Indian authorities vowed Saturday to take action after a primary school teacher ordered her pupils to take turns slapping a Muslim classmate, with footage of the incident stoking outrage online.Rights groups say hate crimes and violence against India's large Muslim minority have been on the rise since Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.Footage of Thursday's incident shows the teacher of a private school in Uttar Pradesh state instructing students to hit the seven-year-old, ostensibly because he got his multiplication tables wrong."Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him hard," she is heard telling the children, as the boy stands crying."Start hitting him on the waist... His face is turning red, hit him on the waist instead," she added.Police superintendent Satyanarayan Prajapat said the footage had been verified."Departmental action will be taken against the teacher," he said in a video posted on social media.The victim's father filed a case with police in Muzaffarnagar district, where the incident took place, the magistrate said in a separate video statement.The graphic footage provoked widespread dismay online, with opposition leader Rahul Gandhi blaming the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for stoking religious intolerance in the Hindu-majority country."Sowing the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children, turning a holy place like school into a marketplace of hatred," he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter."There's nothing worse a teacher can do for the country," he added. "This is the same kerosene spread by the BJP that has set every corner of India on fire."Uttar Pradesh has been governed by the BJP since 2017 when it appointed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed Hindu monk seen as a potential successor to Modi.During his tenure, Hindu mobs have launched a spate of attacks over so-called cow protection -- a sacred animal for many Hindus -- and committed other hate crimes that have sown fear among the state's Muslim population.
Nine people were killed on Saturday after a train coach in southern India caught fire when a passenger tried to make tea, officials said.The coach, which had been detached from a train, was at the Madurai railway yard in the southern state of Tamil Nadu when the fire broke out."It was a single, stationary coach booked by a private tourist operator. Somebody tried to make tea and it caused the fire," Madurai district spokesman Sali Thalapathi told reporters."Nine people have died, three of them are women. Nine others are injured, but their injuries are not life-threatening."None of the dead had been identified so far, he added.Video footage showed huge flames leaping out of the windows of the carriage. Local media reports said passengers had smuggled a gas cylinder aboard which exploded when they tried to use it. (QNA)
India began exploring the Moon's surface with a rover on Thursday, a day after it became the first nation to land a craft near the largely unexplored lunar south pole.Pragyan -- "Wisdom" in Sanskrit -- rolled out of the lander hours after the latest milestone in India's ambitious but cut-price space programme sparked huge celebrations across the country."Rover ramped down the lander and India took a walk on the moon!" the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday.The six-wheeled, solar-powered rover will amble around the relatively unmapped region and transmit images and scientific data over its two-week lifespan.The successful touchdown of the Chandrayaan-3 ("Mooncraft-3") mission came just days after a Russian lander crashed in the same region.It also comes four years after the previous Indian lunar mission failed during its final descent, in what was seen at the time as a huge setback for its space programme.However, India is steadily matching the achievements of established spacefaring nations.Chandrayaan-3 has captivated public attention since launching nearly six weeks ago in front of thousands of cheering spectators.Politicians staged Hindu prayer rituals to wish for the mission's success and schoolchildren followed the final moments of its descent from live broadcasts in classrooms."I am feeling very proud. India has made its name shine," Bhagwan Singh, a shopkeeper in the capital New Delhi, told AFP."It's a very happy moment for us."Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday the successful lunar landing -- previously achieved only by the United States, Russia and China -- was a triumph for "all of humanity".Elon Musk, whose firm SpaceX is a leader in commercial space launches, hailed the landing as "super cool".The Indian mission took much longer to reach the Moon than the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s, which arrived in a matter of days.Chandrayaan-3 was launched on a less-powerful rocket and had to orbit the Earth several times to gain speed before embarking on its month-long journey.- Future goals - India has a comparatively low-budget space programme, but one that has grown considerably in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the Moon in 2008.Chandrayaan-3 has a cost of $74.6 million -- far lower than many missions from other countries and a testament to India's frugal space engineering.Experts say India can keep costs low by copying and adapting existing technology, and thanks to an abundance of highly skilled engineers who earn a fraction of their foreign counterparts' wages.In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to put a craft into orbit around Mars and plans to send a probe towards the sun in September.ISRO is slated to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth's orbit by next year.It also plans a joint mission with Japan to send another probe to the Moon by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.
