Published: Friday 31 July 2009

Health gets low priority

India spends nearly 3.8 per cent of its gross domestic product (gdp) on education and merely 1 per cent on health. This includes the spending both by the central and the state governments.

The health-to-education ratio of all bric (the fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries except India is near or above unity. This means the countries spend equal, or more often higher, amounts on health.

In India, the ratio is abysmally low--almost 400 per cent less than that of China, which is the next lowest in the group. India's health-to-defence spending ratio--India spends 2.8 per cent of the gdp on defence--is the lowest in the group; the ratio is 300 per cent less than China's, which is the next lowest. The priorities in public spending of these three major heads of expenditure need urgent examination. The immediate need is to pump another 2 per cent of the gdp into the health sector ('Time to be different', June 1-15, 2009).

It is indeed time to be different.

Pavan Nair

Down to Earth Our policies are made in Washington rather in our country. All of India's economic advisors have been trained by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (imf).

The new government, if it wants to make a difference, should encourage farmers, small and cottage industries by helping them get a good price for their produce. Without agriculture and rural industries the country is doomed. Manufacturing and service sectors can sustain the country only for a short time. The employment guarantee scheme is good but no serious effort has been made to remove the anomalies.

boothalingam Mahathevan

Down to Earth Restoration and preservation of natural resources could be a significant part of generating employment opportunities in rural areas. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme does this to some extent; desilting and digging of ponds are undertaken in villages to revive waterbodies gone defunct.

Mass consumerism, nurtured and driven by big corporate houses, does not suit India. It is illusory and does not create employment on a large enough scale. India should encourage agriculture oriented entrepreneurships.


For a green electorate

Now that the Left parties have lost the election, the Congress may think the Indian electorate has endorsed the party's policies. They will now enforce them just like the India-US nuclear deal, sez projects and reduction of subsidies.

India wants to produce more cars without investigating whether there is enough petrol available. It wants to import nuclear reactors even though there is not enough uranium in India.

Political parties have failed to present facts about the paucity of our natural resources to the electorate. The green party, or the concept of a green party, will have to labour a lot to educate the electorate which is illiterate as far as green issues are concerned ('Elections 2009: Where is the green party', April 16-30, 2009).

Conservation of Nature Trust, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu

Can we resolve the conflict?

Mining is a big problem in many states ('Sindhudurg on the road to conflict', April 16-30, 2009). The development and economic growth of the country are in conflict with the environment and therefore the livelihood and health of millions of people. Is it possible to resolve the conflict? We need to look for an amicable solution with guidelines for both parties.


Experiments with the chulha

I was trying to make the double-pot improved chulhas in a village in Rajasthan a year ago and realized how complex it was. The so-called improved chulha is not more efficient than the chulha that has been in use conventionally; it is not easy to improve upon the single-pot earthen chulha. The double-pot chulha has the potential to save fuel, but only if both the stands for pots are used simultaneously. Since people often do not need to do so, the chulha uses the same amount of fuel but a portion of it goes waste. This chulha is also not very useful for making items that take a short time, a pot of tea for instance. It takes more time to warm the thick walls of the chulha than to make the tea.

One solution could be to make the chulha's body of ceramic or iron. People may reject the chulha in that case because of heat radiation. Insulation may be an answer, but then the chulha may not be durable. What is more, it would not be possible to make it locally.

It is not right to advocate the double-pot, chimney-fitted chulha to protect women from smoke. Smoke is actually not a big problem for many people since they cook outside. Many of these chulhas have been built outside because it is often too complicated to make a chimney out of rooms. The improved chulha is useful, but only if the place to install it is carefully selected and people are interested in using them. As you have mentioned in your editorial ('The challenge of the chulha', May 1-15, 2009), local conditions and habits are important and are sometimes ignored.


The problem with chulhas is the smoke that billows up in a mushroom cloud when we light a chulha. But they are much less polluting. Our engineers and scientists need to design a chulha that will not use fossil fuel and at the same time have the efficiency of the cooking gas stove.

S R Ganguli

Life under a tree

People working under trees to earn a living are not exclusive to Delhi ('Branch office', May 16-31, 2009). This is true for all of India. But then do they have a choice? It is the duty of the government to arrange proper places for them to work.


Bullock-drawn tractors

The cover story 'Made it' (January 1-15, 2009) gives a good number of examples of how farmers have benefited by giving up use of pesticides and, in some cases, tractors. Some of these farmers have brought down their cost of production Rs 1,000 per acre (0.4 hectare) by replacing tractors with bullocks.

Bharatiya Cattle Resource Development Foundation offers bullock-drawn tractors, Kamdhenu, which has the capacity to till 25 acres (10.11 ha) in a season. The bullock-drawn tractor costs about Rs 42,000.

Bharatiya Cattle Resource Development Foundation ( bcrdf ), New Delhi

Forensics to the rescue

So far I had read of forensic sciences being used in criminal investigations. That is why it was fascinating to read how the science was used to solve wildlife crimes ('Forensics can easily be used in wildlife', June 1-15, 2009). Forest officials of other states should learn from Keshav Kumar's example and make use of forensics to solve similar cases.


Breeding ground for flu

Our overcrowded and unsanitary poultry farms are a perfect breeding ground for new strains of influenza ('The real pandemic', May 16-31, 2009). There is a large body of evidence linking this type of animal farming to a plethora of public health and environmental problems.

Indian industry leaders downplayed the repeated outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in their poultry farms. The government's disappointing response was to conduct research on vaccines, hold workshops on bio-security and generate media attention around the culling of birds in affected areas.

Humane Society International



In the special report 'Waterbullying to sink 20 villages' (June 16-30, 2009), the current water supply in Lutyen's Delhi and Mehrauli is given as over 300 mld (million litres per day) and less than 40 mld. It should be 300 and 40 litres per head per day in the two areas.

We regret the error.

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