In Cox’s Bazaar, Rohingyas huddle together in shacks in a harsh winter

The Bangladesh district struggles to provide amenities to the refugees from Myanmar.

Describing the influx of refugees from Myanmar to southeast Bangladesh as a “forgotten crisis”, Sarat Dash, chief of mission of the International Organisation for Migration in Bangladesh, has said the crisis is worsening in the Rohingya refugee camps.

Mr. Dash, who visited the camps in Cox’s Bazaar district with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Bangladesh, said “34,000 refugees” had moved from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the recent spate of ethnic violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar. While at least half-a-dozen international humanitarian agencies were working in the area, the situation was worsening with the advent of winter, Mr. Dash said.

Difficult times

“With severe crisis of shelter and food [as] the winter is approaching, there is a serious need of winter clothes; also an urgent need of medical assistance and psycho-social help,” Mr. Dash said. He said a “lot of the refugees are visibly depressed [as] they had traumatic experiences”.

Since the beginning of an anti-Rohingya cleansing drive in parts of Myanmar from the early 1990s, three lakh to five lakh refugees have settled in southeastern Bangladesh, according to the National Strategy on Myanmar Refugees report by the Bangladesh Government in 2013.

Besides the 32,000 officially registered refugees, there are nearly 50,000 in the makeshift settlements near the camps, says the Prime Minister’s National Strategy report.

The report also says that another three lakh to five lakh “undocumented Myanmar nationals” are living across Cox’s Bazaar. They are mainly settled in the upazilas (sub-districts) along the 62-km western bank of the Naaf river.

The Foreign Ministers and Mr. Dash visited these sub-districts and the IOM has concluded that 34,000 more refugees have arrived since early October.

Influx on

“The condition of the refugees already settled is not any good. But since they are staying over a period of time, they have managed to somewhat put together their lives. But these new people came empty-handed and without resources and thus their living condition is worse than pavement dwellers in Kolkata. Unlike the pavement dwellers, they are living in forest land or uninhabited land,” Mr. Dash said.

As the Rohingya refugees, many of whom speak Bengali, are pouring in large numbers, on an average of 500 a day, the sub-districts are getting crowded by the hour, increasing pressure on hygiene, sanitation and security.


“But do we have an option other than to give them shelter in our tiny plastic thatched boxes,” asked Mahmudulla, a schoolteacher. Mr. Mahmudulla came to Cox’s Bazaar in the early 1990s and speaks urban Bengali.

He has documented the violence on the Rohingyas in Rakhine state on the other side of the Naaf river.

“The villages on the other side — at least 20 — are decimated and we could only see the smoke, hear them screaming for help. It is gut-wrenching as I had experienced similar attacks a quarter century ago,” Mr. Mahmudulla told The Hindu on the phone from Cox’s Bazaar.

The photographs — mutilated bodies, charred corpses covered with banana leaves and burning villages — that Mr. Mahmudulla received on his mobile phone, describe the trauma that the Rohingyas are experiencing. Nearly 90 people are officially killed till last week. While the killings are denied by the Myanmar government, Rohingya refugees in the camps in Bangladesh said they had now “stopped counting the bodies” of their family members.

Horrible stories

“Two of my family were killed and my daughter was raped in front of her mother,” said Arshad (name changed), a farmer from Khawar Bil village near Muang Daw town in Rakhine. Mr. Arshad checked in to his cousin’s house in the Nayapara refugee camp in Ukhia sub-district.

Mr. Dash said the refugees were staying with their distant relatives or acquaintances.

15 to a room

“It is locally called “doubling” as the refugees are entering the semi-permanent shack of another refugee family, which perhaps arrived few years ago,” Mr. Dash said. The space shortage was acute. “Fifteen or 16 persons living in a tiny room which has only plastic on all sides.”

At night, the men take their turn to rest in the local mosque.

“The temperature is dropping and there is an immediate need to provide some basic comfort, especially to children,” Mr. Dash said. One in every three children was severely malnourished.