Moon rover will take a few hours or a day to come out of the spacecraftLaunch budget of about $74 million less than the cost to produce 2013 Hollywood space thriller 'Gravity'An Indian spacecraft landed on the rugged, unexplored south pole of the moon on Wednesday in a mission seen as crucial to lunar exploration and India's standing as a space power, just days after a similar Russian lander crashed."This moment is unforgettable. It is phenomenal. This is a victory cry of a new India," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who waved the Indian flag as he watched the landing from South Africa where he is attending a regional summit.Scientists and officials clapped, cheered and hugged each other as the spacecraft landed and people across India broke out in celebration, setting off firecrackers and dancing in the streets."India is on the moon," said S. Somanath, chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft landed.This was India's second attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon and comes less than a week after Russia's Luna-25 mission failed. People across the country were glued to television screens and said prayers as the spacecraft approached the surface.Nearly 7 million watched the YouTube live stream.Chandrayaan means "moon vehicle" in Hindi and Sanskrit. In 2019, ISRO's Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander crashed.The Chandrayaan-3 is expected to remain functional for two weeks, running a series of experiments including a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface.The moon rover will take a few hours or a day to come out of the spacecraft, Somanath told reporters, adding that the landing has given India confidence to extend its reach to possible voyages to Mars and Venus.The landing is expected to boost India's reputation for cost-competitive space engineering. The Chandrayaan-3 was launched with a budget of about 6.15 billion rupees ($74 million), less than the cost to produce the 2013 Hollywood space thriller "Gravity".Rough terrain makes a south pole landing difficult, and a first landing is historic. The region's ice could supply fuel, oxygen and drinking water for future missions."Landing on the south pole would actually allow India to explore if there is water ice on the moon. And this is very important for cumulative data and science on the geology of the moon," said Carla Filotico, a partner and managing director at consultancy SpaceTec Partners.Anticipation before the landing was feverish, with banner headlines across Indian newspapers and news channels running countdowns to the landing.Prayers were held at places of worship across the country, and school children waved the Indian tricolour as they waited for live screenings of the landing.Children gathered on the banks of the Ganga river, considered holy by Hindus, to pray for a safe landing, and mosques in several places offered prayers.At a Sikh temple, known as a gurduwara, in the capital New Delhi, Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also offered prayers for Chandrayaan."Not just economic, but India is achieving scientific and technological progress as well," Puri told reporters.India is also planning to launch a mission in September to study the sun, Somanath said. A human space flight is also planned and, while no official date has been announced, preparations are likely to be ready by 2024.
Heady scents fill the air as skilled pickers in India pluck white jasmine before the still fresh buds are rushed for processing into a valuable ingredient for global perfumes.Jasmine only issues its powerful scent when it blooms at night, and pickers must select only the ones yet to open."We know which one to pick," said Malarkodi, who gave only one name, as she snapped her fingers carefully to pluck the buds, tucking into her hair a few flowers that had already bloomed."There is no use of these... but I like the smell," she said.Jasmine's fragrant flowers have been used for millennia in India to honour the gods, and the scent is a key part of world-famous perfumes.In the ancient city of Madurai in southern India, jasmine is omnipresent -- attracting buyers from some of the world's most recognisable perfumes, including J'adore by Dior and Mon Guerlain by Guerlain."It is one of the most expensive oils in the world," said Raja Palaniswamy, a director of Jasmine Concrete, which squeezes vast quantities of jasmine to create a few precious drops of delicious-smelling essence.The women picking the buds earn around $1.50 a day per day for about four to five kilograms -- with each kilogram made up of around 4,000 buds.Once picked, the jasmine is rushed to market, selling for anything between 200 and 2,000 rupees ($2.40-$24) a kilogram on special days.