Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

The eastern Indian city of Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life and 62-year-old Mohammad Maqbool Ansari is persevering as the gruelling trade is slowly fading from India.
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.”


Sudan protests against Egyptian Ramadan TV series Abu Omar al-Masri 

A still image from the TV series Abu Omar al-Masri.
Updated 21 May 2018
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Sudan protests against Egyptian Ramadan TV series Abu Omar al-Masri 

  • The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest against the series, starring Egyptian actor Ahmad Ezz. 
  • Khartoum is angered by the idea that Egyptian militants would find refuge in Sudan.

CAIRO: Sudan is officially angered by a new Egyptian drama series ‘Abu Omar al-Masri’ and is calling for banning it on television channels during Ramadan.  

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest against the series, starring Egyptian actor Ahmad Ezz. 

The ministry said it had also filed a formal complaint with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry through its embassy in Cairo against the serial, which is based on a novel of the same name.

 

It accused the series of “fabricating and promoting a negative image” picturing Sudan as a state where Egyptian terrorist fugitives reside.

“Abu Amr Al-Masry shows that some Egyptians living in Sudan are involved in terrorism,” the Sudanese ministry said in a statement. “This is not true because there is no evidence against any Egyptian living in Sudan of being involved in terrorism.”

“The series sought to convince viewers that some areas of Sudan were the location of some scenes in the series, by using Sudanese car plate numbers, without obtaining the consent of Sudanese authorities,” the statement said.

The ministry said those Egyptians living in Sudan have come following a coordination between the authorities and security services of the two countries.

“This television serial is insulting Egyptians living in Sudan and destroying the confidence and relations between the people of the two countries,” the ministry said. “The ministry urges the Egyptian authorities to take suitable steps to stop these attempts at disturbing the interests and achievements of the two countries.”

Producers and cast of the television series replied in a press release that he events are fictional. 

"The series script was written based on the scriptwriter's imagination and does not contain scenes or hints against the Sudanese government or the Sudanese people,” the channel airing the drama said in statement quoted by Egypt Today. 

Diplomatic ties between Cairo and Khartoum have largely remained tense, particularly since last year after Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir accused Egyptian intelligence services of supporting opposition figures fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones like Darfur.

Cairo accused Sudan of involvement in a 1995 assassination attempt by Egyptian militants against Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak during a trip to Ethiopia. Sudan denied the allegations, and expelled bin Laden and other militants the following year.

Ties between the two were further strained after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Khartoum earlier this year.

Turkey and Egypt have had tense relations since the Egyptian military ousted President Muhammad Mursi in 2013, a close ally of Erdogan.

In recent months tension also rose between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a controversial dam that Ethiopia is building along its share of the Nile. Cairo fears that once commissioned the dam will reduce water supplies from the Nile to Egypt. But on Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said that a “breakthrough” had been reached in talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over the dam.