The IOM has set up medical camps, provided drinking water and set up toilets in the camps.

Yet Mr. Dash called it a crisis which has been “forgotten”.

He expects the situation to improve in the New Year.

In New Year, services await revised pay

Defence sources said that the government had in principle agreed to most of the core concerns expressed by the services.

As the New Year sets in, there is disgruntlement in the military as they are yet to receive their revised pay under the Seventh Pay Commission (SPC). This is because the issue is held up pending resolution of the core concerns raised by the services with respect to their civilian counterparts in the SPC recommendations.

Defence sources said that the government had in principle agreed to most of the core concerns expressed by the services but stated that the issue being complicated it would take some more time.

“The issue is currently being discussed between the Defence and Finance ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office. A decision will be taken at the earliest,” a source observed.

The Defence Ministry has already issued the implementation order, which is pending further process as the services have not issued special instructions so far despite the government’s request, and thus military personnel continue to receive the Sixth Pay Commission prescribed salaries unlike their civilian counterparts.

Letter to PM, Parrikar


The three Chiefs had written to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the discrepancies which were not cleared by the empowered committee appointed to look into the issue. “The finance wing of the Ministry sought the financial implication of these concerns from the services two weeks ago.” another source stated.

Around the same time, the Lavasa committee, appointed to look into the issue of allowances under the SPC, held its 7th meeting. “The Defence Ministry has largely supported the concerns of the services,” the source added.

The services had on several occasions raised four core concernswhich they perceive reduce the status of the armed forces with respect to their civilian counterparts. These include Non Functional Upgrade (NFU), NFU pay fixation, Military Service Pay (MSP) and common pay matrix for civil and military.

Ahead of Diwali in November the Government approved a one-time 10 per cent interim relief for military personnel for a period of 10 months from January to October 2016 pending resolution of the issue.

Two killed during New Year celebrations in the city

Despite the city police taking several steps to prevent accidents on the New Year eve, two persons were killed in different road accidents at T. Nagar and ICF on Saturday night.

According to a senior police officer, the entire city traffic police personnel, numbering around 2,000, were on duty to prevent speeding of vehicles and, thereby, fatalities.

A total of 62 persons were booked for drunk driving.

Murthy, a rickshaw puller, was killed in a hit-and-run case while he was walking near the ICF signal. The 55-year-old resident of Ambedkar Nagar Housing Board was hit by an unidentified four-wheeler when he was crossing the ICF signal at 11.30 p.m.


The Thirumangalam Traffic Investigation wing has filed a case and is on the lookout for the four-wheeler driver. The body was sent to Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital for post-mortem.

In another incident, a 19-year-old youth was killed when he lost control of his two-wheeler and dashed a mini-truck. Murthy, a resident of Velachery, was working as an air-conditioner mechanic. He and his friend Vishnu were returning home after celebrations when the accident occurred on the Mambalam flyover. The victim was not wearing a helmet and was killed on the spot. His friend escaped with minor injuries.

The Pondy Bazaar Traffic Investigation wing filed a case and sent the body to Government Rajiv Gandhi Hospital for post-mortem.

A chance to get to know the hand that weaves

Co-optex is organising tours to various handloom clusters for a first-hand experience

In a bid to create awareness among youngsters about handlooms and to showcase the processes involved in hand weaving, Co-optex is organising awareness tours to weaving clusters in the State.

Among the various clusters, Coimbatore and Tirupur districts are famous for hand-woven cotton and soft silk sarees.

The project was launched this financial year. Initial reception has been modest, but it could pick up in the coming months. In November last, 18 people went to the Kancheepuram weaving clusters. About 20 of them visited Madurai (Chinnalapatti) in December 2016. A similar tour will be organised in Coimbatore District on January 21.

According to a Co-optex official, those who take part in the tour will get to see hand weaving, dyeing, warping and designing.

In Coimbatore, the plan is to take the visitors to Sirumugai, which has over 2,000 handlooms and is known for its soft silk sarees, and to Vadambacherry, which has over 1,000 handlooms and is known for production of organic cotton sarees.

