Boat operators who refuse to comply with regulations of the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) regarding the fare structure have begun to feel the heat, since quite of number of operators ferrying passengers between the Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop Stellings have already been suspended for double-charging passengers on Sundays and holidays.This was related to Guyana Times by Harbour Master Michael Tennant, who explained that the move comes weeks after this newspaper had published several articles in which commuters called for MARAD’s invention in the situation.“We have already said that persons who are overcharging people and all such like, all the persons have to do is provide the name of the boat to us, and we will take the necessary action,” Tennant reminded this newspaper.Tennant said he was unable to give an approximate number of boat operators who have been suspended, but he noted that MARAD has begun to clamp down on errant operators in an effort to stamp out exploitation.Guyana Times had previously reported that boat operators were charging double fare on Sundays and holidays, much to the discomfiture of the travelling public; and Tennant, in an interview with this publication, had said passengers need to report the incidents for MARAD to act. He noted that complainants would be required to file an official report, which would require the name of the boat along with the time of the incident, since it would make the investigation easier.This newspaper was informed that boat operators usually demand a fare increase of an additional $100 when they transport half the number of passengers on this route.Passengers have also detailed cases when they were forced to pay the extra $100, some without even knowing that the additional fee is unlawful.Back then, when Guyana Times visited the Georgetown Stelling, some disgruntled passengers opined that the fare increase was quite burdensome and “unfair” to them. An angry passenger had said, “I ain’t get raise on my salary, so I ain’t concern with no raise of fare! I won’t go for no raise of fare!”Another frequent boat user had told Guyana Times, “I think that the fee increase on weekends and holidays is unnecessary and unacceptable. The boat captains and bowmen would have the maximum number of persons on board and still charge the $200 fee. It is a matter that should be looked into by the relevant authorities, because it’s an act of exploiting customers.”Another passenger of the water taxis had said, “We have no other choice. Sometimes — especially when they (boat operators) know that the bridge is closed — they try to exploit us, and I think that is unfair.”“The double-fare being charged by boat operators on Sundays and holidays is definitely ridiculous! It’s unethical! This was never approved! I believe only persons who aren’t aware of this are the ones that are being targeted. I pay $100 on those days, especially when the boats travel with a full load,” another passenger had said.A bowman who spoke to this newspaper had said the fares are increased on Sundays and holidays because those are not full working days.“Sundays and holidays is $200 (charged) because we ain’t supposed to be working. So them man does come out because them ain’t got nothing fuh do (and them want) fuh try and help de passengers to get across more fast. $200 a head. Me ain’t know why them (passengers) does row, because this is de cheapest boat fare around here,” he had declared.
Zimbabwean toddler Tapera Jani at the start of his treatment for both burns and kwashiorkor at the Children of Fire shelter in Johannesburg. (Image: Irin Photo)A few months ago Tapera Jani, a three-year-old boy from a farm outside Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe, walked into a fire. The toddler was left with life-threatening burns to his legs and, in a country with a collapsed health system, no-one to help him.Luckily the owner of the farm on which Tapera lived with his parents had heard of Children of Fire, a South African organisation which rescues and rehabilitates children across the world who fall victim to fire.In all developing countries, fire is the essential source of energy for poorer households. And whether it is in paraffin lamps, charcoal braziers or flaming piles of wood, fire will often cause accidents injuring, disfiguring and often killing those households’ children.Children of Fire was founded in South Africa by journalist Bronwen Jones after, in 1994, she met Dorah Mokoena, a toddler who almost died in a shack fire in a squatter camp. The fire burnt off Dorah’s face, eyesight and hands – leaving her blind, her features melted into scar tissue, and with stumps at the end of her arms.Jones and her son Tristan took Dorah into their home, where the girl, now a teenager, is a permanent member of the family. Unlike many, she has had the benefit of reconstructive surgery, with her nose and lips rebuilt, and some ability to communicate restored.Dorah’s disfigurement made her the poster child for Children of Fire. She has helped attract the more privileged world’s attention to the horrific physical dangers millions of children face being born into families surviving on nothing.With three-year-old Tapera, Jones and her team were ready to deal with his burns. But the toddler was also a victim of Zimbabwe’s collapse – its meltdown economy and nonexistent healthcare.A citizen of a country that recently was the breadbasket of Southern Africa, the boy was suffering from kwashiorkor, a life-threatening form of malnutrition caused by a lack of protein – and a disease unknown in Zimbabwe 10 years ago.“If Tapera had not died of his burns, he would have died of starvation in [Zimbabwean president Robert] Mugabe’s country,” said Jones, kissing the now-healthy and smiling child.“He weighed 8.5kg when he arrived. We expected him to weigh double that for his biological age.”Children of Fire, established in South Africa over a decade ago, is now registered as a charity in the UK. It has helped 70 children with severe burns and 200 from across Africa who required less complicated surgery.