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
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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)


US takes back $100 million from Afghan govt over corruption

Updated 19 September 2019

US takes back $100 million from Afghan govt over corruption

  • Pompeo said the US will still finish the massive project that involves five power substations
  • He blamed the “Afghan government’s inability to transparently manage US Government resources.”

KABUL: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington is taking back $100 million intended for an Afghan energy infrastructure project, citing unacceptably high levels of corruption in the Afghan government.
In the harshly worded statement Thursday, Pompeo said the US will still finish the massive project that involves five power substations and a maze of transmission lines in southern Afghanistan. It just won’t be spending the money through Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, blaming the “Afghan government’s inability to transparently manage US Government resources.”
This follows an earlier statement, also from Pompeo, calling for “credible and transparent presidential election” when Afghans go to the polls Sept. 28.
The 2014 presidential election was marred by allegations of massive fraud, as was last year’s parliamentary vote.