Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

October 31, 2014

Quote of the week: The world is as flat as a self assembled IKEA Furniture

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sweden's recognition of Palestine as a state:
"The Swedish government should understand that Middle East relations are more complex than a piece of self-assembled IKEA furniture, and the matter should be handled with responsibility and sensitivity"
In reply, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom:
"I will be happy to send Israel FM Lieberman an IKEA flat pack to assemble. He'll see it requires a partner, cooperation and a good manual."

October 29, 2014

The Goats Of Bangladesh Facebook Page Is Sharing Real Stories Of Real Goats

Tired of watching the Humans of New York photo stories shared by your friends cluttering your Facebook timeline? Here is an honest attempt by some real goats of Bangladesh to reach to the world audience and make their voices heard.

The stories are simple, easy to understand - like this one:
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Had? What happened?"
"Mutton biryani."
(Dhaka, Bangladesh)
You can find many such inspiring stories. The goats of Bangladesh are also overwhelmed by peoples love:
"It is our pleasure sharing these touching stories with brothers and sisters of the human race. 
These are indeed, of course, and always will be, real goats, real stories. #GoB2014"
Image credit: Black Bengal Goat by Mamun2a via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.5

October 24, 2014

There's an Island Made of Toxic Trash Rising Out of the Sea in the Maldives

Thilafushi, this is where they burn the garbage in paradise. Image from Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND
Thilafushi Kuni Gondu - This is where they burn the garbage in paradise. Image from Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND
Each year, approximately one million tourists visit the island nation Maldives for its sunny warm weather and stunning natural beauty.

But there's an ugly consequence of all those visitors, along with the Maldives' own 395,000 residents: the combined trash accumulated is a headache for the small country.

To deal with the problem, the government decided in December 1991 to use a separate island as the final destination for the huge amount of waste produced by the tourism industry. Thilafushi, nicknamed 'Rubbish Island', originally was a lagoon called ‘Thilafalhu’ with a length of 7 kilometres and a width of 200 metres at the shallowest regions. Huge pits were dug, and waste was deposited into the middle of the pit, which was topped off with a layer of construction debris and then uniformly levelled with white sand.
An average of 330 tonnes of rubbish are brought to Thilafushi every day, most of which are from Malé. At one point, more than 31,000 truckloads of garbage were being transported to Thilafushi annually. Open-air burning of garbage is also practiced here.
Today, Thilafushi has a landmass of more than 0.43 km2, which is leased to industrial activities such as boat manufacturing, cement packing, methane gas bottling and various large-scale warehousing.

The blog of environmental organisation Bluepeace wrote that used batteries, asbestos, lead and other potentially hazardous waste mixed with the municipal solid wastes in Thilafushi island are seeping into the water and creating serious ecological and health problems in the Maldives. However, the concerns have never materialized into a campaign by local activists.
Mordy at collaborative travel project Atlas Obscura described the problem:
Commercial activity along with indiscriminate dumping has brought an abundance of toxic materials to the lagoon - broken oil drums, asbestos, lead, and other noxious metals mix in with daily household garbage items creating a noxious sludge. There is little around the island that goes unpolluted as harmful substances seep into the water and smoke from burning waste floods the air.
Thilafushi island - where garbage just seeps into the ocean as the poisonous tides and toxic winds will. Image fro Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND
Thilafushi island - where garbage seeps into the ocean. Image from Flickr by Hani Amir. CC BY-NC-ND
Filmmaker Alison Teal has made a documentary about her time in the Maldives as a part of her online film series Alison's Adventures. Some remarkable photos of Alison’s trip to the garbage island can be found here.

The government temporarily banned rubbish dumping on the island in December 2011 after a surge in waste floating in the island's lagoon and drifting out to sea. But still now all the garbage from Malé ends up there.

Alibeyya, a commenter on an article on local news site Minivan, pointed to the crux of the problem:
The delicate environment of Maldives is in need of a responsible waste management system. It is a big challenge given the geographical situation where each island including resorts must manage its own waste. [..] The resorts should be able to contain to get rid of their waste without having to dump to Thialfushi lagoon.
In early 2013 there were reports that Maldives’ waste management is being hampered by local politics and lack of funding. Amidst local reports of illegal dumping of wastes in Thilafushi, there was huge confusion over the responsibility for the management of garbage dumping. The Thilafushi management was transferred to the Malé City Council (MCC) in 2010 and a contract was signed in 2011 with the Indian-based company Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island and manage the garbage problem.

