Month in Brief

Celebrations… and pollution


Residents of Delhi queued up for face masks as air pollution reached record levels, starting with smog caused by fireworks celebrating the Diwali festival. Levels of tiny particulate matter that enter deep into the lungs were up to 30 times higher than a guideline set by the World Health Organisation. Schools were closed and people were advised to work from home. Apart from fireworks, pollution is worsened by old diesel vehicles, and burning of rubbish and agricultural waste.

‘Afghan girl’ deported by Pakistan


Sharbat Gula, known as the ‘Afghan girl’ since her striking photograph appeared on the cover of National Geographic afghan-girl-1magazine in 1985, was deported to her native country after a Pakistani court found her guilty of using fraudulent identity papers. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Gula and her four children, and said she would be given a furnished apartment. The widow, who became a symbol of the Afghan conflict, is among 2.5 million refugees the Pakistan government wants to return home.

Unease ushers in first Chinese head of Interpol

Interpol, the international police organisation, elected a Chinese president for the first time, arousing concern among human rights organisations. Meng Hongwei, Beijing’s vice minister for public security, will head Interpol for four years. ‘This is extraordinarily worrying, given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,’ said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director at Amnesty International. Chinese police, he added, had ‘a terrible human rights record’, including coercing ‘confessions’ and the widespread use of torture.

Marcos receives hero’s burial

Ferdinand Marcos, the former Philippines dictator, was buried with military honours at the National Cemetery in Manila, almost 30 years after his death. His family had kept the timing of the burial secret, catching protesters off guard. Marcos, who ruled for two decades, was overthrown in a popular uprising in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii three years later. His remains were returned to the Philippines in 1993, and had been in a mausoleum in his home province of Ilocos Norte.

Fukuoka sinkhole plugged in record time


A busy intersection in the centre of the Japanese city of Fukuoka returned to normal a week after a giant sinkhole opened up, threatening to swallow nearby buildings. The collapse, blamed on work to extend an underground train line, created a pit 30 metres across and 15 metres deep, but no one was hurt. Crews worked night and day to repair utilities and pour tons of sand and cement into the hole. The astonishing speed of the repair received worldwide coverage.

Steep rise in opium production

Opium production in Afghanistan escalated by around 43% to 4,800 tons this year, compared with 2015 levels, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The increase, partly due to an estimated 10% growth in the area of poppy cultivation, highlights a setback in attempts to combat problems linked with illegal drugs. Despite a drop last year caused by drought, Afghan opium cultivation has been rising over the past decade, fuelling the Taliban insurgency and an addiction crisis.

Sardar Patel honoured in London


On November 1 the Indian High Commission in London and members of the Indian community commemorated the 141st birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The occasion was celebrated as Rashtriya Ekta Divas (National Unity Day) in honour of Patel’s role in protecting India’s territorial integrity and diversity. The ceremony, at India House, included an address by Acting High Commissioner, Dinesh Patnaik, and the screening of a documentary on Patel’s life.


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