first_img June 11, 2021 Find out more News IranMiddle East – North Africa RSF_en Proposed Iranian law would ban US, British journalists and media May 6, 2015 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi arrested News Iran: Press freedom violations recounted in real time January 2020 Follow the news on Iran May 10, 2021 Find out more to go furthercenter_img IranMiddle East – North Africa Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the arrest of Narges Mohammadi, a journalist who works closely with Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and acts as spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, an organisation founded by Ebadi that was arbitrarily banned in Iran in 2006.According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Mohammadi was arrested by intelligence ministry officials yesterday after receiving several threats and summonses, and was taken to Tehran’s Evin prison to resume serving a six-year jail term.Mohammadi has been arrested several times in the past. After being arrested at her home on 10 June 2010, she was subjected to a series of interrogations and suffered a psychological breakdown. This led to her being granted a conditional release on 2 July 2010 and hospitalized with muscle paralysis.She was sentenced two months later to 11 years in prison on charges of “meeting and conspiring against the Islamic Republic,” “anti-government publicity,” and “collaborating with the Centre for Human Rights Defenders.” The sentence was reduced to six years on appeal in March 2011.Arrested again in the northern city of Zanjan on 21 April 2012, she was taken to Evin prison to begin serving the sentence. She was released three months later on bail of 600 million toman (480,000 euros) so that she could receive badly needed medical treatment and had been harassed by judicial officials and intelligence ministry agents ever since.She was summoned for questioning at the prosecutor’s office inside Evin prison on 1 June 2014 and, at the end of her interrogation, was told that she was banned from travelling abroad.Three days ago, on 3 May, she was summoned before a Tehran revolutionary court for alleged “activities against national security and anti-government publicity” and other “recent activities,” which have included participating in various campaigns against the death sentence and against impunity for violence.She had also been supporting the mother of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger killed while held by the cyber-police on 3 November 2012, who has been demanding justice for her son.Mohammadi’s arrest was quickly condemned both in Iran and abroad. Her fellow campaigners, including Beheshti’s mother, the well-known academic Mohammad Nourizad and Mohammad Malkion, staged a sit-in outside Evin prison.Shirin Ebadi, who is the president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, immediately wrote an open letter to several UN special rapporteurs including Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur for the human rights situation in Iran, urging them to do everything possible to obtain Mohammadi’s release.Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Iran is stepping up pressure on journalists, including foreign journalists, in run-up to election Help by sharing this information June 9, 2021 Find out more News Receive email alerts Organisation Newslast_img read more

first_imgResearch shows the viral genome of COVID-19 improved its ability to infect human cells and now has become the dominant strain circulating around the world today.The study, published today in the journal Cell, shows the variation is more infectious in cell cultures under laboratory conditions. The variant, named ‘D614G’, makes a small but effective change in the ‘spike’ glycoprotein that protrudes from the surface of the virus, which it uses to enter and infect human cells.The D614G variant of COVID-19 quickly took over as the dominant strain soon after it first appeared, with geographic samples showing a significant shift in viral population from the original, to the new strain of the virus.“Data suggests that the new strain is associated with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of patients with COVID-19, meaning the virus’s ability to infect people could be increased.”“Fortunately at this stage, it does not seem that viruses with D614G cause more severe disease.”Currently tens of thousands of sequences are available through this project, and this enabled us to identify the emergence of a variant that has rapidly become the globally dominant form.”last_img read more

