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Analysis

Over 30% post of Information Commissioners vacant: Survey

“Out of 29 states, only 12 states have filled all posts of Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners and there is no vacancy,” the TII said in a release.

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Transparency International India

New Delhi, Oct 11 : Over 30 per cent posts of Information Commissioners are lying vacant in 17 states while Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland do not have Chief Information Commissioners, finds a survey by a not-for-profit body.

Transparency International India (TII), which conducted the three-month long survey, on Thursday said that 48 posts (30.8 per cent) of the total 156 posts of Information Commissioners, including Chief Information Commissioners, were not filled.

It also pointed out that 18,47,314 second appeals and complaints were processed, besides 11,356 cases of penalty dealt with, during 2005-2016.

“Out of 29 states, only 12 states have filled all posts of Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners and there is no vacancy,” the TII said in a release.

“Only 10 of the 29 states have updated their annual reports for 2016-2017. Chhattisgarh is the only state which has updated all annual reports from 2005-2017 on its website.”

Only 11 of the 29 states of India have provided access to online facilities for filing of appeals/complaints, it added.

It said that the Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada) and Access Info Europe (Spain) published the ranking for 123 countries on the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) last month wherein Indian stood sixth — slipping down two places.

Analysis

Climate change will worsen disparities, may increase support for Naxals: Report

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Maoists Naxal

Bengaluru, Oct 16 : As the effects of climate change on livelihoods become more pronounced, especially for people involved in agriculture and fishing in South and South-East Asia, support for rebel groups and the Naxalite movement is likely to shoot up, according to a new report.

There is evidence that climate change will worsen socio-economic and political disparity in the region as those in power will get to decide who gets the limited resources and how much, the report, co-authored by researchers Pernilla Nordqvist and Florian Krampe while working for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), has said.

“The climate-conflict linkage primarily plays out in contexts that are already vulnerable to climate change and violence, and where income is highly dependent on agriculture and fishing,” Nordqvist told IndiaSpend in an email.

Human activities have already caused warming of 1 degree Celsius as compared to pre-industrial times, according to the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). By 2030, or latest by mid-century, global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Close to 2.5 billion people live in South and South-East Asia, where poverty rates have been declining substantially, thanks to years of strong economic growth in countries such as India. However, the region is also prone to the fallouts of climate change, with glaciers in the Himalayas melting and several island-countries facing rising sea levels. Floods, cyclones, heat waves and droughts are now a frequent occurrence and are expected to intensify in the coming years.

“The region is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and also has a recent history of political violence,” Krampe told IndiaSpend.

Nordqvist and Krame examined 2,000 peer-reviewed studies on the relationship between climate change and conflict and narrowed down on 21 of the most authoritative works for their report, which was published in September 2018.

Their findings from India show that rebel groups and government forces both find recruitment easier when drought is around the corner.

The IPCC report also adds that climate-related risks to livelihoods, food security, health, water supply and human security are projected to increase as the planet warms by 1.5 degrees. With a 2-degree rise, the risks will intensify.

In some areas affected by the Naxalite conflict, the worsening of livelihood conditions has been related to the increased intensity of ongoing civil conflicts. During a drought, or a potential drought, there is an increased risk that rebels and government actors recruit or cooperate with civilians in exchange for livelihood and provision of food.

Naxalites could use climate-related events to gain power in an ongoing conflict, and rebel groups more generally could increase their use of violence against civilians to ensure their groups’ food security, according to the report.

“They violently remove local farmers from their land to ensure enough cropland and agricultural supplies for their own use. The risk of violence seems especially high in rural areas, where government control is scarce and the local population is dependent on the support or protection of rebels or other armed actors,” Nordqvist said.

As climate change pushes up migration, it introduces the possibility of riots in urban areas over resources, the report said. Highlighting the case of riots in Tripura in northeastern India, it said the effects will be most felt in areas where there are already low levels of socio-political stability.

“Many of the climate change problems are trans-national. The Brahmaputra, for example, flows through three countries and is seeing frequent flooding. There is no question that countries will need to cooperate and tensions like the ones between countries India and Pakistan will make this difficult,” Krampe said.

