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Patna-Indore Express train accident in India: Over 115 killed and over 200 injured

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Over 115 passengers were killed and more than 200 injured, nearly half of them grievously, in the worst train accident in recent years when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed in Kanpur rural area in the wee hours on Sunday due to suspected rail fracture.

The disaster took place just a little after 0300 hrs when the passengers were jolted out of their sleep as the Patna-bound train jumped the tracks, badly damaging four ordinary sleeper coaches in which hundreds were trapped. Of the four coaches, the S1 and S2 had telescoped into each other and most of the casualties were feared to have been in these two compartments. S3 and S4 coaches also suffered severe damage while an AC III tier coach was also affected but casualties in it were not heavy. As railway personnel assisted by those of army, NDRF and state police carried out the search and rescue operation, the number of casualties kept on increasing by the hour.

The incident took place at 3 AM near Pukhrayan, about 100 kms from Kanpur. Most of the passengers were jolted out of their sleep to find themselves among mangled remains of the bogies.

By evening, 110 bodies were recovered and taken to Mati mortuary in Kanpur rural. The death toll is over 115, UP DGP Javeed Ahmad said. Among the dead, 43 have been identified, of which 20 are from Uttar Pradesh, 15 from Madhya Pradesh and six from Bihar and one each from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Post mortem of 27 identified bodies has been done and they were being handed over to the families. Ambulance facilities were also being provided to the families of the victims to transport the bodies, officials said. “Over 150 injured people have been rushed to nearby hospitals in the area. All hospitals have been asked to be alert. More than 30 ambulances have been pressed into service,” they said.

Officials said that prima facie the cause of the accident could be due to track fracture. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha told reporters at the spot that it seems the cause of the accident is rail fracture. Member (Engineering) of the Railway Board will find out the cause of the mishap and action will be taken against those responsible, he said. With several passengers feared trapped, rescue personnel employed cold cutters to break open the compartments as gas cutters produced excessive heat and suffocation hampering their efforts.

A number of trapped passengers were rescued. Teams of army doctors, railway officials and personnel of NDRF, state PAC and other policemen were involved in carrying out rescue and relief operation. The Chief Minister instructed the DGP to personally monitor the relief operations and deploy traffic police along the route of the mishap site to ensure green corridor for ambulances to reach hospitals quickly.

More ambulances/roadways buses have been rushed to the spot for speedy relief operations, the CM said. DG Health and ADG (Law and Order) also rushed to the accident spot to monitor the relief operations. Buses were pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, Kumar said.

A team of Army doctors and rescue officials have arrived at the spot. 250 police officials are also involved in carrying out the rescue and relief operations. Five NDRF teams were deployed to rescue passengers trapped in the mangled bogies of the train even as the Home Minister gave instructions to the force’s chief, R K Pachnanda. Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those grievously injured.

North Central Railway General Manager Arun Srivastava said traffic on Kanpur-Jhansi section will be opened in 36 hours. NDRF Director General RK Pachnanda told PTI that a total of five teams of the special rescue force, comprising 45 personnel each, were pressed into action at the accident site. “The rescue teams are deploying cutters and hydraulic equipment to ensure that all the trapped passengers are evacuated safely from the rail bogies,” the DG, who reached the accident site, said. “As the victims are trapped inside the bogies, due care and diligence is being taken into consideration,” he said. NDRF responders were making all possible efforts to rescue the trapped victims with the help of multi-types of latest disaster management gadgets and tools. NDRF rescued at least 53 passengers including 16 badly trapped from the bogies. Among them were two children. Some additional teams are also put on standby and shall be mobilized as per demand,” the force said in a statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the train tragedy. He said Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is personally monitoring the situation and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those seriously injured in the mishap from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. Modi observed two-minute silence to condole the loss of lives at the Rail Vikas Shivir at Surajkund on the outskirts of the national capital asking the railways to work toward achieving the zero accident target to make train journeys safe. Home Minister Rajnath Singh also expressed deep pain over the loss of lives. He said there will be an inquiry into the incident to find out the detail cause of it. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy and announced ex-gratia for the families of the victims. Rs 3.5 lakh exgratia will be given for the families of those killed in the derailment and Rs 50,000 for those grievously injured, Prabhu said the Commissioner of Railway Safety will probe the reasons behind the derailment. “All rescue and relief work is on to deal with the unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Inquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said.

President Pranab Mukherjee, and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi led the nation in condoling the train tragedy in UP’s Kanpur Dehat. Sonia asked the local Congress unit to assist in the relief and rescue operations along with the authorities. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh will be paid to next of kin of the deceased.”I am sad to learn about the accident in which many have lost their lives and a number of persons are injured. I am sure that the state government is providing all possible assistance to the bereaved families as well as medical aid to the injured,” Mukherjee said in a message to Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar cancelled a function to release a report card of his government on completion of one year in office and expressed grief over the mishap. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed condolence to the bereaved families.