first_imgLeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)MIAMI (AP) — The only thing that keeps LeBron James up worrying at night is basketball, which simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense.On one hand, he’s the game’s best player.On the other, he’s rarely impressed with himself.Even after a year like 2013 — when a spectacular wedding, a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award were among the many highlights enjoyed by the Miami Heat star — he still is, as he puts it, striving for greatness. Or, technically, more greatness, since his enormous list of accomplishments just keeps growing.James was announced Thursday as The Associated Press’ 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award that has been annually awarded since 1931. James received 31 of 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations, beating Peyton Manning (20) and Jimmie Johnson (7).“I’m chasing something and it’s bigger than me as a basketball player,” James told the AP. “I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero … those things mean so much, and that’s what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don’t think this is the biggest role that I’m going to have.”LeBron James, right, hugs Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant after the Heat’s 101-95 win in an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Past winners include Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Serena Williams was the AP Female Athlete of the Year, announced Wednesday.James joins Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as NBA players to win the award.“I don’t think I’ve changed much this year,” James said. “I’ve just improved and continued to improve on being more than just as a basketball player. I’ve matured as a leader, as a father, as a husband, as a friend.”So far in 2013, with a maximum of three games left to play, James has appeared in 98. The Heat have won 78 of them.None of those was bigger than the four Miami got in the NBA Finals against San Antonio. In Game 7, James was at his best, scoring 37 points, including the jump shot with 27.9 seconds left that essentially was the clincher.“He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.Business-wise, James is booming. Some estimate his annual income around $60 million, less than one-third of that being made on the court. His wife has opened a juice bar in Miami, and David Beckham wants James to be part of the Major League Soccer team he plans on bringing to South Florida in the next couple years.Countless people want to align with James. Few make him listen. Beckham did.“You want to be a part of it, but it has to feel real to you,” James said. “You don’t want to do something that doesn’t feel much to you, that you’re just doing for the money. We all have money. For me, my time is more than money at this point in my life.”James has another “decision” to make in 2014. He can become a free agent again this summer, though still smarting from the circus atmosphere that followed him during his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers four years ago, James is staying largely silent on what might happen.He insists he has no idea.“I’m so zoned in on what my task is here this year that it’s hard to think about anything else,” James said. “A guy the other day asked me what I’m going to do for New Year’s, and I haven’t even thought about that.”When asked if there’s anything he doesn’t like about Miami, James offered few complaints, other than the often-clogged street — Biscayne Boulevard, or U.S. 1 — that leads to the arena the Heat call home.“What is there not to like about Miami?” James said. “It is a home. My family is very happy; I’m very comfortable. But U.S. 1? I wish that was a highway.”Bear in mind, he’s not always unhappy when that street is gridlocked.The last two years, he’s been largely responsible for hundreds of thousands of people lining that road for Heat championship parades.And if he gets his way, they’ll be back next June.___Projects Editor Brooke Lansdale contributed to this report.last_img read more

first_imgThat’s trophy-worthy. The NBA could call it the Marc Stein Truth-in-Hearsay Award.Warriors … The NBA hands out several, dozens, thousands, dozens-of-thousands of trophies at the end of each season.OK, I exaggerated. But Marc Stein, the New York Times’ NBA maven does not.On Tuesday Stein threw some rumors at the wall in his newsletter. It is a tried and true journalistic practice. Stein elevated it by letting dear reader in on the premise. His headline:“No Guess as Good as Mine”last_img read more

first_imgChot chooses Gilas veterans Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. LATEST STORIES Stronger peso trims PH debt value to P7.9 trillion Cignal will once again parade the core of the Red Lions, fresh from their triumph in NCAA Season 93, with 2017 Aspirants’ Cup Season MVP Robert Bolick and hardworking forward Javee Mocon counted on to provide the leadership.The Hawkeyes edged Racal Motors in three games in the Aspirants’ Cup Finals last season before making it a championship double with a sweep of Centro Escolar University in the Foundation Cup.