Meet Mumbai’s first women rickshaw drivers

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An Indian woman rickshaw driver taking part in a training session in Mumbai. Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-colored rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai’s first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women. (AFP/PUNIT PARANJPE)
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An Indian woman rickshaw driver taking part in a training session in Mumbai. Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-colored rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai’s first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women. (AFP/PUNIT PARANJPE)
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An Indian woman rickshaw driver taking part in a training session in Mumbai. Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-colored rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai’s first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women. (AFP/PUNIT PARANJPE)
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An Indian woman rickshaw driver taking part in a training session in Mumbai. Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-colored rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai’s first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women. (AFP/PUNIT PARANJPE)
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An Indian woman rickshaw driver taking part in a training session in Mumbai. Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-colored rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai’s first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women. (AFP/PUNIT PARANJPE)
Updated 13 April 2017

Meet Mumbai’s first women rickshaw drivers

MUMBAI: Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-colored rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai’s first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women.
The 45-year-old was one of 19 women who recently started jobs ferrying passengers through the notoriously congested streets of India’s financial capital in their new three-wheelers.
“This job is much better than doing household work. I can make more money and it helps us secure our futures,” Mohite told AFP as she got in some last minute practice.
The mother of three has spent the past two months learning how to drive at a training center in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs and is thrilled with her new skills and financial prospects.
“I couldn’t even ride a bicycle but today I can drive an auto rickshaw. I’m independent and it makes me happy,” says Mohite, who hopes to earn 1,000 rupees ($15) a day.
She is benefitting from a scheme introduced by the state government of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, that reserves five percent of rickshaw permits for women.
It announced the plan in early 2016, saying that 465 licenses would be made available for women in Mumbai and the neighboring district of Thane.
Unlike similar schemes in New Delhi and Ranchi, where some pink autos are driven by women for women as a safety initiative, the Maharashtra drivers take both male and female passengers.
Services started in Thane last year but Mohite and her new colleagues, who will sport white lab-coat-like uniforms, are the first to ply the streets of India’s most populated metropolis.
“I’ve taught them the A to Z of auto-rickshaw driving. They are now experts and have passed an official RTO (Regional Transport Office) test,” Sudhir Dhoipode, the women’s instructor, told AFP.

WATCH: Mumbai's first female auto rickshaw drivers take to the streets

Dhoipode says he is currently teaching more than 40 women how to drive while around 500 others have expressed an interest in learning despite some community opposition in the conservative country.
“People mocked us for leaving our homes and choosing to drive rickshaws but we hope we can inspire other women to come forward and take advantage of this great initiative,” said driver Anita Kardak.
Rickshaw permits are highly sought after in Mumbai and can be big business, with owners often renting them out for a fee or lending them to others when their shift has finished.
Transport officials say they decided the women should have a different colored rickshaw to the ubiquitous black and yellow ones to stop male relatives from taking them over.
It has led to some fears the women will be at risk because they will stand out, but Mohite isn’t concerned.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any safety issue as we’re capable of looking after ourselves. Driving the rickshaw is a fun feeling and I’m ready to drive anywhere in Mumbai,” she said.


Osama bin Laden’s son takes up painting

Updated 07 March 2021

Osama bin Laden’s son takes up painting

  • Omar’s works include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan
  • His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited

LONDON: Osama bin Laden’s son Omar has reportedly taken up painting as a method of coping with lockdowns introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Omar, the 39-year-old fourth son of the former Al-Qaeda leader, lives in Normandy in northern France with his wife Zaina, a painter from Cheshire in the UK.
His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited and against which his father waged a terrorist insurgency for many years, including the 9/11 attacks, culminating in his assassination in 2011.
Omar’s works also include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where his father hid from US forces for many years.
He told Vice News that he had suffered for many years with post-traumatic stress disorder, following a childhood that saw him uprooted from his family home outside Jeddah to resettle in Sudan and war-torn Afghanistan as his father pursued his campaigns.
Omar later rejected his father and left Afghanistan following his experiences of the conflict there.
“I want the world to learn that I have grown; that I am comfortable within myself for the first time in my life; that the past is the past and one must learn to live with what has gone by,” he said. “One must forgive if not forget, so that one may be at peace with one’s emotions.”

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What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

Updated 05 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

The European debt crisis has rekindled long-standing debates about the power of finance and the fraught relationship between capitalism and democracy in a globalized world.

Why Not Default? unravels a striking puzzle at the heart of these debates — why, despite frequent crises and the immense costs of repayment, do so many heavily indebted countries continue to service their international debts?

