India-Pakistan Ties

Sounding nothing like Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi asks Pakistan to declare war – on poverty

From a BJP stage in Kerala, Modi made his first public comments about Uri – and chose to address the people of Pakistan.

Almost a week after militant attacks on an Army base in Kashmir killed 18 Indian soldiers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke in public about the incident – and chose to spend a large part of it directly addressing the people of Pakistan. Modi singled out India's nuclear neighbour for being the source of terror in Asia, but rather than announcing military retribution, called on the people of Pakistan to recognise how this policy was hurting themselves.

"I would like to speak to the people of Pakistan, to tell you that your leaders are misleading you by talking of Kashmir," Modi said, at a public rally that is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party's national conclave in Kozhikode, Kerala. "Both our countries got freedom in the same year. You should ask: why is India known the world over for exporting software, while Pakistan is known to export terror?"

After using the first part of his speech to talk of the BJP's achievements in Kerala and for the people of the state, Modi turned to bring up Uri. The speech was in fact much anticipated because, though other BJP members and the Ministry of External Affairs have said much about Pakistan since the attack, the prime minister himself simply put out a few tweets condemning the terror and saluting the soldiers who were killed.

After a few typical references to "one nation" in Asia that is known for exporting terror, the first surprise came when, instead of focusing just on the Uri attack, Modi chose to add context to the larger Indo-Pak skirmishes along the Line of Control.

"In the last few months, on 17 occasions, fidayeen have tried to infiltrate into India. Our soldiers have killed 110 of them," Modi said. "In one attack the neighbouring country succeeded and 18 soldiers died. If they had succeeded in all 17, can you imagine what might have happened? But our brave soldiers prevented those efforts, they slayed them on the LoC."

Until this point, Modi had yet to even name Pakistan, although he spoke of a "neighbouring nation" that exported terror. Instead, he sought to focus more on the demoralising news of 18 soldiers killed in an attack and said that they were unfortunate casualties of a larger war which, in his telling, India is by and large successful at.

Then the speech brought up another surprise. Standing on a platform in Kerala, speaking to an audience of BJP members at a party conclave, Modi decided to directly address the people of Pakistan – first pointing out that they once were the same as Indians.

"I would like to tell the people of Pakistan that before 1947, your ancestors too used to salute this great land," he said. "Leaders of the neighbouring country used to say they will fight for 1000 years against us. I accept this challenge."

He took this a step further still – making a point that will surely provoke many across the border. "That day is not far when people of Pakistan will get in the fray to fight against their leaders and terrorists," Modi said.

Addressing Pakistan's international policy of focusing on Kashmir, rather than terrorism, Modi again made an unusual choice. "The people of Pakistan please ask your leaders, you have PoK, you could not manage it. Bangladesh used to be yours, you couldn't manage it. You cannot handle Gilgit, Baltistan, Balochistan, Sindh, and you are talking about Kashmir," he said.

Modi finished the speech making the usual noises about India fighting poverty, and becoming a country free of corruption, unemployment and crimes against women.

This is most likely the first of several indications we will get on how the Modi government, which like most Indian administrations, has had a difficult time managing its Pakistan policy, has shifted gears after Uri.

The prime minister is slated to give his fortnightly radio address, Mann ki Baat, on Sunday morning and on Monday evening, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will have a chance to address the world through a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Those will add more clarity to the Indian position, at least rhetorically, though what is clear is that Modi sees no utility in ramping up the violent rhetoric and doesn't have any interest in talking directly to Pakistan's leaders at the moment either.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

How sustainable farming practices can secure India's food for the future

India is home to 15% of the world’s undernourished population.

Food security is a pressing problem in India and in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), it is estimated that over 190 million people go hungry every day in the country.

Evidence for India’s food challenge can be found in the fact that the yield per hectare of rice, one of India’s principal crops, is 2177 kgs per hectare, lagging behind countries such as China and Brazil that have yield rates of 4263 kgs/hectare and 3265 kgs/hectare respectively. The cereal yield per hectare in the country is also 2,981 kgs per hectare, lagging far behind countries such as China, Japan and the US.

