KETR

Julie McCarthy

A fire crackles along the banks of the Yamuna River: a cremation of a young mother, struck by a car while she was fetching water.

The stench of the river engulfs the sad assembly.

Before the hissing funeral pyre, floating down the river, white blocks of what looks like detergent appear like icebergs. It is 95 degrees in Delhi this night. This is chemical waste from factories that have sprung up across the city, manufacturing leather goods, dyes and other goods.

Downstream, the living reside along garbage-strewn banks.

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Vijay Mallya is one of India's most flamboyant business figures, known as a liquor baron, an airline owner, and a man who reportedly owns 250 vintage cars.

But Mallya, 60, is now known as a debtor who is being pursued by banks to recover the mountain of debt he has accrued. He left the country on March 2, just as some 17 banks were closing in on him for payment of delinquent loans totaling the equivalent of nearly $1.5 billion.

The local media are calling it the "Robin Hood" budget. The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, eager to win support among the urban and rural poor, is announcing programs to improve conditions for low-income people and provide tax breaks for necessities and items that might improve their lives.

Meanwhile, to bring in more funds for government spending, there are now higher taxes for luxury items.

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India has deployed thousands of army and paramilitary troops to quell violence that authorities say has killed at least 10 people in the northern Indian state of Haryana. A caste known as the Jats is leading the unrest to demand affirmative-action benefits from the government.

Jats make up more than a quarter of Haryana's 25 million people. They seek to be included in the official category of "Other Backward Classes."

In India, a university student is accused of uttering anti-India slogans that valorized a Kashmiri separatist. Is such sloganeering in support of Afzal Guru, who was hanged for his role in an attack on the Indian Parliament, a case of free speech or sedition?

Indians are sharply divided.

In a far-reaching ruling, India has prohibited telecom service providers from charging different prices to consumers to access content on the Internet — a blow to Facebook and its aggressive bid to offer a free but stripped-down version of the Internet aimed at India's poor.

India and France have signed a "memorandum of understanding" on the sale of 36 French fighter jets to New Delhi.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said financial details of the agreement to buy the Rafale jets, manufactured by Dassault Aviation, have yet to be sorted but will soon be finalized. Reporting from New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy says the defense deal was one of a number of pacts reached during extensive talks between Modi and French President Francois Hollande, who is on a three-day trip to India.

Climate negotiators in Paris are wrangling over "country commitments," "caps" and "cuts" in greenhouse gases.

Some environmentalists, however, argue that the most important "c" word is missing: consumption. In India, they say little will change unless fossil-fuel-reliant rich countries moderate how they consume energy.

"An inconvenient truth is that we do not want to talk about consumption or lifestyle," says environmentalist Sunita Narain.

Conjuring images of a dystopia, the shroud of bad air blanketing New Delhi in recent weeks has intensified global pressure on India to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

India will arrive at the climate change summit in Paris next week as the third biggest generator of fossil fuel pollution blamed for warming the planet, after China and the U.S.

Half of India's emissions come from burning coal. A visit to the coal-rich northeastern Indian state of Jharkhand reveals how this stands to get even worse.

The Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa says it has shut down its adoption services in India over religious objections to the country's new adoption rules. The Catholic sisters known for their blue and white habits and vow of free service to the poor say they have asked the government to de-register 13 orphanages.

The world's third-largest carbon polluter has submitted its long-range plan to curb greenhouse gas admissions in advance of December's Paris climate summit. India does not commit to an absolute reduction in carbon emissions, but does promise to ramp up renewable energy to help slow global warming.

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