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Food Crisis: India’s Rotten Wheat

Rohit Sachdeva

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India's rotten wheat

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Global Hunger Index, a multidimensional statistic describing national hunger, had ranked India 63 in 2013, putting India behind countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and particularly in the category of those sub Sahara regions where malnutrition is at alarming rate. To simplify, the report noted that India continued to record one of the highest prevalence of children under five who are underweight, at more than 40 per cent – one of the three criteria that the index is built on.

This time, though India has progressed unlike earlier years where it had ranked 65 or sometimes consistently 67 for four years. Despite being one of the biggest producers of wheat and rice in the world, India is home to a quarter of world’s hungry poor. Indeed it was this urgency that a food subsidy bill worth $22 billion was passed by UPA-2 in hurry to claim the credit for welfare at the end of their tenure. This food subsidy would be largest in the world if executed but does that guarantee a right to food? Does doling out various foods through various schemes are the only option to eradicate the issue of malnutrition in India?

India's rotten wheat

Though these subsidies prone scheming is one of the issues India is facing but one issue that is even more urgent to refer is the Food Crisis. The rank of India in GHI (global hunger index) and now the mention of Food Crisis must mean that the problem is going to attack India in an even more horrific manner and probably we will be facing the situation similar to 1960s when famine had swept India. But to a sigh of relief nothing like this is ever going to happen at least in India.

Then what is this food crisis and how is it going to affect us?

In its late-August edition of World Bank Food Price Watch, the Bank reported that global prices for food as reflected by its Food Price Index rose 10 per cent in July 2012 alone. The prices of staples such as corn and soya bean were at an all-time high that month, with the increase in corn prices amounting to 25 per cent and that in soya bean to 17 per cent over a single month.

To quote the Bank’s August Food Price Watch report: A “dry summer in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan has contributed to projected wheat production losses in excess of 6 million tons, or 10 per cent of their projected annual production while the central belts of USA had experienced their worst drought in almost half a century. With the production of staple crops getting less, it is having effect on industries like poultry, dairy farming and meat production as these staples are also food for animals.

Not that India has remained unaffected, but the level of reduction is not as prevalent as in other parts of the world and this is where the food crisis of world is not that ‘alarming term’ in India yet. But it would be wrong to say that there is no crisis in country. At a humorous note, the problem of India is over production and this is what is worrying the country more than the shortage of food.

The product of Green revolution, India has witnessed bumper harvest in last 5 years when world has been marred with the effects of El Nino and other global warming effects. According to an RTI filed by Uttar Pradesh resident Kush Kalra, the amount of damaged wheat has increased from 2,010 million tonnes (MT) in 2009-2010 to 2,401.61 MT (2011-2012).The country had already suffered a loss of 932.46 MT damaged wheat last year and almost the similar situation had followed this year as well in the market.

The millions of tons of wheat rot because India ran out of warehouse space to hold another bumper crop of wheat; Warehouses are overflowing and huge quantities of wheat and rice are stored in fields under tarpaulins and thin plastic sheets, risking decay.

A report of Reuters last year best describes the situation of rotting wheat in India.

“In Khamanon village of Punjab state, farm workers Wednesday picked out grains from a mound of mildewed wheat, trying to salvage what was still edible.The wheat has been lying in the open nearly a year, during which the plastic sheeting that covered it had developed holes, exposing the grain to rain, frost and sun.

Around the workers were hundreds of thousands of sacks of grain stacked nearly 3 metres (15 feet) high in an open area the size of a football field. Some sacks had split open and the grain had formed dense black clumps. The edible grain would be repacked in fresh sacks and sold, said a caretaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he did not wish to be identified.”

This is what the reality of food crisis of India is. The wheat is left to decay in open which is then disqualified on the standards of wheat procurement leaving 1000s metric ton wasted, only to sell it further at even lower than half price to liquor industry.

Another startling aspect of rotting wheat is the increase in the price of staple in India. According to the World Bank’s figures, over the year-ending July 2012 India recorded the second largest (after Sudan) increase in wheat prices in July among all countries, and the third largest (after Malawi and Rwanda) increase in rice while according to the US Department of Agriculture, India’s wheat exports have increased by over 200 percent so far in year 2013 relative to the previous year, totalling 2.5 million tonnes. The government’s recent decision is expected to push this number up by another 2 million tonnes and all this to exercise just as a solution to decrease the effect of loss due to rotten wheat.

