Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

28/07/2015

Apple ‘fake factory’ raided in China – BBC News

A factory which allegedly made up to 41,000 fake Apple iPhones has been raided in China, with nine arrests.

iphone 6

The operation reportedly involved “hundreds” of workers repackaging second hand smartphone parts as new iPhones for export, with counterfeit phones produced worth 120m yuan ($19m).

The factory was discovered on 14 May but was revealed on social media by Beijing’s public security bureau on Sunday, according to reports.

The operation was set up in January.

It was led by a husband and wife team, on the northern outskirts of the Chinese capital, according to Beijing authorities.

They said they had been alerted to the factory by US authorities which had seized some of the fake phones.

The reports come amid an official Chinese crackdown on counterfeit goods, with authorities pushing firms to trademark their goods.

China has also agreed to work with the US authorities to try to stem the large quantities of fake goods flowing between the two countries.

The discovery of the factory comes four years after fake Apple stores were found in Kunming city, China.

Discovered by blogger BirdAbroad, the fakes were so convincing she said many of the staff themselves were convinced that they were employed by the US electronics firm.

via Apple ‘fake factory’ raided in China – BBC News.

28/07/2015

Confucius says, Xi does | The Economist

TWO emerging cults are on display in Qufu, a city in eastern China where Confucius was born. One surrounds the ancient sage himself. At a temple in his honour, visitors take turns to bow and prostrate themselves before a large statue of Confucius seated on a throne. For each obeisance, a master of ceremonies chants a wish, such as for “success in exams” or “peace of the country”. On the other side of the city the tomb of Confucius is the scene of similar adoration—flowers adorn it as if he were a loved one recently lost.

The other cult in Qufu surrounds the country’s president, Xi Jinping. People still recall with excitement the trip he made to the city in 2013. It was the first by a Communist Party chief in more than two decades; in fact, though Mr Xi has visited Qufu he has not, since becoming China’s leader, paid respects at the birthplace of Mao Zedong at Shaoshan in Hunan province. Today plates decorated with Mr Xi’s image are for sale in Qufu’s trinket shops. His beaming face is on display on a large billboard outside the Confucius Research Institute, together with a quotation from the modern sage: “In the spread of Confucianism around the world, China must fully protect its right to speak up,” it begins.

Since he came to power in 2012, Mr Xi has sought to elevate Confucius—whom Mao vilified—as the grand progenitor of Chinese culture. He did not go so far as to pay homage at the Confucius temple in Qufu, where Mao’s Red Guard mobs once wrought havoc (one of their slogans, “Revolution is not a crime”, still survives daubed on a stone tablet). Neither did his few published remarks include explicit praise for Confucian philosophy, which still raises hackles among party hacks brought up to regard it as the underpinning of “feudal” rule in premodern China.

To emperors, who were regular visitors to Qufu, Confucianism was practically a state religion. “Uncle Xi”, for all the mini-cult surrounding him, does not seem keen to be viewed as a latter-day emperor. But like leaders of old, he evidently sees Confucianism as a powerful ideological tool, with its stress on order, hierarchy, and duty to ruler and to family. Unlike the party’s imported, indigestible Marxist dogma, Confucianism has the advantage of being home-grown. It appeals to a yearning for ancient values among those unsettled by China’s blistering pace of change.

Though the party has quietly been rehabilitating Confucius for some time, under Mr Xi the pace has quickened. In February 2014 he convened a “collective study” session of the ruling Politburo at which he said that traditional culture should act as a “wellspring” nourishing the party’s values. Official accounts of the session made no mention of Confucius, but party literature made it clear that the values Mr Xi spoke of—such as benevolence, honesty and righteousness—were those espoused by the philosopher. In September Mr Xi became the first party chief to attend a birthday party for Confucius (who turned 2,565). China, he told assembled scholars from around the world, had always been peace-loving—a trait, he said, that had “very deep origins in Confucian thinking”. In May state media reported that the link between Marxism and Confucianism, which some might consider rather tenuous, was the “hottest topic” in the study of humanities in 2014.

