India’s Kerala to give workers a siesta to help beat the heat

This photo taken on January 8, 2018 shows an Indian women picking tea leaves at a tea plantation near Munnar in the state of Kerala. (AFP)
Updated 07 March 2019

India’s Kerala to give workers a siesta to help beat the heat

  • There are an estimated 3 million migrant workers in Kerala, which offers daily wages that are up to three times higher than in other Indian states, labor rights campaigners say

MUMBAI: Workers in India’s Kerala state are now getting a three-hour afternoon siesta as part of a series of benefits aimed at combating soaring temperatures and improving labor conditions, government officials said on Wednesday.
Kerala, which suffered its worst floods in a century last year, is bracing itself for more extreme weather conditions in 2019 and the state’s disaster management authority last week issued sunstroke warnings for the next three months.
“There is extreme heat in Kerala. So we are making arrangements for workers and have announced a three-hour break from noon until 3 p.m.,” said Sreedharan Tulasidharan, a labor commissioner with the Kerala government.
There are an estimated 3 million migrant workers in Kerala, which offers daily wages that are up to three times higher than in other Indian states, labor rights campaigners say.
Most work in the construction, agriculture, mining and fishing industries.
“We call them our guests. Migrant workers’ output is very high. Their productivity contributes to our GDP. We are nurturing and treating them well,” Tulasidharan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
Climate experts have warned that the world can expect higher temperatures and more frequent heat waves, with the poorest communities likely to be worst-affected as the impacts of climate change kick-in.
The World Health Organization says heat-stress, linked to climate change, is likely to cause 38,000 extra deaths a year worldwide between 2030 and 2050.
Home to 60 percent of the world’s population, Asia-Pacific is the planet’s most disaster-prone region, according to the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017.
India, with approximately 1.3 billion people, is the second most populous country in the world and also among the most disaster-prone. Heat waves in India caused over 2,400 deaths in 2015, according to government data.
Officials of the Kerala’s disaster management authority said cases of heat stroke and sunburn were already being reported and they had asked various government departments to take precautionary measures.
“Summer in Kerala was never harsh,” said Sekhar L. Kuriakose, a senior official with the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, which issued the sunstroke warning last week.
“This year we saw temperatures rise by 3 degrees in 14 days during February. That is not normal,” said Kuriakose.
Kerala announced health and pension benefits for migrant workers in November.
Last week, the state inaugurated hostels for migrant workers in Palakkad town and now plans to expand the scheme.
With high levels of literacy and an aging population, Kerala leans heavily on migrant workers, said Benoy Peter, executive director at Kerala’s Center for Migration and Inclusive Development, a non-profit.
($1 = 70.5425 Indian rupees)


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 26 January 2020

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.