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutAlready the winningest mentor in the developmental ranks, Fernandez pushed his PBA D-League title collection to eight championships.Cignal, however, has lost valuable members of its championship teams with Raymar Jose and Jason Perkins being picked in the top four of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft and Pamboy Raymundo and Oping Sumalinog joining Tanduay Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.netReigning back-to-back titlist Cignal HD-San Beda will be returning to the PBA D-League after all.Coach Boyet Fernandez and his boys are returning to defend the throne for the Hawkeyes as they push the participating teams this upcoming 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup to 13 squads.ADVERTISEMENT Japan ex-PM Nakasone who boosted ties with US dies at 101 Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa Kris Aquino ‘pretty chill about becoming irrelevant’ View commentscenter_img CPP denies ‘Ka Diego’ arrest caused ‘mass panic’ among S. Tagalog NPA Read Next The Hawkeyes’ entry also increased the number of school-based teams to eight this first conference, while also bringing the count of participants to a record-tying 13, the same number of teams which joined the 2011 Foundation Cup.Aside from Cignal, also joining this year are CEU, Tanduay, Marinerong Pilipino, Batangas-EAC, Zark’s Burger-Lyceum, JRU, AMA Online Education, Wangs Basketball, Gamboa Coffee Mix, and newcomers Perpetual, Powerball-St. Benilde, and Mila’s Lechon.The 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup tips off on January 18.ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ QC cops nab robbery gang leader, cohort Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Makabayan bloc defends protesting workers, tells Año to ‘shut up’ PLAY LIST 02:11Makabayan bloc defends protesting workers, tells Año to ‘shut up’01:50Palace defends Duterte’s absences from Asean events00:50Trending Articles01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justicelast_img read more

first_imgShare on Pinterest Share on Messenger Read more Was this helpful? Facebook Support The Guardian Hide And what a shame. Because there is something so weirdly, but fantastically, different about playing cricket, compared to any other team sport. A whole day of playing sport, where you might win it single-handedly, and on another day you might do literally nothing. Not a thing.It’s sad to think fewer and fewer people will create their own cricketing memories – those batting gloves at school with the green rubber spikes which gave you no protection whatsoever, and pads with buckles that pointedly refused to stay in place when you ran a quick single as your box fell out of your pants and wedged itself behind your knee.At university, second XI cricket was not of a high standard. Dan was the only player who could bowl straight. He’d always begin with an orange, aiming for off stump and we would wait for the glorious sound of citrus on willow.After we’d clear up the vitamin C explosion, we’d apologise and get on with the game. Then came the twist – the wicketkeeper would take a Red Delicious out of his pocket – we’d throw it around the field, from slip to point to cover to mid-off, shining it on its way round – and Dan would bowl that. Apple on willow, shattering all over the square. On one occasion, their opener played the first ball/apple perfectly – a cultured leave outside off stump. The keeper took it with soft hands and we threw it around the field again, desperately trying to keep a straight face, before the apple hit the middle of the bat on the second delivery. I’m not sure I’ve even been so happy. It was stupid, and we were idiots, but we were idiots playing sport.Probably the most exhilarating single moment of my life (admittedly the bar is low) came while playing village cricket. What a thing that is. Teammates decades apart in age and feet apart in waistlines, with one large man lodged at first slip in every side. The tactical toilet break so that you don’t have to umpire the first 10 overs – and if you end up in the middle the complete refusal to give any lbws. There was one game a year when the fair came to town and took up half the village green – I’d be crouching at gully while Chic’s Le Freak blared across the field.In the 2003 Cambridgeshire Junior cup semi-final, requiring five off two for Ashwell, I hoyed one over cow corner for six – it even got a headline in the Royston Crow. That very rare feeling of striking a ball so sweetly that it didn’t feel like I hit it. We won the final – I did not bowl, did not bat. Did not do anything. I still have the trophy in my toilet.Here’s hoping Sky’s free-to-air offerings don’t stop after this tournament. What about a day of an Ashes Test this summer? A Premier League game this season? If we want more people to watch, play and be inspired, it has to be the right thing. Topics Share on Facebook Thank you for your feedback. Photograph: Chesnot/Getty Images Europe Television industry Pinterest Sky Sports Share via Email Quick guide Cricket World Cup final to be shown on free-to-air TV Since you’re here… Cricket World Cup 2019 ‘Village cricket. What a thing that is. Teammates decades apart in age and feet apart in waistlines, with one large man lodged at first slip in every side’ Photograph: Alamy