“We continue to help the 70 children who need complicated surgery,” Jones said.The organisation has come to expect complications in each case it takes up.“There is poverty and HIV/Aids in the region – as we help to heal the children, we have to deal with all their problems,” said Jones.Reconstructive surgery is expensive, particularly reconstructing faces and limbs ravaged by fire.“It can cost anywhere between R40 000 (US$4 123) to R1-million ($103 095) per child,” she said. The charity, therefore, takes on few surgical cases.“The ones we do, we know no-one else would help; for example, if the child is also HIV-positive.”The organisation’s focus is therefore not on expensive surgery. Its more important work is helping children damaged by fire come to terms with their disability, cope with the social stigma of their disfigurement, and develop the courage to reintegrate with family, friends and society.“I often end up being rude to people who stare at my children, despite my telling them not to do so, as it upsets them,” Jones said.“Acceptance and getting people to see the child inside is perhaps the most difficult thing.”Children of Fire works with a network of doctors, surgeons and healthcare specialists, most volunteers. The charity has never received government aid, and operates entirely on public donations, using volunteers from across the world.“My son Tristan calls us a boot-camp for spoilt European students,” said Jones. Children come and go out of the house which serves as a home and office for the charity in Melville, a suburb of Johannesburg in Gauteng province. A school near the main building, with a staff of three teachers, helps educate the children while they are in the organisation’s care.More than 90% of burn injuries across the world occur in developing countries, with 70% of these burn victims children, according to statistics from the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery in the UK and the Dow University Medical College Burns Centre in Pakistan.According to Children of Fire estimates, at least 15 000 South African children are burned every year. The incidence of burning is higher in winter, when the need for warmth means more fires, and more chance for tragic accidents.In South Africa’s five biggest cities an average of 200 people die in shack fires every year, according to Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African shack dwellers’ movement.Besides helping children with burn injuries, Children of Fire also tries to educate people shacklands and other poor and unserviced residential areas on preventing fires.“These are simple measures such as not cooking on the ground [where children may easily walk into fires] and not allowing children to sleep alone with an open fire,” said Jones.The organisation also provides construction materials and other household essentials to communities that have been victims of fire.Jones has also been trying to get the authorities to implement a ban on the use of a particular brand of unsafe cooking stove that leaks paraffin oil.“These stoves cost only about R40 (about $4), while the safer ones cost about R200 (about $20), which few residents in squatter camps can afford.“I wish someone could help with cheaper, safer versions.”MediaClubSouthAfrica.com reporter and Irin News Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org.Related articlesChampioning the children of fire Useful linksChildren of Fire Irin News
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Wednesday claimed there was a “consensus” between the BJP and his party before the Maharashtra Assembly elections on sharing the chief minister’s post.Amid the stalemate continuing over government formation in the state, Mr. Raut told reporters here that no fresh proposal has been received from the BJP or sent to it.He claimed farmers and the working class want a Shiv Sena chief minister and have hopes and expectations from the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.To a question on when there would be a consensus on the chief minister’s post, the Rajya Sabha member said, “There was a consensus on the post before elections.”Ruling out any new proposal for government formation, Mr. Raut reiterated that the Shiv Sena expects implementation of what was decided and agreed upon before the elections.“Why waste time on new proposals. We want a discussion on what was agreed upon earlier. No new proposal has been received or sent,” he said.On the possibility of imposition of President’s rule in the state, Mr. Raut said, “We will not be responsible for it. Those conspiring to do this are insulting the people’s mandate.”He said wherever Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray, who won the state polls from Worli seat in Mumbai, were touring to review crop losses due to unseasonal rains, the farmers and working class were looking at the party with hopes and expectations.“All are eager to have chief minister from the Shiv Sena,” he said.Mr. Raut refused to respond to a question on whether the NCP has agreed to share the chief minister’s post. “We will talk about it,” he said.The Sharad Pawar-led NCP on Tuesday said a political alternative can be worked out in the state if the Shiv Sena declared that it had snapped ties with the BJP.Sources in the NCP said their party wants Arvind Sawant, the lone Shiv Sena minister in the Union government, to resign before going ahead further with the Sena.There has been no headway in government formation after results of the state polls were declared on October 24.The BJP, which won 105 seats, and the Shiv Sena, which bagged 56 seats, are locked in a bitter tussle over sharing of the chief minister’s post and ministerial portfolios in new government, even 13 days after the Assembly poll verdict handed them enough seats to cobble up a coalition government.They won 161 seats together in the 288-member House, much above the halfway mark of 145.Besides, the opposition NCP won 54 seats while the Congress got 44 seats.