“The visitors can see men and women weaving sarees and they can also buy the products at the societies. The weavers are all those who supply to Co-optex,” the official said.


The tour will start at about 7.30 a.m. and after seeing the two clusters, the visitors will be taken to the Co-optex showroom in Coimbatore.

By the end of this financial year, an awareness tour will be organised to Arani in Tiruvannamalai district.

Though there are several handloom clusters in the State, the number of handloom weavers is reducing.

Those interested in taking part in the Coimbatore District programme can contact the WhatsApp number 9791980213 to register themselves. The cost per person is Rs. 750 for the trip.

Indian journalists come under SC radar for alleged pay-offs in AgustaWestland chopper deal

The Indian media and certain prominent journalists came under the Supreme Court scanner on Tuesday for allegedly receiving pay-offs and favours from Italian firm AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica to publish in favour of the skewed multi-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Arun Mishra agreed to hear noted journalist and author Hari Jaisingh on his plea that the top court should intervene in the ongoing investigation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) and direct the two agencies to submit a status report on whether the media played a role in influencing the deal for a dozen VVIP helicopters.

The court asked Mr. Jaisingh, represented by senior advocate Geeta Luthra, to provide CBI and ED with copies of his petition.

Comfort during a train journey

R. Anoop Kumar, Chief Ticket Inspector attached to the Kannur Depot of Southern Railway’s Palakkad Division, was a little bit nervous on Monday as he was ordained to be the Train Captain on train no. 12602, Mangaluru Central-Chennai Central Super Fast Mail.

Having 26 years of experience as a ticket inspector/ examiner, Mr. Kumar, however, was confident of manning the train from Mangaluru till Chennai addressing issues of passengers. The concept of Train Captain was introduced for the first time by Southern Railway last Friday on Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai Central Mail. The move was aimed at providing a one-point contact for passengers to get their grievances redressed.Though feeling relaxed as he need not check tickets as in the usual course, the senior officer was meticulously planning the way he can handle the new job. As his mobile phone number was made available to all passengers through the reservation chart and individual SMS to passengers, Mr. Kumar could easily be contacted by the passengers.With a team of five travelling ticket examiners and other staff on board the train, Mr. Kumar said passengers could expect enhanced comfort during their journey. If he was unable to resolve any issue on the spot, Mr. Kumar could contact senior officers either at the divisional or at the zonal level for relief, the officer said. Leaving Mangaluru at 1.25 p.m., the Chennai Mail would reach the destination at 5.40 a.m. the next day.Mr. Kumar would again captain train no. 12601, Chennai Central-Mangaluru Central Super Fast Mail on Tuesday that leaves at 8.20 p.m. to reach Mangaluru at 12.25 p.m. the next day. He would get two days rest thereafter.Mangaluru-Chennai Mail is one among the six trains on which Southern Railway has introduced the system with the other being, Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai Mail and Super Fast Express, Chennai Egmore-Madurai Pandian Express, Chennai Egmore-Thiruchchirapalli Rockfort Express and Chennai Central-Mettupalayam Nilagiri (Blue Mountain) Express.A senior TTE would be designated as the captain who would ‘own’ the train. The captain, if unable to resolve the issues at his level, would directly get in touch with senior-most officers, who in turn would mobilise necessary help. The Captain’s mobile phone number would be made available to the passengers.

R. Anoop Kumar, Chief Ticket Inspector attached to the Kannur Depot of Southern Railway’s Palakkad Division, was a little bit nervous on Monday as he was ordained to be the Train Captain on train no. 12602, Mangaluru Central-Chennai Central Super Fast Mail.

Having 26 years of experience as a ticket inspector/ examiner, Mr. Kumar, however, was confident of manning the train from Mangaluru till Chennai addressing issues of passengers. The concept of Train Captain was introduced for the first time by Southern Railway last Friday on Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai Central Mail. The move was aimed at providing a one-point contact for passengers to get their grievances redressed.