The slow growth of agricultural production in India can be attributed to an inefficient rural transport system, lack of awareness about the treatment of crops, limited access to modern farming technology and the shrinking agricultural land due to urbanization. Add to that, an irregular monsoon and the fact that 63% of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall further increase the difficulties we face.

Despite these odds, there is huge potential for India to increase its agricultural productivity to meet the food requirements of its growing population.

The good news is that experience in India and other countries shows that the adoption of sustainable farming practices can increase both productivity and reduce ecological harm.

Sustainable agriculture techniques enable higher resource efficiency – they help produce greater agricultural output while using lesser land, water and energy, ensuring profitability for the farmer. These essentially include methods that, among other things, protect and enhance the crops and the soil, improve water absorption and use efficient seed treatments. While Indian farmers have traditionally followed these principles, new technology now makes them more effective.

For example, for soil enhancement, certified biodegradable mulch films are now available. A mulch film is a layer of protective material applied to soil to conserve moisture and fertility. Most mulch films used in agriculture today are made of polyethylene (PE), which has the unwanted overhead of disposal. It is a labour intensive and time-consuming process to remove the PE mulch film after usage. If not done, it affects soil quality and hence, crop yield. An independently certified biodegradable mulch film, on the other hand, is directly absorbed by the microorganisms in the soil. It conserves the soil properties, eliminates soil contamination, and saves the labor cost that comes with PE mulch films.

The other perpetual challenge for India’s farms is the availability of water. Many food crops like rice and sugarcane have a high-water requirement. In a country like India, where majority of the agricultural land is rain-fed, low rainfall years can wreak havoc for crops and cause a slew of other problems - a surge in crop prices and a reduction in access to essential food items. Again, Indian farmers have long experience in water conservation that can now be enhanced through technology.

Seeds can now be treated with enhancements that help them improve their root systems. This leads to more efficient water absorption.

In addition to soil and water management, the third big factor, better seed treatment, can also significantly improve crop health and boost productivity. These solutions include application of fungicides and insecticides that protect the seed from unwanted fungi and parasites that can damage crops or hinder growth, and increase productivity.

While sustainable agriculture through soil, water and seed management can increase crop yields, an efficient warehousing and distribution system is also necessary to ensure that the output reaches the consumers. According to a study by CIPHET, Indian government’s harvest-research body, up to 67 million tons of food get wasted every year — a quantity equivalent to that consumed by the entire state of Bihar in a year. Perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, end up rotting in store houses or during transportation due to pests, erratic weather and the lack of modern storage facilities. In fact, simply bringing down food wastage and increasing the efficiency in distribution alone can significantly help improve food security. Innovations such as special tarpaulins, that keep perishables cool during transit, and more efficient insulation solutions can reduce rotting and reduce energy usage in cold storage.

Thus, all three aspects — production, storage, and distribution — need to be optimized if India is to feed its ever-growing population.

One company working to drive increased sustainability down the entire agriculture value chain is BASF. For example, the company offers cutting edge seed treatments that protect crops from disease and provide plant health benefits such as enhanced vitality and better tolerance for stress and cold. In addition, BASF has developed a biodegradable mulch film from its ecovio® bioplastic that is certified compostable – meaning farmers can reap the benefits of better soil without risk of contamination or increased labor costs. These and more of the company’s innovations are helping farmers in India achieve higher and more sustainable yields.

Of course, products are only one part of the solution. The company also recognizes the importance of training farmers in sustainable farming practices and in the safe use of its products. To this end, BASF engaged in a widespread farmer outreach program called Samruddhi from 2007 to 2014. Their ‘Suraksha Hamesha’ (safety always) program reached over 23,000 farmers and 4,000 spray men across India in 2016 alone. In addition to training, the company also offers a ‘Sanrakshan® Kit’ to farmers that includes personal protection tools and equipment. All these efforts serve to spread awareness about the sustainable and responsible use of crop protection products – ensuring that farmers stay safe while producing good quality food.

Interested in learning more about BASF’s work in sustainable agriculture? See here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.