Add plenty of sage

Under Mr Xi the party has tweaked its ideological mantras to sound more Confucian. At the party congress in 2012 that marked Mr Xi’s assumption of power, slogans about “core socialist values” were distilled into 12 words, each formed by two Chinese characters and plastered all over Beijing and other cities. The ideas are a hotch-potch. Some are strikingly Western, such as democracy, freedom and equality. There is a nod to socialism with “dedication to work”. Others, such as harmony and sincerity, look more Confucian. Zhang Yiwu of Peking University notes a similarity with the “shared values” adopted by Singapore’s government in 1991. Authoritarian Singapore, where officials hold Confucianism in high regard, has been an inspiration to China, Mr Zhang says.

via Confucius says, Xi does | The Economist.

19/07/2015

Farmer suicides in Karnataka – The Hindu

Is it falling prices? Is it a glut in production? Or are farmers just falling into debt because of aspirational spending? Whatever the reason, Karnataka is again facing the spectre of rising suicides

“Crop loans are difficult to get, but large personal or consumption loans are easily available. This is the surest way to push farmers into deep debt, from which they are unable to recover because their earnings cannot keep pace with agricultural costs.” Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash

Krishna, 32, a farmer in Singamaranahalli, about 30 km from Hunsur in Mysuru district, consumed pesticide and died in the first week of June. The sesame farmer with three acres of land could not survive the debt trap he was in. He had defaulted on repayment to a local cooperative bank, fallen into the clutches of moneylenders, the water table had dropped, and his borewells had run dry. Having lost all hope of repaying the loans, he decided to end it all.

In the last fortnight alone, 50 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka. The State Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda admits “it is alarming”. What is puzzling is that cases of farmer suicides had actually dropped over the last two years and have now suddenly begun to increase from mid-June onwards.

The suicides point to two things: first, a serious agrarian crisis shaped by an increase in cultivation costs and a decline in agricultural income, which is pushing farmers into a debt trap; and second, the sociological pressures that farmers face because of the disparity between their income and those in urban areas.

Vivek Cariappa is an organic farmer from Mysuru. He talks of the insecurity among farmers because neither the State nor institutional mechanisms have been able to address the crisis.

It is difficult to get crop loans, he says, but loans for consumption goods like cars, or personal loans for weddings and festivals are easily available. It is the surest way to push farmers into debt.

In Panakanahalli in Mandya district, Mahesh took a loan for his sister’s marriage. In Kestur village of Chamarajanagar district, Nanjundaiah borrowed Rs. 30,000 from a bank and Rs. 4 lakh from moneylenders to get his daughters married. Both farmers were unable to repay the loans and committed suicide.

The problem is also sociological: Farmers who aspire to the lifestyle of salaried persons end up taking loans, sometimes at 60-80 per cent interest rates, and become prey to loan sharks.

“ There is a serious agrarian crisis with an increase in agricultural costs and a decline in earnings. There is also sociological pressure ”

For most farmers across the State, what were once considered luxury items such as cars have now become aspirational necessities. Kurubur Shanthakumar, President of the State Sugarcane Growers’ Association, talks of how he followed his father’s footsteps and became a farmer, but his son wanted to study in Mysuru. This ended up costing Shanthakumar a sizeable sum of money. The pressure is most severe in areas close to the big urban centres of Mysuru and Bengaluru, but is true in general all over, points out G.K. Veeresh, former chairman of the State government’s committee that studied farmer suicides in 2002.

Then, mono-cropping had been seen as a major cause for suicides. Mr. Veeresh talks about how farmers had a tendency to focus on a single crop if it had seen commercial success. The problem was, when it failed, they faced total collapse. More than land holding, says Mr. Veeresh, crop planning is the bigger issue. Farmers must be educated to see the long-term benefits of “multi crop-multi income” farming.