But the deal never was implemented due to bureaucracy and political interference and recently it was cancelled, making the future of Thilafushi uncertain.
Abdullah Faraz writes in an opinion piece in Minivan News:
The first point to note is that underneath all the political rhetoric and maneuvering lies a real issue that affects many lives – the public health hazard, teachers and students being hospitalised, closing of schools, the smoke, the stench etc.

The public has a right to feel disaffected by this crisis, and is indignant and up in arms with good cause.

The second point to note is though this is a manufactured crisis; there is no inherent direction to which this raw emotional energy of the public may flow.
What is for certain: a new jail soon is set to be opened on Thilafushi island next month.
Additional input by Saffah Faroog

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

October 22, 2014

Talk Show Inspires 1 Million+ Callers to Protest India's Anti-Gay Law

Screenshot of the Indian talk show "Satyamev Jayate"
Screenshot of the Indian talk show "Satyamev Jayate" hosted by Aamir Khan
A recent episode of an Indian talk show aired to more than 100 million viewers has had a massive impact on the country's perception of LGBT people. More than one million calls were made to a toll free hotline set up by the show to protest Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which stigmatises the LGBT community by criminalising homosexual sex.

On 19 October, an episode of Indian television talk show "Satyamev Jayate" (Truth Alone Prevails) titled "Accepting Alternative Sexualities" attempted to break a lot of misconceptions surrounding the ostracised LGBT community by answering a number of questions on the issue.

The guests included transgender woman Gazal Dhaliwal (@gazalstune) and her parents, popular psychologist Deepak Kashyap and other LGBT activists. Dhaliwal, a film writer, described her traumatic childhood as a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and her journey from self-discovery to the decision to undergo a sex change operation.
Later Dhaliwal engaged in a live Twitter chat with the audience.

The show talked about how ordinary Indian households are dealing with the LGBT issue. It showed a traditional grandmother who admitted to dancing on her gay grandson’s engagement ceremony.

Soon, the hashtag #FreedomForLGBT became the top trending topic globally on Twitter:
Gay sex is illegal under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (adopted into the Indian Constitution by the Imperial British empire in 1861). Four years ago in a landmark judgement, the Delhi High Court overturned the section, but India's top court reversed the Delhi High Court order in December 2013. The court said it was up to parliament to legislate on the issue.

Protests against the reinstitution of Section 377 are ongoing across India, and the issue was a hot-button one during this year's general election. The ruling Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) supported the law during the election. BJP, however, indicated in August that the Supreme Court was currently hearing a curative petition on the matter and that the government had no plans to take up the matter of amending Section 377 until the Supreme Court gave its ruling.

The show, hosted by Bollywood megastar Amir Khan, took a bold step in voicing the plights of the LGBT community and protesting the law. Its website stated:
Today all of us have to be involved in the struggle against the discrimination and torture faced by the LGBT community. The biggest obstacle to equality for the LGBT community comes from the law. To our eternal shame, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code still criminalizes homosexuality even among consenting adults calling it 'against the order of nature' and punishes such acts for a term which may extend to 10 years. This law is a blot on modern India and must be amended.
"Satyamev Jayate," which is hugely popular, has taken on different social issues not often talked about among conservative circles in the country in the past. The third season is being simulcast on eight channels with a special live segment titled "Mumkin Hai" on two more channels, topping an aggregate reach of 126 million.

The website also commented that more important than the law is the need for society's attitudes towards the LGBT community need to change, and the change should start in ordinary homes. So it listed more videos and articles about a few other aspects of LGBT living in India: parental support, forced marriages, and the occlusion of work spaces for the hijra community, among others.
Many appreciated Aamir Khan's contribution and sent videos thanking him:
Of course, not everyone agreed. There were also many responses from people who support Section 377 and reject the LGBT community.

The stories in the episode were heartwarming, but it remains to be seen whether they have inspired enough people to actively push for the rights of LGBT people in India.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

October 16, 2014

An Indian Photoblogger's Lone Fight Against Plagiarism

Term of copyright in photographs:- Length of copyright -50 years. Graphics by Anirban Saha. Used with Permission.
Term of copyright in photographs:- Length of copyright -50 years. Graphics by Anirban Saha. Used with Permission.
Indian photoblogger Anirban Saha points to a growing problem in India -- plagiarism of intellectual property online. A number of his photos were used in a poster for a theatre festival, on a cover of a book, in an advertisement by the state government, in political banners, in magazines in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and a school publication without his consent.