Though feeling relaxed as he need not check tickets as in the usual course, the senior officer was meticulously planning the way he can handle the new job. As his mobile phone number was made available to all passengers through the reservation chart and individual SMS to passengers, Mr. Kumar could easily be contacted by the passengers.

With a team of five travelling ticket examiners and other staff on board the train, Mr. Kumar said passengers could expect enhanced comfort during their journey. If he was unable to resolve any issue on the spot, Mr. Kumar could contact senior officers either at the divisional or at the zonal level for relief, the officer said. Leaving Mangaluru at 1.25 p.m., the Chennai Mail would reach the destination at 5.40 a.m. the next day.

Mr. Kumar would again captain train no. 12601, Chennai Central-Mangaluru Central Super Fast Mail on Tuesday that leaves at 8.20 p.m. to reach Mangaluru at 12.25 p.m. the next day. He would get two days rest thereafter.

Mangaluru-Chennai Mail is one among the six trains on which Southern Railway has introduced the system with the other being, Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai Mail and Super Fast Express, Chennai Egmore-Madurai Pandian Express, Chennai Egmore-Thiruchchirapalli Rockfort Express and Chennai Central-Mettupalayam Nilagiri (Blue Mountain) Express.

A senior TTE would be designated as the captain who would ‘own’ the train. The captain, if unable to resolve the issues at his level, would directly get in touch with senior-most officers, who in turn would mobilise necessary help. The Captain’s mobile phone number would be made available to the passengers.

jumbo delivers twins in Sathyamangalam tiger reserve

A 26-year-old female elephant has delivered ‘twin’ calves in Dengumarahada forest range in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) in Erode district.

The elephant and its two calves have been spotted in the automatic camera, fixed in the forest area as part of the wild life census survey.

“The footage shows a female elephant with her two calves. It is the first time in the STR for an elephant to give birth to twins,” said a forest official.


The officials said that they were monitoring the calves and the mother elephant’s movements closely.

“The calves look healthy and we are closely monitoring their movements,” the officials said.

Talking to TOI, S Sharavanan, Trustee, Wildlife Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT), said that only a healthy elephant could have delivered twins. An elephant is ready to have calves any time after 15 years.

During its life time, it will deliver at least 13 times. The calf’s gestation period lasts for 20 months. It is hard to tell if a calf is male or female until six months.

A few years ago there were two twin deliveries, one in Mettupalayam and another in Anaimalai Tiger Reserve.

In Mettupalayam, the twins go by Vijay and Sujay, and in Anaimalai Tiger Reserve they are named Aswini and Bhavani.

19-Year-Old Cycled over 800 Km in a Week

tfn-siddharth-varma-03

Few people embody the spirit of endurance more than 19-year-old Siddharth Varma who participated in the Tour of Nilgiris endurance cycling challenge.

Raising awareness about physical fitness has given rise to the sport of endurance cycling in India. An increasing number of people have taken interest in endurance cycling, which has given rise to various cycling events where participants cycle on routes as long as 200 km. per day.

The Tour De France is the oldest and most prestigious endurance cycling event in the world, which includes cycling around France and other European countries. Now, India also has its version of endurance cycling, named the ‘Tour of Nilgiris’ (TFN), which takes place every year in December.


TFN is the only multi-day endurance cycling challenge in India, and it has become popular over the past few years. Although the event organizers, Ride-A-Cycle Foundation, receive numerous applications, they restrict the number of participants to 110 every year. These participants belong to all age groups, right from young Siddharth Varma (who is 19 years old) to 71-year-old Russell Bell, the oldest participant. TFN participants are closely connected to each other since they believe in the common goal of completing the tour and testing the limits of their endurance.

The TFN tour can be really tough on the participants, who have to cycle about 160 km. every day. The youngest participant, Siddharth Varma, said “TFN was my 19th birthday gift, and it has been the best gift of my life so far. My father introduced me to the tour. Now that I have completed it, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment as the path wasn’t easy. It tested my mental strength to a large extent.”

