The Human Impact

“Urinating in dams” to solve India’s drought? Minister faces backlash

As India’s western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region’s empty dams to solve water shortages.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.

“He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible,” Pawar told the gathering, who responded with much laughter.

Dubbed as “Urine-Gate” by some sections of the media, Pawar’s controversial comments have been played and replayed on India’s national news channels over the past week, sparking a barrage of criticism from civil society groups and opposition politicians who are demanding he resign over the remarks.

Aid workers say almost one-fifth of Maharashtra, India’s third-largest state and one of the biggest producers of sugar, pulses, cotton and soybeans, has been declared drought-hit. Dams are empty, farmland is parched and livestock are emaciated.

IF campaign to end hunger seems a bit iffy

By Maria Caspani

Techno music and revolving images of hungry babies were among the most disheartening, not to say disturbing aspects of the event that kicked off the ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF’ campaign at London’s Somerset House this week.

The catchphrase – ‘There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet 2 million children die from malnutrition every year’ – was repeated so many times during the hour-long event on Wednesday evening that, by the end of it, I felt like the words had lost their meaning.

This might just be me cynically bantering about what I perceived to be the patronising attitude of people in the so-called Western world when they try hard to do good and put an end to the suffering of poor people in the so-called developing world.

Conway book urges united global action plan to end hunger

Global food security can be achieved for almost 1 billion chronically undernourished people by promoting strong political leadership, technological innovation, investment in smallholder farmers and efficient markets, according to a new book.

In “One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?”, author Gordon Conway, a professor of international development and director of advocacy group Agriculture for Impact at Imperial College London, emphasises the importance of reducing hunger and poverty by increasing food production within an environmentally sustainable framework, which  recognises climate change as a serious hindrance to future food security.

“Food price spikes, malnutrition and population growth, high costs of fertilizers and oil, degradation of land and water, and most importantly climate change must all be addressed,” Conway said at the launch of the book in London on Tuesday, where he said that policymakers need to tackle more than 20 issues to help solve the hunger problem.

Solutions for a hungry world

By 2050, experts say, the planet will need at least 70 percent more food than it does today as its population soars, cities sprawl and climate change takes its toll. Will it be possible?

That’s a question AlertNet put to hunger fighters worldwide for a special multimedia report out today probing the future of food. Their answer: The planet can feed itself – but only if two “revolutions” happen, and happen soon.

The first would involve sweeping changes to entrenched policies and practices that are, in the end, unsustainable. Policies such as spending trillions on agriculture and fuel subsidies. And practices such as eating so much meat and dairy.

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