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Lockdown: Fresh protests in Surat, second such agitation in a week

Gujarat has reported 617 positive coronavirus cases so far. While Ahmedabad has 373 cases, Vadodara has reported 113 such cases. A total of 28 people have lost their lives.

Migrant workers gathered in the Varachha area of Surat and squatted on a road to press for their demand to be sent back.
Throwing all lockdown rules to the wind, a sea of migrant workers gathered in Gujarat’s Surat on Tuesday evening as they demanded that arrangements be made to facilitate their return to their native places. The migrants gathered in the Varachha area of the city and squatted on a road to press for their demand to be sent back.

Reports suggest migrants resorted to violence and demanded vehicles to go back to their native states. As soon as the administration learned about the gathering, they rushed to the site to control the crowd.

Hours after migrant labourers staged a protest at Mumbai’s Bandra against the authorities amid coronavirus lockdown, hundreds of textile workers in Surat gathered around Varachha area on Tuesday. The workers were demanding that the government should make arrangements so that they could reach their homes. These labourers are mainly from Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Amit Shah had called Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray Over Bandra Incident, Said ‘Such Events Weaken Fight Against Coronavirus’.

“Our senior officials rushed to the spot, and the people were persuaded to return to their homes without any further aggravation,” reported The Economic Times quoting RB Brahmbhatt, Surat Commissioner of Police as saying. Some labourers also complained that their employers are not giving their wages. As per reports, around 12 lakh migrant labourers work in Surat. Lockdown Extended in India Till May 3

Society

Mob Kills One, Injures Eight Over Witchcraft Allegation in Meghalaya

Shillong: A 25-year-old man died after he and his friends were attacked by a mob on the suspicion of practising witchcraft in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district, police said on Tuesday.

Eight people suffered injuries in the assault.

A total of 27 people, including two minors, were arrested on Monday night in connection with the incident at Pashang village, when the nine picnickers were attacked with sticks, iron rods and stones while they were returning to Shillong in a vehicle, police said.

Rumours had it that a group of cult worshippers was moving around in the area in a car, they said.

“The group had gone to Syntung for picnic and on their way back to Shillong on Sunday night, they were waylaid by the mob near Pashang area and assaulted,” Assistant Inspector General of Police Gabriel Iangrai said.

One person, hailing from Madanrting area, was declared brought-dead at Shillong Civil Hospital, he said, adding, two others were seriously injured.

Six members of the group had managed to escape to a nearby jungle with minor injuries, from where they were rescued by police on Monday.

Health, Society

‘Stay strong, Wuhan’: Song for coronavirus-hit China from Nagas in Manipur

Participants at Manipur’s Lui Ngai Ni music festival sang expressing their solidarity for the Chinese citizens affected in Wuhan, China by CoVID - 19.Participants at Manipur’s Lui Ngai Ni music festival sang expressing their solidarity for the Chinese citizens affected in Wuhan, China by CoVID – 19. 

The song was performed on Saturday at the annual Lui Ngai Ni festival expresses solidarity with coronavirus affected China.

Songs and dances are an integral part of the annual Lui Ngai Ni festival celebrations in Manipur. But this year along with the usual festivities, something very topical and relevant took centre stage.

On Saturday, Manipur’s popular musician Guru Rewben Mashangva took to the stage and performed a song on coronavirus and urged the people of China and Wuhan city, from where the outbreak spread, to stay strong.

The song written two days earlier by lyricist Ngachonmi Chamroy was hurriedly composed by Mashangva and performed in front of an audience of around 3000 at Ukhrul, the venue of the two-day seed-sowing festival celebrated by the Naga tribes of Manipur.

“A friend of mine, Seth Shatsang, called me up on February 13 and suggested we should use the platform of the festival to convey our concern for the suffering neighbours in China. I wrote the song in just 30 minutes,” said Chamroy.

At least 1662 people have now died from the coronavirus outbreak that first emerged in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, in December and spiralled into a nationwide epidemic. More than 68,000 people have now been infected, with most deaths occurring in Hubei.

More than 580 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China and four deaths, one each in the Philippines, Hong Kong, France and Japan.

The song ‘China, be strong. Be strong Wuhan’, which mentions fear and despair on the empty streets of Wuhan also has lines in Chinese, Tangkhul and Nagamese languages.

