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A farmer’s take
This refers to the write-up, “Retail FDI myths” (December 16-31, 2011). I am a farmer producing vegetables and fruits. It is my experience that after the entry of organised retail chains such as Reliance Fresh, farmers are getting relatively better prices, if not good. The entry of large retail chains will help both farmers and consumers—the farmer will get more buyers and the consumer better choices.
The effect of more retail chains on inflation will be none to marginally positive. Food prices are driven up because there are fewer producers and higher consumption. The big retailers, due to competition and because of better transport and storage infrastructure and their strong supply chain management, will be able to pass over a little benefit to farmers, encouraging them.
In case of milk supply it is unfair to compare our system with that of American and European. The processing and packing system is different. It would be right if we arrive at the producer’s earnings based on the sale price of milk sold in tetrapacks in India. The government-backed and controlled milk cooperatives rule the Indian milk market. The rates are accordingly controlled. Our private sector milk players also fall in line with the established system. The same cannot be compared with the rates of commercial system in the West.
V C Chowdary
Safal knows better
The write-up, “Safal shows the way” (January 1-15, 2012), makes an interesting read. It could have been enhanced with some deeper insights into collusive and conniving practices followed in the marketing of fruits and vegetables, especially since the launch of the horticulture mission in the country in the 10th Five Year Plan (2005-06). Besides, the back-end investment done by the state governments as well as the retail chain owners could be highlighted to show how the budgetary bias for such necessities has faired at the grassroots levels.
Ironically, Mother Dairy’s fruits and vegetables initiative did succeed while the cooperative milk development model in Punjab and Haryana is nothing to write home about.
Let’s fight it out
This refers to the editorial, “From protests to where in 2012?” (January 1-15, 2012). The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the global financial crisis and the European debt crisis are all signs of the imminent collapse of capitalism as we know it. So says business magnate and philosopher George Soros.
The challenge for the year 2012 is how people will survive the turmoil that will inevitably follow this collapse, and defend the natural environment and human rights. This is a crisis in the classic Chinese sense of both “danger and opportunity”.
We urgently need more victories in the struggle to define development as a human right, not a process of environmental destruction.
Hospital fires have become a frequent occurrence across the country (‘Where’s the fire alarm?’, January 1-15, 2012). To avoid such a tragedy it is important to follow fire safety norms and levy heavy punishment on the offenders. Fire-resistant standards for buildings must be made mandatory at the time of construction. Markets are flooded with material that delay spread of fire by a few hours, like special paints.
Rooms can be constructed in a way wherein a shutter automatically closes when fire breaks out and people can leave the room from the exit gate. Although such structures are high in cost, they can be made mandatory in the public interest.
The panic surrounding the Mullaperiyar dam is based on safety issues (‘Blunder 999’, December 16-31, 2011). Following an earthquake in 1979, the dam was labelled unsafe in the event of high intensity quake. Besides being an unsafe structure, the dam’s storage capacity has been reduced by its sediment deposits.
As per the prevailing design practices, the economic lifespan of a dam is about 100 years and Mullaperiyar dam has already crossed it. In countries like the US, decommissioning is de rigueur. About 1,000 dams of the existing 75,000 have been decommissioned in the past two decades. But decommissioning is not in vogue in India. Replacing an old dam with a new one may entail huge economic and ecological cost. Therefore, integrated approach based on technical findings should be made the basis of solving this dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The dispute over Mullaperiyar dam has once again highlighted the need to study all the dams in the country. To help restore acquatic life, the US has demolished quite a few dams, and has reduced sedimentation in the catchments as well as the water storage area. Instead of building a new dam to replace the old Mullaperiyar dam, alternative suggestions like smaller check dams, water storage in smaller tanks and ponds and utilisation of water more economically should be considered dispassionately by all the parties.
D B N Murthy
As the war of words between Tamil Nadu and Kerala escalates over the dam, the Centre’s intervention has become imperative. The mounting tension was apparent in the way the opposition parties in Tamil Nadu raised the pitch for ban of the international film, Dam999, on the assumption that the movie shot on locales in Kerala was supportive of Kerala’s move. Kerala politicians’ adamancy to not comply with the orders of the Supreme Court has turned the matters worse. It appears the plea by the political parties is to score brownie points rather than make efforts to coordinate with the Centre to resolve the prickly issue.
K R Srinivasan
Buckets of tears
The “Cry of a river” (January 1-15, 2012) is not only of the Ami. In Varanasi, the river Assi is no more than a drain now. The river Varuna is heading in the same direction. It is sad to know how people disregard the importance of their lifelines. We venerate the Ganga but do not hesitate to pollute it, be it with industrial or domestic waste.
Most of the rivers in the country are polluted by industrial effluent. This not only affects the natural flow of rivers but also makes them a source of diseases and hardship for the people who depend on them for their livelihood. The Centre should act decisively.
Laws should be modified if required and implemented stringently and action should be taken against defaulters.
The write-up, “Biogas rediscovered” (December 1-15, 2011), reminds me of our numerous visits to our neighbour’s gobar (cow dung) gas plant in our village Mahadev in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district. Our farmer neighbour was the first in the village to install the novel source of cooking fuel, although fuel wood was abundantly available in those days. Strangely, the plant could not catch the fancy of the village folks. Perhaps there was no one to teach, familiarise and initiate the residents.
Re-emergence of this low-cost and eco-friendly fuel technology in Maharashtra villages would rekindle the interest of many farmers.
LPG, which has been introduced in our village to save forests, is getting out of reach of poor farmers because of rising prices. In this context, biogas would indeed be a good alternative, provided the government supports the technology through policy and financial back-up.
More cattle farms should be established. NGOs should be roped in to set up farms in land allotted on lease by states. Electricity can be generated more easily by biogas than by the costly micro-hydel projects mushrooming in rural areas. Dung from a single cattle farm is sufficient to run small utilities like oil expellers.
L R Sharma