Siddharth is a student at Ashoka University in Delhi who intends to major in Psychology. He is interested in adventure sports and martial arts. He heads his own mixed martial arts club at the university, where he teaches other students and prepares them for survival skills. According to him, sports teaches us a lot about life, and we just need to take back all we can get from it. A resident of Gurgaon, he cycles around the city to pursue his passion of cycling.

Siddharth commonly uses the name “Deadpool” as he feels that people find it amusing. Deadpool is also a Marvel superhero and Siddharth identifies with the fictional character as he thinks it is superhero-like to have completed the TFN challenge. He believes that it is important to feel “included” in the group during such events, since people always encourage you to complete the challenge. Companions form an important part of the TFN experience, as you end up meeting many people who inspire you.

It was relatively easy for Siddharth to prepare for the challenge, though he had never participated in a cycling event before. Being a resident of a busy city like Gurgaon, he had limited space for cycling, and yet he chose to cycle on the city streets to practice for TFN. He started preparing for the tour about two months before the event, and he cycled about 70-160 km. every weekend to increase his stamina. He however believes that his practice paled in comparison to other participants at the event.

The hardest part of the TFN for Siddharth was the ‘Killer Kalhatti’ section, an 8 km. uphill ride on a steep slope in the hills of Nilgiris. It was so difficult that Siddharth ended up hurling insults at the mountain, and he felt like he was going crazy. Siddharth’s frustration at the difficulty gave him the willpower he needed to overcome the section. He reminisces, “No part of the TFN is easy. Even the downhill ride tests the patience of a cyclist as if you go too fast, you could end up injuring yourself.”

This year’s route began from Bengaluru, and passed through Mysore, Kalpetta, Ooty, Palakkad, and Valparai to reach Pollachi at the end.

The TFN does sound crazy and unsafe, but Ride-A-Cycle Foundation ensures that the route is safe. There are motorbikes patrolling through the route to ensure that no one is left behind, and an ambulance follows the cyclists for emergency situations. There are support stations installed for the cyclists throughout the way where they are supplied with water and food. The path is also well-marked, with sign posts guiding the cyclists in the direction they need to take.

Siddharth found the experience of TFN very fulfilling. “TFN helped me calm my body and mind. It taught me patience and endurance. I learnt to interact with different people and I made new friends. The main thing that I learnt was to never give up, specially when you are very close to success,” he comments.

Siddharth encourages youngsters to go outdoors and exercise for a while. He believes that it gives peace to the body and the mind. For all those unsure of cycling 160 km. every day and taking up the TFN challenge, we can take inspiration from people like Siddharth, who accomplished this challenge at such a young age.

Death of 4 labourers, construction work at 3 sites stopped in Nilgiris

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Following the deaths of four workers, construction work at three sites in a hillock near Bellatimattam in Alakarai village, 6km away from Coonoor in the Nilgiris, has been stopped by the Nilgiris district administration. On December 22, 2016, four workers were buried alive in a landslide in that construction site while erecting a revetment wall to support a road being laid within a private tea estate. One worker was seriously injured. All five construction workers hailed from Dharmapuri district. Construction and road laying works were being carried out to convert a private tea estate near Bellattimattam.

A case was registered against thirteen by kin of the four deceased. On December 23, 2016, eight people were arrested, in Coonoor in connection with this. According to the police, the main accused is Poddhar, owner of Coonoor Tea Estates. Anil Sha and Kiran Sha, owners of the sites carried out the road work with the consent of Poddhar. Owner of Alpha Constructions undertook the work. Gopal, the ex-president of Yedappalli panchayat had given building licenses for construction of houses in the tea garden located in the hillock.


Meanwhile, officials doubted whether the up-coming buildings were duly licensed by the concerned authorities. Hence, P Sankar, the Nilgiris Collector, ordered an enquiry in this regard. “The enquiry report revealed that all three owners of the buildings under construction had violated rules. The constructions are not as per the sanctioned plan. Secondly, all the three buildings have hugely exceeded the sanctioned built-up area of 1500 sqft. Moreover, the buildings are being erected on very steep terrain which is very risky,” said Sankar.