The railways have given helpline numbers for anyone seeking information about their people lost life or badly injured, etc.

Speaking on the occasion of launch of “US-India State and Urban Initiative” by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank, Biswal stressed on building state to state relationships. “India is the best place in the world to invest in renewable energy. But the regulatory environment and all the issues related to financing will have to be resolved for that to happen,” he asserted.

Former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav criticised the working of Modi government by saying that instead of ensuring safety of passengers, they wasted “Rs 1 Lacs Cr in headline grabbing but loss making bullet trains.” For last 30 months, I have written many letters to PM requesting him to accord priority to safety & core operating performance of Railways. Rather than investing 1 Lacs Cr. in headline grabbing but loss making bullet trains, first, Modi Govt must look after Safety & Security measures. During my tenure all arrears of replacement were fully liquidated & adequate provisions were made based on actual requirements rather than residual basis”.

This tragedy has occurred soon after the bad news for India arrived about the shock defeat of Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a top Indian born American official Nisha Desai Biswal has said Indo-US ties are so broad and dynamic that pulling back on any aspect will not be in the interest of anyone, while observing that the next administration may want to add their own new areas of focus in the bilateral relationship. “India-US relations will have to move beyond government to government. India-US relations are global, but they should also be local,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Biswal told a Washington audience.

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Development

An Education Reform Path for Lebanon

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Lebanon needs to urgently embark on a comprehensive reform agenda that puts students at the center of the education sector and prioritizes quality of education for all, according to a new World Bank report released today. Low levels of learning and skills mismatch in the job market have put the future of generations of Lebanese children at risk and imply a critical need for more and better targeted investments in the sector.

The report, titled “Foundations for Building Forward Better: An Education Reform Path for Lebanon”, presents an overview of key challenges facing the education sector. It provides evidence-based solutions founded on a diagnostic of the factors contributing to the learning crisis and proposes policy reform recommendations over the short- and medium- to long-terms. The proposed reform plan is in line with the objectives of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 5-year draft sector plan, which aims to improve equity, learning outcomes, and governance in education. The report also draws from the latest available education sector research, including studies conducted under the Research for Results Program launched back in 2016. 

The compounded crises that have assailed Lebanon over the past several years –Syrian refugee influx, economic and financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Port of Beirut blast– have all put severe strains on an already struggling education system. Pre-COVID-19 learning levels were already comparatively low, with only 6.3 years of learning taking place, after schooling is adjusted for actual learning. The global pandemic has led to extended school closures since March 2020, which will likely result in a further and significant decrease in learning. Effectively, students in Lebanon are facing a “lost year” of learning. Despite efforts to reopen schools, a more systematic approach for planning at the district level, in close collaboration with regional education office directors, is needed as the response requires local solutions. 

Lebanon needs to urgently reform the education sector and build forward better,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “Now more than ever, Lebanon needs to invest more and better in improving learning outcomes for children and making sure Lebanese youth are well equipped with the right skills required by the job market to enable them to contribute to Lebanon’s economic recovery”.

The multiple crises and the resulting increase in poverty rates, with more than half the population likely below the national poverty line, have also directly impacted demand for education and student retention. The contraction in the economy, plummeting purchasing power and the steep deterioration in living conditions will likely lead more parents to shift their children to public schools in the coming years, as well as higher student drop-outs, especially among marginalized households. The report presents key aspects for restructuring the education sector financing in support of a more efficient and equitable system and to prevent further learning loss. 

The report puts forward for discussion sector-wide mid-term reform recommendations across seven key strategic areas: I) Restructuring Sector Financing; II) Diagnostics to Support Overcoming the Learning Crisis; III) Improvements of Teacher Utilization and Quality of Teaching; IV) School Environment and School Accountability Measures; V) Education Strategy and Curriculum Reform; VI) Early Childhood Education; and VII) School to Work Transitions and Youth. These recommendations for action tackle key challenges within the sector and approaches towards addressing the growing learning crisis and meeting the increased demand for public education in the country while regaining equity and efficiency.

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Human Rights

First international treaty to address violence and harassment comes into force

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The first international treaty on violence and harassment in the world of work comes into force on June 25th 2021 – two years after it was adopted by the ILO’s International Labour Conference (ILC).

To date, six countries have ratified the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190)  – Argentina, Ecuador, Fiji, Namibia, Somalia and Uruguay. Ratifying countries are legally bound by the provisions of the Convention a year after ratification.

Together with Recommendation No. 206 , Convention No. 190 recognizes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment and provides a common framework for action.

It provides the first international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment.

Violence and harassment at work takes a range of forms and leads to physical, psychological, sexual and economic harm. Since the adoption of the Convention, the COVID-19 pandemic  has further highlighted the issue, with many forms of work-related violence and harassment being reported across countries since the outbreak began, particularly against women and vulnerable groups.

