A word of support
I had taken up the issue of endorsement of Pepsico's Tropicana by the Indian Medical Association ('Brand ambassadors' May 16-31, 2008) at the Task Force on Consumer Education on Safety of Food and Medicine on June 28 and 29. Several health, consumer and community-based groups were present during the discussion and I am sure they will take it up in their regions. Several ima doctors have also expressed their discontent on endorsing Tropicana.
Initiative for Health, Equity and Society
A-60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi
This is in response to the editorial 'Stink of India's steel frame' (July 1-15, 2008). Small industries often wonder why the steel price is rising capriciously. I share my observations.
Most of the country's iron ore mines have been leased to steel giants such as Tata Steel Ltd, Steel Authority of India Ltd or the Jindal Group. These companies also control most of the coal mines. This means, in a way, they control the whole steel market. With steel prices up by over 40 per cent in the last one year, the government has been persuading these industries to roll back prices. But nothing much seems to be happening.
From what we learn from the media, the strategy of these steel giants seems more or less clear: first to hike the price by, say, 25 per cent and then to reduce it by 5 per cent to appease the government. How can one justify the whopping profit of Rs 4,800 crore for Vaizag Steel Plant or over 10,000 crore for the Tatas, knowing very well that most of the mines they own now actually belong to tribals who still live in penury?
The government should either take back mining leases from these companies or fix a suitable price for iron and steel.
R P Shahi
Apropos your editorial, it is sad to learn about the continuing exploitation of rural India and the deafening silence that surrounds it.
Reach out of the bag
Your editorial 'The mean world of climate change' (July 16-31, 2008) is an excellent exposure of the rich in the game of climate disaster.
ITC Ltd, Bangalore
The East Singbhum Jharkhand Education Project's unique effort to expand and promote education among children from slums ('Class Act', July 16-31, 2008) is commendable.
Such initiatives are exemplary because of their economic feasibility. They do not need huge investments for land, school or furniture, and yet provide sophisticated teaching environment. The facilities and well-groomed status of the elite institutes will be an impetus for children to continue with their studies. Such coordinated effort can help eradicate illiteracy from the country.
Apropos the article 'Just like mother' (June 16-30), it is the duty of the school as well as the government to take care of children when they are in schools.
It is heartening to learn that mid-day meal is fast becoming a major attraction for students. The scheme is a way to ensure health and welfare of children, especially for those from socially and economically backward sections.
Women's self help groups (shgs) successfully running the scheme in Orissa is commendable. But this does not happen in every state. The programmes have become a burden for women shgs who have endeavoured to run them. They have exhausted the funds, but are yet to be reimbursed.
This is in response to your cover story '1,620.361 ha of discontent' (July 16-31, 2008). There are vast tracts of land that are not suitable for agriculture. Then why is the government allowing companies to set up large special economic zones (sezs) on fertile farmlands? The companies are luring small farmers with lifetime job assurances. But how many of them have actually got jobs? Has there been any research done on the issue? Separately, when we talk about air pollution, we say planting more and more trees is the best way to tackle it. But I wonder if we know which trees are most effective. All trees don't clean air to the same extent. Besides, which is the best way to keep the air clean: covering the ground with grass lawns and shrubs or planting large trees? Is there any research on it? I hope the findings can help us tackle the issue in a better way.
In the editorial 'Why do farmers have to die' (June 15, 2006), the plight of farmers and their families has been brought out well. The problem, I feel, is essentially because of globalization. As the farmers become dependent on government-sponsored schemes, they are losing their indigenous and traditional knowledge. And this is the prime cause of their plight.
A cooperative effort
The article 'Farm differently' (July 1-15, 2008) makes interesting reading. But in a country like India, a debate on whether to opt for small-scale or large-scale farming can only be limited to such academic discussions.
Fragmented and small-scale farm holdings are the reality of the day. The only feasible solution is to form farmers' cooperatives and to derive benefits of large-scale farming.
The government should facilitate the formation of such cooperatives, remove bottlenecks in land ceiling and related laws and train the farmers in cooperative land management.
For pulse's sake
Apropos the article 'Out of pulse' (June 16-30, 2008), the decision to lift the 47-year-old ban on the sale of Lathyrus sativus, an indigenous pulse, after an 86-day fast by a scientist is sad.
Prompting to act
Your magazine keeps reminding me of my duty to preserve natural resources. I'll do it in whatever little way I can.
Mean way out
This is in response to your editorial 'The mean world of climate change' (July 16-31, 2008). As far as climate change debate is concerned, the 'polluter pays' principle must be emphasized by developing nations at all international forums. This will force nations who still do not acknowledge the reality of climate change to come forward for negotiations.
Kamrup West Division, Assam
On nuclear wastes
The average cost of decommissioning a nuclear power plant in the us is us $300 million. The cost is accrued in the operating cost. In France and Sweden, nuclear industries expect decommissioning costs to be 10-15 per cent of the construction costs and budget this into the price charged for electricity.
On the other hand, in the uk, the decommissioning cost is about us $1,900 million per reactor. The high cost involves the cleaning of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants. But is our technology competent enough to handle these wastes with high level of radioactivity and long-term transmutation. Do we want to use more nuclear energy today and leave more and more nuclear waste dumped for future generation tomorrow? Isn't there any other way to get clean energy? Or we do not want to talk about it.
Department of Applied Chemistry CUSAT-Kochi
Catch them young
The industrialized world is synonymous with excessive consumption and waste. Recent studies have established that the western world throws away over one-third of fresh food.
The developing world aspires to reach western standards of consumption. Does this mean more waste? Our schools need to inculcate the importance of thrift in all matters.
Nail to shape up
The government should enforce the regulations rigorously for people littering and urinating on the streets.
Encroachment of ridge
While going to Rajori, Delhi, to avoid the traffic on the Mahipalpur intersection, I sometimes take a dirt track. Of late, some people have managed to encroach the ridge area and erected a temple.
Everyone knows the area is part of the protected ridge area and any development work in the area is illegal as per the Supreme Court orders.
Till some years back, several quarries were operating in the area. They stopped recently only after the court verdict. This is the second incident of encroachment.
Fly ash in the air
This is in response to your article 'CPWD: no flyash zone' (October 15, 2004). The handling of flyash as described in the article is not acceptable.
Workers must use dust masks and other protective gears.
The production of Pozzolana Portland Cement (ppc) consumes about 16 million tonnes of fly ash, which they get for free from power stations. Then they blend it with cement clinker and sell it (cement that contains 25 per cent of fly ash) at the Ordinary Portland Cement price. About 50 per cent of this cement is bought back for public use. This is a loss for India to the tune of us $600 million per year.
Hence, flyash is definitely an expensive waste.
Erratum and clarification
The article, 'Geologists get new tool to manage multiple data' (June 16-30, 2008) wrongly says that Parthasarathi Ghosh is the lead author of the paper published in Computers and Geosciences (May 2008). The study has been carried out under his guidance by Samarpan Dey, a student of mining.
We regret the error.
The article 'The last 125 km: Tapping energy sapping the Himalayas' (July 1-15, 2008), says that a series of dams are being planned on the anga between Gangotri glacier and Uttarkashi to generate hydropower. The writer's concern is also for other rivers flowing down the Himalayas such as Alaknanda, Mandakini, Bhilangana, Sarayu, Kaali, Dhauli, on which hydroelectric plants are being planned.
Seawater for sanitation?
I read a few articles recently, which say people in some places across the world use seawater to flush the toilet. I am curious to know if we can use seawater for sanitation in our coastal areas as well.
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