India

The poem that’s channelling India’s anger about the pandemic | Salil Tripathi

A 14-line Gujarati verse has highlighted India’s shocking response to Covid – and Narendra Modi’s growing unpopularity

Parul Khakhar had little idea of the storm her 14-line poem would unleash. Posted on 11 May on social media, the Gujarati-language dirge expresses heartfelt despair and outrage over the pandemic deaths in India. Shab-vahini Ganga (“A Hearse Called Ganga”, as the river Ganges is known across India) is hauntingly rhythmic and charged with emotion, lamenting the tragedy that has stunned Indians.

India was spared the first wave of Covid-19, and the Narendra Modi administration rather smugly thought the country would be immune. Modi had hosted the then president, Donald Trump, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, at a large rally in February 2020, weeks before the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. In the months since, other than declaring a brutal lockdown that disrupted the lives of millions of India’s internal migrant workers, the government carried on business as usual, permitting the world’s largest religious festival and holding vast political rallies for elections earlier this year (in which it suffered major setbacks). Modi donated vaccines to other countries, perhaps fancying the Nobel Prize for himself, and in January at the virtual World Economic Forum boasted that India had overcome the pandemic.

Related: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe: ‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’

Salil Tripathi is a writer based in New York and chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International

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India World

Tesco and Next among brands linked to labour abuses in India spinning mills

Tesco said it has found labour abuses in its garment supply chain in southern India after receiving evidence of widespread forced labour involving migrant women

India

Tesco admits labour abuses found in India garment supply chain

Supermarket is among global brands named in new report uncovering workers’ rights abuses in Tamil Nadu’s garment sector

Tesco says it has found labour abuses in its garment supply chain in southern India after receiving evidence of widespread forced labour of migrant women in cotton spinning-mills across Tamil Nadu.

The supermarket chain admitted there were several “critical issues” in relation to wages and benefits and verbal intimidation of workers in one of the mills it has links to in the region, and is working to stamp out abusive practices.

Related: Female workers at H&M supplier in India allege widespread sexual violence

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India

Rapid heating of Indian Ocean worsening cyclones, say scientists

Rising ocean temperatures caused by climate crisis are increasing number of cyclones and intensity of storms, say experts

India’s cyclone season is being made more intense by the rapidly heating Indian Ocean, scientists have warned.

Last week, India was battered by Cyclone Tauktae, an unusually strong cyclone in the Arabian Sea, resulting in widespread disruption. This week, another severe storm, Cyclone Yaas, formed in the Bay of Bengal, leading to more than a million people being evacuated into safe shelters.

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India

India police visit Twitter offices after BJP tweet flagged as manipulated media

Move in Delhi comes after tweet by spokesperson of the ruling Hindu-nationalist party was tagged as ‘manipulated media’

Police in India’s capital served a notice at Twitter’s offices late on Monday, seeking information for a complaint about why a tweet by the spokesperson of the ruling Hindu-nationalist party was tagged as “manipulated media”.

Tensions have been high between the Indian government and the US social media giant after Twitter this year reversed its blocking of a number of accounts related to farmers’ protests near Delhi following a request from authorities. The government claimed the posts were aiming to incite violence. Twitter said it believed the directives were not in line with Indian laws.

Related: Twitter concerned for staff in India after row over account removals

Related: Twitter accused of censoring Indian critic of Hindu nationalism

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India

‘Terrible atrocities continue’: Kapil Seshasayee, the Scottish musician calling out casteism

The multi-genre artist’s bold sound and confrontation of Indian social problems are winning him a growing audience – and a surprise new collaborator in US rapper Lil B

In 2000, pregnant 19-year-old Harpreet Kaur was found dead in mysterious circumstances. Her mother, the then chief of the committee that manages Sikh places of worship across India, cited severe food poisoning as the cause. The truth was much more sinister. Kaur was murdered following her secret marriage to 21-year-old Kamaljeet Singh – a lower-caste man – against the wishes of her mother.

Although India’s caste system is a centuries-old form of social hierarchy, incidents like this remain an ugly reality in modern-day south Asia, with caste-based “honour” killings, discrimination and violence all prevalent. The brutal beating of labourer and activist Bant Singh in 2006 is another notable example: the ambush was a punishment for having sought justice against some upper-caste men for the gang-rape of his daughter. Singh lost both arms and a leg in the attack.

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India

Oxygen shortages threaten ‘total collapse’ of dozens of health systems

Data reveals Nepal, Iran and South Africa among 19 countries most at risk of running out as surging Covid cases push supplies to limit

Dozens of countries are facing severe oxygen shortages because of surging Covid-19 cases, threatening the “total collapse” of health systems.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysed data provided by the Every Breath Counts Coalition, the NGO Path and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to find the countries most at risk of running out of oxygen. It also studied data on global vaccination rates.

Related: ‘Urgent. Oxygen needed’: Nepalis mobilise to take charge in Covid crisis

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India

Cyclone Yaas: more than a million evacuated as storm hits India’s east coast

Winds snap power lines and kill two as residents in Odisha and West Bengal scramble for safety

More than 1.2 million people have evacuated low-lying areas of India’s east coast as Cyclone Yaas made landfall on Wednesday.

A week after Cyclone Tauktae claimed 155 lives in western India, wild weather has already caused two deaths and inflicted damage to homes amid heavy rain and high winds rains in Odisha and West Bengal states.

Related: Cyclone Tauktae: death toll rises to more than 90 after huge storm hits India

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India

WhatsApp sues Indian government over ‘mass surveillance’ internet laws

Lawsuit says controversial new laws are unconstitutional and violate the right to the preservation of privacy

WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over new internet laws which the company says will “severely undermine” the privacy of their users.

The new IT laws, which have been described as oppressive and draconian, give the Indian government greater power to monitor online activity, including on encrypted apps such as WhatsApp and Signal. They were passed in February but were due to come into effect on Wednesday.

Related: ‘Wolf in watchdog’s clothing’: India’s new digital media laws spark fears for freedoms

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