- 'Expression of love' -The jasmine of Madurai, an Asian variety with the scientific name Jasminum sambac, was given a "geographical indication" tag from the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2013, which noted its "deep fragrance"."It is lush, it is rich, it is vibrant," said Thierry Wasser, perfumer and "nose" at French beauty house Guerlain, speaking to AFP while visiting the jasmine operators.The jasmine in Madurai has a "smoothness... and something floral which is immutable," Wasser added. Wasser sources the jasmine oil he uses from Palaniswamy's company.As well as Guerlain, Palaniswamy said his company sells jasmine oil to companies including Bulgari, Dior and Lush.In Madurai, the bright, white flower can be found in the homes of the city's residents, as strings fastened by women to their hair -- and in the sprawling 14th-century complex of the Hindu goddess Meenakshi, considered the guardian of the city.Meenakshi is depicted holding a parrot, a bird associated with love.Every night, people surround a shrine of the goddess with fragrant jasmine flowers as she retires with her husband Shiva in a grand, symbolic ceremony."When you understand that the purpose of this flower is the celebration of love and brotherhood and family and friendship; when you smell it, it takes another dimension," Wasser said."And to me this flower is the expression of love. Period."-'Real fragrance' -The process to extract the oil requires long hours of labour.The women who pluck the jasmine -- be it for their deity, weddings, funerals or expensive perfumes -- have no time to romance its appeal.In a jasmine field on the outskirts of the ancient city, women tenderly move the branches of the bush, looking for the perfect bud.The processing factory runs around the clock in harvest season, with workers raking out fresh-picked flowers and waiting for the oblong-shaped buds to bloom."The minute it starts blooming, it starts emitting its fragrance," Palaniswamy said.Late in the night, as the jasmine's sweet scent fills the air, workers collect the blooms and load them into extractors.The freshly picked jasmine is immersed in a solvent to absorb the fragrance molecules to give a waxy extract called concrete. The concrete is further processed with alcohol to remove the waxes carefully, which then results in a potent absolute. This absolute becomes the ingredient in perfumes. Around 700 kilograms of fresh jasmine is reduced to just one kilogram of oil, selling for around $4,200, Palaniswamy said.But Amsavalli Karuppuswamy, who runs a stall outside the flower market where she threads flowers into garlands, said the fresh jasmine will always outweigh any oil."I will continue to do this job till I die... women like jasmine, so that is why we are doing this," she said."The scents are not worth as much as the original jasmine flowers -- nothing can match the real fragrance of the jasmine."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday that his government was working to end ethnic clashes in the country's remote northeast that have killed more than 150 people since May.Political opponents have condemned Modi for failing to halt violence in the state of Manipur, while rights groups say his Hindu-nationalist party has fanned the flames of the conflict.But speaking from New Delhi's imposing Red Fort for his annual Independence Day address, Modi said the conflict had abated and the relative peace in recent days "must continue"."This will pave the way for a resolution -- it can only be found through peace," he said. "All Indians are with the people in Manipur and the state and central governments are working for peace."At least 152 people have been killed in Manipur since armed clashes broke out between the predominantly Hindu Meitei majority and the mainly Christian Kuki community.The state has fractured along ethnic lines, with rival militias setting up blockades to keep out members of the opposing community.Tens of thousands of additional soldiers have been rushed from elsewhere to patrol towns and highways, and a curfew and internet shutdown remain in force across Manipur.Human Rights Watch has accused state authorities in Manipur, which is governed by Modi's party, of facilitating the conflict with "divisive policies that promote Hindu majoritarianism".Modi easily defeated a no-confidence motion last week that had been called to condemn his government's conduct over the violence. Rahul Gandhi, Modi's chief political opponent, accused the premier of being "set on burning the whole country" by failing to bring the conflict under control.- Eye to election -A speech at the Red Fort to mark India's independence from Britain has been an annual tradition since the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, took office.Tuesday was Modi's last address from the centuries-old monument in the heart of Delhi before general elections next year, where he will seek a third successive term in office.Modi remains popular and is widely expected to win the vote, but will face an invigorated coalition of disparate opposition parties campaigning on cost of living issues.India's economy overtook that of former colonial power Britain last year, and Modi told the thousands of students, soldiers and foreign dignitaries in his audience that the country would become the world's third-largest economy if he was returned to power.He also announced new policies ahead of the poll, including a $2 billion training package for workers and an expansion of subsidised pharmaceuticals for low-income earners.
