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Archives for : Health Care

Uttarakhand, a Govt-funded Centre to Keep Women in Hiding During Their Menstrual Cycle #WTFnews

The matter came to light when villagers complained to the district magistrate about irregularities in the construction of the ‘menstruating centre’.

Anupam Trivedi |

Term Insurance Of 50 Lakh Cover For As Low As Rs 386 Per MonthEnter Phone Number & Age To Check Eligibility For Rs.1 Crore TermDehradun: In a move that puts a big question mark on the treatment of women in Uttarakhand, a government-funded building has been constructed in a village in Champawat district with the sole intention of keeping women away from their homes during their menstrual cycle. 

The matter came to light when a couple of villagers complained to the district magistrate about irregularities in the construction of the ‘menstruating centre’.

“I was shocked to know about ‘menstruating centre’ in the remote Ghurchum village. The complainants failed to justify why women were to be kept in the centre and whether they will be given sanitary pads,” district magistrate Ranbir Chauhan told News18 over phone on Tuesday.

An official said the government funds were meant for the development of the village and a probe has been ordered to find out how they got ‘misused’ for the building construction.

“The centre was constructed from the funds meant for development of Panchayat. It is bizarre that the centre is being used to keep menstruating women, it is against the basic concept of fundamental rights,” Chauhan said.

He added that a team of the officials will find out whether more such centres exist in the district. Sources say the officials will also crosscheck if the funds allocated by the 14th finance commission were misused in the construction of the centre in question. 

The concept of ‘menstruating centre’ is similar to that of ‘period huts’ in the neighbouring Nepal. Recently, a village in Nepal hit headlines after a menstruating woman and her two children died after getting suffocated in a menstrual hut.

Champawat district is nestled along the Indo-Nepal border.

In December last year, News18 had reported how teenagers in Sail village of Pithoragath district were not allowed to attend school during their period as a temple falls en route. Pithoragarh is another remote district of Uttarakhand along the Indo-Nepal-China border.

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250 Parliamentarians and Eminent Citizens write to Prime Minister to release funds for MGNREGA and to respond effectively to rural distress


Nearly 90 Members of Parliament and 160 eminent citizens including former bureaucrats, leading development economists, prominent activists and leaders of farmers’ movements have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for an urgent response to the crisis that the
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee is facing. On January 1 st 2019, over 99% of MGNREGA funds had been exhausted and the acute funds crunch had brought the program close to a halt.

This is when a situation of distress prevails across rural India with massive unemployment, declining farm incomes and rising inequality. A functional right to an employment guarantee at such a time would be a critical means of support for protecting lives and livelihoods of the rural population. Instead, the implementation of MGNREGA has been subject to
persistent attacks by vested interests and power elites at all levels.


On 3 rd January 2019 a meeting between a Members of Parliament and civil society was held in Delhi to discuss the potential and challenges of MGNREGA in responding to rural distress. One of the outcomes of this meeting was a unanimous endorsement of a letter to the Prime Minister highlighting the ways in which MGNREGA is being undermined through the squeezing of funds and unaddressed payment delays that have lefts lakhs of workers unpaid for months. The meeting and excerpts from
the letter were widely covered by the media..


After the meeting the letter was circulated more widely and has now garnered the support of a total of 250 parliamentarians and eminent citizens.

The letter states- “we are alarmed to note that the country’s only employment guarantee is being systematically undermined. Illegal restrictions on its budget allocation, severe payment delays and low wages are crippling the program and depriving people in distress of one of their most important legally supported structures”.

The 250 signatories urge the PM to “make the strengthening of MGNREGA an urgent priority” and “formally include it as part of the set of measures being considered to deal with the current rural and agrarian crisis”. It
offers a set of concrete recommendations such as making adequate funds available to meet actual demand for employment and opening at least one labor intensive work in every gram panchayat


While the letter was being circulated for endorsement, we learnt that Rs 7000 crores have been released to the Ministry of Rural Development. This is a welcome move however the amount is still grossly inadequate and does not even cover pending liabilities totals Rs 9000 crores according to
MoRD’s website. Even with these additional funds, 91% of the money has already been utilized and after the payment of liabilities, state governments will not be able to provide any new employment reinstating status quo. Given that the lean agricultural season has begun, demand for work will be at its peak but the government will once again fail the rural poor by denying employment to those who need it the most, when they need it most.

This letter to the PM reflects a strong consensus across party lines to ensure MGNREGA is protected and strengthened as a political commitment to improving the lives of millions of rural workers across
the country.

