News from Estonia, The Netherlands and India

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on February 26, 2013

ESTONIA goes electric with new car charger network

image706Estonia has become the first country in the world to install a nationwide system of fast chargers for electrical vehicles…as part of European efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The 165 chargers were produced and installed by engineering group ABB, and construction was financed from the government’s sale of 10 million surplus CO2 emission permits to Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation.

The 2011 deal with Mitsubishi also provided the Estonian government with more than 500 electric cars and the financing of a subsidiary system for people to purchase electric cars.

“Now is the time to really press the pedal and move forward in electrical mobility. We have proved that there is a real possibility to set up a network in a country, and there are no technical barriers,” Jarmo Tuisk, head of the program to set up the network of electric car chargers, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Estonia and other countries have seen a weak increase in the number of electric vehicles purchased due to high driving costs and their short range from a single charge.

The network of fast chargers strategically placed along roads and in towns means that users need not worry about running out of power during their journeys. It also features a nationwide unified payment system.

Estonia, with a population of about 1.2 million, has 619 all-electric cars, of which 500 are used by public authorities and about 100 by private people and companies.

That amounts to one electric vehicle for every 1,000 cars, second only to Norway, which has four per 1,000. The Netherlands is third at 0.6 per 1,000.

Tuisk said that with the national charging network in place he hoped the number of electrical vehicles owned by individuals or companies would double to 200 this year.

THE NETHERLANDS – Government wants to require EU migrants to sign good citizenship contracts

image710The Dutch government wants to require all foreigners (including European Union citizens) taking up residency in Holland ahead of the lifting of migration restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians next year to sign good citizenship contracts.

The proposal to make all people seeking residency in the Netherlands sign a “participation contract” before they are allowed to live there follows an increasingly heated debate about immigration in the crowded and small country.

Moves to make people sign a legally binding, good behaviour agreement in which they commit to uphold Dutch values, the country’s constitution and the rule of law could become a template for other countries such as Britain as fears grow over the impact of increased immigration from EU [European Union] countries.

Lodewijk Asscher, the Labor party’s social affairs minister in a Dutch coalition government that is frequently an ally of Britain on EU issues, has written to the country’s parliament suggesting the contracts as a means of ensuring people abide by “clear and tough” integration rules.

“If we don’t take steps, we will pay an enormous price,” he told the Volkskrant newspaper on Wednesday. “Cultural integration is breaking down.”

Over the last decade, Holland has furiously debated Muslim immigration and was the first European country to propose legislation banning the burka but in recent years, as in Britain, the debate has [expanded] to the impact of migration from Eastern European EU countries.

EU citizens are currently exempt from integration contracts or language exams but, as in Britain, the Dutch government is known to be concerned that large numbers of Romanian and Bulgarians will move to the Netherlands when borders are opened on January 1, 2014.

“The free movement of people without paying attention to the problems it can bring will lead to a more antisocial Europe,” said Mr. Asscher.

INDIA – Allahabad stampede kills 36 Hindu pilgrims

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Holy men carry a child adorned with marigold flowers on their shoulders as they march towards Sangham on Jan. 14, 2013.

ALLAHABAD – A stampede at a railway station in Allahabad killed at least 36 Hindu pilgrims on Sunday, Feb. 10, the busiest day of the Kumbh Mela at which some 30 million Hindus had gathered to wash away their sins in the Ganges river.

Twenty-seven of the dead were women, mostly elderly and poor. … A Reuters witness saw a woman weeping at the train station, surrounded by six bodies dressed in brightly coloured saris.

Up to 100 million pilgrims and Hindu “holy men” are expected to attend the two-month long Kumbh Mela, world’s largest religious festival, which comes to an end next month.

It is held every 12 years in a temporary city covering an area larger than Athens, spread over a wide sandy river bank in Allahabad at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet the Saraswati, a mythical river.

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Holy men covered in ash walk in procession after bathing at Sangam

The festival grows in size every time it is held and is considered the world’s largest temporary gathering of people. Officials said some 30 million visited the site on Sunday, considered the most auspicious day to bathe in the river.

Officials gave contradictory versions of what caused the crush. A railway official told Reuters police had been using batons to control the crowd, triggering panic. A state government official said a footbridge handrail collapsed, sending people slipping down the stairs and starting a stampede.

A spokesman for Indian railways said authorities had found 36 bodies and 30 people were injured. The injured were being treated at hospitals in Allahabad.

“Since there were huge crowds and a lot of panic, it took time before the bodies could be extricated,” said another official, R. M. Srivastava, the top security official in Uttar Pradesh.