“Video of the song has gone viral through social media and we are getting calls from the US, even China and Tangkhul friends from all over. Some are saying that the festival has been overshadowed by the song,” said Chamroy.

Shatsang, who gave the idea for the song, was also crucial in getting permission from United Naga Council (UNC), the organisers of the festival, to include it as a last-minute entry in the programme list.

“Idea about the song came from the heart. The disease has separated families in Wuhan and people are going through difficult times. As human beings, it is the right time to show our solidarity as it can happen anywhere,” said Shatsang, a former president of All Naga Students Association, Manipur (ANSAM).

While the song was written in a jiffy, Guru Rewben Mashangva also had to hurry with composing the music as there was not much time available to prepare ahead of Saturday’s event.

“I got the lyrics on the morning of February 13. I composed the music the next day and since I had no knowledge of the Chinese words, I took help from my children who used their phones to get the right pronunciation. The music was arranged on the night of February 14,” said Mashangva.

While Mashangva was performing the song, several of those present held placards saying ‘Stay strong Wuhan, we are with you’.

“The response from the audience to the song was very good. Later this month, the Tangkhul Music Association has decided to organise a show particularly highlighting coronavirus at Ukhrul,” said Milan Shimray, general secretary, UNC.

Mashangva and Chamroy are planning to do a proper recording of the song along with a video in the next few days and release it to a wider audience so that the message of solidarity can spread further.

News, Society

Nirbhaya case: Court issues fresh death warrants against 4 convicts

New Delhi: 

Fresh death warrants were issued this evening for the four men convicted of the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi in 2012. The four will now be executed at 6 am on February 1, Additional Sessions Judge Satish Kumar Arora said today, while also turning down a plea by Mukesh Singh, one of the convicts, to postpone the execution. The warrants were issued mere hours after President Ram Nath Kovind rejected a mercy plea filed by the same convict.

The new death warrants are dated to exactly 14 days from today, in accordance with a law that states convicts to be executed must have a reprieve from the time their mercy plea is turned down.

Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Singh, Akshay Kumar Singh and Pawan Gupta were to be hanged at Delhi’s Tihar Jail on January 22, the same trial court judge had declared last week, signing a death warrant more than seven years after the young girl was gang-raped on a moving bus, tortured and killed.

However, on Thursday, five days before the scheduled execution, Tihar officials asked for a new date, saying the executions could not take place till after all mercy pleas were settled.

Mukesh Singh had filed his mercy petition on Tuesday, directly after the Supreme Court dismissed a curative petition – the last legal appeal – moved by him and Vinay Sharma.

The petition had been forwarded to the President via the Home Ministry late Thursday night and was rejected this afternoon. Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi, had made a public appeal to the President to summarily reject the petition.

Earlier today Asha Devi also made a public appeal to politicians to not seek “political gains” over her daughter’s death. Her comments came amid a war of words between the AAP – which rules Delhi – and the BJP – in power at the centre – over delays in the execution.

The three other convicts have yet to file their respective mercy petitions, which they may do at any time prior to their execution. Each time such a petition is filed and rejected, that 14-day period must be observed, thereby potentially prolonging the execution.

On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped and tortured on a moving bus before being dumped on a road in south Delhi. The woman, who came to be known as “Nirbhaya”, died on December 29 in a Singapore hospital.

Six men were arrested for the horrifying assault. A fifth accused – Ram Singh – allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail during the trial and the sixth man, a few months short of 18 at the time of the incident, was released after three years in a reform facility.

Society

Hundreds arrested at huge New Year’s Day rally in Hong Kong

 in Hong Kong

Crowds of protesters
 The march began peacefully, with protesters in costumes and families with children, but ended in clashes. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty

A huge New Year’s Day march in Hong Kong has ended in mass arrests and street clashes as the anti-government movement – now in its eighth month – continued into 2020.

Police detained about 400 people on charges including illegal assembly and possession of offensive weapons after the rally on Wednesday, which organisers said was attended by more than a million people. It was one of the largest numbers of arrests in a single day since the unrest began.

Riot police detain protesters.
Pinterest
 Riot police detain protesters. Photograph: Vivek Prakash/EPA

But the march had begun in a mood of carnival celebration – there were protesters in costumes and families with children and elderly people. Marchers chanted slogans including “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our era”.

