India Insight

From AlertNet: Water scarcity compounds India’s food insecurity

These are the personal views of Siddharth Chatterjee  and do not reflect those of his employer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Follow him on Twitter: @sidchat1

 

Since India’s independence, the mammoth task of feeding its hundreds of millions, most of whom are extremely poor, has been a major challenge to policymakers. In the coming decades, the issue of food insecurity is likely to affect almost all Indians. However, for the poorest amongst us, it could be catastrophic. India ranks 65 of 79 countries in the Global Hunger Index. This is extremely alarming.

In the past few years, uneven weather patterns combined with over exploited and depleting water resources in various parts of India have wreaked havoc on food security, particularly for small and marginal farmers, as well as the rural poor.

The recently launched Global Food Security Index (GFSI) estimates that in 2012, there are 224 million Indians, around 19 percent of the total population, who are undernourished. The same report also estimates that while the Indian government has various institutions designed to deal with the impact of inflation on food prices, it only spends 1 percent of agricultural GDP on research to build food security for the poorest. Overall, India ranked 66th on the GFSI. It is estimated that one in four of the world’s malnourished children is in India, more even than in sub-Saharan Africa.

Water insecurity, further exacerbated by climate change, is arguably the most important factor for India’s food security. India’s total water availability per capita is expected to decline to 1,240 cubic metres per person per year by 2030, perilously close to the 1,000 cubic metre benchmark set by the World Bank as ‘water scarce’.

from Photographers' Blog:

Farewell old lady of Mumbai

By Vivek Prakash

Many things are uncertain in Mumbai - the weather, the possibility of an appointment actually happening on time, the chance of getting through the city without hitting some obstacle or other…

But one thing is perfectly certain: you’re wanted at the traffic jam, they're saving you a seat.

If, like me, you think owning a car in Mumbai is a pointless waste of time, you will take a taxi several times a week. So your place in Mumbai’s permanent gridlock is likely to be inside a Premier Padmini taxi, a vehicle I have come to think of as the grand old dame of Mumbai's streets.

Photo gallery: Preparing for Durga Puja in Noida

There is a workshop near my home in Noida, east of Delhi, where sculptors mould clay into idols of Hindu gods and goddess all through the year for festivals. These occasions mean brisk business for the craftsmen, who work in a makeshift hut covered by tin sheets. The idols sell for 500 to 700 rupees, depending on the size.

The idols of the goddess Durga and other characters in her story are being built because the Durga Puja is only a week away. I asked the people in the workshop if I could shoot, and they gave in after a bit of persuasion. The pictures that follow are of these craftsmen painting the idols of Durga.

The annual Durga Puja is a five-day festival commemorating the death of the buffalo demon Mahishasura at the hands of Hindu goddess Durga. Traditionally a festival celebrated in eastern India — it is the biggest festival in the state of West Bengal — Durga Puja is now celebrated in north India with much gusto and fanfare.

Photo gallery: On World Sight Day, photography by ‘Blind With Camera’

Photographers say you need to have an eye to take pictures. These children, who lack some or all of their vision, have applied the same maxim to their photography. The pictures that you see below are images that I took of an exhibition by the Mumbai-based project ‘Blind With Camera’. The show is on display at the Alliance Francaise in New Delhi until Oct. 18th, and I shot these images on the World Health Organization’s World Sight Day.

“…Tactile, audio clues, visual memories of sight, warmth of light and cognitive skills are used by the visually impaired photographers to create the mental image before they judge to take a picture,” said Partho Bhowmick, a member of the project.

The first picture was taken at Dadar Kabutarkhana in Mumbai during a workshop in 2010. The photographer, Bhavesh Patel, who was born blind, according to the exhibition brochure, said he followed the direction of the sound of pigeons flying and took the picture based on the audio clue.

Kejriwal needs different approach to win hearts and votes

The Arvind Kejriwal-Robert Vadra faceoff has finally reached the place where it should be — in court instead of in the press.

