India bans many single-use plastics to tackle waste choking rivers and poisoning wildlife

Agencies
July 1, 2022

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New Delhi, July 1: India imposed a ban on many single-use plastics on Friday in a bid to tackle waste choking rivers and poisoning wildlife, but experts say it faces severe headwinds from unprepared manufacturers and consumers unwilling to pay more.

The country generates around four million tonnes of plastic waste per year, about a third of which is not recycled and ends up in waterways and landfills that regularly catch fire and exacerbate air pollution.

Stray cows munching on plastic are a common sight in Indian cities and a recent study found traces in the dung of elephants in the northern forests of Uttarakhand state.

Estimates vary but around half comes from items used once, and the new ban covers the production, import and sale of ubiquitous objects like straws and cups made of plastic as well as wrapping on cigarette packets.

Exempt for now are products such as plastic bags below a certain thickness and so-called multi-layered packaging.

Authorities have promised to crack down hard after the ban -- first announced in 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- came into effect.

Inspectors are set to fan-out from Friday checking that no suppliers or distributors are flouting the rules at risk of a maximum fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,265) or five-year jail sentence.

Around half of India's regions have already sought to impose their own regulations but as the state of rivers and landfill sites testifies, success has been mixed.

Firms in the plastics industry, which employs millions of people, say that alternatives are expensive and they have been lobbying the government for a delay to the ban.

Pintu, who earns his living hacking the top of coconuts with a machete and serving them to customers with a plastic straw, doesn't know what he will do.

Switching to "expensive paper straws will be tough. I will likely pass the cost to the customers," he told AFP in New Delhi.

"I've heard it'll help the environment but I don't see how it'll change anything for us," he added.

GlobalData analysts said small packs with plastic straws make up 35 per cent of soft drinks volumes, meaning manufacturers will be "badly hit".

"(The) price-sensitive masses are unable to foot the bill for eco-friendly alternatives," Bobby Verghese from GlobalData added.

Jigish N. Doshi, president of industry group Plastindia Foundation, expects "temporary" job losses but said the bigger issue was firmed "which had invested huge capital for machines that may not be useful" after the ban.

"It's not easy to make different products from machines and the government could help by offering some subsidies and helping develop and purchase alternative products," Doshi told AFP.

Satish Sinha from environmental group Toxics Link told AFP that "there will be initial resistance" as finding replacements may be hard but it was a "very welcome step".

"There will be difficulties and we may pay the price but if you're serious about the environment, this is an important issue that needs a concerted push," he said.

One young company trying to be part of the change is Ecoware, which makes disposable bio-degradable products at its factory outside Delhi.

Chief executive Rhea Mazumdar Singhal told AFP that the appalling state of landfills and widespread plastic consumption inspired her venture.

"We've seen plenty of bans before, but as citizens the power lies with us," Singhal said. 

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News Network
August 5,2022

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Lucknow, Aug 5: A BJP leader allegedly beheaded his friend, a bullion trader and also a worker of the saffron party, in Uttar Pradesh's Agra town, about 350 kilometres from here.

According to the police sources here, Tinku Bhargava, who was an office bearer of the district unit of the BJP, allegedly beheaded the victim, identified as Naveen Verma, before shooting him dead on Thursday night.

Bhargava was caught by the cops in the wee hours of Friday while he, with the help of a friend of his, was looking for a place to dump the severed head and the body near the forested Sikandra Arsena area on the outskirts of the town, sources said.

Police officials in Agra said that the severed head and the body were recovered from the car of Bhargava, who, during questioning, confessed to perpetrating the crime.

Police said that Bhargava, who knew Verma well, called the latter on Thursday evening to join a liquor party. He later shot him dead and then allegedly severed his head. ''The assailants severed the victim's head and also stripped him to prevent his identification,'' said a senior police official in Agra on Friday.

The motive behind the gruesome killing was yet to be ascertained though sources said that the assailant had been having an affair with the victim's wife and wanted to eliminate him.

