Tag: India

Australian Human Rights Commission slams India flight ban as raising ‘serious human rights concerns’


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, May 2, 2021: Thew Australian Human Rights Commission has slammed Australia’s inbound flight ban from India as raising ‘serious human rights concerns.

While supporting the continuation of aid to the Indian Government as it copes with the current COVID-19 crisis, the commission holds deep concerns about these extraordinary new restrictions on Australians returning to Australia from India.

It says, “The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified. The Government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.

The Commission urges Parliament’s Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 to review these new restrictions immediately.

The Commission is approaching the Australian Government directly with its concerns.

The Commission has previously provided a detailed analysis of the human rights implications of COVID-19 emergency measures – and what principles are important to consider.”

India’s COVID crisis: How did it happen and what to expect | DW Special Report (Watch Video)

Source- dw.com

Why are COVID cases surging in India?

A man sees a notice with the 'Oxygen bed are not available' message
A man sees a notice that ‘Oxygen beds are not available’ amid the surge in India’s Coronavirus cases, at a COVID care centre in New Delhi on April 22, 2021. Photo-ANI

India recorded the world’s highest-ever daily tally of 314,835 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday (22 April 2021).

The South Asian nation’s total cases are now at 15.93 million, while deaths rose by 2,104 over the past 24 hours to reach 184,657, according to the latest Health Ministry data.

The massive surge in infection numbers has put an enormous strain on India’s health system, producing heart-breaking images of people desperately searching for hospital beds and oxygen tanks to save virus-infected relatives.

Shortages of medical oxygen, beds, and anti-viral drugs in several parts of the country, coupled with an increasing number of sick people, continue to overwhelm hospitals.


On Thursday, the Supreme Court likened the situation to a “national emergency” and directed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to prepare a national plan on oxygen supply, essential drugs, and vaccinations.

In an interview with DW, health expert Gautam Menon talks about the reasons behind India’s skyrocketing infections and what needs to be done to bring the situation back under control.

DW: What has contributed to this massive surge in coronavirus cases in India?

Gautam Menon: There are many factors. Negligence on the part of people and officials has led to everyone letting their guard down, possible reinfections because of a loss of antibodies and new virus variants have all contributed to the surge.

The “double mutant” variant, known as B.1.617, first detected in India’s Maharashtra state, is currently the predominant one in the country and it’s lethal and more infectious. There are also other variants like those first found in the UK and in Brazil that are spreading faster in the country.

Genome sequencing indicates that infections caused by the double mutant variant are on the rise across the country.

But unless we know to what extent the increase in infections can be attributed to the new variant, we will not be able to determine conclusively whether laxity in following COVID-appropriate behavior drove the surge or whether the greater virulence of the new variant is responsible.

Why is the double mutant variant more infectious and lethal?

It has two critical mutations that could lead to an improvement in the ability of the virus to bind with human cells. This makes it more effective.

The B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV-2 carries two mutations, E484Q and L452R. Both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, but they have been reported together for the first time in India.

What is more worrying is that this variant is showing the ability to escape the human immune system and evade antibodies created by a prior infection or by vaccination.

What needs to be done now to bring the situation in India under control?

Most hospitals across the country now have dangerously low levels of oxygen supplies. It is important that private players and industry join forces with the government to increase capacity.

Moving forward, I think state governments should act appropriately and adapt their measures to the evolving situation.

It is important to restrict gatherings in public places like shopping malls and cinema halls, among others. A nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the virus will be an extreme step and it will be economically disastrous.

Could we have prevented the current worrying situation in India?

We came to know about the new variant circulating in India in February, from reports coming out of Maharashtra. Now it has spread to many states and countries. Had we acted with more alacrity when it was first detected, we might have been able to lessen the impact.

When do you see the situation improving?

It might be difficult to predict. But given that the second wave has yet to reach its peak, I don’t see the situation improving anytime before mid-May, or maybe even before the end of May.

Any improvement in the situation will also be contingent on people adhering to COVID-related restrictions and receiving vaccinations. We need to vaccinate 10 million a day if we are to achieve our target of vaccinating 300 million people by August.

How far can vaccination help given that this new double mutant variant seems to show “immune escape” behavior?

I think more studies needs to be done in this regard. I am not sure if the variant seriously impacts vaccine-derived immunity. It may not.

Dr Gautam Menon is a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University, Sonepat, Haryana.

The interview was conducted by Murali Krishnan in New Delhi. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.


DW 220x220

BOOK REVIEW: The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns


By Bhaskar Parichha

The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns; By Robert Elgood; Niyogi Books, New Delhi; Rs 4500; 2020.

When an international arms historian discovers the famous Indian firearms in a book with a focus on the legendary Jodhpur collection, it ought to be stimulating. Jodhpur was one of the most important military states in Rajasthan, playing a major role in the subcontinent’s history. During the reign of Maharaja Ajit Singh (1678-1724), large numbers of guns were purchased when his daughter married the Mughal emperor.

Today, Jodhpur owns the best Indian matchlocks in the subcontinent, much admired at the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Successive maharajas have only added to the collection. All this and much more is chronicled in this magnificent book ‘The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns’ (Niyogi Books, New Delhi). Robert Elgood’s book is a deeply researched one and, in unison, looks like a silken coffee-table book.

Fellow of the London Royal Asiatic Society and the Society of Antiquaries, Elgood is an expert on the historic arms of Hindu India and the Islamic world. Author or editor of many books – the major ones being ‘Islamic Arms and Armour, Arms and Armour of Arabia’, ‘Firearms of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Collection, Kuwait’, ‘Hindu Arms and Ritual, The Arms of Greece and her Balkan Neighbours in the Ottoman Period’, ‘Arms and Armour at the Jaipur Court and Rajput Arms’ and ‘Armour: The Rathores and their Armoury at Jodhpur Fort’–Elgood is a DPhil in Indian Anthropology from Oxford and has worked at Sotheby’s and the Wallace Collection besides an independent consultant at various major museums.