Rahul Gandhi says Modi govt politics has damaged ManipurGandhi questions PM Modi for not visiting ManipurModi due to respond in parliament on ThursdayNo-trust vote does not impact Modi govt stabilityIndian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday mounted a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of the deadly ethnic conflict in Manipur, saying his government had divided the remote northeastern state, broken it and burnt it.More than 180 people have been killed, many hundreds more wounded and tens of thousands rendered homeless in Manipur since May, but Modi failed to publicly address the violence until last month in a state controlled by his own Hindu nationalist party.Addressing parliament for the first time since his reinstatement on Monday as a lawmaker, Gandhi poured scorn on what he called the divisive policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during a debate on a no-trust vote against Modi's government."You have killed mother India in Manipur," Gandhi said as opposition lawmakers thumped their desks and their government counterparts booed him."You have divided it, broken it," said Gandhi, who was disqualified from parliament in March after he was convicted for defamation until the Supreme Court last week suspended the conviction, allowing him to be reinstated.The no-trust vote is not expected to impact the stability or the popularity of Modi's government as it enjoys a strong majority and is expected to win a third term in a general election next year.However, it hopes to draw out Modi to speak in detail and embarrass him over the violence that has led the United States and the European parliament to express concern.The three-day debate and vote which began Tuesday also come a month before Modi hosts G20 leaders for the annual summit in New Delhi, where he aims to showcase India's leadership of the Global South.Gandhi, who spoke in Hindi, said the Indian army could bring peace to Manipur in one day but is not being used, "because you want to kill India in Manipur", addressing the government side.New Delhi has rushed tens of thousands of additional security forces to the state of 3.2 million people but sporadic violence continues.The clashes erupted over the BJP state government potentially extending special benefits to the mostly Hindu ethnic majority Meiteis. Those benefits have been reserved for minority, mostly Christian, Kuki tribals in the state.The state government denies accusations by the Kukis and political rivals that it failed to act more forcefully to quell the trouble.Gandhi, scion of a dynasty that has given India three prime ministers, recalled his visit to Manipur in June and his experiences of meeting women in relief camps there, something, he said, "our prime minister has not done so far"."Our prime minister has not gone to Manipur because for him Manipur is not in India," Gandhi said."You are pouring kerosene over the entire country. You threw kerosene in Manipur and lit a spark, now you are doing that in Haryana, you are burning the entire country," he said, referring to Hindu-Muslim clashes in the northern state of Haryana last week in which seven people have been killed.BJP-ruled Haryana, on the fringes of New Delhi, has blamed the violence on Muslim mobs attacking a Hindu religious procession and called it a larger conspiracy.Modi was not present in parliament when Gandhi spoke but he is due to address it on Thursday before it is put to vote.Modi had not made any public comments about the conflict until last month when videos showing women being paraded naked and molested in Manipur surfaced and sparked national outrage.He called the assault of women "shameful" and that his heart was filled with pain and anger and promised tough action.
India's main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was restored to parliament Monday after the Supreme Court last week suspended his defamation conviction over political comments on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Gandhi's disqualification "has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements," Utpal Kumar Singh, secretary general of the lower parliament house said in a statement.The 53-year-old Congress party leader was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in March in a case that critics flagged as an effort to stifle political opposition in the world's largest democracy.The conviction stemmed from a remark made during the 2019 election campaign when Gandhi had asked why "all thieves have Modi as (their) common surname".His comments were portrayed as a slur against the prime minister and against all those with the same surname, which is associated with the lower rungs of India's caste hierarchy.Anyone sentenced to a custodial term of two years or more is ineligible to sit in India's parliament, forcing Gandhi's expulsion from the body in March. He was turfed out of the legislature as a result but stayed out of jail while appealing the case at the Supreme Court in New Delhi.Congress head Mallikarjun Kharge called it "a welcome step", and called on the government to concentrate on "governance rather than denigrating democracy by targeting opposition leaders".Fellow Congress party MP Shashi Tharoor welcomed the announcement of Gandhi's reinstatement "with enormous relief"."He can now resume his duties in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) to serve the people of India and his constituents... A victory of justice and for our democracy," he said.India's top court on Friday suspended Gandhi's defamation conviction and said that the initial trial had failed to justify imposing the maximum sentence for his campaign rally comments four years ago."The order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication," Justice B.R. Gavai said in his ruling.Gandhi is the scion of India's premier political dynasty and the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru. Congress was once the dominant force of Indian politics but Gandhi himself has lost two elections to Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, after being cast as a princeling out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Indians.