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The amazing story of this 38-year-old Indian author who suffers from VHL, a rare disease

Payel Bhattacharya suffers from von Hippel-Lindau or VHL. She tells us about the various difficulties she has faced in her life due to VHL and how she wants to make people aware of this rare condition.

VHL,von Hippel-Lindau,Rare disease

Writer Payel tells us about the various difficulties she has faced in her life due to VHL, being asked to vacate her home on her birthday and how she wants to make people aware of this rare condition.

Delhi based Payel Bhattacharya suffers from von Hippel-Lindau or VHL, which is characterised by tumors forming in organs of the body, including in the brain, spine, ears, eyes, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys. As result of the disease, she has undergone around 14 surgeries and radiation therapies. She also has trigeminal neuralgia, known as the ‘suicide disease,’ a condition which actor Salman Khan also suffers from.

Money is always a problem for her due to the extremely high cost of treatments, especially after her father passed away all of a sudden 10 years ago, which was another big blow to her.

Payel was also diagnosed with a rare form of multiple brain tumour in 2013, when doctors gave her seven years to live (a time period which is almost over). One way in which Payel deals with her condition is by reading and writing- she has authored five books till now, including her autobiography.

Payel tells us about the various difficulties she has faced in her life due to VHL, being asked to vacate her home on her birthday and how she wants to make people aware of this rare condition.

Since when do you have VHL?

I was born with von Hippel-Lindau or VHL which is a genetic defect that causes capillary growth to go out of control. While the tiniest blood vessels or capillaries usually branch out gracefully like trees, in VHL patients a little knot of extra capillaries forms a growth or tumor and in certain cases it turns cancerous.

After a lot of misdiagnosis and diagnostic dilemma I was diagnosed with the disease during my liver transplant. My liver was riddled with hemorrhaging tumors which individually couldn’t be removed. Thus, I survived a very expensive (Rs 30 lakh) liver transplant which went on for about 18 hours with a team of thirty doctors. My father died just after my liver transplant.

Payel undergoing one of the medical procedures.

What sort of difficulties do you face when you lost your father?

He didn’t leave us any money, or a house and we became homeless and penniless. We had no idea how to arrange our food the next day. A liver transplant patient requires immunosuppressant medicines which are lifesaving medicines so that the new transplanted liver is not rejected like bacteria or viruses. These medicines are expensive, and we had no idea how to manage my expensive treatment.

My father was like a tree in whose shade I grew, and he cared for me so much that it always seemed that if anything goes wrong, if we encounter a storm, he will somehow manage the situation and protect me. His loss was such a great shock that I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t with me any longer. I would think without him would I ever exist? But I did because I never lost hope.

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Is it difficult to explain your condition to people?

We are judged mostly by how we look. I didn’t look afflicted. Therefore, when I approached people for help they gave absurd suggestions like getting free food from religious places and living in dharmshalas. Perhaps if I had a missing leg or an arm they would have readily helped or perhaps if they saw me in bed writhing in frustration and pain.

Being on immunosuppressants with my immune system suppressed I cannot go to any place or eat anything because I am susceptible to several diseases. I contracted MDR-TB under my immunocompromised condition. I am a survivor of kidney cancer which is a manifestation of VHL. Explaining somebody about VHL takes an immensely long time, sometimes even a month and even then, people don’t understand the nature of the disease completely.

When I ask some people for help, they remain mute, as if I don’t exist but sometimes there are some kind souls who help without asking. But I should add that I don’t despair. Maybe that’s why somebody sometimes helps, and I survive. I can’t even say how many people have come in my life when I desperately needed help and then poof! They vanished! This process continues in my life, but I always hope people would someday really understand me.

Payel’s autobiography is titled, The Warrior Dies Dancing- That’s Who I am.

You’ve had problems with landlords too?

Yes. Sometimes they drove us out because of my MDR-TB and sometimes it was because they were running at a loss. They didn’t care for my condition, the adverse effects of shifting flats, and the extra money involved. We are living in Delhi for about a decade and have been leading a nomadic life being hounded by landlords to the effect that we had to change houses seven times.

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One landlord, when I was puzzled with a tricky brain tumour and my kidney cancer and was running to various doctors presented me with a court notice to vacate the flat immediately. It was on my birthday. I didn’t give in. I survived my kidney cancer and the brain tumour got radiation, but it claimed most of the vision of my right eye. Ultimately the judge gave me just five months’ time to vacate. No time is enough for the body to heal after a major surgery and each time the body behaves differently.