Deadly stampedes are common at India’s vast pilgrimages and religious festivals. In 2008, 145 people died when a panicking crowd pushed people over a ravine near the Himalayan temple of Naina Devi.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Reuters on Feb. 20, London’s Daily Telegraph on Feb. 21 and YahooNews on Feb. 11.)


Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch] e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.comfor a list of continents.]

2. For ESTONIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Jarmo Tuisk, head of the program to set up the network said “We have proved that there is a real possibility to set up a network in a country.” What did you learn about Estonia (from question #1) that explains why it is possible to set up a network in this country?
c) What other information can you guess about Estonia (found in the info for Estonia in the CIA World FactBook) that would help explain why it is possible to set up a network in this country?
d) Until its subsidized program, why have Estonia and other countries not seen large growth in the electric car industry?

3. For the NETHERLANDS:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What requirements are included in the legally binding contract that immigrants would have to sign?
c) Why is the Dutch government attempting to implement the use of such a contract?
d)  Do you think the U.S. should require citizens to sign a similar type of legally binding contract?  Explain your answer.

4. For INDIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) How many Hindus are expected to attend the Kumbh Mela over the 55 day festival?
c) What is the main purpose of the Kumbh Mela?


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Background

NETHERLANDS 

NOTE:  The Netherlands is the name of the country; Holland is a region in the Netherlands. Although some people use Holland when they are referring to the country of the Netherlands, Holland is actually a region on the west coast of Netherlands. Two of Netherlands’ 12 provinces are North Holland and South Holland – and together they constitute Holland. The biggest cities in the Netherlands – Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague – are in Holland. Some Dutch people who do not live in Holland do not like it when people call the entire country Holland. (from diffen. com/difference/Holland_vs_Netherlands)

  • In order not to fall foul of EU free movement rules, which outlaws discrimination against Europeans on the basis of nationality, the Dutch government will apply its good citizenship contracts universally to all foreigners.
  • EU citizens and Turkish nationals are currently exempt from compulsory integration exams and measures that are required of non-European immigrants in Holland.
  • “We’re going to find out what is legally possible,” said Mr. Asscher.
  • Laszlo Andor, the European social affairs commissioner, said he would be discussing the proposal with Mr. Asscher next week amid Brussels concerns that free movement rules are under assault form national governments, such as the Dutch and British.
  • “To judge if it is legal, we would have to know the details,” he said.
  • David Cameron has pledged to overhaul the British benefits system for immigrants to limit access to British public services to ensure that the UK is “not a soft touch.”
  • The Prime Minister has said that he wants to reform the system allowing immigrants access to housing, the health service, the justice system and benefits.  (from the Telegraph article)
  • INDIA: Kumbh Mela

    Thousands of police and volunteers are used for crowd control during the Kumbh Mela, manning the river bank when the pilgrims and naked, dreadlocked holy men dash into the water to bath.

    The festival has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says the god Vishnu wrested a golden pot from demons containing the nectar of immortality.

    In a 12-day fight for possession, four drops fell to earth, in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Every three years a Kumbh Mela is held at one of these spots, with the festival at Allahabad the holiest of them all.

    More than 2,000 years old, the festival is a meeting point for Hindu “sadhu” holy men, some of whom live in forests or Himalayan caves and who belong to dozens of inter-related congregations. The sects have their own administration and elect leaders, but are also known for violent clashes among themselves. (from the yahoonews article)

    • Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river which they believe will wash away their sins.
    • It is the world’s largest religious gathering, with 80-100 million people expected in 2013.
    • The current Kumbh Mela began on January 14, 2013 at Allahabad. It is celebrated over 55 days.
    • The Kumbh Mela alternates between the cities of Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years.
    • The Maha Kumbh Mela celebrated at the holy site of Sangam in Allahabad, is the largest and holiest.
    • The Maha Kumbh Mela, believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth, is held every 12 years on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
    • A sprawling tent city has been erected on the flood plain near Allahabad this year as devotees gather to wash away the sins of past lives and free themselves from the karmic cycle of death and rebirth.
    • The size: 7.5 square miles, 99 parking lots, 3,600 buses, 14,000 policemen, 342 miles of water pipelines, 21 million gallons of drinking water, 42,500 toilets, 14 hospitals and an average of 10,000 people lost and found per week.
    • As for the ultimate figure: on Feb. 10, the festival’s most auspicious bathing day, an estimated 30 million people congregated, making it the largest human gathering in the history of the world. (from wikipedia and various news sources)

    Resources

    ESTONIA

    “The Singing Revolution” is a must-see documentary on Estonia.  Check it out of your library, or visit the website for a movie trailer:
    singingrevolution.com/cgi-local/content.cgi