But this time around, the farmers who committed suicide don’t appear to have stayed with one crop. Yes, some sugarcane farmers have faced a major crisis after sugar factories, mostly owned by powerful politicians, defaulted on payments, but they have not accounted for the majority of suicides.

T.N. Prakash, Chairman, Karnataka Agriculture Price Commission, speaks of the urgent need to address the issue of rising input costs when incomes stay stagnant. One suggestion Mr. Prakash makes is interesting. He says that the Agriculture Price Commission could instead become a commission for agricultural cost, prices and farmer’s incomes, which would give it more authority to implement suitable measures.

Another reason could be a glut in production. Mr. Cariappa and Mr. Shanthakumar point out that the State, despite having records of the area under sugarcane cultivation and the crushing capacities of sugar mills, has turned a blind eye to excessive cultivation. This has kept prices low enough to benefit the sugar mills owned by politicians.

This glut is true for cotton, tobacco and other crops as well. Excess production helps processing industries, as it ensures that the prices of raw materials stay low and they profit from it. There is also “mass hysteria” when a farmer commits suicide, and it may result in others taking the same step. Politics over farmer suicides and the wide publicity they get tend, in a way, to “glorify” suicides and worsen the situation, says Mr. Veeresh.

via Farmer suicides in Karnataka – The Hindu.

13/07/2015

Tales of the unexpected | The Economist

WEIJIA is a typical Chinese seven-year-old. He loves riding his bike and anything to do with cars; he is a badminton fanatic and has lessons twice a week. In a few months’ time, however, he will become rather less typical. He will have a brother or sister—something most urban Chinese children lack.

His parents are taking advantage of a relaxation in November 2013 of the country’s strict family-planning rules. Couples are now allowed to have a second baby if one parent is an only child. After more than 35 years of often brutal enforcement of the one-child-per-couple policy, some had expected a mini baby-boom to follow. The National Health and Family Planning Commission estimated that the new rules would allow 11m more couples to have a second child (there were already exemptions for some). It thought that 2m of them would try in the first year. But by the end of 2014 fewer than 1.1m people had applied for the necessary permit.

 

That worries the government, which has tweaked the rules not out of sympathy for lonely only children or for parents who want a spare heir, but because of a population crunch. The country is ageing rapidly. In 2012 its labour pool shrank for the first time in 50 years. In the largest cities the fertility rate—meaning the number of children an average woman is likely to have during her lifetime—is among the lowest in the world, at around one. For the country as a whole it is less than 1.6—far below the level of 2.1 needed to keep the population steady (see chart).

The one-child policy did not curb Chinese fertility as much as its boosters imagine. By the time it was introduced in 1979, the fertility rate had already fallen to 2.8 from 5.8 in under a decade, thanks to usually less coercive efforts to encourage fewer births. Ruthless enforcement of the new policy resulted in widespread forced abortions and infanticide. It inflicted misery on parents who wanted larger families. But its overall impact on births was limited. In most countries, rising affluence has led to fewer babies. India’s fertility rate fell steadily over the same period without such formal policies, even though its economy did not grow nearly as fast as China’s. In wealthy South Korea the birth rate has fallen to 1.3 children per woman, down from six in 1960.

China’s authorities have now changed tack, from relentlessly proclaiming the virtues of having only one child to encouraging eligible couples to “procreate legally”. But they should not be surprised that this is failing to achieve the desired effect.

Since the 1980s rural families whose first child was a girl have been allowed to try for another. More recently, couples who are both single children have been allowed to have a second. Yet the uptake has been low. Academics, including Cai Yong of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, conducted a study in 2007-10 in the coastal province of Jiangsu. They found that among 2,500 urban and rural women they surveyed who were entitled to have a second child, only 6.5% did so. Ethnic minorities (nearly a tenth of the population), have long been allowed to have two or more. But on average each ethnic-minority woman bears only about 1.5 children, according to a census in 2010.