READ: Sanjay Khan on playing Tipu Sultan, undergoing 73 surgeries and his autobiography

How do you deal with having this condition and the other obstacle you face in life?

I am a bibliophile. I find joy in reading and I am an avid reader. Even though I have a rare form of multiple brain tumour called leptomeningeal hemangioblastomas, which is a manifestation of the VHL syndrome and that a brain tumour has claimed most of my vision of the right eye I like reading and writing.

With my brain tumours I experience a bit of confusion and short-term memory loss, therefore I took it as a challenge to write detective-fiction. I have written the Mum and Princess Series. The first book- Mum And Princess Go Spying is published by Half-Baked Beans in Kindle format. The second is Sweeter Than Revenge, a locked room mystery, published in ‘kindle direct publishing’ or KDP. I completed writing the third in the series which is called Mum and Princess In Mystic Land.

I have also written a fictional account of my life story, The Warrior Dies Dancing, That’s Who I Am, which is published in the Indian Literature journal of Sahitya Akademi in the September- October issue of 2018. In November 2018 I have published my autobiography of the same name with KDP. I want people to read and know about my struggles, create awareness about VHL, the unpleasant experience of having the disease and I also want people to know how I have faced the cruel situations in my life. The Mum and Princess series which I write are drawn from first hand experiences of my life.

source- HT

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Dear Mr. Modi, you owe an explanation to the people on Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project!

As the Indian government has announced expediting of the techno-commercial agreement with France for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur, Dr. EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary  in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also heads the country’s Department of Atomic Energy.

E A S Sarma
14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road
Maharanipeta
Visakhapatnam 530002

To

Shri Narendra D Modi
Prime Minister

Dear Shri Modi,

Subject:- Doubts about the safety of nuclear reactors to be supplied by EDF/Areva of France for Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra- Appeal for caution

I am writing this letter to you as, under the Business Rules, the Dept of Atomic Energy (DAE) falls within the purview of the Prime Minister. Serious doubts have been expressed about the safety of the nuclear reactors being supplied else where by the French conglomerate EDF/Areava, the same group that will provide us reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra.

I have enclosed here a news report dated 11-1-2019 in a Scottish News paper, The Ferret, with the headline, “More cracks found in Hunterston nuclear power reactors……… Pressure is mounting to keep two nuclear power reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire closed by the company that runs them, EDF Energy, said it had found more cracks and was again postponing plans to restart”

The nuclear reactors for Jaitapur in Maharashtra will be supplied by the same French group of companies, EDF/Areva, under an agreement you had signed with your French counterpart in January 2016.

The flaws in the design and the manufacture of the nuclear power reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire have come to public knowledge because the nuclear regulatory authorities in UK, France and other countries are not only professional but also independent of the nuclear establishment whose reactors they are required to inspect and regulate.

In the case of India, unfortunately, our own nuclear regulator, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), however professional it may be, is subordinate to DAE whose reactors it is supposed to regulate. It is potentially unsafe for India to import the French nuclear reactors, not only in view of the serious safety concerns observed in the case of the nuclear power projects that EDF/Areva are setting up in Finland, UK, USA and other countries but also in view of the absence of an independent regulatory authority in India that could point out the potential dangers, as its counterparts in the other countries do.

Immediately, after the ghastly nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, in the heat of the moment, to convince the public, DAE brought in a Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill in 2012, which was scrutinised by the concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee that made far reaching suggestions to improve upon it in line with the norms laid down by the International Atomic Energy Regulatory Agency (IAEA) and Comptroller & Auditor General of India. The UPA government failed to move forward for the next two years and so has the NDA government for the next five years. Apparently, the successive governments the people elect are insensitive to the welfare of the public and the potential harm that nuclear power projects can cause.

I enclose here a comprehensive article written by me, evaluating the independence of the regulators in USA, France, UK, Finland etc vis a vis AERB. The article is self-explanatory.

EDF/Areva’s nuclear reactors are potentially unsafe with AERB feeling helpless to point out the safety concerns. Also, reactor imports from France will be through highly non-transparent procedures, giving scope for public criticism and leading to high cost.

I refer to an article (“Jaitapur: A risky and expensive project“) authored by Suvrat Raju & M.V. Ramana which states as follows.