He writes that Indian copyright laws protect intellectual property, but there is not much awareness:
We can spread the awareness of intellectual property rights, share contact details of lawyers who have already fought similar cases. We should be more aware of safeguarding our creations and spreading the awareness to create a better world. Read about Indian Copyright Act 1957. More than the artists who still now are a minority, it is you readers who can make a difference. You need to be aware and spread the awareness.
Anirban Saha also publishes a number of graphics to make the Indian copyright laws easier to understand.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

October 10, 2014

A Student Movement Against a Mishandled Sexual Abuse Investigation Rocks West Bengal

Jadavpur students protesting against police action at campus and demanding resignation of the vice chancellor.
Jadavpur students protesting against police action at campus and demanding resignation of the vice chancellor. Image by Reporter#47468. Copyright Demotix (20/9/2014)
The Indian state of West Bengal it witnessing a revolution of sorts in #Hokkolorob, the "Let There Be Noise" movement, which started in Jadavpur University last month and is spread like wildfire across the country. Individuals started using term "Hok Kolorob", originally the title of a 2006 song by Bangladeshi singer Shayan Chowdhury (also known as Arnob), as a hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

Screenshot of locations from where Twitter users mentioned the hashtag #hokkolorob via  tweetchup.com
Screenshot of locations from where Twitter users mentioned the hashtag #hokkolorob via tweetchup.com
On August 28, several residents of the Old Boy's hostel molested a female second-year student at Jadavpur University and beat up her male friend. The girl's father lodged a police complaint on September 2 and sent a letter to university authorities on September 3, launching an internal inquiry.

Suspicions about the University's investigation have arisen, however, following a September 5 visit to the victim's home in Bidhannagar by two members of the university's probe, who refused to give their names. The anonymous investigators asked questions about the girl's sobriety and dress on the night of the attack, leading her family to file a complaint with police, calling it "mental harassment".

That's when students started protesting, demanding that the university replace the probe members who visited the victim's home and asked such questions, and that the school form a new, external committee to investigate what happened on August 28.

On the evening of September 16, students blockaded some university buildings, confining several officials to their offices, including Vice-Chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti. When talks failed between students and administrators, the Vice-Chancellor summoned the police. In the early hours of September 17, police moved in on the student demonstrators, severely injuring several and arresting thirty-six. Many were hospitalized. There are now allegations that some activists from the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (the ruling party’s student wing) also aided the police.

Jadavpur University student organise a rally from Nandan to Raj Bhavan protesting against Police midnight action at Jadavpur campus and also demanding the resignation of Vice Chancellor Abijit Chakraborty. Image by Reporter #47468. Copyright Demotix (20/9/2014)
Jadavpur University students organise a rally from Nandan to Raj Bhavan, protesting against police in a midnight action on Jadavpur's campus. They also demand the resignation of Vice Chancellor Abijit Chakraborty. Image by Reporter #47468. Copyright Demotix (20/9/2014)
Videos of the attack on students were leaked on the Internet, and the broadcast media has also amplified the story. The incident sparked a nationwide reaction, as the #HokKolorob hashtag has taken local social media by storm.

The viral spread of these protests and demonstrators' success with social media have mobilised Jadavpur University alumni across the region. Students from other educational institutions, as well as members of the general public, have mounted a sudden and effective campaign to express their outrage with the way authorities have handled the molestation case.

On September 20, students organised a rally in the heart of Kolkata city, attracting an estimated 100,000 participants. Prasun posted pictures of the protest on his blog.

Rupam Islam, a rock star in Kolkata, sang in support of the demonstrators, providing the movement with what has become its anthem. The song extols the movement's determination with the words, "Andoloner Shuru Aacchey, Shesh Nei" (This movement has a beginning, it has no end).

Protesters in Delhi (at JNU, Banga Bhavan and Jantar Mantar), at IIT Chennai, IIT Mumbai and IIT Kharagpur, Pondicherry, Hyderabad, and in Bangalore have also gathered for demonstrations of solidarity with the #hokkolorob movement.