India's latest space mission entered the Moon's orbit on Saturday ahead of the country's second attempted lunar landing, as its cut-price space programme seeks to reach new heights.The world's most populous nation has a comparatively low-budget aerospace programme that is rapidly closing in on the milestones set by global space powers.Only Russia, the United States and China have previously achieved a controlled landing on the lunar surface.The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that Chandrayaan-3, which means "Mooncraft" in Sanskrit, had been "successfully inserted into the lunar orbit", more than three weeks after its launch.If the rest of the current mission goes to plan, the mission will safely touch down near the Moon's little-explored south pole between August 23 and 24.India's last attempt to do so ended in failure four years ago, when ground control lost contact moments before landing.Developed by ISRO, Chandrayaan-3 includes a lander module named Vikram, which means "valour" in Sanskrit, and a rover named Pragyan, the Sanskrit word for wisdom.The mission comes with a price tag of $74.6mn -- far smaller than those of other countries, and a testament to India's frugal space engineering.Experts say India can keep costs low by copying and adapting existing space technology, and thanks to an abundance of highly skilled engineers who earn a fraction of their foreign counterparts' wages.The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft has taken much longer to reach the Moon than the manned Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s, which arrived in a matter of days.The Indian rocket used is much less powerful than the United States' Saturn V and instead the probe orbited the earth five or six times elliptically to gain speed, before being sent on a month-long lunar trajectory.If the landing is successful the rover will roll off Vikram and explore the nearby lunar area, gathering images to be sent back to Earth for analysis.The rover has a mission life of one lunar day or 14 Earth days.ISRO chief S. Somanath has said his engineers carefully studied data from the last failed mission and tried their best to fix the glitches.India's space programme has grown considerably in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the Moon in 2008.In 2014, it became the first Asian nation to put a satellite into orbit around Mars, and three years later, the ISRO launched 104 satellites in a single mission.The ISRO's Gaganyaan ("Skycraft") programme is slated to launch a three-day manned mission into Earth's orbit by next year.India is also working to boost its two percent share of the global commercial space market by sending private payloads into orbit for a fraction of the cost of competitors.
Commonwealth Games gold-medal-winning wrestler Anita Sheoran, a witness in a sexual harassment case against the outgoing head of India's wrestling federation, has filed her candidature in elections to replace him, reports said Monday.Sheoran, 38, is the only female candidate vying to take over the post of president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) from Brij Bhushan Singh, who was last month charged with sexual harassment and stalking, the Indian Express newspaper reported.Singh, 66, who is also a lawmaker for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), denies all charges and has said he is a victim of a "conspiracy".He has been accused by Olympic medallists and other Indian wrestlers of groping female athletes and demanding sexual favours.Sheoran faces stiff competition in the August 12 elections, with votes cast by state wrestling federation chiefs, many of whom are reported to back candidates loyal to Singh, the Indian Express added.Wrestlers including world champion medallist Vinesh Phogat and Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik had held a weeks-long demonstration in New Delhi demanding Singh's arrest.Wrestling is hugely popular in rural northern India, and images of star athletes being detained as they tried to march to parliament in May went viral on social media.They paused protests after the government said it would investigate the sexual harassment claims and announced new elections for the WFI, with Singh and members of his family prohibited from contesting. Indian sports administration has long been male-dominated, but in December, former track and field star P.T. Usha was named the first woman president of the Indian Olympic Association, ushering in hopes of a more inclusive era.
At least four people were electrocuted Saturday and seven others injured after a Muslim religious procession came into contact with a high-voltage wire in India, police told AFP.The Islamic calendar is currently in the month of Muharram, the holiest time for Shiites across the world, when large Ashura processions mark the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein in the seventh century.Members of a procession in the eastern state of Jharkhand were killed when a metal pole carried by some devotees hit an overhead cable, Bokaro district police superintendent Priyadarshi Alok told AFP."Four people have died and seven others are injured," he said.Deaths by electrocution are common in India as a result of waterlogging during the summer monsoon season.Nearly 11,000 people on average die by electrocution in India every year, according to official data.
