Published: Saturday 15 August 2009

Why don't officers take the bus?

I work for Delhi Transport Corporation, the company that runs the fleet of government buses in the capital. Yet my colleagues and I commute to work and back in company cars.

I agree with your view that there is no other way to manage the growing city traffic and pollution but for more and more people to use public transport ('Can we afford not to change? Can we afford the change?', July 1-15, 2009). This must be implemented in letter and spirit. Just as charity begins at home, the government transport undertaking too should take the first step and make public transport compulsory for its officers.


Down to Earth We find power generated by thermal power plants inexpensive beca-use we do not take into account the environmental cost of mining coal, its transportation, use, the air and water pollution it causes. Then there are problems caused by the waste generated in the process. Similarly, in the case of hydel power, we do not take into account the cost of highly productive land areas submerged in the reservoirs and the cost of uprooting people.

Similarly, in case of public versus private transport, we consider only the cost of fuel and maintenance. But what about the cost of fatigue caused by driving a private vehicle on congested roads, the loss of public land including green areas for parking, the cost of health expenses due to the air pollutants from vehicles and the consequent man hours lost.

If all these and similar factors are considered, public transport works out to be very cheap. Most people in India's metros drive their own vehicles out of compulsion. Given a choice between private vehicle and public transport, many would prefer the bus provided it is made comfortable, dignified and punctual.


Bharat Ratna for Kurien

I recently read that farmers tied to Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, largest food product marketing organization in the country, plan to start a campaign for a Bharat Ratna for Verghese Kurien. I think the father of India's white revolution is the most eligible candidate for the highest civilian award of the country.


Neighbourhood retailers

Subhiksha, the retail chain may have gone bust, but my vegetable vendor still comes to my doorstep the first thing every morning. My neighbourhood grocery store too is alive and kicking even now.

I hope Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his advisers recognize the dangers of allowing big players in retailing foodstuff, fresh fruits and vegetables and rethink their so-called reforms ('Time to be different', June 1-15, 2009). Several malls are also closing down or they are not able to sell floor space. The American-style malls are any way such energy guzzlers.


Down to Earth I agree with you the rural employment programme, loan waivers and higher minimum support prices have got the Congress and its partners the support of the poor in the last general elections. But I would not overlook the political dimensions which led some upa partners to victory.

Nitish Kumar's sweep in Bihar was as much for the work done by his government as due to his refusal to let Narendra Modi campaign in the state. Similarly, Naveen Patnaik's victory in Orissa was not due so much to developmental work for the poor but his sharp break with the bjp after the communal riots they had provoked in the tribal areas. Similarly, the Congress opposition to the effort by Varun Gandhi to try and popularize a stridently anti-Muslim brand of Hindutva in Pilibhit might have won him the elections, but it lost the bjp many a constituency.


Down to Earth To achieve inclusive growth India must focus on the rural economy and making water and electricity available to all its people. It is also high time the country's English language media shifted its focus to real India.

Suresh Nanda

Family size

The greatest stumbling block to solving problems relating to India's food security, agricultural sustainability and the environment is its population explosion. Every year the country adds population as large as Australia's when several others have achieved zero growth.

China too is rapidly moving towards zero growth of its population by strictly enforcing the one-child-per-family norm. Being a democracy India cannot adopt coercive means to limit family size, but the same results can be achieved through a system of incentives for limiting family size and disincentives for unbridled growth of the family.

India's political leaders do not take the problem seriously. Other than making customary speeches on population day no politician even talks of tackling the problem. Most of them consider the subject taboo.


Stop Tipaimukh dam

The people of Bangladesh are desperate to save the country's environment, agriculture and network of rivers from the Tipaimukh dam being planned by India on the Barak river in Manipur ('Downstream of India', July 1-15, 2009). I would request you to provide more scientific data and information on how the dam will devastate the lives of the people in Bangladesh, Manipur and Mizoram. Only knowledge on the impact of the dam on these areas can deter India from creating a tsunami-like catastrophe.


The Futanes inspire all

Thanks to Aparna Pallavi's article, my fellow farmers and I went to meet Vasant and Karuna Futane at Rawala village; we were amazed to see their work ('Rooted to earth', March 1-15, 2009). Their beautiful mud house, large sheds, the standing crops grown naturally, the gobar gas plant left such a deep impression that we have returned converted to natural farming.

On Vasant Futane's suggestion we got a copy of Masanobu Fukuoka's One Straw Revolution, the Bible of natural farming. We have asked his son Vinayak to mark contour trenches on our land. Karuna Futane too taught us a lot. She has done a great job by organizing village women against bootlegging to stop the illicit manufacture of country liquor.

The Futanes are an amazing family. No wonder students from all over the world come to learn from their way of life.


CO2 is not deadly

Carbon dioxide is not a deadly gas as described in the editorial 'Another CO2 alition of the willing?' (June 16-30, 2009). Whatever its long-term effects on global temperatures, humans, animals and plants thrive in far higher concentrations of CO2 than are currently in the atmosphere (0.04 per cent), or are ever likely to be. The idea of CO2 leaking from pipes being dangerous is far-fetched. It would instantly mix with other much more significant gases in the atmosphere.



Down to Earth Calling CO2 a deadly gas is a sin I constantly instruct my colleagues to avoid and try to avoid myself. Of course CO2 can be deadly. So can oxygen and nitrogen. But try living without them.




The table accompanying the article 'Uranium in food, water in Bathinda' (July 1-15, 2009) compares the tolerable limit of 5 g (microgramme) per kg with the range of uranium found in wheat, pulses, milk and water.

5 g per kg of body weight per day is the tolerable intake of uranium via ingestion for humans as per who norms. This is not comparable to the amount found in wheat, pulses, milk and water. We regret the error.

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