In this compelling and incisive book, Jerome Roos provides a sweeping investigation of the political economy of sovereign debt and international crisis management, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

He takes readers from the rise of public borrowing in the Italian city-states to the gunboat diplomacy of the imperialist era and the wave of sovereign defaults during the Great Depression.

He vividly describes the debt crises of developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s and sheds new light on the recent turmoil inside the Eurozone— including the dramatic capitulation of Greece’s short-lived anti-austerity government to its European creditors in 2015.


What We Are Eating Today: O’Dolma

Updated 05 March 2021

What We Are Eating Today: O’Dolma

O’Dolma is an Iraqi restaurant in Jeddah that offers dolma, a signature Middle Eastern dish of vine leaves, vegetables stuffed with rice, and meat.
Dolma comes in a variety of styles and flavors, with many regional specialties. O’Dolma offers the Iraqi version, which is prepared by Iraqi chefs according to an original recipe.
It is an ideal warming dish to enjoy in winter.
The restaurant’s signature dish, dolma royal, consists of layers of rolled-up dolma and vegetables filled with rice and seasoning, covered with a layer of fresh lamb ribs.
Vine leaves fattah — a layer of yogurt sauce over rows of vine leaves — is another mouthwatering choice offered by the restaurant.
The restaurant offers some trendy twists in packaging, taste and presentation. Each order is packaged in a durable box, which can be put on your dining table as a main or taken on trips.
O’Dolma has three branches in Jeddah in the North Obhur, Al-Rawdah and Al-Safa districts.


Egyptian child with SMA receives most expensive medicine in world

Updated 05 March 2021

Egyptian child with SMA receives most expensive medicine in world

CAIRO: Egyptian doctors have succeeded in treating a child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) using the most expensive drug in the world, Zolgensma.

Nagia Ali Fahmy, professor of neurology and director of the Muscular and Neurology Unit at Ain Shams Medicine in Egypt, explained that Zolgensma, which has a value of $2.125 million per dose, is the first gene therapy of its kind in the world given to a patient intravenously in a single dose.

The drug was approved in May 2019 by the US Food and Drug Administration.

She added that the manufacturer, Novartis, offers 100 opportunities to obtain the drug free of charge in countries where it has not yet been registered, setting conditions for choosing the children who receive it, including that they should not be over two years old, and their mutation should be in the first gene. Accordingly, Ain Shams Medicine made eight applications for cases under their care, and Novartis selected one, a boy named Rayan from Alexandria, who is turning two in a few days.

SMA of the first and second types leads to the death of the child during the first two years of life as a result of the failure of respiratory functions.

Zolgensma was first clinically tested several years ago, and the first child to receive it is now five years old.

The drug treats breathing functions and motor impairment, and puts the child on a path to normal growth.

But the improvement happens gradually, during which physiotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation therapy are performed.

Hani Aref, head of the neurology department at the Faculty of Medicine at Ain Shams University, said that SMA happens due to a genetic defect, as there is a defective gene in the body that does not allow the secretion of proteins responsible for feeding the cells connected to the muscles.

“This disease results in gradual, severe muscle weakness and it is divided into three stages depending on the severity in the gene,” he said.

“The first stage affects children immediately after birth in which the child’s condition is very difficult and the atrophy affects the breathing muscles gradually, which leads to death.

“The second stage affects children six months after their birth, and the third stage affects the child at an advanced age and results in severe muscle weakness,” he added.

“Symptoms begin with great difficulty moving, and the child cannot acquire motor skills; if he gains some of them, he will gradually lose them. Most of the children suffering from the disease are put on ventilators, but they eventually die.”


SpaceX Starship lands upright, then explodes in latest test

Updated 04 March 2021

SpaceX Starship lands upright, then explodes in latest test

  • The last two prototypes reached a similarly high altitude in December and February, but later exploded

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.
The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.
The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles (10 kilometers) after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.
The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.
But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.
There was no immediate comment from SpaceX on what went wrong. But Musk looked on the bright side in a tweet: “Starship 10 landed in one piece!” RIP SN10, honorable discharge.”
He added: “SpaceX team is doing great work! One day, the true measure of success will be that Starship flights are commonplace.”
Musk plans to use Starships to send people to the moon and Mars.
The last two prototypes reached a similarly high altitude in December and February, but slammed into the ground at Boca Chica, Texas, and exploded.
Each of these last three test flights lasted 6 1/2 minutes.