In 2010 the Supreme Court urged the government to distribute grain free to the hungry rather than let it go to waste in warehouses and open fields, but that hasn’t happened.

This is because state governments are reluctant to buy extra grain for distribution under the food welfare programme and, even if they were, only people with under-the-poverty-line ration cards would be entitled to buy it in subsidised shops.

However all these factors just represent the grave concerns which the food crisis of India is facing presently just due to policy paralysis. Where the whole world faces an acute shortage of food, India’s issue is over production and even after that the country is not able to feed its hungry population. The schemes like mid day meal and food security are marred with corruption and technically it does not reach the intended beneficiaries resulting in status quo.

Hopefully this new government will look for a solution to end this artificial food crisis of India.

Journalism came to me as an accident. Never have I thought that I might be setting myself to sail in this stream of exceptionally diverse career, but as the time passed exposure to the field followed by guidance of the people around, made me sure that I could not have found a better field. A student of Journalism and Mass Communication from LPU, I have interned with leadinng English dailies of India including Hindustan Times and The Indian Express besides doing a short internship with National Human RIghts Commission. War history gives me sleepless nights and the issues of International relations makes me alert. Besides all of this I allow myself to delve into literature, movies (basically parallel cinema) and classical music.

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India

A Historical exploration of Khajuraho

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khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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Explore the royal city of Mysore

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Call it the Heritage City or the City of Palaces, the city of Mysore still emanates a feeling of au royale even in a 21st century India. A place of heritage for royal families, sultans, and legendary names in history, every corner of Mysore is steeped in stories of victory, power, and grandeur. A tour of this majestic city is only justified when you explore the royal heritage of the City of Palaces.

Getting there

Conveniently located on the southern edge of the Karnataka State, Mysore is easily accessible from major cities. It takes about three hours to travel the 152 KM distance from Bangalore to Mysore.

History and Heritage

The city of Mysore served as the capital for the Kingdom of Mysore between the 1300s until 1956. These six centuries saw the kingdom change hands of rulers and kings, from the Wadiyar Dynasty, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. But the common element of all the rulers was their penchant for art and culture. Under their patronage, they contributed to the city’s visual and cultural glory which earned Mysore the fame of Karnataka’s cultural capital.

A royal tour

If you want to experience the regal side of Mysore, you cannot but miss these structures of historical and architectural significance. You can join a heritage walking tour to explore the city on foot, or head from Bangalore to Mysore by car and stop by at monuments, palaces, and museums and learn about the legends that made Mysore. You can start your walk from the Town Hall, built in 1884, as a tribute to the first Dewan of the city.

mysore-palace-598472_1280

Mysore Palace- The official residence of the royal family of Wadiyars, the palace itself is a work of marvel. An overwhelming blend of   Indo-Saracenic, neoclassical, Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectural works, the Mysore Palace is a breathtaking sight. Built in 1912, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts delicate works of mirrors, stained glass, mosaic and more. On any given day, you will find more tourists here than even at the Taj Mahal. Every Sunday, the palace comes alive with 97000 light bulbs bedazzling its façade and the premises.

Lalitha Palace– Yet another heritage building, the two-storied Lalitha Mahal sits on a ridge at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, which makes for a great vantage point. The palace was transformed into a hotel and offers a royal stay. If you truly want a feeling of royalty, then a stay here would be an experience.

Jaganmohan Palace– One of the seven prominent palaces of Mysore city, is a stunning work of ancient Indian architecture with intricate interiors and exteriors. The palace, transformed into a royal art gallery since 1915, houses paintings of the royal family, art by Raja Ravi Varma and an array of rare and antique musical instruments.

Museums- Stop by the Rail Museum to explore the archaic steam engines, the Maharani’s saloon, and other railway souvenirs. There’s also the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion showcasing more than 6500 folk artifacts from all parts of Karnataka. The Folk Art Museum, one of the most visited in the city, is also known for its collection of toys, models, and figurines.

Crawford Hall- Built in 1947, this is a must visit historic structure in Mysore. The royal palace is now known as the Mysore University but still renders a rich heritage to its ambiance.

Small, medium or large-scale, every historical building and monument of Mysore has a majestic touch to it. And such architecture speaks of its glorious past, which has left traces for the modern civilization to explore.