“In addition to the high costs, safety problems with the reactor design and construction have emerged in several EPRs. The most serious of these pertained to the pressure vessel, which is the key barrier that prevents the spread of radioactive materials from the reactor. In April 2015, the French nuclear safety regulator, Autorité Sûreté Nucléaire, announced that some sections of the pressure vessel that the French Creusot Forge had supplied to the Flamanville and Taishan reactors had too much carbon in the steel. The Flamanville project was also found to have substandard welding in the reactor’s pipes. The EPR at Olkiluoto in Finland encountered problems with vibrations in the pipe that connects the primary coolant system with the pressuriser, which maintains the pressure of the water circulating in the reactor”

As the Minister in charge of DAE and its activities, I believe that you should ask DAE to examine what others and I have stated above, including the concerns expressed by the nuclear regulatory authorities elsewhere and proceed as follows.

  1. Ask DAE to put on hold any further work on Jaitapurartile
  2. pending a detailed examination of the safety features of EDF/Areava’s nuclear reactors, in consultation with AERB and the regulators in France/ UK/ Finland/ USA
  3. Take urgent steps to bring in Nuclear Regulatory Authority Act as modified by the Parliamentary Standing Committee
  4. Till such time that an independent regulatory authority is set up, put on hold all nuclear power projects and expansion projects
  5. Ensure that the procurement procedures for importing nuclear reactors from France and other countries remain in conformity with the prescribed financial rules. (China has adopted a competitive bidding route, whereas India’s reactor import procedure is opaque)

I feel that there is a great deal of public interest involved in this and the government owes an explanation to the public at large.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,
12-1-2019
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOI
Visakhapatnam

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Hindutva’s Cow Misadventure Can Likely Cost Rs 1.5 Lakh Crore

Image used for representational purposes.

Image used for representational purposes.(Photo: The Quint)

MAYANK MISHRATFG

Domestic animals, also the key driver of income diversification for farm households in the country in recent years, used to fetch multiple values as provider of milk, meat and as dependable resource for ploughing farms. Since the introduction of tractors made the cattle redundant for farming, the preference for animals offering other values (milk and meat) saw a substantial jump in the last few years.

Data shows that the proportion of males (predominantly used in agriculture) in overall livestock population has been consistently falling.

According to the latest livestock census, while the population of male cattle fell by 13 percent between 2007-2012, that of female cattle rose by an impressive 29 percent in the same period. Farmers, therefore, have already done one round of adjustment by getting rid of male cattle.

Population of male cattle fell by 13 percent between 2007-2012
Population of male cattle fell by 13 percent between 2007-2012

Now that there is a well-orchestrated campaign, spearheaded by the guardians of aggressive Hindutva, to strip yet another value – as a source of meat – off the cattle, there is bound to be a massive value erosion, forcing farmers once again to go for painful adjustment. They are doing precisely that by abandoning cattle they cannot use for milk. Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states are battling the menace of stray cattle as farmers can ill-afford to keep them, owing to the exorbitant cost involved in keeping unproductive animals.

How will it hit the rural economy and what is going to be the potential loss to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), let us understand the implications with the help of some numbers.

  • According to National Dairy Development Board, total cattle population stood at 190 million in 2012. According to a report by The Indian Express, nearly 30 million cattle (or 15 percent of the total cattle population) grow beyond their productive age and hence are rendered unproductive every year. If they cease to have any value as prices of cattle have crashed, farmers have been forced to let to go.
  • The cost of keeping 30 million cattle at the rate of Rs 80/per animal/per day comes to Rs 86,000 crore. That is, if governments across the country take the burden of building shelters and keep all the surplus cattle there.
Cost of keeping unproductive cattle
Cost of keeping unproductive cattle
  • A 2015 National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) paper says that the growth in livestock has outpaced the overall agriculture growth in the country since the 1980s. As a result, the share of livestock in the agriculture GDP, which stood at just 12 percent in the 1980s, has gone up to nearly 25 percent now. It shows that livestock has been one of the key drivers of rural growth. There is a risk of farmers abandoning the now unprofitable diversification.
Share of livestock in Agriculture GDP
Share of livestock in Agriculture GDP
  • National Dairy Development Board estimates that livestock’s contribution to the country’s GDP is nearly Rs 6 lakh crore per annum. The contribution of cattle alone is estimated at Rs 3 lakh crore. Assuming a value erosion of at least 20 percent, the hit to the rural economy will be to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore. This is happening at a time when farm income has stagnated.
The toll unproductive cattle takes on GDP
The toll unproductive cattle takes on GDP