Riot police fired teargas rounds in Wan Chai district after protesters threw objects at officers who had arrested several people for allegedly vandalising a bank.

Some protesters retaliated by throwing molotov cocktails at the police, but many in the crowd were caught by surprise as the march was expected to be peaceful and most did not wear protective gear.

Police demanded that the protest organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front, immediately call off the demonstration, but large crowds continued to march and police declared that they were taking part in an illegal assembly.

As night fell, police used water cannon on crowds in Wan Chai and the financial district of Central. Protesters laid bricks across the main thoroughfare in Central in an attempt to impede the police’s advance towards the area.

Hundreds of thousands assembled
Pinterest
 Hundreds of thousands joined the march.
Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

A police statement said protesters had blocked roads with barricades, dug up bricks from pavements and set fires to banks and cash machines.

At a late-night press briefing, Senior Supt Ng Lok Chun blamed radical protesters for “hijacking” and disrupting the march and said police had fired teargas because they were surrounded by protesters who were throwing objects at them.

There had already been a bleak start to 2020: shortly after revellers counted down to midnight and shouted “Happy new year!”, police in the central district of Mong Kok shot teargas at protesters who set off fireworks and set fire to roadblocks.

On Tuesday night police deployed water cannon to disperse protesters while armoured vehicles cleared roadblocks. The crowd had gathered outside a metro station where people were leaving flowers to commemorate protesters rumoured to have died during a clash with police four months ago. The government denies that the deaths occurred.

The anti-government movement in Hong Kong, sparked by an extradition bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent to China for trial, is showing no signs of abating. Protesters say they will not give up unless the government meets their demands, which include universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police brutality.

As of last week, 6,494 people had been arrested since the movement started in June, some as young as 12, according to the police.

Many in Hong Kong, including pro-democracy supporters, are weary of the frequent violent confrontations in the movement and are seeking new directions in their attempt to press the government into conceding to their demands.

Protesters try to dodge teargas.
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 Protesters try to dodge teargas. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Some are urging fellow Hong Kongers on social media to use economic means to put pressure on the government instead, including joining trade unions so that they can launch strikes and other collective actions more effectively.

“We want to show our determination to the world that we will not back down on our resistance against an authoritarian regime,” said Mary Chin, a former bank employee in her 40s.

The Civil Human Rights Front condemned the police’s abrupt revocation of its permission for the march, which it estimated was attended by a million people.

“The government has shown its unwillingness to listen to the voices of the mass and it has infringed on their right to assembly,” it said in a statement. “Hong Kongers shall not back down and peace shall not resume with the ongoing police brutality.”

In his new year address, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, acknowledged that “the situation in Hong Kong has been everybody’s concern over the past few months” as he called for “a harmonious and stable environment” for Hong Kong.

Sounding relatively conciliatory compared with earlier, more threatening remarks, Xi said in the televised address: “Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability is the wish of Hong Kong compatriots and the expectation for the people of the motherland.”

Society

Hindu Explaines: What connects the NPR, NRIC and Census?

How is the National Population Register compiled? How is it related to citizenship and the decennial census? And, can States refuse cooperation with the NPR process?

The story so far: As protests spread all across the country against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the proposed National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), West Bengal and Kerala suspended work related to the preparation and update of the National Population Register in their respective States. The NPR, a register of residents of the country with demographic and biometric details, was supposed to be prepared between April 2020 and September 2020 ahead of the Census slated for 2021. Preliminary work on the NPR has begun in several States. In Bengal, civil rights activists had been protesting against the compilation of the NPR alleging that it had nothing to with the Census, but the “first step to initiate the National Register of Citizens” in the State. According to Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (which was inserted in 2004), the Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card to him; and it may maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens.

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

The NPR is a database containing a list of all usual residents of the country. Its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of people residing in the country. It is generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years. The last census was in 2011, and the next will be done in 2021 (and will be conducted through a mobile phone application, according to the Home Minister, Amit Shah).

A usual resident for the purposes of NPR is a person who has resided in a place for six months or more, and intends to reside there for another six months or more

The census involves a detailed questionnaire — there were 29 items to be filled up in the 2011 census — aimed at eliciting the particulars of every person, including age, sex, marital status, children, occupation, birthplace, mother tongue, religion, disability and whether they belonged to any Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. On the other hand, the NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.

