As India gears up for its semi-final match against Australia in the Cricket World Cup next week, Dileep Premachandran in Mint takes a look at how far the women’s team has come in the last few years.
“A lot of adjectives are thrown around when the subject is the Mumbai Suburban Railway,” writes Bhanuj Kappal in Blink. “But in recent years, as the 164-year-old railway system struggles to ferry over 75 lakh passengers a day, the adjective that comes up more often is ‘deadly’.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had planned to provide skills training to a massive number of Indians under a scheme with a Rs 6,000-crore budget. R Srinivasan, in the Hindu, says that it is now evident that, as per the ministry’s own findings, the scheme has “turned into a gigantic racket for milking state funds”.
Pranav Dixit in Buzzfeed News tells us how Silicon Valley content companies, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, censor their products even if they don’t legally have to, hoping to not offend the Indian audience.
“I never looked back, all the while running. The idea was to just outrun him to the traffic lights and get on the first auto I could find. Everything else was a blur.” Titash Sen in the Ladies Finger writes about the constant fear women are subjected to, and how banning ladies night will not solve anything.
Ankita Dwivedi Johri in the Indian Express talks to three girls of Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria district, said to have the worst menstrual health management in the country. “Twice every day, we change our langots, wash the stained cloth and dry it under our clothes so that the men don’t see it. I don’t go to school or to play, but even then my clothes stain.”
“In their pantheon of fake news, nothing beats a pamphlet of 1946 that emanated from Bengal and soon spread through the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) and even Maharashtra,” writes Akshaya Mukul in the Hindu, recounting a story of viral falsities decades before social media.
“Don’t be shy about asking your teen where she has been, who she has spent time with, or why she has receipts from Cypriot bank wire transfers hidden under a false bottom of her jewelry case.” Tom Russell in McSweeny’s, has a useful guide on how to talk to your teen about colluding with Russia.
“The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers.” Read an interview with Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal, who died this week.
Jeet Heer, in the New Republic, finds similiarties between the Coen Brothers’ movie Burn After Reading, and real life: “The plot of the movie is driven by imbeciles who have only the most limited understanding of the world around them. As such, they call to mind figures like Donald Trump Jr.”
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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.
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.