forces are there,” he told reporters in New Delhi.

“We are on alert,” Anil Paliwal, a senior officer from the country’s Border Security Force, told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. “We have enhanced vigil along the entire international border with Pakistan.”

India’s information ministry, meanwhile, was reported to have issued an advisory to television news channels to refrain from making live broadcasts from the scene as security forces attempt to bring the situation in Dinanagar under control.

According to PTI, the gunmen hijacked a small car with a Punjab registration number before opening fire on a passenger bus and targeting a community health centre adjacent to the police station. Two policeman and four civilians were killed in the attack, which also left several others wounded.

Although the identity of the gunmen remains unknown, local reports said they were suspected to have crossed into Punjab from the troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, where attacks by gunmen dressed in police or army uniforms are more common.

The region is at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, tensions between whom have been rising in recent weeks despite a meeting earlier in July between their leaders that had triggered hopes of an improvement in relations between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Jitendra Singh, a minister in the office of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who represents a nearby constituency, said “this is a zone which has been vulnerable for quite some time.” “There have earlier also been reports of Pakistan infiltration and cross-border mischief in this area,” he said.

TIME India

Almost 1 in 3 Lawyers in India Are ‘Fake,’ Claims Top Bar Official

A television journalist sets his camera inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi
Anindito Mukherjee—Reuters A television journalist sets his camera inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Feb. 18, 2014

“Fake lawyers and nonpracticing law graduates are degrading the standards of the profession”

Nearly a third of all lawyers in India are “fake,” the head of the country’s legal regulator has said.

Manan Kumar Mishra, the chairman of the Bar Council of India (BCI), made the startling revelation during speech in Chennai, the capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, on Saturday, the Press Trust of India reports.

“Thirty percent of all lawyers are fake, who either hold fraudulent degrees or are nonpracticing persons and 20% of those who sport lawyers’ robes do not have proper degrees,” Mishra said. “Fake lawyers and nonpracticing law graduates are degrading the standards of the profession.”

The spread of “fake” lawyers, Mishra added, was also causing disruptions in the legal system. “Strikes on petty issues have become a regular phenomenon due to such persons,” he said, “We are serious about this and will take stiff action.”

Mishra’s statement comes on the heels of the arrest last month of a former law minister in the provincial government in New Delhi following a BCI complaint alleging that he had falsely claimed to be a law graduate.

And earlier this year, police in Tamil Nadu busted an elaborate scam to sell counterfeit certificates for legal and engineering courses. The illegal operation only came to light when three would-be lawyers applied to register with the state’s bar association, which discovered that their credentials were in fact fake.

TIME Bangladesh

Only 100 Tigers Remain in Bangladesh’s Sundarban Forests, Survey Shows

India Tigers Census
Joydip Kundu—AP ARoyal Bengal tiger prowls in Sunderbans, at the Sunderban delta, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Calcutta, India on April 26, 2014.

The 3,860-mile mangrove forest is one of the big cats' largest natural habitats

Only some 100 tigers currently roam the Sundarban forests of Bangladesh, a new survey has discovered, indicating far fewer big cats than previously thought in one of their largest global habitats.

The yearlong survey that ended in April was based on footage from hidden cameras and found the true number of tigers to be between 83 and 130, Agence France-Presse reported.

“So plus or minus we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans,” Tapan Kumar Dey, the Bangladesh government’s wildlife conservator, told AFP. “It’s a more accurate figure.”

The number represents a precipitous drop from the 440 figure included in the last tiger census in 2004, although experts say in hindsight the earlier calculation may have been inaccurate since it was based on a study of the animals’ paw prints or pugmarks.

The news from Bangladesh is in contrast to South Asian neighbor India — home to about 70% of the global tiger population — where the Environment Ministry said in January that the number of tigers had risen to 2,226 from 1,411 in 2008. There are apparently 74 tigers on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, the mangrove forest that stretches for nearly 4,000 miles across both countries.