Once the basic details of the head of the family are taken by the enumerator, an acknowledgement slip will be issued. This slip may be required for enrolment in NPR, whenever that process begins.

And, once the details are recorded in every local (village or ward), sub-district (tehsil or taluk), district and State level, there will be a population register at each of these levels. Together, they constitute the National Population Register.

What is the legal basis for the NPR?

While the census is legally backed by the Census Act, 1948, the NPR is a mechanism outlined in a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Section 14A was inserted in the Citizenship Act, 1955, in 2004, providing for the compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the issue of a “national identity card” to him or her. It also said the Central government may maintain a “National Register of Indian Citizens”.

The Registrar General India shall act as the “National Registration Authority” (and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration). Incidentally, the Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.

The NPR is the first step towards establishing the NRIC.

Is there any link between the NPR and Aadhaar?

Better targeting and delivery of benefits and services under the government was one of the early objectives of the NPR. During the early days of the NPR enrolment, under the United Progressive Alliance regime, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) scheme for issuance of Aadhaar numbers was also concurrently on. There was a conflict between the Union Home Ministry, which administers the NPR, and UIDAI, leaving the impression that there was duplication of work, as both involved gathering personal particulars, including biometric data.

Ultimately, they agreed that both databases will exist with different objectives, and that each will use the other’s biometric data. Those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details again during NPR. At the same time, data captured for NPR would be sent to UIDAI for “de-duplication”. In case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, the latter would prevail. The present regime decided to update the NPR originally created after the 2011 Census.

What will happen after the NPR is compiled?

Out of the NPR, a set of all usual residents of India, the government proposes to create a database of “citizens of India”. Thus, the “National Register of Indian Citizens” (NRIC) is a sub-set of the NPR. The NRIC will be prepared at the local, sub-district, district and State levels after verifying the citizenship status of the residents.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 spells out the rules for operationalising the idea of registering all citizens and issuing national identity cards to them. However, so far, there has been no decision on introducing a national identity card.

The rules say the particulars of every family and individual found in the Population Register “shall be verified and scrutinized by the Local Registrar …”. In the process, details of those “whose citizenship is doubtful” will be entered with a comment suggesting further inquiry. The family or individual will be informed about it and given an opportunity of being heard by the Sub-district or Taluk Registrar of Citizen Registration before a final decision is made on excluding them from the NRIC. The decision should be made within 90 days.

Is the NRIC complete after this step?

No. A draft of the Local Register of Indian Citizens shall be published to invite objections or claims for inclusion or corrections.

Any objection or request for inclusion must be made within 30 days of the publication of the draft. The sub-district or taluk registrar shall summarily dispose of the objections within 90 days. Thereafter, the entries in the Local Register will be transferred to the National Registrar.

Any person aggrieved by an exclusion order can appeal to the District Registrar within 30 days, and the appeal should be disposed of within 90 days. In case, the appeal succeeds, the names of those concerned would be added to the NRIC.

What are the documents that would help establish citizenship?

The government is yet to notify a date for generation of the NRIC. It has not yet prescribed rules for the sort of documentary proof that would be required to prove citizenship. The government says any document that shows date of birth or place of birth, or both, will be sufficient. And that common documents will be accepted, and those unable to produce documents may produce witnesses or other proof supported by members of the community.

Many State governments have said the NPR would not be implemented. Is this possible?

As of now, this is a political decision. Kerala and West Bengal have put on hold activities related to NPR work. Most State governments would have, by now, re-issued a Central government notification on the initiation of work to update the NPR.

As the house-to-house enumeration is a part of the Census operation, it is unlikely that the NPR process can go ahead without State governments agreeing to deploy their staff for the purpose. The legal position is that while the Centre is in charge of the census, the State governments are expected to provide staff whenever required.

Section 4A of the Census Act, inserted through a 1994 amendment, says: “Every local authority in a State shall, when so directed by a written order by the Central Government or by an authority appointed by that Government in this behalf, make available to any Director of Census Operations such staff as may be necessary for the performance of any duties in connection with the taking of census.”