Was this helpful? Share on Twitter Sky plc In the summer of ’93, everyone at my school became a leg-spinner. We’d never seen leg-spin before Shane Warne arrived. Not that we could remember.No one could do it – ball after ball just looping on to the top of the low‑hanging cricket net – batsmen waddling halfway down the green matting, jumping and trying to hit the ball back to the bowler, hopefully with enough power to do it in one go. We were hopeless, but we were inspired by what we saw on TV. comment The number of people who will understand those references is actually pretty low. As Sean Ingle pointed out in 2015, almost as many people watched a 1974 feature-length episode of Columbo on ITV3 as watched Joe Root take the winning catch at long-off at Cardiff in the first Ashes Test of that year. And while Ingle clearly fails to recognise Peter Falk’s televisual brilliance, it’s a worry. Eight and a half million people watched the culmination of the fourth Test in 2005.I don’t walk down the street with English cricketers enough to know whether they get stopped every five seconds or whether they’re anonymous when they’re out shopping. Do 20-year-olds have equivalents of Peter Such and Alan Mullally rattling around their brains taking up much needed space?Will the modern day cricketers break into our public consciousness? Will Mark Wood win Strictly? Will Keaton Jennings present Top Gear in 2035?Participation is down. Andy Bull recently noted that 40 sides had disbanded in the past five years in the Hampshire league, with many others losing their second, third and fourth XIs – added to this is the slow acknowledgement that the sport is becoming the preserve of the privileged to an increasing degree. Show Sky’s agreement to put the Cricket World Cup final on free-to-air television could just be a one-off, but what if it was the start of something more? It wouldn’t have been hard to put the game on regardless of the result of England’s semi-final but perhaps the England and Wales Cricket Board has worked out that not enough of us are watching it.Living in a Sky Sports bubble (and being in it for years) makes it difficult to conceive of a world without live sport at my fingertips. Pretty much every office I sit in pumps out every possible sport on every possible TV. Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Cricket, Sky Sports News, Sky Sports Kabaddi, BT Lorry Racing. It’s all on, all the time.I genuinely forget that others don’t have that luxury, and haven’t had the chance to watch cricket for the past 14 years – during which time the coverage has been consistently excellent. All those summer days watching Bumble and the others teasing Nasser Hussain about the size of his nose, seeing which pundit has been given the third man analysis role against their will. The evenings spent watching Charles Colville and Bob Willis getting increasingly annoyed – perhaps because they have been left to do the highlights. And that’s before the winter – getting up at weird hours to watch overseas tours wondering if Tim Abraham has enough sun cream, or getting ready to start your day, flicking on the Big Bash and then realising it’s midday and you’re not dressed. Twitter: follow us at @guardian_sportFacebook: like our football and sport pagesInstagram: our favourite photos, films and storiesYouTube: subscribe to our football and sport channels Twitter The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email. Fear and loathing in English cricket’s fraying heartland Cricket Thank you for your feedback. As revealed in the Guardian, the Cricket World Cup final will be shown on free-to-air television now that England have qualified for the showpiece event against New Zealand. “Eoin Morgan has backed the decision to show the Cricket World Cup final on free-to-air television, a story revealed in the Guardian. “It’s very cool,” said England captain Eoin Morgan. “Particularly given the 2005 Ashes for me was the day cricket became cool – it was front and back page, everyone talking about it – that’s really good for the game. It’s great news it’s on free to air.” The match will be screened from 9am on both Channel 4 and Sky Sports, which holds the  UK broadcast rights. However, Channel 4 are also due to show the British Grand Prix on Sunday – the only live free-to-air slot for Formula One on British television this season – meaning cricket coverage will switch to More 4 for the duration of the race at Silverstone. Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Reuse this content … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. 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first_imgNew Delhi: A major fire broke out at a rubber godown in northwest Delhi’s Siras Pur area on Sunday, a senior official of the Delhi Fire Service said.The Delhi Fire Service received information about the incident at 7.34 am and 25 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. The fire was controlled by 10.50 am and no casualty was reported, the official said. The cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained, he added. Recently, a massive fire broke out at an apparel showroom in Uttam Nagar area of Delhi in early hours on Friday. The Delhi Fire Services official said that no casualty was reported from the blaze which takes several hours for dousing.last_img read more

