Published: Monday 31 December 2007

Deeply divided

Your editorial 'In credible India' (November 30, 2007) summarizes what a lot of us think and feel.

Everyone is aware of the gross injustice meted out to the people of Nandigram. This is not a one-off incident. Similar incidents are getting repeated in many villages throughout the country. I am afraid we are heading towards a point where we will be left with only two classes of people: the very rich and the very poor.

Ironically, the week when the billionaire Mukesh Ambani was declared the richest person in the world, a large number of farmers committed suicide in the Vidarbha region.

S Urmila Majumdar

Down to Earth Your editorial brings out the contradictions we are living in.

Class division has always been there in our society, but earlier it used to be on the basis of caste system. In the last few decades the characteristics of class division has changed. Now it is visible in the form of poor peasants, urban slum dwellers, middle-class people and rich industrialists. There is a great unevenness in the quality of lives Indians lead. Can our rich industrialists follow the example of Venezuela?

The government of this oil-rich nation is spending a large part of its revenue earned from petroleum exports on anti-poverty programmes and improving educational opportunities.

The government initially budgeted us $857 million of the revenue earned from petroleum exports for social spending in 2006. But as oil money started flooding in, officials increased the amount, which is now about us $7 billion. Experts say Venezuela's policy may be the largest such effort in a developing nation.

Of course, we do not have Venezuela-like oil resources. But then, there is surplus of wealth in the hands of industrialists in the country.


Down to Earth On one side, we boast of the rapid progress made by our industries and the country achieving 9 per cent gdp growth. We also brag when an Indian becomes the highest paid executive in the globe.

On the other side, India's position among the 177 countries on the Human Development Index goes two positions down to end at 128th, according to the latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme. Reality also becomes evident when we read news reports saying 'hunger and poverty claimed lives of five Juangs in a month in Orissa'. Can we actually afford to be complacent?

A Jacob Sahayam


Right perspective

Your editorial 'Tigers and tribals' (November 15, 2007) puts the dilemma of the tiger and the tribal lobbies in the right perspective.

Issues related to the relocation of tribals from protected forest areas by giving them patta s outside the core forest zone but within the forest area needs more careful deliberation. Provisions such as sharing part of the income generated from tourism activities in the area also need to be analysed.

Since, not all protected areas attract tourists and thus do not generate much revenue, people there should be given special package.

Pooja Sawhney

Down to Earth You have raised some important points in your editorial, but it lacks a holistic approach.

The arguments laid out by the tiger and tribal lobbies, as mentioned in your editorial, are just an effort to find curative measures. Such lobbies, despite their noble intentions, belong to the elite minority who hardly have any experience of the ground reality.

Tribals have been living in the forest for tens of thousands of years and are part of the forest habitat. Besides, each tribe has its distinct identity. How can these lobbies treat tribals as objects of development?

Remigius de Souza

Costing green building

In your cover story 'How green is your building?' (August 31, 2007), you have said that the cost of a green building with a built-up area of 20,000 sq ft was Rs 10 crore in 2003.

You have also said that the construction cost is 18 per cent higher than the cost of a conventional building of similar dimensions.

As architects working close to the environment, we do not agree with the figures. Our own project, the Centre for Police Research in Pune (and a number of other buildings in the city), was constructed at a cost of Rs 600 per sq ft in 2003. We are also aware of similar works where construction cost ranges between Rs 500-1,100 per sq ft. On the other hand, going by your figures, the cost of a green building works out to a whopping Rs 5,000 per sq ft.

That apart, we should learn lessons from our rural and indigenous architectures, without becoming nostalgic or romantic about the past, because such designs have been close to the environment for thousands of years.

During a recent visit to the Melghat Tiger Reserve, we saw bamboo being treated and used most effectively in buildings without steel or glass and with the minimal use of cement.

Such sustainable buildings can be constructed at a cost of less than Rs 500 per sq ft. The model is viable for all kinds of buildings except the multi-storeyed ones.

However, in the face of strong market forces and powerful construction and real estate lobbies, such traditional knowledge has already been thrown into the dustbin.

Nachiket, Jayoo patwardhan
baguram@vsnl.com ...

Debating the issue

This is in response to your article 'Microcredit for livelihoods' (May 15, 2007).

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (nabard) is already regulating cooperative banks and other cooperative financial institutions in the country.

Committed to rural prosperity, the agency has spearheaded the self-help group and microfinance movement initiated by the government. There is no other agency with such vast regulatory experience in microfinance in the country. Hence the statement saying' nabard has no experience in regulation' is incorrect.