Further, Rule 5 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, lays down that “Every official of the Central Government, State Government, local bodies or their undertakings shall assist the Registrar General of Citizen Registration or any person authorized by him in this behalf, in preparation of the database relating to each family and every person, and in implementing the provisions of these rules.”

In any case, it is compulsory on the part of every citizen to assist in the preparation of the National Register of Citizens, the rules say.

In practical terms, it may not be possible for the process to be undertaken without the State government’s cooperation at the local level.

What is the relationship between the NPR and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?

There is no direct link. But remarks by the Home Minister that the CAA would be followed by the NRC has given rise to fears that when people are excluded from the final citizenship register, the CAA may help non-Muslims take the CAA route to apply for citizenship, and leave Muslims with no option. However, the government seeks to allay these fears.

Society

Paradise paved: Bali rice fields disappear beneath hotels, bars

Christmas and New Year are peak season for tourism on Indonesian island, but rural hamlets are under pressure.

by
Indonesia Bali Canggu's Batu Bolong Beach, the new surfing mecca of Bali [Ian Neubauer/Al Jazeera]
Indonesia Bali Canggu’s Batu Bolong Beach, the new surfing mecca of Bali [Ian Neubauer/Al Jazeera]

Denpasar, Indonesia – Over Christmas and New Year, more than half a million tourists will fly to the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Many will forgo the well-worn beach districts of Kuta and Seminyak and head half an hour further north to the bohemian surfing hub of Canggu.

With an eclectic mix of restaurants, graffiti projects, coworking spaces, yoga studios, boutique hotels and Hindu temples among dreamy green rice fields, Canggu is an Instagram hotspot.

It is also the residence of choice for many of the 30,000 expats living in Bali, who have leased or built luxury villas in the area.

The flurry of activity has sent property prices soaring on an island that already boasts some of the best performing real-estate in the world, according to Matthew Georgeson, an Australian property agent who has worked in Bali for 15 years.

A spokesperson for the Temple of Enthusiasm – a retail and entertainment barn credited, and concurrently blamed, for the gentrification of Canggu – says prices have increased 40-fold since they signed their land lease a decade ago.

“As a destination for tourism, Canggu is just getting started,” Georgeson said. “All the young people want to be there.”

Indonesia Bali Canggu
Canggu is the new hotspot for tourists visiting Bali [Ian Neubauer/Al Jazeera]

But the progress has come at a price: Canggu’s rice fields, the feature that once made it so attractive, are being erased. The beachfront is now almost entirely lined with bars – from palm-thatched lean-tos to palatial white beach clubs, while new multi-storey hotels continue to muscle their way above the coconut palms.

‘Crazy development’

On December 26, the contemporary-styled 40-room Canggu Dream Hotel will open on a small street in the semi-rural neighbourhood of Tibubeneng in the northern part of Canggu.

Builders for the three-star property have allowed space for only six parking spots to accommodate the fleet of taxis, minibuses and motorbikes that will be needed to service its guests.

A neighbour who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity alleged the entire project was illegal.

“I tried getting a hotel licence but the Banjar (an arm of local government) told me only small guesthouses are allowed in this area,” he said. “No one in the neighbourhood is happy about it. But what can we do?”

The hotel’s Jakarta-based owner refused to comment on the issue despite repeated requests.

A 21-suite art hotel with manicured tropical gardens, Hotel Tugu Bali was the first significant tourist project in Canggu. When it was built in the mid-1990s, the owner, acclaimed Indonesian art collector Anhar Setjadibrata, adhered to the 100-metre coastal setback law that applies almost universally across Indonesia.

But in recent years a row of cheap bars have been built on the very edge of the sand, cutting Hotel Tugu off from the beach.

Tugu managing director Lucienne Anhar says building codes and zoning laws are disregarded on a wholesale level in Canggu.

“In the past few years there’s been crazy development that’s not necessarily respectful of environmental laws,” she said. “Anyone can build anything. It’s almost like that.”

“Noise is also a problem,” she said. “In any other part of the world, nightclubs must follow noise regulations and closing hours, but not in Canggu. Their music affects everyone in a radius of kilometres. We had to spend 200 million rupiahs [$1,480] to soundproof each of our rooms.”

“I think it’s fair to say that many of the expats who moved to Canggu for a certain lifestyle now say they can’t stand it: the motorbikes, nightclubs and whatnot,” adds Georgeson.

