The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Zika cases may portend a public health emergency, but has government woken up to it?

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Containing contagion

The Zika virus has arrived in India. On Friday, the World Health Organisation announced on its website that three cases had been detected in Ahmedabad. The Indian government reportedly sent the information to the WHO on May 15. Earlier, in March, in an answer to a question in the Lok Sabha, a minister had mentioned that one person in Ahmedabad had tested positive for the virus in January. What the government neglected to do, however, was tell local authorities in the city, make sure that information and precautions trickled down to its alleyways. Its initial response to the disease has raised serious doubts about its ability to contain contagion.

The Zika virus is carried by the Aedes mosquito, though it can also be sexually transmitted. Most worryingly, pregnant women can pass the virus on to the foetus, which may then show serious birth defects, including microcephaly and stunted brain development. When Zika fever broke out in Brazil in 2015, the virus was detected after a spurt in cases of mirocephaly, or babies being born with abnormally small heads. As the epidemic raged through South America in 2015-’16, at least 1.5 million people were affected in Brazil alone. The WHO had then declared it a “public health emergency of international concern”. According to one study of the virus in Columbia, it was highly contagious, with one person spreading it to four others. Ebola in West Africa only had a contagion rate of 1.5 to 2.

Standard precautions against Zika include mosquito control and getting people in vulnerable areas to wear light, long-sleeved clothes. Can India, whose fetid drains and water bodies breed clouds of mosquitoes every year, where infections like dengue, chikungunya and malaria spread rapidly among densely packed populations, do the hard work of controlling Zika? The government’s initial response suggests that it has not taken the threat of the virus seriously.

The Big Scroll

Rajib Dasgupta points out that the authorities who failed to publish news about Zika cases have violated codes of medical ethics.

Ahmedabad health officials found out about Zika cases in their city from the World Health Organisation website, reports Menaka Rao.

Scroll staff tell you all you need to know about zika.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta argues that the army has more to fear from the mob behind it, hungry for spectacle, than any mob it may have to face in Kashmir.
  2. In the Hindu, Hardeep S Puri on the erosion of the global order built on the United Nations and the Bretton Woods agreement, and how an alternative is yet to emerge.
  3. In the Telegraph, Manini Chatterjee on the army’s use of a human shield and how it diminishes India.

Giggles

Don’t Miss...

Florian Krampe points to a link between climate change and terror

“So what builds peace? This was a core question during the Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development this spring during discussions about the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as ‘Agenda 2030’, and how they relate to peace and conflict. The answer from panellists was unanimous: include local communities in the development processes.

The evidence base for the effect of significant local involvement in climatedevelopment, and peace-building projects is substantial. Recent research that pays close attention to the links between socioeconomic, political, as well as ecological processes offers valuable pathways for climate action that could address the threats to people’s livelihoods that terror groups exploit in order to bolster recruitment.

We need to move beyond a singular focus on risk.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.