There is some research on the relationship between climate change and conflict in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the report said, adding that there is little understanding of how climate change could be driving conflict in places such as Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Elsewhere in South-East Asia, in some coastal areas of Indonesia the reduced income opportunities from fishing have been linked to a rise in piracy-related activities.

But the impact does not end there.

In Pakistan, for instance, the Islamist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) was able to increase its stronghold in Sindh province after the group participated in relief activities following extreme floods.

The IPCC report also warns that those living along coasts and populations dependent on agriculture will be the worst hit by climate change, which will push up poverty rates in coastal areas and in developing countries.

However, “Not everyone affected by climate change will join a rebel group but this also relates to the failure of the governments to respond to disasters,” Krampe said.

At the same time, not all areas will see conflict in the face of climate change. Some might even see a greater cooperation in the aftermath of a natural disaster. These regional dynamics are evolving, however, and their contours will only become clearer with time.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Disha Shetty is a Columbia Journalism School-IndiaSpend reporting fellow. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected])

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Analysis

An Indian-founded organisation rehabilitates Syrian refugees in Germany

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Syrian refugees

As Europe continues to grapple with the problem of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, an organisation founded by an Indian is helping a small town in Germany in rehabilitating these people.

R Ventures Foundation, registered in Amsterdam, is helping the university town of Heidelberg in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg in rehabilitating the Syrian refugees by setting up an incubator to impart skills so that these people can become entrepreneurs and job creators.

Founded in 2017 by Shantanu Prakash, an IIM Ahmedabad graduate and a member of the Global Futures Council on Migration at the World Economic Forum (WEF), the organisation is focused on the intersection of refugees and entrepreneurship with the belief that refugees and displaced persons can help catalyse a new era of job creation and integration.

So what kind of skills are being imparted to these refugees?

“Currently, we are looking at more of the hi-tech area, innovation technology area, but it also depends on who it applies to,” Prakash, who was on a visit here, told IANS in an interview.

“Our idea is to really look at people who have a desire to become entrepreneurs, who are educated,” he said.

He said that a lot of these people are already well-educated, but being refugees, they have to start from zero.

In this connection, he drew a parallel with the situation during the 1947 Partition when many people migrating from newly-created Pakistan to India were highly educated but had to restart their life from scratch.

“Now, it would be a pity if a highly qualified engineer has to take up a job of a janitor or something,” Prakash said.

“So, the idea is that we provide them a supportive environment. We give them the skills, how to create a business in a different country.”

Pointing out that that there is the issue of cultural sensitivity and the rules of business being different, Prakash said R Ventures Foundation helps the refugees to create a business pitch.

“We have got a full curriculum for it, what to teach step by step, teaching them a whole variety of skills, how to build up a business,” he stated.

“Our idea is that the graduates of this programme will set up businesses in Heidelberg or elsewhere.”

Prakash said that once these entrepreneurs become successful, people will write about them and then Germans and people of the rest of the world will know that the refugees are adding value to the society.

So how did the whole idea of imparting skills while rehabilitating refugees come about?”

“There was no compelling reason for us,” Prakash said on a philosophical note. “Maybe it was a calling. Maybe it was something that we were meant to do.”

Prakash said that through his involvement with the WEF, he got to understand the contentious issues regarding refugees.

“When I got deeper into it, I got more fascinated about it,” he explained. “And I thought that people are referring to this as a crisis rather than opportunity.”

Though a lot of foundations are working for refugees, Prakash said that what is different about R Ventures is that it is trying to address the issue from a different angle.

“Our dimension is: Can some of them become job creators? For us, that is good enough,” he stated

So, how did a small German town and this organisation founded by an Indian come together?

Heidelberg City Manager Nicole Huber said that the idea took shape when she came in touch with R Ventures co-founder Archish Mittal sometime in 2017.

She said that the state government of Baden-Württemberg has made Heidelberg the registration hub for refugees in the whole of south Germany. There are around 1,000 Syrian refugees in the town with a population of a little over 160,000 while many have left for different places within Germany.

So, have there been law and order problems in Germany with the influx of such a huge number of refugees?