Indonesia Bali Canggu
A rice farmer in Canggu standing in front of a multimillion-dollar villa that borders his fields [Ian Neubauer/Al Jazeera]

Beyond the aesthetic cost, Canggu’s rapid urbanisation has upended the lives of rice farmers. Those who own land can sell or lease to developers and retire. But most are sharecroppers who pay a quarter of their crop to landowners as rent. Typically, they rent the same plots for decades or generations. And one by one, they are being squeezed out.

Mounting problems

Dong Arip is a 60-year-old grandmother who has rented land in Pererenan, a village in Canggu, for 20 years. Her plot sits well inside Pererenan’s “greenbelt” – land reserved exclusively for agriculture – yet some years ago her landlord leased part of her plot to a developer who opened a Vietnamese restaurant on the site.

“The village chief said this is a greenbelt area but people keep building here,” Arip said, pointing to two new construction sites down the road.

“If they sell the rest of this land I don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t work in any other thing as I don’t have other skills.”

Wayan Tuji, a 48-year-old Canggu man, spends his afternoons harvesting grass from the edges of rice fields to feed his cow. But every year he has to travel further to find grass. When Al Jazeera spoke to him he was at work in a field bordering “The Shortcut” – a broken one-and-half lane brick road that carries most of the traffic in and out of Canggu.

“When this field goes, I’ll have to sell my cow because there’s nowhere else to find grass around here,” he said.

“I know it’s because of tourism, but I don’t think tourism is bad because I make money selling them coconuts and beers. But all this traffic is not good,” he adds, pointing to the constant stream of vehicles passing by. “This road is only supposed to be for motorbikes. But as you can see, there are many cars.”

Not far from The Shortcut on a rubbish-strewn lot behind Berawa Beach is a ramshackle dorm made from construction waste. It is home to approximately 50 labourers from other parts of Indonesia who live without running water, electricity or watertight roofing and who earn about 150,000 rupiah ($10.71) a day – about the same as tourists pay for a cocktail in Canggu.

Indonesia Canggu Bali
Construction workers in Canggu earn about $10 a day and live in slum-like conditions, but they are thankful for tourism and the opportunities it brings [Ian Neubauer/Al Jazeera]

“It’s not fair. There are many mosquitoes here,” said Regi from Sumba, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name. “But we just accept it so long as we have a roof over our heads.”

Adds Yo, a labourer from Lombok: “Sometimes I think the government pays more attention to tourists than the people who live here.”

Made Kamajaya, chief of Tibubeneng Village, the local authority responsible for some of the busiest parts of Canggu, concedes tourism has proved a double-edged sword.

“We are grateful to the thousands of people who come here every day, but our infrastructure can’t cope,” he said.

“All our water irrigation and drains are damaged because of uncontrolled development, so how can people even survive planting rice? We also have a trash problem because of people who come here and sell food on the street. And we have traffic problems because of people who open new businesses who don’t make enough parking spaces for their customers.”

Unique culture

Kamajaya says the Canngu Dream Hotel is a textbook example. “I inspected the property recently. They didn’t leave enough space for parking. They built too close to the road,” he said.

As village chief, he confirms the hotel was built without a licence. “That part of the village is only for housing,” he explained. “When they submitted their application, they proposed to build a house.”

Indonesia Bali Canggu
Wayan Tuji looks for grass for his cow to eat in one of the last patches of greenery near Canggu’s Batu Bolong Street [Ian Neubauer/Al Jazeera]

Kamajaya says if he had his way, the part of the hotel closest to the road would be demolished, but he says he is powerless to act because real authority in Canggu lies with the Regency of Badung (Indonesia’s regencies are a higher level of government and Badung covers some of southern Bali’s most touristy areas). The Regent, Nyoman Giri Prasta, was not immediately available for comment.

Tugu Hotel’s Anhar says authorities need to take a stand against illegal development before it is too late.

“In Bali, we have a unique Hindu culture that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world,” she said.

“It’s a very resilient culture so, with proper planning, it should be easy to find a way for the traditional and modern lifestyles to coexist. But until proper regulation comes in with fines and awareness campaigns, nothing will change. They need some really big and fast strategies to tackle illegal construction before all the rice fields are gone.”

