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.


  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.


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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.

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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.

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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.