Also Read : Stray Cattle Must Be In Cow Shelters By 10 Jan: Yogi Adityanath

  • Restrictive trade of cattle has impacted the hitherto flourishing sectors like leather and meat exports.
  • The estimated worth of leather industry is nearly Rs 91,000 crore a year. A 20 percent hit will mean a loss of Rs 18,000 crore every year. Incidentally, the industry has been one of the top 10 foreign exchange earners and is estimated to employ in excess of 2.5 million people. There has been a pledge to double the value of leather exports in the next five years. Reports, however, suggest the sector taking a massive hit in the face of cow vigilantism.
  • Meat exports touched Rs 26,000 crore in 2017-18. Since there have been attempts to target the industry, especially in leading meat trade hub of Uttar Pradesh, exports are bound to suffer. A conservative 20 percent hit will mean a loss of nearly Rs 5,000 crore.
Leather and meat industry have been badly hit 
Leather and meat industry have been badly hit 
  • According to reliable estimates, 70 percent of livestock is held by small and marginal farmers and landless labourers. Aggressive Hindutva’s cow obsession therefore has hit the most vulnerable groups the hardest. Is that the reason why the countryside is not very pleased with the ruling establishment?
  • UP’s surplus cattle population is estimated at 1 million per annum. This is over and above the already existing surplus cattle of 2 million. The state’s existing network of 514 shelter houses can accommodate not more than half a million cattle. The state therefore is battling stray cattle idling across farms, causing destruction of rabi crops like wheat, mustard and pulses. Farm output is bound to get impacted, further depressing the income of farmers.
  • The farm income is stagnating and the attempted diversification is facing a Hindutva roadblock. Is rural India headed for a long spell of burre din?
  • https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/hindutvas-cow-misadventure-can-likely-cost-nearly-rs-1and-half

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DRC Farmers in “Schools Without Walls” Learn to Increase Harvest

By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman

Smallholder farmers at Mamani 6 km from Kikwit, the capital of Kwilu province. Many across the country are learning new farming techniques through practical application. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

KIKWIT, DR Congo, (IPS) – It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but an educational one.
“Thanks to the knowledge about agricultural techniques learnt from Farmer Field School, FFI has produced 30 tonnes of sweet potato in 2017 from a field of two hectares,” says Albert Kukotisa, chairman of FFI, from Kikwit, Kwilu province in southwest DRC.

FFI’s group of farmers are just some of those across the country who are learning new farming techniques thanks to the Farmer Field School (FFS) – an initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The field schools are not necessarily a new concept. According to a survey they were first introduced in 1989 in Indonesia where schools were developed to hope farmers deal with pesticide-induced problems.

And while they are also not new to the DRC, they are proving an effective way to educate and assist farmers.

Lazard Milambo, an FAO expert says that the new element to the FFS is that farmers are introduced to “new ideas with guided exercises without imposition and stimulating discussions by farmers.” He says the involvement of farmers themselves in the training process is also new.

With the FFS, however, farmers are not just told about new techniques and research, they are able to implement it also. Each week, a group of 20 to 25 farmers meet in local field and under the guidance of a trained facilitator they implement new farming techniques. Facilitators have various backgrounds and can include extension workers, employees from NGOs or previously-trained farmers.

“In groups of five they observe and compare two plots over the course of an entire cropping season. One plot follows local conventional methods while the other is used to experiment with what could be considered best practices. The plot of land belongs to a member of the group,” Patience Kutanga, an expert, agricultural engineer and one of the trained facilitators, explains.

Didier Kulenfuka, an agriculture expert adds that “small farmers experiment with and observe key elements of the agro-ecosystem by measuring plant development, taking samples of insects, weeds and diseased plants, and constructing simple cage experiments or comparing characteristics of different soils. At the end of the weekly meeting they present their findings in a plenary session, followed by discussion and planning for the coming weeks.”

According to a World Bank report, “DRC farmers are particularly poor and isolated, therefore vulnerable to climate impacts and other external shocks…”
In a country with 80 million hectares of arable land, “there are more than 50 millions of farmers in the country with land. Most of them are smallholders,” Milambo says.

And according to the same World Bank report the government is, however, committed to a green revolution, pledging to reduce rural poverty by 2020 through agricultural production systems. The government allocated 8 percent of its 2016 budget to agriculture.

But Kikwit, the capital and largest city of Kwilu province, and home to some 186,000 people, has only one university with an agronomic faculty.

Farmers and smallholders instead rely on the advice and knowledge of agricultural extension officers. And now, as Milambo points out, about two million smallholder farmers are working across the country with some 20,000 FFSs.

Françoise Kangala, a 47-year-old farmer of Kongo Central (formerly Bas-Congo)province explains that he learned a lot from the course, including how to identify the best field for planting his crop and how to choose top seeds. His increased knowledge showed in the increased harvest.