first_imgNew Delhi: In a bid to encourage the use of bicycles among the commuters, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has introduced permanent parking spaces for bicycles at its metro stations. The parking charges will be around Rs 5 upto 12 hours, Rs 10 upto 24 hours, however, additional Rs 10 will be charged at night.Currently, the DMRC has a provision of allowing commuters to use bicycles for covering small distances at nominal charges at some of its metro stations. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder”In a boost to last mile connectivity, DMRC is introducing permanent space for bicycle stands at its Metro stations which have dedicated parking lots to promote the use of bicycles as part of an eco-friendly measure. The extension of the existing stands will be carried out in more stations in a phased manner. The permanent bicycle stands have the parking capacity of multiple bicycles and will be provided with a locking mechanism for the safety of bicycles,” the DMRC said in a series of tweets. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings”It’s an effort to tackle the problem of pollution, the organisation has been encouraging commuters to use bicycles as it is an eco-friendly mode of transport, said official. At present, this facility is available at 18 parking lots at different stations across Delhi Metro network. These stations are: Line-1: Seelampur, Shahdara, Welcome, Rithala; Line-2: Saket, Arjangarh, Chattarpur, Line-3/4(3): Dwarka Mor, Dwarka, Dwarka Sec21, Line-5 : Mundka, Nangloi, Peeragarhi, Line-6: Tughlakabad, Badarpur, Sarita Vihar, Line-8 : Okhla Bird Sanctuary. However, “the parking lots at Nawada, Uttam Nagar (E) and Vishwavidayala Metro stations have also been identified for permanent bicycle stands which will be installed within few days. This facility will be further extended to more stations in a phased manner,” DMRC said in a statement. “These permanent bicycle stands have the capacity for parking of multiple bicycles and will be provided with a locking mechanism for the safety of bicycles,” the DMRC statement added. “DMRC in association with some private operators is already operating 20 bicycle sharing service stands (through operators) covering 19 stations across its network. With the recent expansion of Metro network, 13 more stations have been identified for these bicycle sharing service which will be functional in few weeks,” official added. The Delhi Metro’s current operational span is 343 km with 250 metro stations, spread over eight colour-coded lines.last_img read more

first_imgNew Delhi: Average spot power price is unlikely to breach the Rs 3.50 per unit level in May on account of sufficient coal stock for thermal plants and enhanced supplies from clean energy sources, according to experts. “Despite higher peak demand of 178 GW, average spot power prices at exchanges would not be more than Rs 3.5 per unit during May because of better supplies particularly from clean energy sources like wind, solar and hydro. Besides, there is no shortage of coal this month for thermal power generation,” an industry expert said. Also Read – Commercial vehicle sales to remain subdued in current fiscal: IcraAccording to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), out of 127 thermal power plants monitored by it, two power stations had super critical coal situation as on May 9, 2019. These two plants had coal stock of less than four days and there was only one plant which had critical coal situation with stock of less than a week. So, dry fuel shortage is not affecting power generation. Indian Energy Exchange Director Rajesh K Mediratta said that average spot power price at IEX was Rs 3.3 per unit till May 10, 2019, which was far lower than Rs 4.67 per unit in May 2018. Also Read – Ashok Leyland stock tanks over 5 pc as co plans to suspend production for up to 15 daysElaborating further, he said, “The key reasons for rise in volume and price in May last year were increase in demand due to summer, lack of adequate availability of coal, low hydro generation, slow pick-up in the wind power generation in southern and western states.” The peak demand of power this month was 178 GW due to summer season, Mediratta said adding that high peak demand of 178 GW was recorded in September 2018. According to National Load Dispatch Centre Data, the average daily hydro power generation has been 465 million units (MUs) so far this month compared to 365 MUs in May last year. Similarly, average daily wind power generation was 228 MUs till May 10, against 147 MUs in the same month last year. Average daily solar energy output also increased to 138 MUs till May 10 over 92.2 MUs in May last year. However, the daily average coal-based thermal power generation came down on 2,727 MUs till May 10, as against 2,843 MUs in the month last year.last_img read more