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News Network
August 10,2022

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New Delhi, Aug 10: Justice Uday Umesh Lalit was on Wednesday appointed as the 49th Chief Justice of India after President Droupadi Murmu signed his warrant of appointment.

He will assume charge on August 27 after incumbent N V Ramana demits office the day before.

"In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Shri Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, judge of the Supreme Court, to be the Chief Justice of India with effect from 27 August, 2022," a law ministry notification said.

Justice Lalit will have a brief tenure of less than three months. He will turn 65 on November 8 when he demits office.

Lalit is the second judge elevated directly from the bar to become chief justice of india. Justice SM Sikri was the first.

Maharashtra-born Lalit began his legal career in 1983. He practised in the Bombay High Court till 1985 and moved to Delhi in 1986.

In 2004, he became a senior Supreme Court advocate. Having experience in criminal law, he handled many high-profile cases. He has represented Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case.

Lalit has also served as the special public prosecutor in the 2G scam case.

He was appointed a Supreme Court judge in August 2014.

As an apex court judge, Lalit's landmark hearings include the "triple talaq" case. He was part of a five-judge bench that by a 3-2 majority in 2017 ruled that the practice was "illegal" and "unconstitutional".

He recused himself from the Ayodhya hearing because he had appeared for former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh in a case related to the Babri Masjid demolition.

Last year, a bench led by Lalit had reversed the Bombay High Court's controversial "skin to skin" ruling.

The High Court had held that “skin-to-skin contact” between an accused person and a child was required to make a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.  The Supreme Court had said the judgement would set a dangerous precedent.

In July this year, a bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha had sentenced fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya to four month jail in contempt of court case. Mallya was held guilty of contempt for disbursing $40 million to his family members in violation of the court orders.

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Agencies
August 12,2022

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New York, Aug 12: Controversial author Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck at an event in New York, US, on Friday. Details were scarce about his condition and the attacker, who has been detained. The 75-year-old author's writings have in the past led to threats.

The New York State Police confirmed the stabbing and said he was taken to an area hospital by helicopter. The attacker is in custody, police said. Social media posts showed people rushing to his aid on stage at Chautauqua Institution, about 100 km from the city. A person interviewing him suffered minor head injuries in the attack. 

Mr Rushdie fell to the floor immediately after the attack, and the attacker was restrained. A small group of people surrounded the author, holding up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest, AP reported. Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.

Rabbi Charles Savenor, who was in the audience, told AP: "This guy ran on to platform and started pounding on Mr Rushdie. At first you're like, ‘What's going on?' And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten." He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds. 

The attack happened around 11 am local time (8.30 pm IST) as Mr Rushdie was being introduced before he was to speak. The Chautauqua Institution, located in a rural part of New York, is known for its summertime lecture series. Mr Rushdie has spoken there before.

Delhi-based British writer William Dalrymple was among the first to react, hoping that Mr Rushdie wasn't hurt. "A terrible day for literature, for freedom of speech and for authors everywhere. Poor poor Salman: I pray he's not hurt and recovers quickly," he tweeted.

Mr Rushdie, 75, faced threats particularly in the late 1980s over his book, The Satanic Verses, which is banned in Iran since 1988 as it is alleged to be blasphemous towards Islam. There was also a reward out on his head by the Iranian top leader, though by 1998 the Iranian government said it wasn't seeking to enforce that 'fatwa' or edict. It wasn't clear if the attack is linked to that.

A British citizen of Indian origin, Mr Rushdie has lived in the US for the past 20 years. After the controversy over his fourth book, The Satanic Verses (1988), he remained out of the public eye, mostly living in the UK. Despite the threats, he produced several novels throughout the 1990s.

His first novel came out in 1975, but one of his seminal works is about modern India, Midnight's Children (1981), for which he won the Booker Prize. 

In 2007, he was knighted — given the ceremonial title of 'Sir' — by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature. He has produced over a dozen works, including non-fiction.

In 2012, after an Iranian religious outfit renewed the bounty on him, he dismissed that threat, saying there was "no evidence" of people being interested in the reward, said the AP report. That year, he published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa. The title came from the pseudonym he had used while in hiding.

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