“So, my family has harvested 20 tonnes of maniocs [Cassava], Obama variety for a field of one hectare. In 2014 it wasn’t the case. The same land produced only 7 tonnes. Observations about results between old practices and the new is among the innovations of the approach.’’

For John Masamba, a smallholder farmer from Goma, North Kivu province, east of DRC, it’s necessary to popularise this system around the DRC “because it’s a school without walls.” He said he appreciated learning through practice.

“Together, farmers swap experiences. With the knowledge from FFS and using resilient seeds, I have produced [in 2018] 19 tonnes of maize from one a field of one hectare, compared to 7 tonnes in 2016,’’ he says.

Going forward this increased production by smallholder farmers will be crucial to the country’s food security. Smallholding farming contributes — around 60 percent — to the country’s food security, according to Milambo.

iPS NEWS

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India’s Cow Crisis : Brutal to kill India’s ancient Uber economy

Sunita Narain on cow-vigilantism, cattle trade and the collapse of the livestock economy of IndiaNEXT NEWS ❯

By Sunita Narain
Credit: Adithyan PC
Credit: Adithyan PC

 Credit: Adithyan PC

I would not advocate vegetarianism. When I reasoned this out in this column a few years ago, I received the usual insults. Environmentalists are expected to be vegetarian, or better vegan! But what many didn’t register was my emphasis: “I am saying this as an Indian environmentalist; not global or western environmentalist.”

My argument has been that Indian farmers practice an agro-silvo-pastoral system and that livestock is a crucial part of their economy. Taking away the meat would demonetise their assets. It would kill their income. I argued that it is the quantity of consumption and how we produce that matters the most to environment. Industrialised meat production is done at the cost of the environment—by clearing vast forests, feeding animals cereals, antibiotics and all the other junk that they should not be using. But Indian farmers still practice cow-buffalo-goat economy that is of small scale. In fact, this economy has been sustainable for the fact that it is in the hands of small farm owners. Animals are their insurance policy; their ways of managing bad times, made worse today because of climate change-induced variables and extreme weather.

We need to find ways to nurture this economy in which individual farmers benefit from the small-scale operation. This was the Anand experiment—made famous by the venerable man of India’s White Revolution, Verghese Kurien. I am not sure how many of us have seen the wonder of this movement, as young girls, women and men bring their milk to the local dairy, which gives them a receipt of the fat content and the money that is due to them. This local dairy farming is built on the concept of small, disaggregated animal owners, who are enjoined to the big dairy farm. This is the cooperative-producer model that is best suited for our people-heavy and employment-desperate country.

Ironic as it is, we celebrate the Uber and the Airbnb as disruptive models for growth. These models are what Kurien propagated—maximise the return from individual assets. Today, we call for a taxi, which is not owned by any taxi company; or book accommodation, which is not owned by any company. This is what Kurien did. He made dairy the big business of small producers. It was, and is, disruptive. We don’t recognise it because it is not in “our” world.

But it worked because there was a cow-buffalo economy in place, which included cost of feeding and maintaining the cattle for milk and then its sale for meat. Farmers do not have the means to keep unproductive cows. Let’s be brutally honest about this. Why am I writing this today? Because as my colleagues report from their travels, in the past few years, the strident and often violent call for cow protection has led to the total breakdown of this economy of the poor. Cattle are now abandoned. They have become a menace, marauding fields and destroying crops. Remember Indian farmers do not fence their fields; they cannot afford it and actually this is good for soil and water conservation. Now this is not going to work.

The only change I can see is that farmers will altogether give up keeping cows and will switch to buffalo economy. But this will also work only when the state cracks down on all cases of cow-related lynching mercilessly. Note that in most cases where the meat has been tested, post the lynching, it has been found to be that of a buffalo and not cow. This is because the state has often protected, not the poor cow, but her 
so-called worshippers who have taken law into their hands. This must stop.

I would also argue that we shouldn’t adopt the protein-obsessive western diet. This is also part of health and environmental problems. A recent article in the UK daily The Guardian says that this protein obsession is leading to vast over-consumption. Citizens of the US and Canada get roughly 90 grams of protein per day, which is twice the recommended average (based on an adult weight of 62 kgs); Europeans eat an average of 85 grams of protein per day. Indian averages really don’t count because of the vast numbers of protein-deprived and malnourished people, but our urban consuming class is picking up this bad habit as well.

Being (non)-vegetarian is a personal choice. We must fight for this. Even as we fight for growing meat in a way that is environmentally sound.