first_imgBundelkhand has seen too many political skirmishes over hunger deaths, farmer suicides and water crisis due to drought. Banda, one of the seven districts of Uttar Pradesh in the Bundelkhand region, was one of the worst-affected when drought hit the area in 2016. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2009 sanctioned Rs 7,266-crore package for Bundelkhand as drought relief and integrated development. The package envisaged digging of wells and farm ponds. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), then in power in the state, entered into a war of words with the Centre over the exact amount sent for relief. Also Read – Hijacking Bapu’s legacyDuring the 2016 drought, when starvation deaths were reported from Banda, the Central government offered to send a water train to mitigate the crisis. The proposal was turned down by Akhilesh Yadav, who was then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Instead, he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought an aid package of Rs 11,000 crore to buy 10,000 tankers to send water to villages facing shortages. The money was to be spent on other heads as well. Also Read – The future is here!The Centre had asked the state to look for long-term solutions for the drought-hit region. Recently, the Yogi Adityanath government cleared a Rs 47 crore package “to ensure immediate availability of water in the region.” Poll season In Banda and Chitrakoot — the two districts together make the Lok Sabha constituency — politicians do their usual rounds begging for votes and then disappear until the next poll, like in every other backward area. Poverty, hunger and deprivation plaguing the region hardly become a poll issue. The UP government’s promise of a defence corridor for the region’s development is yet to take off. The promised setting up of AIIMS is also far from realisation. Meanwhile, illegal mining is killing the rivers. “No MP or MLA has bothered to look back to see how we are faring,” said a villager, talking about the stray cattle menace unleashed on them by the Yogi Adityanath government. The two cow shelters here, he added, are a big farce as the cattle are let out once in a while and “our crops are destroyed”. Banda is a small town where life begins at dawn and ends a little after sunset. Much of Banda’s life revolves around mining of red sand from the Ken river, which passes through the town. The river is its lifeline, and also a rich source of revenue for the mining mafia, who keep the pockets of district officials and politicians lined. Cross the bridge over the Ken and one can see men, women and children filling up bags with red sand which is then ferried to different parts using various modes of transport — cycles, autos, push-carts, motorcycles and trucks. Carrying red sand in small quantities helps avoid taxes. In the process the state loses on its royalty. Ferrying sand fetches easy money, around Rs 100 a day, half of which is spent on country liquor and food, according to the editor of a national vernacular daily. Acute water shortage People are content and they don’t seem interested in improving their lifestyle. Those with some ambition migrate to other cities for work. Water shortage, he says, is acute. After PM Modi’s recent poll rally, the district administration is working on plans to ensure a trouble-free summer. But it is the Patha area — about 68 km from Banda and a further 20 km from Chitrakoot town — which is a vast stretch of parched land. Although there are a few borewells, it’s not enough. Locals, who depend on a huge pond built about 100 years ago by the king of Rewa — an adjoining district which falls in Madhya Pradesh — say that since the soil is rocky, special machines are required to dig borewells. People in Patha use the pond for bathing, washing clothes, bathing their cattle and also for drinking. The water is not purified in any way before drinking or cooking. A former gram pradhan Annu Devi’s husband, Dwarka Prasad, claims that nobody has ever fallen sick because of the water. The secret, he guesses, lies in the large number of fish in the pond. Fishing is banned and this unwritten rule is followed by mostly all the residents. Patha jungles are famous for its dacoits — Dadua was one of them. Tendu leaves are used to make bidis and mahua, which form an important part of diet among the poor. Those who can’t afford food grains rely on mahua to make ends meet. Tendu leaves are one major source of employment for the local people. However, often, it’s the contractors who make a fortune out of it. The Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate from the area, Shyama Charan Gupta, is a bidi magnate. For the people in Banda-Chitrakoot areas, life is a daily struggle for survival even as they wait for comprehensive development as a permanent solution to their woes. (Atul Chandra is a senior journalist based in Lucknow. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more