Down To Earth replies

Although nabard is a key player in microfinance business, its outreach has been uneven and mostly in the southern states. We have highlighted the objections raised by groups opposing the Micro Finance Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill 2007, which designates nabard to be the regulator of microfinance sector.

Kullu development plight

This is in response to the article 'Against the flow' (November 30, 2007). Just like Parvati project, many other hydroelectric projects such as the Malana project, with a capacity of 126 mw, A D project with a capacity of 192 mw and Larji project with a capacity of 2,051 mw are coming up in the surrounding region of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh.

Most of these projects lie within a 50-km radius of Kullu valley. It is also heard that works on the controversial Rohtang tunnel project, aimed at establishing an all-weather alternative route to Ladakh region, will begin soon. A Himalayan ski village and Malana ii hydroelectric dam project with an electricity generation capacity of 100 mw are also in the pipeline. The impact of these projects on the serene environment of the valley and on the livelihood of people is incalculable.


Looking for the truth

The article 'Pox Americana' (February 15, 2004) has made me curious.

In the article you have talked about the search for blankets infected with pox that were used by Jeffrey Amherst, the commander of British forces in North America during the final battles of the French and Indian wars (1756-1763), to obliterate American Indians.

Though you have said that the search is currently going on in the plains of the Great Lakes in North America, you have not clearly indicated whether the us or the Canadian government is looking for them.

However, after reading your article, I am now carrying out my research on the subject.

Jennifer Letarte

Lax control for drug industry

Your cover story 'Sick industry' (October 31, 2007), where you have talked about the pollution caused by the pharmaceutical industry in Andhra Pradesh makes for interesting reading.

I have seen similar phenomena in the Baddi, Barotiwala and Nalagarh industrial areas in Himachal Pradesh. Almost all the pharmaceutical companies operating in the region dump their toxic and chemical waste in the nearby hills. This not only destroys the scenic beauty of the environs, but unscientific disposal of industrial waste is also leading to pollution of open drains and the river Sirsa. Local residents are suffering immensely because of this lax attitude of the pharmaceutical industry towards the environment.

Omesh Bharti

Conceited view

This is in response to the cover story 'Private affairs' (April 15, 2006). I do not think it is fair to have such a narrow and conceited view about industry initiatives on setting up plantations. Why are you so rigid about leasing out degraded lands to industries for plantations?

Is it just because industries will make profits out of it? If you believe that the move will be detrimental to the national objective of preserving the country's forest cover, I am sure the government can take necessary steps to restrain industries from harming it.

The government should design policies that benefit both industry and the country at large. Moreover, to ensure that the nation's gdp continues to grow beyond 9 per cent, the government should encourage many such forms of industrial initiatives.

Payal Bhajanka

Fortifying rice

To prevent thyroid deficiency, we have fortified salt with iodine. Given that the nation has completely switched over to milled rice, we now need to fortify rice as well.

After removing husk, we get the brown rice that contains 8 per cent protein and is a chief source of iron, calcium and vitamin B. However, after removing the bran layer of the brown rice, we get the white rice with hardly any nutritional value.


Builders' greed

In recent years, I have seen many incidents of builders continuing to construct multiplexes on drying rivulets.

Take Chandigarh for example. No serious effort has been in evidence to check builders despite heavy floods in recent times. Kharar, a small town near Chandigarh, has almost sacrificed its drainage network to builders. They are now eyeing Patiala-ki-Rao located in the foothills of Shivaliks in Punjab's Ropar district.

Suresh K Sharma

Changing transport with climate

China is currently exporting large numbers of electric-powered cars, each worth us $3,000. Powered by battery, hybrid fuel and fuel cells, these cars do not cause pollution and are considered as the next generation vehicles.

Like Chinese automakers, leading Indian automobile manufacturers are also conscious about climate change. Is not it the time for them to introduce such clean-fuel vehicles?

A few months back, at the National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap workshop, the minister of state for new and renewable energy had announced that India will introduce hydrogen-fuelled vehicles by 2020. The industry should fast start working towards that direction before it is too late.



This is in response to the report 'A new device uses sunlight to disinfect water' (August 15, 2006). The report says that the water purification device developed by scientists at the Mumbai-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre could provide safe drinking water even in remote, non-electrified areas.

The device is also capable of producing up to 20 litres of potable water every day. What it needs is only sunlight and a cheap, abundantly available material titanium dioxide that is used as a photocatalyst. I often travel to remote parts of the world and am worried about how to make the water safe.

Can I have some more information on the product?

phillip cole

I need some information on electronic waste management as well as methods to dispose of the waste electrical and electronic equipment. Please suggest.

Vishal Goyal

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