Courtesy down to earth

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India – Coal mafia uses various tactics to silence victims

Soumya Das, DH News Service, 

UP

Illegal coal mining

At first glance, the mud hut of Saraswati Bauri, 55, in the remote Kadamdanga village of West Bengal’s Birbhum district seems almost deserted. Large cracks have appeared on the walls of the hut due to the lack of maintenance. Leave alone the maintenance of the house, she has to struggle every day to meet the basic needs of the five-member family.

The fortunes of the family changed when she lost her son and son-in-law, the bread-earners of her family, in an illegal coal mine collapse in Kalikapur village of the neighbouring Bankura district on January 11, 2017. There is no trace of the two ever since.

Her son, Abhijit Bauri, 17, and son-in-law, Garib Bauri, set out for Kalikapur in the first week of January 2017. After a few days, she was told about the illegal coal mine collapse that buried nine people from the village, including Abhijit and Garib. “Soon after getting the news, several people from our village headed for Kalikapur on motorcycles. After a frantic search for several hours, they gave up and informed us that all hope is lost,” Saraswati told DH. Seven other families also lost their sole bread earners in the incident.

Kadamdanga village in the Khoyrasol block of Birbhum has fewer employment opportunities. The lack of water sources makes it impossible for villagers to earn their livelihood through agriculture, forcing these villagers to work in illegal coal mines.

“Even if people here got a daily wage of Rs 200, nobody would have risked their lives by working in illegal coal mines,” said another villager. 

The brutality of the coal mafia came to the fore in the account of Raidhoni Bauri, 30, who lives close to Saraswati’s house. Struggling to hold back her tears, Raidhoni said, the coal mafia stopped all rescue work by villagers fearing that the incident will attract media attention if the bodies of the nine workers were recovered.

No clues left

“The villagers were told that the JCB operators will not dig up the dead bodies as the work will stop for a couple of days due to a religious festival,” said Raidhoni. She lost her husband, Sattya Bauri, who was working in such mines for the last four years, in the Kalikapur mine collapse. Now she has to take care of their four children and she feels that she can’t afford to continue their education.

Contradictory versions came up from the villagers regarding the ‘compensation’ provided by the coal mafia to the families of the deceased.

While some local Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers claimed that an amount of Rs 2.5 lakh was given to each of the affected families, some villagers said that the amount was much less.

“ They [the coal mafia] told us that my husband, Dipak Mondal, cannot be brought back anymore. They said it would be better I accept whatever they are offering me as compensation,” said Tumpa Mondal, another resident of the village.

According to some villagers who spoke under conditions of anonymity, a meeting was held in the village by local TMC leadership soon after the news of the deaths reached.

“In the meeting, the local politicians asked the affected families whether they agree a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh and all of them agreed,” said a resident of Kadamdanga.

According to local activists, the coal mafia
rarely hires local people for extracting coals from such unsafe mines fearing public outrage in case of fatal accidents. They said that in the case of the coal mine in Kalikapur village of Bankura which collapsed in 2017 most of the workers were from Birbhum.

Sometimes there are exceptions. “If the mine is freshly dug, the coal mafia hires locals as the risk is low. But as the mine gets older and weaker, the locals are replaced with workers from other districts,” said an activist from Bankura.

However, amidst all the opinions, one question raised by the affected families remains unanswered. “How will we survive without any income?”

DECCAN HERALD

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India – Open defecation continues unabated

The fraction of people who own a toilet, but who nevertheless defecate in the open remains at about 23%.  

‘Open defecation levels are still above 40% in ODF States; Swachh Bharat has not brought behavioural change’

New research on the impact of the Swachh Bharat Mission in the rural parts of four northern States shows that while open defecation has fallen and toilet ownership has increased, the percentage of people who owned toilets but continued to defecate in the open has remained unchanged between 2014 and 2018.

This indicates that the Mission has been more successful at toilet construction than at driving behaviour change, according to the authors of the study, being released by the research institute for compassionate economics (r.i.c.e.) and the Accountability Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research next week.

Open defecation continues unabated

A working paper released on Friday shows that approximately 44% of people over two years old in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh still defecate in the open. This finding is based on a late 2018 survey, which covered 9812 people in these states. The researchers visited the same areas and families which who participated in a similar June 2014 survey which had showed that 70% of people then defecated in the open.ALSO READ‘Seven cities have tackled faecal sludge’

The 2014 survey took place before the launch of the government’s flagship Swachh Bharat Mission which aims to eliminate open defecation across the country by October 2, 2019. According to the Mission, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are already open defecation free or ODF states. Bihar has achieved 98.97% coverage of toilets for every household, while Uttar Pradesh has achieved 100%, according to government data, although the state has yet to be declared ODF.

