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)


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 34 min 31 sec ago

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.