“We don’t see any more crime… than with an average German population,” Huber said.

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Air India Express’ pilots’ decision to continue the flight dubious: Experts

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Air India

New Delhi/Mumbai, Oct 13 : Even as an official investigation into the Air India Express’ Trichy take-off incident has commenced, the aviation fraternity has cited the pilots’ decision as “dubious” and “dangerous” to carry on with the flight even after traffic controllers advised him otherwise.

The Air India Express’ aircraft scheduled to fly between Trichy and Dubai early Friday struck the instrument landing system’s (ILS) localiser antenna and then grazed the airport’s perimeter wall before flying off.

The flight carried 130 passengers and six crew members. It was subsequently diverted and it landed in Mumbai at 5.40 a.m. — four hours after it took off from Tiruchirappalli (Trichy). Its undercarriage suffered a deep gash.

Experts recall an incident on April 26, 1993, in which 55 people were killed on board an Indian Airlines plane in Aurangabad in Maharashtra when it crashed on take-off after apparently hitting a truck carrying cotton bales.

On Friday’s incident, air safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan told IANS: “The senior pilot’s decision to continue his flight onwards is dubious. The decision led to the loss of two hours of crucial on-board voice recording data (this instrument keeps such data only for two hours).”

“The in-cockpit conversation between the senior commander and the co-pilot at the time of the incident would have been stored in the voice recorder. However, as they landed in Mumbai after four hours of flying, the initial two-hour recording would have been lost,” said Ranganathan.

Apart from hitting the ILS antenna and scraping the perimeter wall at Trichy airport, the pilots’ biggest mistake was the decision to carry on with their flight.

“You can not risk flying over the sea with that type of damage to the aircraft’s structure. He should have either listened to the ATC or have informed the company via ACARS (aircraft communications addressing and reporting system). The latter, he couldn’t do as ACARS antenna was damaged at Trichy.”

The ACARS is used to transmit and receive messages from ground stations.

A few retired and serving pilots told IANS that in their experience, such an incident would have surely come to the notice of the flight’s commander and that his decision to fly on defies logic.

“At the ‘VR’ speed, when the aircraft is taking off at nearly 175 knots (300 km per hour), an incident like this would have been immediately noticed by the senior pilot,” a senior commander currently operating a Boeing aircraft told IANS.

“The rotating angle of take-off might have been completely altered by the first impact between the aircraft and the antenna, which might have brought a nose-down altitude, thus hitting perimeter wall, which is about 300 metres from the runway’s end, generally, and the aircraft should have attained a height of at least 35 to 50 feet above that point. This would not have escaped any pilot’s notice.”

“This is a clear case where the standard operating procedure has been violated. The SOP mandates the pilot to exhaust the fuel and land back safely. It does not imply to carry out the entire flight schedule. The pilot’s decision defies logic.”

However, industry insiders familiar with Boeing 737-800 aircraft pointed out that the damaged underbelly area was a pressurised and non-heated zone.

“Any penetration in the area could not have been detected by the aircraft’s instruments, but a deep leak in the strcuture could have led to loss of pressurisation and could have been fatal especially over the sea,” another pilot with an airline told IANS.

“Nonetheless, the damage would have increased the drag slightly. Now the question is: how much fuel consumption did this drag increase? Nowadays, when we are at a tight spot in terms of fuel usage, pilots notice even small changes in consumption trends.”

Notwithstanding the lucky escape at the time of the impact, flying all the way to Dubai could have also led to a disaster. As the aircraft would have consumed more fuel, leaving the plane with less-than-anticipated fuel, thus forcing it to divert to any nearby airport.

In addition to SOP lapses, questions have also been raised over the load factor status of the aircraft. An overload condition would not have allowed the aircraft to gain sufficient speed or power.

Also in question is the aircraft engines generating sufficient power to touch the required speed to take off and gain the needed height in the given circumstances.

On the investigation front, an Air India statement on Friday said officers of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have reached Trichy and so had Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau officers.

Pending investigation, the airline has derostered both Captain D. Ganesh Babu and co-pilot and First Officer Captain Anurag.

IANS

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