To mark its entering into force the ILO will launch a global campaign to promote its ratification and implementation. The campaign aims to explain in simple terms what the Convention is, the issues it covers and how it seeks to address violence and harassment in the world of work.

“A better future of work is free of violence and harassment,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General in his message to launch the global campaign.

“Convention 190 calls on all ILO Member States to eradicate violence and harassment in all its forms from the world of work. I urge countries to ratify the Convention and help build, together with employers and workers and their organizations, a dignified, safe and healthy working life for all.”

The global campaign will be launched during the ILO Action Week on Convention No. 190 , which takes place 21-25 June 2021.

The Action Week calls for renewed commitment from countries to ratify and implement the Convention.

The Action Week begins on 21 June with a virtual high-level dialogue . The speakers will include the ILO Director-General, Ministers of Labour from Argentina and Madagascar, and representatives of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Following the Action Week, the ILO will launch a guide aimed at helping constituents and other stakeholders promote and implement the Convention and Recommendation. The guide covers core principles and measures that countries can take to prevent, address and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work, including examples of national laws, regulations and policies.

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Environment

A beginner’s guide to sustainable farming

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Industrialized farming has been a reliable way to produce lots of food at a relatively low cost. But it’s not the bargain it was once believed to be. Unsustainable agriculture can pollute water, air and soil; is a source of greenhouse gases, and destroys wildlife. All told that costs economies about $3 trillion every year. And to top it all off, some farming practices have been linked to the emergence of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19.

18 June is Sustainable Gastronomy Day, which celebrates local cuisine that is produced in ways that are both environmentally friendly and minimize waste. To mark the occasion, we take a closer look at how to make agriculture more sustainable and what that would mean for the economy, the environment and human health.

What exactly is sustainable agriculture?

It is farming that meets the needs of existing and future generations, while also ensuring profitability, environmental health and social and economic equity. It favours techniques that emulate nature–to preserve soil fertility, prevent water pollution and protect biodiversity. It is also a way to support the achievement of global objectives, like the Sustainable Development Goals and Zero Hunger.

Does sustainable agriculture really make a difference to the environment?

Yes. It uses up to 56 per cent less energy per unit of crops produced, creates 64 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions per hectare and supports greater levels of biodiversity than conventional farming.

Why does sustainably produced food seem more expensive?

It may be more costly because it is more labour-intensive. It is often certified in a way that requires it to be separated from conventional foods during processing and transport. The costs associated with marketing and distribution of relatively small volumes of product are often comparatively high. And, sometimes, the supply of certain sustainably produced foods is limited.

Why are some foods so much more affordable–even when they require processing and packaging?

The heavy use of chemicals, medicines and genetic modification allows some foods to be produced cheaply and in reliably high volumes, so the retail price tag may be lower. But this is deceiving because it does not reflect the costs of environmental damage or the price of healthcare that is required to treat diet-related diseases. Ultra-processed foods are often high in energy and low in nutrients and may contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer. This is particularly concerning amid the COVID-19 pandemic; the disease is especially risky for those with pre-existing health problems.

Do we all have to be vegan?

No. But most of us should eat less animal protein. Livestock production is a major cause of climate change and in most parts of the world, people already consume more animal-sourced food than is healthy. But even small dietary shifts can have a positive impact. The average person consumes 100 grams of meat daily. Reducing that by 10 grams could improve human health while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Is sustainable agriculture possible in developing countries?

Yes. Because sustainably produced food is typically more labour-intensive than conventionally made food, it has the potential to create 30 per cent more jobs. And because it can command higher prices, it can also generate more money for farmers.

Is it possible to make sustainably produced food that is affordable for everyone?

Yes. As demand for certain foods increases, the costs associated with production, processing, distribution and marketing will drop, which should make them less expensive for consumers.  Policymakers can also play a role, facilitating market access and leveling the financial and regulatory playing field.

If it is so important, why hasn’t sustainable farming been adopted as a global standard?

There is a lack of understanding of the way that agriculture, the environment and human health intersect. Policymakers do not typically consider nature as a form of capital, so legislation is not designed to prevent pollution and other kinds of environmental degradation. And consumers may not realize how their dietary choices affect the environment or even their own health. In the absence of either legal obligations or consumer demand, there is little incentive for producers to change their approach.

What are some ways to consume food more sustainably?

Diversify your diet and cook more meals at home. Eat more plant-based foods; enjoy pulses, peas, beans and chickpeas as sources of protein. Eat local, seasonal foods. Purchase sustainably produced foods and learn more about farming practices and labeling. Avoid excessive packaging, which is likely to end up as landfill. Don’t waste food: eliminating food waste could reduce global carbon emissions by 8-10 per cent. Cultivate your own garden, even if it is a small one in your kitchen. Support organizations, policies and projects that promote sustainable food systems. And discuss the importance of healthy and sustainable foods with producers, vendors, policymakers, friends and family.

UN Environment

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