Published: Tuesday 28 February 2006

A jab on the poor

The cover story, "Vaccine Eloquent" (Down To Earth, January 31, 2006) was very timely. With expensive vaccines coming into play and with corporate interests having a big stake in the vaccine market, it's imperative that common people are not left out of the loop. For that it's critical that we do not dispense with the approach, which at least offers the common people two choices: cheap vaccines manufactured with older technology -- which do have some inherent defects -- and the costly ones manufactured with new technology. Today the government has phased out the former, citing occasional reactions these vaccines produce. This has worked to the detriment of poor people.

It is here that the government must step in and promote the cheap vaccines. But take the example of the anti-rabies vaccine. The Kasauli unit of the Central Research Institute has stopped its production, citing occasional complications that this vaccine produces. But the institute has so far not come up with a cheap substitute.

Omesh Bharti

Expose the sham

The article, "Recall rights" (Down To Earth, January 31, 2006) lays bare the fraud perpetrated by the Maharashtra government. It has cleverly sought to hoodwink the public in general and social activists in particular by laying a thick red-tape in the process of recalling elected representatives who fail to perform their duties in the interest of the general public.

The recently amended section 39 of the Bombay Village Panchayat Act 1958 stipulates that once 20 per cent of voters of a gram sabha give a written complaint to the ceo of a zilla parishad against any elected representative, the officer then conducts an enquiry and submits a report to the Divisional Commissioner (dc) for further action. The dc then takes a decision within a month. Further, party aggrieved by this decision has to then approach the state government for redressal.

Such round-about ways beg questions: Is the Maharashtra government really sincere in its intentions of making governance transparent? Who is it trying to fool? What is the need to involve the zilla parishad ceo and the dc in the decision-making process? If more than 20 per cent voters have complaints against the elected representative, the latter has to go, there should be no two ways about it.

I urge the Chief Justice of India to intervene to settle this sordid matter.

G R Vora
Plot - 275/3, Gope Nivas, Sion E,

Eco-sanitation: let's get going

It's high time we start having eco-sanitation systems in place, rather than merely talking about them. We have been trying for years to obtain drawings and construction details for implementing such highly lauded systems, especially for rural dwellings in Sri Lanka (where I live) and for India. Do help us in getting such details

Ray Wijewardene

Keep up the good work

As someone involved with the Koel-Karo movement for a long time and having done extensive research in the area, I commend the effort of Down to Earth to bring the Koel-Karo and other tribal movements to the fore. Adivasis of Jharkhand Orissa and other parts of the Central Indian belt are facing possibly the most vicious forces today after the calamitous nineteenth century. Please keep the news of the injustice and the long-term moral economic and ecological disaster that is being spawned through attacks on adivasi land and lives alive in the Indian middle-class readers mind.

Local activists will never forget your help.

Kaushik Ghosh

Make India forage secure

This is in response to the editorial, "The 'other' food crisis" (Down To Earth, December 15, 2005). Fodder inadequacy is a serious concern in rural India. On many occasions, the governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan have had to arrange fodder from the neighbouring states. In the present day farming in which low seed and straw ratio crop is a must in the intensive crop rotation, to get maximum seeds one has to sacrifice straw volume.

But government and local bodies in co-ordination with the farmers can come out with a remedy. Fallow lands and degraded land should be converted in to community pastures and farmers should be trained to grow forage crop to make India food and forage secure country.

S K Shah
The Fertiliser Association of India

Please look at other systems

I have the following observations on the article,"Grey water hits the roof" (January 15, 2006).

There is an indigenous patented technology called Soil Biotechnology (sbt) that uses a "green infrastructure" consisting of a combination of select soil microbial culture, a species of deep burrowing earthworm and selected plant species. sbt, developed by the department of chemical engineering of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai is far more effective than the process referred to in the article.

sbt systems can be engineered to clean black water from urinals -- and not just 'grey water'. The quality of this treated water is totally safe for release into water bodies.

sbt systems can be customised to the quality of treatment desired. The systems can be adapted to a broad range of areas from a household to a city.