Mr Cai believes that rising incomes have been a big cause of shrinking family size. “Development is the best contraceptive,” he says. Births would have plummeted even without the one-child policy, he reckons, though not as fast or as low. Families worry about the expense of having babies: good education and health care are increasingly pricey. A study by Credit Suisse in 2013 found that couples typically spend over 22,500 yuan ($3,600) a year to raise a child to the age of 18. That is more than three-quarters of the average annual disposable income per person of urban households. A government report in 2015 said that in the first five years of a child’s life, city parents spend twice as much as rural ones, even before the high cost of urban housing is included—particularly near the best schools (see article).

Chinese families want their offspring not only to get a good education, but also to gain an edge in the global jobs market. Hence Weijia’s parents spend nearly 15% of their annual income just on classes for him, including weekly English lessons. Over half of children under six take extra classes in addition to those at kindergarten, according to IResearch, a Chinese market-research company.

Grandparents help to reduce the cost of child care (they often live with their grown-up children). But since people marry and have children later than they used to, the age of live-in grandparents is rising too; fewer are sprightly enough to deal with two children. It has become so common in China to have only one child that society is no longer geared to handle multiple offspring: hotel rooms for two children cannot be booked online (parents must call); play vehicles in parks seat two adults and one youngster; toothbrush-holders in family bathrooms often have space for just three brushes.

Decades of propaganda about the benefits of single children have changed the way parents think, says Wang Feng of the University of California, Irvine. A belief that China has too many people is widely shared, as is a conviction that the country would have been far worse off without the one-child policy. Many Chinese are surprisingly willing to blame the country’s terrible traffic and its air and water pollution on overpopulation, rather than bad planning. Having just one child still has the whiff of the patriotic about it.

The government’s next step may be to allow all couples to have two children. There is much speculation that the country’s parliament will approve this next year. Family-planning bureaucrats still fret about what might happen if restrictions were to be lifted. But the same factors of cost and hassle will continue to suppress the birth rate, regardless of how fast the policy is adjusted. Growing numbers of young Chinese people now prefer not to marry or have children at all.

via Tales of the unexpected | The Economist.

03/07/2015

Fridges, Cellphones and Divorce Rates: Independent India’s First Socio Economic and Caste Census – WSJ

India on Friday released the results of a census that gives the first large-scale picture of India’s caste and socio-economic makeup since 1932.

The numbers from the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 reveal where Indians live, what work they do and what kind of products they own. They are separate from the Census of India that is carried out every 10 years, and highlight major gaps in education and job opportunities.

Here are 10 key numbers, all relating to houses in rural areas, from the census.

TAX

4.58%

The percentage of households where someone pays income tax.

Less than 10% of households get their income from a salaried job. Of these, around 5% are employed in government jobs, just over 1% in the public sector and 3.5% in private entities.

In only 8% of households, the highest earning member makes Rs. 10,000 ($157) or more a month. It is hardly a surprise then, that fewer than 5% pay income tax.

REFRIGERATORS

11.04%

The percentage of households with a refrigerator. Whether they have the electricity to run it is another question.

Goa has the highest percentage of households in rural areas with a fridge–at 69%. By contrast, in Bihar, only 2.61% of households in the countryside have a fridge.

NO PHONES

50 million

Households that don’t own a landline or a mobile phone. Roughly 70% of the 179 million rural households in India own cellphones.

But 27% have neither a cellphone nor a landline. The eastern states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa, home to some of India’s largest indigenous populations, have the lowest access to telecommunications.

DIVORCEES

1,052,210

Divorced people living in rural areas. That’s just 0.12% of the population. Divorce is very rare in India.

FAMILY SIZE

4.93

Average household size in rural areas. Though in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most-populous state with 200 million people, the average number of people in a rural household is 6.26.

WOMEN HEADS

12.83%

The percentage of households headed by a woman.