After receiving the report, the district administration issued an order to stop work at the construction sites in Bellattimattam. A show cause notice to all the three owners of the buildings have also been issued stating why the illegal buildings cannot be demolished. “We are waiting for a reply from the accused. Based on the reply we will take further action,” said the collector. According to Sankar, a truck loaded with boulders without permit was also seized at the construction site.

Before the police could arrest the main five accused out of 13, they obtained bail from the district court. According to the police, even the eight arrested have come out on bail. “The case is under investigation. We are in the process of collecting proper evidences and ascertaining the roles of all the accused so as to file a charge sheet,” Sakthivel, inspector of police, Upper Coonoor Police Station told TOI.

‘Elephant’ Rajendran, an advocate of the Madras high court and an environmentalist told TOI, “There is a clear cut order from the high court which states that besides usage of JCBs, poclines and tipper lorries, any building activities disturbing the hills could be held as against the court order. The Nilgiris district collector is fully empowered to stop or suspend such activities in the hill district without even consulting other department officials”.

People shedding hard cash mindset: Modi

 Calls upon youth to become an ‘anti-corruption cadre’ and act as ambassadors of digital payment schemes.
 Digital payments can check black money and play a key role in fighting corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, as he appealed to the youth to become an “anti-corruption cadre”.
Speaking in his monthly Mann ki Baat radio programme, he said people, especially the youth, should become ambassadors of digital payment schemes rolled out by the government.
“Lead this movement. Take it farther, as it has a very major and prominent role in the fight against corruption and black money. To me, each and every individual involved in this mission constitutes a new anti-corruption cadre in the country. In a way, you are a soldier in the cause of cleanliness and purity.”

He said people were gradually “shedding their hard currency mindset” and moving towards digital currency. The youth were leading the way as their mobile phones had become the new tool to make and receive payments.


In the past two months, 10 lakh people had been rewarded and over 50,000 traders had won prizes.
Over ₹150 crore had been disbursed as prize money to people who had promoted and carried forward the digital payment campaign, the Prime Minister said.
The digital payment schemes, he said, would complete 100 days on April 14, the 126th birth anniversary of B.R. Amdedkar.
Swachh Bharat
Referring to his favourite Swachh Bharat campaign, he said a “psychological barrier” should not come in the way of cleaning toilets.
Some senior bureaucrats had recently demonstrated cleaning of a “twin pit” toilet. “They also showed how convenient these new technique toilets are and there is absolutely no inconvenience. There should be no hesitation in emptying or cleaning these toilets and a psychological barrier should not come in the way at all.”
Mr. Modi congratulated the players who defeated Pakistan in the final of the “Blind T-20 World Cup”.
On the role of women, he said be it in the field of sports or space science, they lagged behind none.
The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme was no longer just a government programme. It had become a campaign for societal empathy and public education. “This, I believe, is a healthy sign,” he said.
More scientists needed
India needed more scientists to harness technology for the benefit of the common man, the Prime Minister said as he hailed the scientific community for the record launch of 104 satellites and the successful test-firing of a new missile.
“The attraction for science among our young generation should increase … When science is harnessed keeping in mind the needs of the common people, it becomes the most valuable contributor to general humanity.”
Referring to the successful 38th successive launch of the PSLV that placed a record 104 satellites in orbit, Mr. Modi said ISRO scientists had brought laurels to the nation. “The satellites belonged to various countries … India has created history by becoming the first country to successfully launch 104 satellites into space in one go,” he said.
On the successful test-firing of a ballistic interceptor missile, he said it could destroy an ‘enemy’ missile at an altitude of around 100 km above the earth surface. Only four or five countries in the world possessed this capability, he said.
Mr. Modi also lauded the farmers for the record production of foodgrains this year.
“Our farmer brothers and sisters have toiled hard to fill our granaries … More than 2,700 lakh tonnes of foodgrains have been produced in the country this year. This is eight per cent more than the last record set by our farmers,” he said.