The working paper confirms that the Mission has driven toilet construction, although its findings are more modest than government claims. Almost 60% of households covered by the survey which did not have a toilet in 2014 had one by 2018, said the study.

One major statistic, however, has remained unchanged since 2014: the fraction of people who own a toilet, but who nevertheless defecate in the open remains at about 23%.

“We find that nearly the entire change in open defecation between 2014 and 2018 comes from increases in latrine ownership, rather than from changes in behaviour (that is, differences in the proportion of owners and non-owners who defecate in the open),” said the working paper. “This finding is consistent with our qualitative interviews, which found that local officials were far more likely to stress latrine construction as a priority of the SBM than they were to stress use of latrines.”

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/open-defecation-continues-unabated/article25914512.ece

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India – Why small, marginal farmers get just 40% of total agri credit

 

Small farmers typically take small loans — of less than 2 lakh. RBI data show that in FY17.

Small farmers typically take small loans — of less than 2 lakh. RBI data show that in FY17.

Loan waivers have made banks wary of them; beneficiaries are farm infra/services firms

BL RESEARCH BUREAU

Every year the Centre announces an increase in the agri credit limit, but not even half of this reaches small farmers.

Small farmers typically take small loans — of less than 2 lakh. RBI data show that in FY17, the share of loans of 2 lakh or less was just 40 per cent of the total agri credit of 10.78-lakh crore.

In contrast, loans between 2 lakh and 1 crore accounted for 47 per cent of the disbursals, and around 13 per cent of the total agri credit was accounted for by loans of 1 crore or more. Loans of over 100 crore were sanctioned to just 210 accounts (individuals/entities).

Speaking to bankers and market veterans revealed that the bulk of these subsidised loans — at 4 per cent interest rate — are taken by owners of warehouses/cold storages, manufacturers of fertiliser/farm-equipment, and food processors.

Gradual drop

The share of loans of 2 lakh or less in the total agri credit has gradually decreased from 45 per cent 10 years ago to 40 per cent in FY17.

Banks have been wary of lending to small farmers mainly because of the spate of loan waivers in recent years. The waivers have destroyed the credit culture in rural India, said a banker who spoke on condition of anonymity.

For Union Bank of India, which allots 60 per cent of its agri loans to small and marginal farmers, NPAs formed 7.62 per cent of the agri book in the September 2018 quarter.

The other reason why banks avoid lending to small farmers is that they are unable to price the loan as per the profile of the farmer or the commodity, observed Arindom Datta, Asia Head, Sustainability Banking, Rabobank Group. “Internationally, loans against riskier commodities are given at higher rates of interest compared to safer commodities. Further, banks make a distinction between a good and a bad farmer based on the repayment track record and tweak the interest rate accordingly.

“But banks in India cannot apply such differentiated pricing to farmers in the same region as it is a sensitive issue. So they keep away from small farmers,” said Datta.

Lending rule change

It’s only since March 2015 that banks have been set specific targets on lending to small and marginal farmers. There was no such requirement earlier.

A loose definition of agri credit has led to the leakage of loans under Priority Sector Lending (PSL) at subsidised rates to many large companies. Though the RBI had set a cap of 4.5 per cent (under the overall 18 per cent target for agri in PSL) for indirect loans, bank advances through indirect loans routinely breach the limit. Such indirect loans were made to dealers/sellers of fertilisers, pesticides, seeds and agricultural implements, and companies that maintain a fleet of tractors, threshers, etc., and undertake work for farmers.

Therefore, in 2015, the RBI dispensed with the distinction between direct and indirect loans and redefined agri credit to cover three categories: (i) Farm Credit, which includes short-term crop loans and medium/long-term credit to farmers, (ii) Agriculture Infrastructure, and (iii) Ancillary Activities. For lending to small and marginal farmers, a target of 8 per cent was also set within the overall target of 18 per cent, to be achieved by FY17.

This, however, is not seen as a happy situation. A farmer-activist who spoke to BusinessLine said: “Should we take comfort that at least 8 per cent will now go to small farmers or be upset that what started as 18 per cent is now effectively only 8 per cent?”

Data reveal that in FY17, private banks fell short of even this 8 per cent target — the proportion of advances made to small and marginal farmers was 5.5 per cent against the total agriculture advance of 16.5 per cent of all advances.

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