The death toll from a massive landslide in India's Maharashtra state jumped to 27 on Sunday, with at least 50 people still missing as rescue teams struggle in lashing rain, officials said.The landslide was triggered by monsoon rains on Thursday, smashing into a village in Raigad district, a hilly and forested site about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Mumbai.Emergency teams have been digging for bodies under the mounds of earth and rubble."We've so far counted 27 bodies, and about 50 to 60 people are still missing, but there are multiple challenges for rescue work at the site," Raigad official Yogesh Mhase told AFP on Sunday.Mhase said the remote hamlet was about five kilometres from the nearest road."No heavy equipment can reach this site, we only have small machines and most work has to be done manually," he added."Non-stop heavy rains in the region are also making the entire operation much more challenging".The top district official said he was not optimistic about finding survivors on the fourth day of the ongoing rescue.Local media reports said that several families were entirely wiped out, while other survivors were the only ones left alive among their relatives.India has been battered by rains since the start of the monsoon season in June, and flooding and landslides have killed scores of people.Monsoon rains are vital to replenishing rivers and groundwater, but the deluge also causes widespread destruction every year.Experts say climate change is increasing the number of extreme weather events around the world, with damming, deforestation and development projects in India exacerbating the human toll.
India on Friday launched a rocket seeking to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon, a live feed showed, its second attempt to become only the fourth country to do so.The rocket lifted off from Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh carrying the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, as thousands of enthusiasts clapped and cheered.The world's most populous nation has a cut-price aerospace programme that is rapidly closing in on the milestones set by global space powers.Only Russia, the United States and China have previously achieved a controlled landing on the lunar surface.India's last attempt to do so ended in failure four years ago, when ground control lost contact moments before landing.If the rest of the Indian mission goes to plan, the Chandrayaan-3, which means "Mooncraft" in Sanskrit, will safely touch down near the moon's little-explored south pole between August 23-24.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently visiting France, tweeted that the mission was carrying the "hopes and dreams of our nation".Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft includes a lander named Vikram, which means "valour" in Sanskrit, and a rover named Pragyan, the Sanskrit word for wisdom.Upon touchdown, the rover will roll off Vikram and explore the nearby area, gathering images to be sent back to Earth for analysis.The rover has a mission life of one lunar day or 14 Earth days.
India's federal police have arrested three railway employees on Friday in connection with the country's deadliest train crash in two decades that killed 292 people last month, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.The arrests were made under Indian penal code sections related to culpable homicide, the source added, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.The June 2 crash at Bahanaga Bazar station, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, also injured more than 1,000 people.It is India's worst train crash in more than two decades.The accident happened when a passenger train hit a stationary freight train, jumped off the tracks and hit another passenger train coming from the opposite direction.The federal police Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had launched an investigation after registering a case of criminal negligence.Spokespersons for the Indian Railways and the CBI did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.Reuters reported earlier this week that workers repairing a rail-road barrier had made faulty connections in the automated signalling system on the network.In a report seen by Reuters the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) investigators said the first collision occurred due to modifications made to the signalling circuit to fix frequent problems at a nearby rail-road barrier.Local railway staff did not have a standard circuit diagram which led to a faulty connection in the signalling system when they tried to take the boom-barrier circuit offline for repair, it said. The malfunctioning system directed the passenger train onto the path of the freight train, it said.Indian Railways, the fourth largest train network in the world, is a state monopoly run by the Railway Board. The board reports to the Railways Ministry.The rail network is undergoing a $30 billion transformation with new trains and modern stations under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push to boost infrastructure and connectivity.