As the blurb says, in 1972, Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur-Marwar transformed the Mehrangarh Fort into a Rajput museum and cultural center, and the present book is part of the exposition. In the book, Elgood explores the history of gunpowder and firearms in India. It has a detailed description of the firearms as they have evolved in the subcontinent.

In the opening chapters, Elgood reconnoiters the invention of gunpowder weapons and their arrival in medieval India. He looks at the Indian matchlock guns with revolving mechanisms in the Portuguese eastern empire. Then he showcases many lamchars, swivel guns or Shuturnals, 17th-19th century banduks, Sindhi jezails, Balochistan matchlocks, Indian blunderbusses, matchlock pistols and combination weapons, powder flasks, miniature cannon, British military guns, European civilian guns, 19th- and 20th-century European and American pistols, and late 19th- and 20th-century air pistols. The book also analyzes the advances in sporting guns in India in the 19th century.

Pages transcribed from the 1926 hunting diary of Maharaja Umaid Singh, and a catalogue of his sporting guns are the other highlights of this splendid book on munitions. The section on hunting with spear and gun in Rajasthan makes for a fascinating read.

Among the weapons mentioned in the book is the disguised.22 pen-pistol, one invention of Maharaja Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur. His son Gaj Singh II says the maharaja took his passion for guns to a different dimension; setting up a gun factory in Mehrangarh Fort and designing his own firearms. The maharaja made pencil guns in his workshop and gave some to friends.

Anecdotes are plentiful in the book. For example, Elgood mentions an incident when Maharaja Hanwant Singh had one of these ‘pens’ in his pocket when he once went to a meeting in Delhi. The maharaja believed that the British officer–in actuality, V P Menon, political advisor to Lord Mountbatten – was expecting him.

Elgood writes in the volume: ‘The maharaja became extremely irritated at being kept waiting and finally, when admitted to Menon’s office, pulled out the pistol and in mock anger threatened to shoot him. Mountbatten walked in on the scene. The maharaja explained that he was showing his new invention to Menon and gave Mountbatten the pistol as a gift.’ After Mountbatten’s death, the pistol was auctioned at Holts in 2010 and was bought by a private collector.

The author discusses the worldwide medieval diffusion of firearms technology and Arab, Ottoman, European and Chinese influences on the development of Indian firearms. Elgood also throws light on the concentrate in these lines: “gunpowder a mixture of saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal, is a Chinese invention, an inferior form of which is plausibly believed to have been assembled in the mid-ninth century3 though earlier dates have been suggested. A mixture called huo yao or ‘fire drug’, similar to gunpowder, containing realgar, saltpetre, sulphur and honey, was recorded in a Tang period list of dangerous elixirs.”

Continues Elgood: “The document advised alchemists that when warmed the mixture was likely to set their beards or even the building on fire. The earliest written formula for explosive powder using saltpetre, sulphur, charcoal and other substances is in a Song dynasty military handbook, the Wujing Zongyao, written between 1040 and 1044 ad. Early Chinese ‘gunpowder’ burned better than it exploded because it lacked sufficient saltpeter.”

The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns is the first book to be written specifically on historic Indian firearms. The book has over 350 photographs of guns and Rajput paintings from private collections and showing their procedure. It showcases the arms and the story behind their inception. The book tells the stories of the guns through many paintings. Pictures of sporting guns of classic pedigree — Purdy and Sons, Holland and Holland, Churchill Brothers, etc. — too abound in the book.

The hardback offers scholars and collectors offers a chance to see the fabulous Jodhpur collection and to learn about Rajput traditions relating to hunting and war. As part of its ongoing efforts to document its collections and make them available to connoisseurs worldwide, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust commissioned the book.

‘The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns’ is for the pistol buffs and adequate to make a gun lover salivate.

Source- countercurrents.org

Gaura Travel Flight after flight: 50 unstoppable charter flights to India

Photo- Supplied

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 30 March 2021: Home is the best and that is where Gaura Travel makes you reach. On 19 March the mission of repatriating people back to India became stronger, Gaura Travel crossed another benchmark of operating 50 unstoppable charter flights. In collaboration with Singapore Airlines, the 50th charter flight took off on 19 March 2021 from Melbourne Airport carrying 200 people to New Delhi.

At the onset of the pandemic, Australia shut its borders to the world to fight the deadly COVID-19 virus. No one saw 2020 coming. Panic clenched people as they suddenly found themselves stranded in Australia. Gaura Travels arranged the first flight to India on 22 July 2020 from Sydney. The Gaura Travel team provided incessant support to all those on that flight leading to a seamless journey.

Photos- Supplied

On 5th February 2021 after 8 months of sheer hard work and courage, Gaura Travel accomplished the milestone of reuniting 10,000 families. Statistically, 18,000 passengers flew out of Melbourne: 15,000 by chartered flights and 3,000 under Vande Bharat Mission with Air India flying 17 sorties. From the 15,000, Gaura Travel accounted for 10,000.

There was joy in the air, but the directors of Gaura Travel, Ashwini Sonthalia, and Abhishek Sonthalia, knew that more had to be done. They resonated with the longing of those stuck in India, and now are back with a bang! On 27 February 2021, Gaura Travel announced the great news of special charter flights from India to Australia!

The skies have not yet opened and Gaura Travel is continuing to unite loved ones across the seas. New flights to India are in the offing with all the love from Gaura Travel.

Video- Supplied