MANUAL SCAVENGERS

180,657

The number of people who carry out manual scavenging, a practice of collecting human waste from primitive dry latrines by hand, which is outlawed but persists.  Manual scavengers are usually from the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system (Indian Muslim communities have similar low-status members who perform this job) and women, according to U.S. human-rights group Human Rights Watch.

MECHANIZATION

4%

Of households own mechanized equipment with three or four wheels for carrying out manual labor through which they earn a living.

Nearly 40% of households don’t own land and earn wages through casual, manual labor. Agriculture is tough work, with 40% of rural land still lacking irrigation facilities.

LEARNING

35%

More than 35% of rural Indians are illiterate, with the highest numbers of those who can’t read or write coming from the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

MAKESHIFT HOUSING

45%

Nearly half of rural households still live in what are called “kuccha” houses, which include structures made of materials such as thatch, mud, plastic and wood.

via Fridges, Cellphones and Divorce Rates: Independent India’s First Socio Economic and Caste Census – WSJ.

01/07/2015

India Lags Behind Pakistan, Nepal on Sanitation – India Real Time – WSJ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made sanitation a priority for his country, saying he would rather build toilets than temples and setting a goal for every home in the country to have a place to go to the bathroom by 2019.

But new data show India is lagging behind its neighbors in providing access to adequate sanitation.

“Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water,” a report published by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization this week, says that advancements in meeting Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, by 2015 in relation to sanitation have faltered worldwide. The report says 2.4 billion people still don’t have access to improved sanitation.

 

Mr. Modi launched his Clean India, or Swachh Bharat, campaign last year for good reason. Research shows that the practice of open defecation is linked to a higher risk of stunting in children and the spread of disease. A World Health Organization report said in 2014 that 597 million people in India still relieved themselves outdoors.  And the new WHO/Unicef report says that the Southern Asia region has the highest number of people who defecate in the open.

The new data show that despite recent efforts, over the past 25 years, India has been losing the regional race to improve sanitation.

Its neighbors, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan led the way with the greatest percentage-point change in the proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities between 1990 and 2015.

Pakistan’s percentage point change was 40–64% of people have use an improved sanitation facility. In Nepal, a country in which just 4% of people had access to improved sanitation facilities in 1990, access rose by 42 percentage points to 46%. Bangladesh improved its score by 27 percentage points — 61% now have access to improved sanitation facilities.

India meanwhile, had a lower 23 percentage point increase in the same period – bringing the number of people with access to improved sanitation facilities to 40%.

And Sri Lanka is way ahead, with 95% of people having access to improved sanitation.

via India Lags Behind Pakistan, Nepal on Sanitation – India Real Time – WSJ.

29/06/2015

India’s Victory Over Polio Has an Unexpected Consequence – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s aggressive eradication of polio established the template for moving a disease from endemic to eliminated and has been lauded by the World Health Organization.

But in the process, a rise in the prevalence of another polio-like condition, acute flaccid paralysis, has been recorded.

Known as AFP, the condition is the sudden onset of muscle weakness or the inability to move limbs, and can be a tell-tale sign of polio, but is also a symptom of other diseases, including transverse myelitis, which causes injury to the spinal cord, Guillain Barre Syndrome, a nerve disorder, and Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus.

Since 1997, children in India who present with AFP are immediately tested for polio to comply with polio-eradication protocol and doing so has been one of the foundation stones for eradication.

Just this month, more than 200 young patients in the country’s most-populous state Uttar Pradesh, suffering from AFP were tested for polio. They didn’t have the virus, the federal Health Ministry said in a statement.

Such surveillance has resulted in a huge rise in reported cases of AFP.

In 2003, when polio was endemic in India, 8,500 cases of AFP were recorded. So far in 2015, a year after India was declared polio free, there have been nearly 18,000 reported instances but none linked to polio.

