Toilet controversy: India’s Modi ignores protests to collect Gates award

For building more than 100 million toilets in India since 2014 to address the issue of open defecation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday received an award from the Gates Foundation in New York. (Reuters)
Updated 25 September 2019

Toilet controversy: India’s Modi ignores protests to collect Gates award

NEW YORK: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday brushed aside an outcry from human rights activists to receive an award from the Gates Foundation in New York for his efforts to end open defecation.
The decision to honor the Indian leader provoked several withering op-eds and the ire of three Nobel prize winners, citing rising attacks against minorities under Modi’s tenure, while British-Asian actors Jameela Jamil and Riz Ahmed who had been due to attend dropped out.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it respected the critics’ views but defended its decision, saying sanitation is a neglected issue and India’s program can serve as a model for other countries.
“I dedicate this award to all those Indians who transformed the ‘Clean India Mission’ into a people’s movement and started giving cleanliness the highest priority in their daily lives,” Modi said after collecting the award from billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
India’s government says it has built more than 100 million toilets under a $20 billion initiative begun in 2014 to address the issue of open defecation, particularly in rural areas, a major public health issue in the country.
Under Modi’s plan, tribal households get $200 each for building latrines.
But ahead of the ceremony, Nobel Peace Prize winners Mairead Maguire, Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman and Shirin Ebadi said that under Modi’s leadership, “India has descended into dangerous and deadly chaos that has consistently undermined human rights, democracy.
“This is particularly troubling to us as the stated mission of your foundation is to preserve life and fight inequity,” they wrote, urging the Gates Foundation to change its decision.
In addition to a rise in mob lynchings of Muslims, Christians, and Dalits, they noted the decision by Genocide Watch to issue warnings for the state of Assam and Indian-administered Kashmir.
The disputed territory is under a communications blackout that has lasted 50 days after Modi rescinded its autonomy.
The award was also protested in an online petition that garnered 100,000 signatures as well as a comment piece co-authored by feminist leader Gloria Steinem.
Modi won a second term in a huge election victory in May and drew tens of thousands of diaspora fans on Sunday in an unusual joint rally in Houston with President Donald Trump.
He did not respond to the criticism over the award.
The Gates Foundation told AFP in a statement: “Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do.
“The Swachh Bharat Mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world’s poorest.”


Heavy rain across Cairo cause chaos as residents use bulldozer to escape floods

A video was circulated over social media showing a bulldozer carrying people to help them get to the other side of the road that was flooded by the rain. (Screenshot)
Updated 23 October 2019

Heavy rain across Cairo cause chaos as residents use bulldozer to escape floods

  • Flooding on roads heading to Cairo’s International Airport caused severe delays for flight passengers
  • Authorities in Cairo deployed several vacuum trucks to clear the roads

DUBAI: Heavy rain hit Cairo on Tuesday resulting in floods across the city, leaving residence stranded.  

A video was circulated over social media showing a bulldozer carrying people to help them get to the other side of the road that was flooded by the rain.

 

Scenes of large pools of water were spread among Cairo’s districts including Heliopolis, Nasr city and Salah Salem.

Pictures of people swimming in the puddles were shared on social media. Other images showed floating boxed packages while others pretended to fish in the streams of water gushing down the streets.

 

The weather also caused flight delays, and heavy traffic across the city’s busiest roads, Egypt local press reported.

Flooding on roads heading to Cairo’s International Airport caused severe delays for flight passengers.

In response to the weather conditions, EgyptAir delayed departure time for flights until the maximum number of passengers arrive at the airport.

“The airline has decided to delay the departure of some flights due to the heavy rains, until the arrival of the maximum amount of passengers booked for these flights, to preserve the rights of our customers,” EgyptAir said in a statement.

The flood caused Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to give schools and universities in Cairo a day off on Wednesday, as more rain is expected.

In response to the prime minister’s announcement, Egyptian influencer and university student, Mohamed Tarek, shared a video on Facebook expressing his joy after hearing the news.

Authorities in Cairo deployed several vacuum trucks to clear the roads.

The Egyptian Meteorological Authority had sent out weather warnings earlier this week, with expectations of weather disruptions across the country from Monday to Friday.