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India’s Victory at the International Court of Justice is the World’s Challenge to the Status Quo

Manak Suri

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For the past week, both the Indian and British media have rigorously covered the story of the re-election of India’s justice Dalveer Bhandari to the bench of judges in the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 21. That the Indian judge retained his position on the bench was not the sole reason for the story’s extensive coverage; his reappointment combined with the fact that it happened at the expense of the United Kingdom’s spot on the bench is why the story is making so many rounds… and no, that many Indians may see it as some sort of a comeback against Britain’s 200 years of colonial rule over the country is not the reason why it matters. It matters because this is the first time since 1946 that the UK has no judge on the ICJ bench, and that signals possible changes in the way international bodies govern and are governed. So what does this mean for India, for the UK and for the world at large?

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice or the ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations as its principal judicial branch and is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Its job is to settle legal disputes between states that are submitted to it and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it. The court comprises of a total of 15 judges that are elected to 9 year terms by way of voting from both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) separately. One third of the court is re-elected every three years, and no two judges of the same nationality may assume positions on the bench simultaneously. However, the rule that led to the deadlock between the candidates from India and UK is that a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC in order to be elected to the bench.

UN General Assembly vs UN Security Council: The Race in Numbers

On November 9 and November 13, in seven rounds of voting justice Bhandari secured between 110 and 121 votes from a total of 193 in the UNGA against figures between 68 and 79 secured by his British counterpart Sir Christopher Greenwood. However, among the UNSC, justice Bhandari lost out by 5 votes to 9 in favour of Sir Greenwood. In the face of uncertainty, the UK then pushed for a ‘joint conference’ under the rules of the court between the UNSC and the UNGA. Under the ‘joint conference’ three countries from each side then determine the name for the court. However, the rules do not mention the procedure to select these countries and understandably so, since the option was last invoked in 1921. Fearing not enough support from the council, criticism for invoking the charter, and harming its friendly as well as economic relations with India, the UK eventually chose to not follow through with the process and withdrew its candidature for the post. In the end, India secured the seat with a total of 183 votes out of 193 at the UNGA and all 15 at the UNSC.

There is More to the Victory than Meets the Eye

The result means different things for the parties involved and also for the balance of power and influence between countries. For the UK, there are hardly any positives to take away from this result amid already turbulent times. Many in the British media have viewed this loss as ‘a blow to British international prestige’ and the country’s acceptance of a diminishing role in global affairs. This was the UK’s second major defeat at the ICJ after it lost a vote by a margin of 94 to 15 countries in June when the UNGA voted in favour of referring the question of decolonisation and self-determination of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to the ICJ, which is currently under its control. Many within and outside the country have also been quick to blame Brexit for the situation in which they find themselves today, arguing that the other states, especially the ones within the European Union would have been less willing to snub the UK had the UK chosen not to leave the alliance. In the face of defeat, British diplomats have continued to maintain that they are happy that their close friend India has won, but have also not been shy of hiding their natural disappointment at their own loss.

For India, their victory in having a judge win the contest in getting elected to the ICJ bench against a permanent member of the UNSC is more symbolic than anything else. It reinforces India’s image at the highest stage as a major emerging global player and its ability to bring in greater reforms that push for more involvement from developing countries and emerging economies. Also, having a judge on the ICJ bench gives India an edge over Pakistan in the case involving former Indian Navy Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charges of espionage. True, a judge on the ICJ does not represent his/her country or their interests. However, as suggested by repeated criticism the court receives for being biased in favour of the states who appoint the judges, having a judge on the panel is certainly an asset for any country, no matter what the rules dictate on paper.

The most important takeaway from the whole episode far exceeds the ambitions of just the two countries and a race for a seat at the ICJ. India’s victory at the court reinforces the belief that power does not necessarily reside or has to reside with the ‘few global elite’, a sentiment which was expressed clearly when most member states of the UNGA backed India’s justice Bhandari to be re-elected against the choice of the permanent members or P5 of the UNSC. There seems to be an acknowledgment among the member states of the UN of the beginning of a change which sees an increasing shift in the balance of power away from the traditional powers of the world or the P5 – Britain, China, United States, Russia, and France. Of these countries, China was the only member to not have a judge on the ICJ between 1967 and 1985 till the final decision last week, when they were joined by the UK in the list. Last year, Russia was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the 2016 elections, France lost out on securing a position in the International Law Commission. While diplomats at the UN continue to maintain that there are no winners and losers here, that it is all part of a bigger picture, these developments undoubtedly mark diplomatic victories for the Group of 77 or the G77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN that have constantly pushed for an enhanced negotiating capacity. What remains to be seen is just to what extent they bring about a change in the status quo.

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