Monirul Khan, a zoology professor at Bangladesh’s Jahangirnagar University and the country’s foremost expert on tigers, stressed that the government needs to intervene in order to protect the animals from poaching and their habitat from destruction through development.

The number of wild tigers worldwide is currently estimated at just 3,200 compared to 100,000 in 1900, and WWF says they are in danger of soon becoming extinct.

[AFP]

TIME Asia

Asian Superpowers China and India Top List of Nations Whose Millionaires Move Abroad

General Economy Images Of China
Tomohiro Ohsumi—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, right, and commercial buildings are illuminated as they stand at dusk in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

Tens of thousands of "high-net-worth individuals" have left to seek a better life overseas

We may be in the midst of “the Asian century,” but a new report shows that many of the wealthiest citizens of the continent’s two fastest-growing economies — China and India — have chosen to leave their countries and settle down abroad.

A total of 91,000 Chinese millionaires left the country and settled overseas in the past 14 years, while the exodus of Indian millionaires ranked second at 61,000, according to a report by consultancies New World Wealth and LIO Global. France, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, South Africa and Egypt round out the top eight.

The study, released this month, looked at immigration data from 2000 and 2014 indicating applications for a second citizenship or change of domicile (permanent residence).

The U.K. — its capital city London, in particular — appears to be the most popular destination for the world’s rich to settle down in, followed by the U.S, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. The report says Indians tend to move to countries like Australia and the United Arab Emirates, while Singapore and Hong Kong are popular destinations for China’s wealthy.

Despite the large-scale departure of millionaires, both China and India still have plenty of wealthy citizens who chose to stay back — reflected by their respective positions at fifth and 10th on the list of countries with the most millionaires overall. They also remain the world’s most populous nations, sharing a third of the global population.

Those who leave generally cite reasons like “turmoil in home country, security concerns and optimizing education of children,” the report said.

Read next: China Slowdown? Depends on Where You Look

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME India

Greenpeace Says the Indian Government is Trying to ‘Strangle’ It With Bureaucracy

INDIA-GREENPEACE-BAN
MANJUNATH KIRAN—AFP/Getty Images Activists of GreenPeace rappell down their office building where they are head quartered to unfurl banners 'democracy' and 'freespeech' in Bangalore on May 15, 2015.

The local arm of the international environmental NGO has received a notice threatening the cancellation of its registration

The Indian arm of Greenpeace has accused the government in New Delhi of trying to “strangle” it after the group received a notice threatening the cancellation of its registration—a move that could force the environmental NGO to shutdown.

The notice was issued in June by local authorities in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where Greenpeace India is registered. It alleges breaches of local regulations, something the environmental group denies, labeling the charges “perversely framed and maliciously designed” and pointing its finger at the national government led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We are a legitimate organization that has been operating legally in India for over 14 years,” one of the group’s top officials, Vinuta Gopal, said in a statement. “This absurd notice lacks legal basis and instead appears to have been sent at the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs [in New Delhi], which has been trying to silence us for more than year without success.”

The notice is the latest in a string of recent challenges for the group. It was barred from receiving any foreign funding earlier this year, when the Modi government suspended its license, accusing it of violating regulations and spending unaccounted-for funds to obstruct industrial projects. The move in April brought the group to the brink of closure, with the loss of as many as 340 jobs, as it struggled to pay employees. It received a lifeline in late May, when a court allowed the group to collect domestic donations.

Greenpeace India’s travails come against the backdrop of a broader regulatory crackdown on NGOs by the Modi government, which has cancelled the registration of thousands of groups for violating laws governing the receipt of foreign funds, according the Economic Times.

“We are a legal Indian organization staffed by Indians working for a better India for all and any charge of foreign control is false. The Ministry of Home Affairs is trying to strangle us in bureaucracy, preventing our work,” Gopal told TIME, saying Greepeace had written to local authorities in Tamil Nadu to ask for more information about the June notice, but is yet to hear back.

Gopal said the group would soon mount a legal challenge against the notice.

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