S Lakshmanan


Come on Tata

It is really unfortunate that Tata steel refuses any responsibility for the Kalinga Nagar incident ("Not bowed down" dte January 31, 2006). The company's attitude of expecting the government to "clear people off the land before beginning work on the plant" is extremely callous and disregards the customary rights of the tribals to these lands. People are not to be treated as weeds to be cleared before the farmer sows the crop. The tribals are entitled to a share of the profits from any enterprise on lands occupied by them for centuries.

Furthermore, resettlement is hardly an option since this would generate a host of new problems. Tata should also demonstratecorporate social responsibility by using some of the enormous profits they will earn to develop infrastructure such as hospitals, schools for the affected people. Industrial development should not be anti-people.

Come on Tata, please show your humane side!
David Gandhi

Bhubaneshwar / Pune

Look at Bhatinda

This is with reference to the cover story, "No concrete plans" (Down To Earth, December 31, 2005). It mostly covers plants in South India. But misses out two cement plants in Bhatinda, adjacent to the thermal plants.

I would like to bring to your notice the pollution being caused by Bhatinda Thermal, National Fertilizer Limited and the Ambuja flyash cement units in Bhatinda, Punjab.

Flyash from the thermal plant is polluting the whole city. Four of the plant's units of 110megawatts capacity have low smoke chimneys, which spews out pollutants into the city air, with utter impunity. A new plant at Lehra Mohabbat just outside the city has a tall smoke outlet which releases the smoke in the upper atmosphere which is then carried far by the wind.

shaminder s dhillon

House no 22676

Street No 6

Bhagu Road, Bhatinda 151001


The photograph in the article, "The purification hunt" (Down To Earth, January 31, 2006) was wrongly attributed to Nandini Sundar. The photos actually came from a cd distributed by the Maoists to the local press in Raipur.

In the article, "It's pent up anger" (Down To Earth, February 15, 2005) its inadvertently stated that the Orissa government claims to have distributed 15, 565 ha to tribal families. The actual figure is 15,5650 ha.

Down To Earth regrets these errors.

Down To Earth welcomes letters, responses and other contributions from readers. We particularly welcome you to join issues and share your opinion with others. Send to Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth, 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062. Email: editor@downtoearth.org.in...

Pick of the Postbag

This is not what research should be
While farmers are looking for saner methods of rice cultivation without waterlogging, the recent findings at Hyderabad based International Crop Research Institute and Nagpur based National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Pattern come as a shock (see "Reaping Double Benefit" Down To Earth 31 January, 2006). It might be justifiable if the research results of these institutes are floodplain specific . But they cannot be justified in semi-arid areas, especially in view of the current situation of water scarcity and greenhouse gas emissions in India.

History seems to be repeating itself as plant nutrients are reduced to mere carbon and nitrogen. In the 19 th century, Von Justus Leibig, the father of the hegemonic Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Pottasium (npk) fertilisation theory, confessed before the Royal Scientific Society, uk that he had sinned against creation by undermining the role of micronutrients and the naturally occurring mineralogical cycle. Let us not wait for K L Sahrawat of icrisat to make a similar post-facto confession.

Carbon and nitrogen are not the only nutrients that determine the healthy growth of plants. Is there a need to generate these macronutrients at the cost of pristine waters? Are these research findings justifiable when the aerobic rice cultivation (sri paddy) method is just starting to gain momentum? Both companion planting of rice (nitrogen craving) and pulses (nitrogen producing) and aerobic methods have proved efficient in increased yield and pathogen resistance with 60 per cent water saving and reduction of green house gas emission. Why only nitrogen and carbon? Soil fertility, micronutrient balance and soil biological conservation is well maintained in both companion planting and aerobic cultivation; these are the very facts that appear to have been excluded by these research institutes.

As nearly 2,500 hectares of waterlogged rice cultivated area is laid to waste in Karnataka every year, the questions raised by G Narayanswamy of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, on the significance of these research findings need to be acknowledged.

L C Nagaraj

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