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|NEWS DIARY | NOVEMBER:
India at Bottom in UNESCO Literacy Ranking | Benazir Lambasted | U.S. Offers Sympathy, Help | Concern Over Malaysia | Situation Worsens
India at Bottom in UNESCO Literacy Ranking
Girls in an Indian school. A UNESCO report says India is unlikely to meet its literacy goals.
There are grim statistics for India in UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report released Nov. 30, with the country close to the bottom in the list of nations in terms of eradicating illiteracy and its ranking dipping from 100 last year to 105 now.
The 2008 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which provides projections for 127 countries in terms of the goal to achieve universal literacy by 2015, puts India among the 15 countries with low ‘Education for All’ Development Index.
Giving company to India in the bottom of the list are Pakistan and Bangladesh from the South Asian region.
At the top is the Scandinavian country Norway, followed by the U.K. and Slovenia in second and third places.
“Three highly populated countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan and India — continue to face major challenges, both in terms of the high numbers of illiterates, and the deep disparities that exist between urban and rural areas,” said UNESCO director general Koichiro Matsuura.
He said this poses a serious obstacle to the efforts made by the countries to achieve EFA and eradicate poverty.
However, some praise has come for India in the report, which notes that it is among the countries that have made remarkable strides since 2000 towards EFA, with a wide range of targeted initiatives that reach disadvantaged children, youth and adults across the country.
The report mentions that noteworthy progress has been made in India with regard to girls’ access to primary school.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is betraying Pakistan by not joining an election boycott that cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan said was key to ousting President Pervez Musharraf.
Bhutto says she is still open to the possibility of joining an array of opposition parties shunning January’s general election to protest Musharraf’s emergency rule and purging of the Supreme Court to safeguard his presidency.
But she has also kicked into campaign mode, unveiling a manifesto that woos the poor with promises of jobs, housing and healthcare, and analysts expect her to run.
“It is a complete case of betrayal,” Khan told Reuters in an interview after addressing chanting lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore furious at the removal of the Supreme Court bench.
“Every day she says there is pre-poll rigging, every day she says there can’t be free and fair elections. She says she doesn’t trust the caretakers, she says the emergency is illegal...And yet she is participating and legitimizing the whole process.”
Opponents of Musharraf say they can discredit the vote if they unite in a wholesale boycott but distrust prevents them cooperating. Some calculate they might exert more pressure on Musharraf by besting his political allies in parliament.
Khan’s own party Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice), is small, but he has joined opposition leaders, including two-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in pushing for a boycott.
His party has not registered to run in the election while Sharif’s and Bhutto’s have.
“We want the whole (election) process to be discredited,” Khan added. “To participate...is just playing on his pitch to save him. We are just giving him a lifeline.”
U.S. Offers Sympathy, Help
The United States expressed “its deepest sympathy” for the victims of the cyclone that struck Bangladesh as it took part in international efforts to provide emergency relief.
“The United States government would like to express its deepest sympathy for the victims of the cyclone,” U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, reading a statement.
“We’re ready to work with the (Bangladesh) government and foreign donors to assist in relieving the effects of the disaster,” he added.
Thousands of people died and tens of thousands were left homeless after a powerful cyclone smashed impoverished Bangladesh with huge waves, severe winds and torrential rains, officials.
Cyclone Sidr, described as the worst storm in years to hit low-lying and disaster-prone Bangladesh, crashed into the southwestern coast before sweeping north over the capital Dhaka.
“Upon hearing of the impending storm, the U.S. Mission in Bangladesh took immediate action to pre-position required supplies and equipment,” the statement said.
“Sixteen zodiac boats were ready to use for emergency operations. Six water treatment systems were mobilized. Ten water ambulances were available,” the statement said.
“With partners CARE and Save the Children 30,000 Emergency Survival Packages were pre-positioned in areas facing the oncoming cyclone and food commodities were pre-positioned for emergency response,” it added.
Concern Over Malaysia
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (l) with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The Indian government, which is concerned about the unrest among people of Indian origin following a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur during the weekend, is in contact with the Malaysian authorities over the issue.
“This is a matter which concerns us,’ Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi. “Whenever people of India run into difficulties, it is a source of concern.’
The government is “in touch’ with the authorities of Malaysia, with which India has “friendly relations,’ Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in parliament.
The government’s response came following protests by lawmakers in parliament for the second consecutive day over the treatment of ethnic Indians in Malaysia by police. Legislators expressed their concern and asked the government to intervene.
Police fired water canons and tear gas Nov. 25 to disperse about 10,000 ethnic Malaysian Indians who had gathered illegally in Kuala Lumpur to demand an end to what they call racial discrimination.
Indians account for about 10 percent of the 27 million population of Malaysia, where the government gives the ethnic Malay majority privileges over others for jobs and homes.
The rally, organized by the Hindu Rights Action Force, was the second such event in Kuala Lumpur this month, after a crowd of about 40,000 gathered on Nov. 10 to demand election reform.
The rally was to submit a petition to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur seeking the support of Queen Elizabeth II for a “class action suit’ filed in the U.K. for the “exploitation of Indians who were brought to Malaysia as indentured labor,’ Mukherjee said.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has asked Malaysian Indian Congress, or MIC, to set up a panel to prepare a report on demands by the Indian community as a follow-up to the party’s proposals in June.
The United Nations Human Rights Council should press the Sri Lankan government to agree to the immediate establishment of a UN human rights field operation with a strong monitoring mandate, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in an open letter.
As the top UN human rights body prepares to meet in Geneva, the human rights situation in Sri Lanka is rapidly deteriorating. In the last two weeks of November alone, more than 50 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka.
On Nov. 28, two bombings in Colombo killed more than 20 civilians. Other civilians were killed by aerial bombardment, shelling and claymore mine attacks in northern Sri Lanka.
Since September, more than 20,000 people have been newly displaced by the escalation in fighting between government forces and the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In Jaffna, the number of enforced disappearances and unlawful killings continues at very high levels. Both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have failed to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians from harm.