China cracks down on doomsday rumors

Updated 17 December 2012
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China cracks down on doomsday rumors

BEIJING: China has detained dozens of people, some of whom it terms doomsday cult members, as part of a nationwide crackdown on rumors about a supposed forthcoming apocalypse, state media said yesterday.
Authorities in five different areas have detained 52 people for spreading predictions of a Dec. 21 “doomsday” linked to the ancient Mayan calendar, the state news agency Xinhua reported. The apocalypse predictions have received widespread coverage in China, thanks in part to the success of the Hollywood disaster film “2012.”
Those detained include 34 people in the eastern province of Fujian, and two in the central city of Wuhan who handed out leaflets about the apocalypse at transport facilities, the report said. “People have fabricated and spread rumors about the ‘end of the world’, caused trouble by tricking people out of money, and disturbed social order,” the report cited police in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing as saying.


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 27 April 2018
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Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”