Sularno, a labourer from Java clearing land for a new villa on Pererenan’s greenbelt, thinks the days of the rice fields are already numbered.

“Do I worry about thbeautiful scenery disappearing? No,” he said, peering at a series of waterlogged rice terraces that descend like the keys of a piano down the face of a ravine.

“If they disappear, it’s destiny.”

Society

Pokhara Premier League is boosting Nepali Cricket

Established last year, the PPL is Nepal’s third T20 league but has designs on becoming the gold standard for franchise cricket in the mountainous country

The scene is as beautiful as you will find for a cricket ground. The backdrop is the imposing Annapurna mountains; the tops are serrated edges tearing at the beautiful blue sky supplying the snow-capped Himalayas with contrast. The ground itself affords far less majesty but is the home of Nepal’s Pokhara Premier League (PPL).  Sitting at 1,400m above sea level, Pokhara Rangasala is a multi-purpose stadium where matches are played. This year’s tournament will run from December 14th to 28th in Nepal’s second most populous city.

The city of Pokhara sits about 200km to the west of Nepal’s Kathmandu and is the tourism capital of the country. Due to its proximity to three of the world’s ten highest mountains, the valley where Pokhara is situated is ideal for mountaineers to begin their assault. Remarkably, the city was only accessible by foot until the late 1960s but now boasts a growing economy due to tourism and ever-developing urbanization.

Sport plays a large part of life in Pokhara with football and cricket featuring as well as the abundance of options for outdoor sports.  Pokhara does not have a dedicated cricket stadium yet despite having a cricket presence in the form of the Pokhara Rhinos in the Everest Premier League (EPL) as well as the PPL.

Established last year, the PPL is Nepal’s third T20 league but has designs on becoming the gold standard for franchise cricket in the mountainous country. The idea of the league, according to Marketing Head Ayush Gautam, is to “decentralise” cricket from Kathmandu while leveraging tourism in the area. The first edition was held in 2018 with 17 matches in total featuring six teams: Biratnagar Titans, Butwal Blasters, Chitwan Rhinos, Expert Dhangadhi Blues, Kathmandu Golden Warriors and Pokhara Paltans. Pokhara won the final, in front over 5,000 fans, when they beat Chitwan who were captained by ex-Nepal captain Paras Khadka.

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Each team’s roster was predominantly made up of local talent. However, there were a few players from outside of Asia who came to Nepal to play.  One of the players who featured in last season’s tournament was Peter Trego.  The all-rounder admitted that Nepalese cricket was unknown to him when he arrived in the country, but Trego soon found that he was impressed with the quality of the play. Despite the distinct challenges of a start-up competition, which have been evident with competitions such as the Euro T20 Slam not getting off the ground, Trego was complimentary about his time in Nepal.

“The challenge for an Englishman playing there was the surface. I was fortunate to have a lot of experience of spinning sub-continent type pitches so coped well. The ground itself was basically a club ground with temporary stands but as it was framed by Machhapuchhare and Annapurna mountains. It was possibly the most stunning ground I’ve ever played at.”

Trego continued, “The hospitality I experienced was second to none I’ve ever experienced in twenty years as a pro and would love to return to Nepal to play again.”

The PPL aims to boost cricket in Nepal; not just for assisting international cricket to grow but for the numerous cricket fans. The league management team state that “producing tournaments like PPL will increase exposure for players, assist in the infrastructural development of cricket, and we will have regular cricket in domestic level as well.” Another stated aim is to elevate the status of the city for tourism and, consequentially, reap the economic benefits.

The PPL does not have a monopoly on franchise cricket.  It is indirectly competing with two other leagues. The Dhanghadhi Premier League (DPL) and the EPL are older than the PPL and have a better foothold on Nepal’s domestic cricket schedule. All three leagues have a six-team structure, but there appears to be a place for all three to co-exist. In a time where there is a saturation point in T20 cricket, Nepal is not there. The leagues have the capacity to provide additional jobs as well as meeting the fans’ desire for cricket.

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Rajan Shah is the Team Director of Butwal Blasters and has an ebullient outlook on the prospects for the PPL and cricket in Nepal, “If DPL and EPL learned season by season, PPL has come as a matured version of the T20 leagues. EPL remains its biggest competitor, but that is healthy for both the leagues. There are shortcomings in all three leagues, but they have helped keep Nepali cricket commercialized and recognizable even in the absence of CAN [Cricket Association of Nepal]. PPL is most popular among Nepali cricket players.”