Often the cause of AFP remains unknown.

via India’s Victory Over Polio Has an Unexpected Consequence – India Real Time – WSJ.

25/06/2015

China says economic losses from drug abuse hit $81 billion a year | Reuters

China on Wednesday gave its first-ever assessment of the scourge of drug abuse, saying it caused annual economic losses of 500 billion yuan ($80.54 billion) and as many as 49,000 deaths last year.

China has intensified a crackdown on drugs as the rise of a new urban class with greater disposable income has fueled a surge in the numbers of drug addicts.

In its fight on drug abuse, the government arrested a string of celebrities, including the son of Hong Kong kungfu movie star Jackie Chan. Jaycee Chan, 32, was released in February, after serving a six-month jail sentence on drug charges.

China has more than 14 million drug users, Liu Yuejin, assistant minister of public security, told a news conference.

“The direct economic losses caused by drug use in the entire country have hit 500 billion yuan annually,” Liu said.

Drug abuse had killed at least 49,000 registered users by the end of 2014 and fueled a rise in crimes such as murder, abduction and rape, Liu added.

China’s share of synthetic drug users eclipsed heroin users for the first time last year, according to an annual report on the drug situation.

By the end of 2014, China had about 1.2 million users of methamphetamine, up almost 41 percent from a year earlier.

Two major overseas drug sources for China are southeast Asia’s “Golden Triangle,” where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet, and south Asia’s “Golden Crescent“, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, Liu said.

Heroin and methamphetamine are being smuggled into China’s southwestern province of Yunnan and region of Guangxi, which both border Southeast Asia, Liu added.

To fight this situation, China was strengthening law enforcement cooperation with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and other countries, he said.

via China says economic losses from drug abuse hit $81 billion a year | Reuters.

25/06/2015

At least 18 dead in attack in China’s Xinjiang: Radio Free Asia | Reuters

At least 18 people are dead after ethnic Uighurs attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in China’s western Xinjiang region, Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday.

The attack occurred on Monday in a district of the southern city of Kashgar, where tensions between Muslim Uighurs that call the region home and the majority Han Chinese have led to bloodshed in recent years.

Suspects killed several police officers with knives and bombs after speeding through a traffic checkpoint in a car in Kashgar’s Tahtakoruk district, U.S.-based Radio Free Asia said, citing Turghun Memet, an officer at a nearby police station.

Armed police responded to the attack and killed 15 suspects “designated as terrorists,” Radio Free Asia cited Memet as saying.

An SVG map of China with the Xinjiang autonomo...

An SVG map of China with the Xinjiang autonomous region highlighted Legend: Image:China map legend.png The orange area is Aksai Chin, a part of Xinjiang which is claimed by India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attack comes at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a sensitive time in Xinjiang after an uptick in attacks over the past three years in which hundreds have died, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants.

Repeated calls to the Xinjiang government news office were not answered. Such incidents are frequently reported in overseas media but not confirmed by the Chinese government until days later, if ever.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say repressive government policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam and on Uighur culture, have provoked unrest, a claim that Beijing denies.

via At least 18 dead in attack in China’s Xinjiang: Radio Free Asia | Reuters.

23/06/2015

After mega celebrations, government plans Rs 500 crore boost for yoga – The Times of India

The massive yoga day celebrations at Rajpath on Sunday could mark a new push for popularizing the discipline across the country. The ministry of Ayush is now working on a detailed proposal to promote as well as regulate yoga across the country. A comprehensive Rs 500 crore-plan is being drawn up for creation of infrastructure for yoga, and for training facilities and research on the ancient Indian practice.

 

“The International Day of Yoga is just a start. We want to take yoga to the remotest village of our country and to do that we need to create dedicated infrastructure, facilities and do research … Ayush ministry is working out a plan. It would require at least Rs 500 crore,” minister of state for Ayush Shripad Naik told TOI.

via After mega celebrations, government plans Rs 500 crore boost for yoga – The Times of India.

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