The movement got an interesting turn as on September 22, a rally was arranged by the ruling Trinamool Congress party against the protesting students where they were mocked through slogans and posters.

Julia Banerjee writes:
I write this as a fellow student of Jadavpur who has experienced her friends go through things unspeakable, who cannot unsee what she saw, where people she loves and cares for went through hell in a place that she loves with her being, her college, her university.
Shuddhabrata Sengupta at Kafilla.org writes:
Why are the students in Jadavpur, and their friends elsewhere, so angry? [..]

Had the vice chancellor and the university authorities wanted, they could have dealt with the matter with promptness, sensitivity and intelligence. Instead, to please their political masters in the Trinamool Congress Party, they tried to shield the actual reign of thuggery that they preside over in the campus of Jadavpur University. It is the Vice Chancellor, not the students, who need to understand what ‘decorum’ and ‘discipline’ in a university mean.
Agnivo Niyogi, a blogger, however thinks the #hokkolorob campaign amounts to little more than "hashtag activism":
What amused me the most is the fact that these “rebellious” students were relaying the “state sponsored brutality “live” through FB and Twitter. Delhi-based media, which these days treats FB posts as Gospel truth jumped into the fray and launched into an attack on the WB Govt.
The Facebook page dedicated to the #hokkolorob cause, which has played a major organisational role in the movement, has more than 54,000 followers today. The group's popularity, however, has also attracted the scrutiny of police, as well as the Jadavpur molestation victim herself. According to reports, the girl lodged a complaint with police in Lalbazar last month against efforts on Facebook to "malign her image". Her father, moreover, no longer calls for Vice-Chancellor Chakrabarti's resignation, and even urges students "to return to class".

Is #hokkolorob becoming a lost cause? Avishek writes:
There is a lot to overcome, it seems. Exactly why police get away with brutal assaults on students and manhandling girls while #HokKolorob-ers get arrested for painting banners remains unknown.

Kolkata probably cares. She probably does not, despite having witnessed 1905, 1946, and 1971. She goes on nevertheless in sensuous meanders from Laboni to Maddox Square and beyond. She had cried her heart out the day #HokKolorob took centrestage on September 20.

Some day she will join in the march to overcome as well. Some day she will respond to #HokKolorob.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

October 09, 2014

Security Risks Exposed at Amusement Park in Dhaka

During the Eid holidays, Carnival Park at Jamuna Future park welcomed a large number of visitors. On October 7, 2014, one of its attractions, the 360-degree shuffle ride, stopped in the middle of a ride. Everyone on-board was stuck in their seats for about an hour. The ride had no emergency backup system, preventing a normal shutdown, delaying the release of its riders. Rescue workers had to free every individual manually, in a rather painstaking process.

Facebook user Sultanul Nahian Hasnat was present at the mishap and later uploaded to Facebook two videos (click her to watch the 1st and the 2nd), which went viral. These are now available on YouTube, also.

There was no mention of this incident in the local mainstream news.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

October 02, 2014

Mobile Apps Put Durga Puja at the Fingertips of Millions

Durga Puja, the annual Hindu festival that involves worship of the Goddess Durga, who symbolizes power and the triumph of good over evil in Hindu mythology. Image by Luit Chaliha. Copyright Demotix (27/9/2014)
Durga Puja, the annual Hindu festival that involves worship of the Goddess Durga, who symbolizes power and the triumph of good over evil in Hindu mythology. Image by Luit Chaliha. Copyright Demotix (27/9/2014)
During Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival in West Bengal and other parts of India and Bangladesh, worshippers erect elaborate makeshift structures called pandals. Inside each of these structures, there is a stage on which a statue of the Goddess Durga mounts a lion while wielding ten weapons in her ten hands. The pandals depict Durga's victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Afterwards, Durga is invited to visit her maternal home and there is an invocation by "Mahalaya" (chanting and singing devotional songs). Goddess Durga then visits home and Bengalis celebrate, worship, and enjoy the five days of Durga Puja. (Read more about this legend here.)

The highlight of the Puja festivities is viewing the many different displays of Goddess Durga, each of which has a unique theme. "Pandal hopping" has become a part of the popular culture, and people sometimes visit hundreds of pandals in large cities like Kolkata. During the week of Durga Puja, life comes to a complete standstill, as roadblocks, traffic management, and fun-fare to the sound of drums chants and devotional songs take over.