The success of the PPL is intrinsically linked to the success of cricket in Nepal. Cricketers such as Sandeep Lamichhane are not unique. There will be other quality Nepali cricketers out there and having a showcase for their talents will help bring them to the fore. In turn, the national team will grow.  However, CAN needs to ensure that the required steps are in place so that the ICC’s conditional membership reinstatement becomes permanent.

CAN had been deemed, in 2016, to be in breach of regulations that require governments not to interfere and keep elections free and fair. Recent board elections that were overseen by an independent panel gave ICC comfort to reinstate CAN as a member. It would be a shame if Nepali cricketers, discovered by such tournaments, were not given a chance to play at the highest level. The ICC had allowed Nepal to compete despite the suspension of membership, but that would have been revoked had CAN not addressed its governance issues.

There are issues that CAN still need to sort such a formulating a strategic plan to move the game forward. The PPL will be an essential part of that strategy. Nepal still lacks a dedicated cricket stadium. As beautiful a view as Pokhara Rangasala has, the facilities need to be improved. That will require the co-operation of governments and landowners to finance such as outlay.

The first ball of season two will be bowled on Saturday, and the PPL will be showcasing cricket in Nepal, not just Pokhara. Fans will flock to the picturesque ground as they did in the first season. Those that can’t attend the games will watch via Himalaya TV or online. The challenge is to grow the market, and it will be difficult with the Bangladesh Premier League and the Big Bash League as competitors. If the second season builds on the foundations laid last year, the PPL will soon be soaring like the mountains that surround it.

 

Society

Tibetisation fear spreads : Separatism warning in Ladakh

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar

 

Ladakh environmentalist and Magsaysay award winner Sonam Wangchuk, said that Ladakhis were beginning to compare their treatment by India to that of Tibetans in China.

Ladakh environmentalist and Magsaysay award winner Sonam Wangchuk has raised fears about a separatist movement rearing its head in the newly created Union Territory if its people’s concerns about their identity and environment are not addressed.

The Leh engineer said that Ladakhis were beginning to compare their treatment by India to that of Tibetans in China.

He asked New Delhi to grant tribal status to Ladakhis, addressing their concerns about outsiders settling in the region, before it was too late.

Wangchuk’s life is believed to have influenced Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots and many see him as the real-life Phunsukh Wangdu. He is credited with inventing the Ice Stupa technique of creating artificial glaciers in the form of conical ice heaps to store water in winter.

Leh district is the only place in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir where people have overwhelmingly welcomed the decision to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.

Wangchuk is the first prominent voice in Leh, which along with Kargil makes up Ladakh, to have raised fears about separatism in the region.

“Sadly, there are murmurs whether the status of a Union Territory was granted to others to exploit the vast resources of Ladakh,” he has said in a widely circulated video, wearing a traditional Ladakhi dress and speaking chaste Hindi.

“Some are asking whether what is happening here is (similar to) what China did in Tibet. I hope the issue is resolved before the people’s love (for India) wanes and before alienation grows and turns into a separatist movement.”

Wangchuk has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to listen to what he calls the “mann ki baat (message from the heart) of Ladakh”, a takeoff of the title of Modi’s monthly radio broadcast.

He regretted that when Ladakhis visit Delhi or Mumbai, people call them “Chinki” or Chinese but Ladakhis always respond with “Jai Hind”. He praised the Prime Minister for meeting the region’s longstanding demand for Union Territory status.

But he complained: “Three months have passed and there is no announcement (on tribal status). People are very scared… and fear that their land is unsafe, their environment is unsafe.

“We have a very fragile ecology here. If there is indiscriminate development or a tenfold increase in population, the land here can’t bear it.”

Wangchuk appealed to the Centre for Leh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that deals with administration of tribal areas.

“We are not asking for any special law that needs to be enacted; we are asking for the implementation of one that is already in the Constitution,” he said.

BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi asked Wangchuk not to “unnecessarily incite the people” at a time when all their demands were being met. “The government is already doing what is required to preserve the identity and distinct culture of the Ladakh region. There is no need to issue a warning to the government,” he said.