When India's worst train accident in more than 20 years happened just outside his home, Hiranmay Rath said it felt "like the sky was falling on us or the earth was cracking open".What followed was an unimaginable nightmare of corpses, body parts and suffering.The college student stopped scrolling Facebook on his phone and rushed outside, to be confronted by the sight of bodies falling out of toppled carriages."I came out scared and heard loud wailing screams, which only got louder within seconds," Rath told AFP.His picturesque yellow home next to the railway is surrounded by coconut and papaya trees -- and less than 20 metres away lay the mangled wreckage of a train crash that killed at least 288 people and injured hundreds more.First one express train derailed, then a second smashed into the wreckage and hit a third, parked train.Rath is not clear on the exact sequence of events, but he and other residents rushed to try to help the victims.Over the next few hours he saw "more death and grief" than he could have "ever imagined".It was a "horror show" that he "couldn't have imagined watching even in the most scary movie ever"."There were severed arms, legs, and even some partially severed heads -- while the unluckier ones died in pain, too much pain," he said.He and four or five neighbours managed to pull one sari-clad woman out of the toppled carriage closest to his house."A police official told us to carry her, as she still had some life, to a common area from where survivors could be transported for treatment."She just kept asking for water in a very weak voice as we carried her on a long piece of cloth."The moment we placed her on the side of the road, she lost all movement and died in front of our eyes."In all, his group pulled around 25 people out of the wreckage -- some of them struggling to breathe, many of them already dead."These are images I'll never forget," he added. "Imagine watching -- or pulling out -- a person's squished body, one severed arm or a leg."His grandfather Bhagwat Prasad Rath, 80, regularly sits next to the railway tracks in the evening to enjoy the fresh air and greenery.He was not hurt in the accident, but had to cross the tracks to get back home."There was no way but to walk over dead bodies," he said. "I took off my flip-flops and walked over them while praying to god for forgiveness."- 'Bodies without heads' -As dawn broke over the disaster site in Balasore, in the eastern state of Odisha, it revealed the scale of the destruction.Red and green carriages were perched on top of each other or tossed far from the tracks, and lines of recovered bodies lay alongside the railway.One coach had been flipped upside down, crushing the passenger section as it landed.On the ground -- and squashed into the ripped metal wreckage and what were once benches in the carriage -- travellers' belongings lay scattered: a suitcase, a child's shoe and piles of clothes.Mechanical cranes lifted mangled and toppled carriages and emergency personnel cut through the remains of the trains to try to reach trapped victims.Rows and rows of rescue workers from multiple agencies worked along the track, as official and emergency vehicles blocked access roads to the area.Researcher Anubhav Das, 27, was in the last carriage of the Coromandal Express, one of the trains involved in the crash, when he heard a "horrifying, screeching" sound before it came to a jerky halt.He and his 30 fellow passengers were all unharmed and jumped out, to be confronted by chaos and "horrifying sounds"."I saw bodies without heads and others without limbs, bloodied bodies," he said.Das scrambled to help cover bleeding wounds of injured passengers with whatever he could find."It was almost like it was a war. I counted 250 bodies and then lost count," he said."I saw one man bleeding with a severed arm being desperately helped by his injured son. I saw a family of five all dead."Speaking from Cuttack after his father drove him home, he told AFP: "It is an absolute miracle that I survived."
At least 288 people have died in India's worst rail crash in over two decades, officials said on Saturday, after a passenger train went off the tracks and hit another one in an accident a preliminary report blamed on signal failure.One train in Friday's accident also hit a freight train parked nearby in the district of Balasore in Odisha state in the east of the country, leaving a tangled mess of smashed rail cars and injuring 803.The death toll has reached 288, said K. S. Anand, chief public relations officer of the South Eastern Railway.Dead bodies are still trapped in the mangled coaches and the rescue operation is continuing, a Reuters witness said, while the death toll is expected to rise.A preliminary report indicates that the accident was the result of signal failure, Anand said."The Coromandel Express was supposed to travel on the main line, but a signal was given for the loop line instead, and the train rammed into a goods train already parked over there. Its coaches then fell onto the tracks on either side, also derailing the Howrah Superfast Express," he said.Surviving passenger Anubha Das said he would never forget the scene. "Families crushed away, limbless bodies and a bloodbath on the tracks," he said.Video footage showed derailed train coaches and damaged tracks, with rescue teams searching the mangled carriages to pull the survivors out and rush them to hospital.Dead bodies were lying on the bloodstained floor of a school used as a makeshift morgue, and police helped relatives identify the bodies, covered with white cloths and placed inside chained bags.Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the scene, talked to rescue workers and inspected the wreckage. He also met the survivors at hospitals."