This year, there are several mobile apps available to make pandal hopping better planned and more informed than ever. Indians' growing tech savviness has brought mobile computing to new spheres of life. Apps that help navigate religious and cultural festivities are now at the fingertips of millions in India.

In this article, Global Voices look at some of the mobile apps related to the Puja festivities. The apps fall into four basic categories:

1. Virtual Puja-hopping experience:

Blogger Agnivo Niyogi writes about the Android App Durga Puja Parikrama:
The lights, pandals, chaos on the streets, hyper-active Kolkata Police, food, and above all the spirit of togetherness – these define Durga Puja in the truest of terms. Sadly, for Probashis (and Bengal-lovers who cannot visit Kolkata during Pujo) often give this opportunity a miss because of the physical distance. [..]

The interactive Durga Puja app will help you to:

-Find out location and other details of Durga Puja Pandals around
-Check ratings and comments by other users
-Check the pictures of the Durga Puja pandal uploaded by other visitors.
-Search Durga Puja pandal by popularity or traditionally well-known.
-Create a wishlist of pandals
-Share which Durga Puja pandals you have visited on social network.
-Upload your picture, make your comment or rate a Durga Puja Pandal you visited.
-Get important news and updates from Kolkata Police and West Bengal Government.
Durgotsava Puja Parikrama is a similar app offering map-navigation features and GPS-tracking to aid users in Puja hopping. It also provides information about nearby services like cash machines, public transport, restaurants, medical services, and so on. Puja Hoppers is another such app.

Durga Puja Pandal Hopper also allows users to add their own pandal information and maintain a travel budget.

Another app in this group is The Puja App, which offers 360-degree interactive virtual tours of pandals. Users can vote for their favourite pandals. Virtual tours are only available for older pujas from before 2013, the app also offers a map with some of the current puja locations.

Bengali House wifes play "Sindur Khala" on the last day of the Durga Puja festival at Kolkata in India. Image by Reporter #7585286. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2014)
Bengali House wifes play "Sindur Khala" on the last day of the Durga Puja festival at Kolkata in India. Image by Reporter #7585286. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2014)
2. Puja-related updates:

The Big Green Durga app is an initiative from 92.7 BIG FM Kolkata, a radio channel, which describes it as the perfect way to get around congested streets:
The app is a great utility as during puja this will be your news channel on all the Roads that are blocked, all the awarded Pujas you must see and all the celebrities who are visiting different Puja Pandals so that you can have a real glimpse of them. The data will be live and updated by 92.7 BIG FM Kolkata.
Durga Puja is another app in this group. It educates users about Durga Puja, the importance of each day of the celebration, the legends therein, how puja is performed, what is required for each day, and the datse and proper puja timings according to the Hindu calendar. The Durga Puja Organiser apps, as the name implies, help worshippers plan their puja celebrations.

The Navratri Durga Puja Sangrah app has a collection of puja-related songs, aarti, and mantra (prayers) in both audio and video formats, which can be performed when making puja offerings.

3. Puja locators:

These apps help users find all the nearby pujas.

Available on iOS and Android, Puja Locator was not designed specifically for Durga pujas. It was made for pujas held in the Maharashtra region. Mandapp provides information about the various puja pandals in Kolkata.

Kolkata Puja Guide and Map makes it easy for people to find a route to select puja pandals. Durga Puja RoadMap 2014 is a similar app with navigation features.

4. Virtual Puja offerings:

These apps allow users to offer virtual pooja (prayers) to Maa Durga Devi. Maa Durga Pooja offers a complete pooja experience to users. Durga Pooja is another app which lets you to worship the lord goddesses through aarti and garland.

There are undoubtedly many other useful apps out there for the Puja festivities. If you know of any not mentioned here, GV invites you to mention it in the comments below this post.

One of the idols of Devi Durga is ready for immersion on the Ganga river in Kolkata. Image by Suman Mitra. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2013)
One of the idols of Devi Durga is ready for immersion on the Ganga river in Kolkata. Image by Suman Mitra. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2013)
The Durga Puja ends by immersing Maa Durga's idol in water and chanting "asche bochor abar hobe" (It will happen again next year). Thanks to the the growing supply of Durga Puja apps, however, worshippers don't have to wait a whole year anymore. The virtual experience of Durga Puja is forever at the fingertips of anyone who wants it.
Aparna Ray contributed to this post.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.