An activist named Nutan Thakur filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Allahabad High Court on Oct. 9, and it has now been admitted. The government must respond within three weeks. Thakur wants the court to explore allegations by social activist Kejriwal that Vadra, son-in-law of Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, has been involved in shady land deals.

Perhaps court is the best venue for trying to find out if there is any less-than-aboveboard connection between Vadra, real estate firm DLF and the Haryana government, despite the lonely, but rewarding work of good investigative journalists.

Photo gallery: a Hipstamatic trip through Old Delhi

As an iPhone owner and an avid Hipstamatic user, I’ve been capturing daily life on the streets of Delhi for the past few months. As someone who was born and raised outside of India, I’m struck by how much of life is played out on the streets here. From bathing to cooking to sleeping, India’s streets are truly an extension of the home, and in many cases, is home itself.

Most of the photos are from Old Delhi, a world within a world in the heart of the Indian capital. The old quarters were once known as Shahjahanabad — named after Mughal Emperor Shahjahan who built the city in the 1600s.

Seventeenth-century writers and poets described the old city as “paradise” and “like a Garden of Eden”. Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare, once had a canal running down the centre. Today, the canal has disappeared and Old Delhi is overcrowded and run down, and poverty is rife. Beggars line the narrow alleys alongside vendors selling everything from a fresh lime soda to used car parts, and young, homeless drug users huddle to smoke heroin before passing out on the side of the street.

Watch your mouth: indignation at every turn

When you’re in a khap, you can say whatever you want, but it has to be pretty outrageous to annoy people beyond the city limits. One idea that has cleared the bar? Lowering the minimum marriage age to prevent girls from being raped.

“Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16 years old, so that they do not stray …this will decrease the incidents of rape.”

That’s the kind of thing that you expect a conservative patriarch to mutter through his beard while drinking tea with a friend. Comment done, world moves on.

Spending time in ‘Narcopolis’ with Jeet Thayil

I spent some time talking with Jeet Thayil, whose book on Mumbai and opium culture is a contender for this year’s Man Booker Prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 16. You can read the interview that we published on the Reuters news wire. Here are some excerpts:

Q: Does this make you feel strongly about the city?

A: “Bombay does that to people. It makes a (connection) with you. It makes it difficult for you. It bludgeons you. I’ve been reading about that area, Shuklaji street. It is disappearing now – Kamatipura, Shuklaji street, (the) entire area between Mumbai Central and Grant Road is disappearing, being bought away by real estate sharks who are buying up all the broken-down houses and making tall buildings. So very soon that entire district will disappear, and with it a million stories.

Q: In an interview you used the word “seductive” for Bombay. In “Narcopolis”, words seem to come from under a cloud of smoke. Is there a parallel you have drawn between opium and Mumbai?

Photo gallery: A walk through Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Next time you plan a visit to the Qutub Minar, venture beyond its crowded complex. Walk past the parking lot, which is on your left, and take the first right turn. Next to the Qutub Restaurant is an obscured path. Take the path, walk down a few steps and this is what you see:

 

You are inside the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, located in what was once the first of the seven historic cities of Delhi, dating back about a thousand years. The first structure (see below) is the Metcalfe House, which was once a tomb. Thomas Metcalfe was an agent of the Governor General of India to the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar, India’s last Mughal emperor.

 

As you move on, you’d find columns to your left and right, guiding you to several structures in this area. This also is a Delhi Development Authority park. Next stop is the Jamali Kamali mosque.

Kudankulam’s neighbours weigh nuclear power fears against living standards

Rani enters her home for the first time in more than a week. She switches on the light, but it doesn’t work. Tsunami Colony, where she lives in the village of Idinthakari, has been deserted for months, and the electricity supply has been patchy.

The people who were living in the development fear that the police will return and ransack houses – as they reportedly have done to several places in the village. The residents prefer to sleep on the sand outside St. Lourdes church here in Idinthakari in Tamil Nadu, alongside people who have spent more than a year protesting the planned opening of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, which sits about 2 kilometres away.

There have been nearly 400 days of protests in the village. A plastic board outside the church tallies this number, every day. Villagers claim that their power supply has been irregular with long power cuts ever since they started protesting.

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