(I) took stock of the situation at the site of the tragedy in Odisha. Words can't capture my deep sorrow. We stand committed to providing all possible assistance to those affected," Modi said.A witness involved in rescue operations said the screams and cries of the injured and the relatives of those killed were chilling. "It was horrific and heart-wrenching," he said.Families of the dead will receive 1 million rupees ($12,000), while the seriously injured will get 200,000 rupees, with 50,000 rupees for minor injuries, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said. Some state governments have also announced compensation."It's a big, tragic accident," Vaishnaw told reporters after inspecting the accident site. "Our complete focus is on the rescue and relief operation, and we are trying to ensure that those injured get the best possible treatment.""I was asleep," an unidentified male survivor told NDTV news. "I was woken up by the noise of the train derailing. Suddenly I saw 10-15 people dead. I managed to come out of the coach, and then I saw a lot of dismembered bodies."Video footage from Friday showed rescuers climbing on one of the mangled trains to find survivors, while passengers called for help and sobbed next to the wreckage."We rescued at least 30 people, and some of them managed to survive, but three or four of them died," said Sanjeev Rout, an electrician. A few metres away, rescue workers tried to cut their way into a damaged red-coloured coach.The collision occurred at around 7 p.m. (1330 GMT) on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express from Bengaluru to Howrah in West Bengal collided with the Coromandel Express from Kolkata to Chennai.Indian Railways says it transports more than 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of ageing infrastructure.Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik described the crash as "extremely tragic".Opposition Congress party leader Jairam Ramesh said the accident reinforced why safety should always be the foremost priority of the rail network.Modi's administration has launched high-speed trains as part of plans to modernise the network, but critics say it has not focused enough on safety and upgrading ageing infrastructure.Experts said Friday's train accident came as a blow to Modi's makeover plans for railways.India's deadliest railway accident was in 1981 when a train plunged off a bridge into a river in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed condolences over the accident.
At least 80 people were killed and 850 injured after two passenger trains collided in the eastern Indian state of Odisha on Friday, state Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said.The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, collided with another passenger train, the Howrah Superfast Express, railway officials said on Friday evening.Images from the scene showed rescuers climbing up the mangled wreck of one of the trains to find survivors.Hundreds of young people lined up outside a government hospital in Odisha's Soro to donate blood."I was there at the site and I can see bloods, broken limbs and people dying around me," an eyewitness told Reuters.The Howrah Superfast Express derailed and became entangled with the Coromandel Express, South Eastern Railway authorities said in a statement.Jena said earlier that hundreds of people were taken to different local hospitals near the accident site, adding that more than 200 ambulances had been rushed to take accident victims to nearby hospitals.Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said authorities' priority was "removing the living to the hospitals, that's our first concern, to look after the living".Rescue operations were underway at the site and "all possible assistance" is being given to those affected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.Rescue teams have been mobilised from Odisha's Bhubaneswar and Kolkata in West Bengal, federal Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw said in a tweet.The National Disaster Response Force, state government teams and the air force had also mobilised to respond to the incident, he added.
A third blast in less than a week shook the area around the Sikh holy site of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Indian police said Thursday.No injuries were reported in what police described as a low-intensity blast at around midnight in the northern Indian city. The cause was not known."The area is totally sealed and a forensic team is working on it," police official Naunihal Singh said.Police added that five people were arrested on Thursday, without giving further details.The previous two blasts, one on Monday and the first last weekend, each left one person injured. Police have yet to reveal any cause for those explosions.The Golden Temple in Punjab state -- a gleaming edifice in a large artificial pond -- is revered by Sikhs the world over.But it has been the scene of violence in the past, most notably when Indian special forces stormed it in 1984 to remove Sikh militants.In March, a manhunt was launched in Punjab to arrest a firebrand Sikh separatist that sparked protests and vandalism among the diaspora.It was unclear if the latest blasts were linked.Pressure for a separate Sikh homeland known as Khalistan sparked deadly violence in India in the 1980s and 1990s.
At least 21 people have died after a packed tourist boat capsized in India's southern Kerala state.The death toll could rise as rescue efforts are under way on Monday and the vessel is pulled from muddy waters.Overcrowding caused the double-decker boat to capsize. There were around 35-40 passengers when the boat capsized.Many passengers were trapped under the boat and the darkness held back rescue efforts, according to local media.Many of the passengers were not wearing life jackets at the time of the incident, survivors told local media.Authorities are investigating the cause of the mishap.
At least 16 people drowned after a boat capsized in the Malappuram district of India's southern state of Kerala, the state's minister for fisheries and harbour development, V. Abdurahiman, said on Sunday.Twelve bodies have been identified, he told reporters at the accident site, adding that the death toll was likely to rise as the boat was stuck in the mud and was being lifted and broken to rescue people trapped inside."Pained by the loss of lives due to the boat mishap in Malappuram, Kerala," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.