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India news... the good news!

Published: 2007-01-28T20:33:00+04:30


Siege of Goa… defeated!


Amidst a real estate boom all around, urban folk command market prices for their land. But with rural and public lands, state governments have become high-handed land brokers. A price is fixed for vast tracts of land covering several villages, the state gets it acquisition machinery going, archaic laws are cited to support state action, promise of jobs in manufacturing or tourism are dangled and acquired property is handed over to business houses that wait in the wings with unctuous dignity, and they say, fat bags of bribes. There is a collusion at work between commercial…

Emerging alternate energy breakthroughs


Despite their allure, alternate energy systems have really not been able to displace conventional, non-sustainable, polluting or hazardous sources like coal, petroleum or nuclear. Reasons are cost and scalability. Take solar energy. It is estimated that several times the planet’s total energy need arrives from the sun but costs of gathering and effectively storing it are prohibitive. Nanosolar Inc, in California, USA began with a checklist of seven stumbling blocks in the way of solar energy’s success and has in 5 years of work, been ticking them off as overcome. It is now ready for wide…

The Supreme Court growls


In the course of a single month, India’s Supreme Court asserted its suzerainty over ground encroached by politicians. Good news in India, for many years to come, will comprise of reaction to bad status quo, because cleansing the Indian public system is a work in slow progress. Much of that work is being done by the Supreme Court and a growing number of activists. On December 23, 2005 eleven members of Parliament were expelled. They had been found guilty by the Ethics Committee of gross misconduct. This comprised of accepting bribes for asking…

A miracle rice


How seductive are those emerald green fields of the Indian countryside, with waving paddy shoots modulated by even little breezes. The acres of water in which they stand tempt you to linger and inhale the cool heady smell. Sorry to intrude, but your rice field is causing good-sized environmental violence. A kilo of rice on your table needs 5,000 litres of water to grow. And the rice plant produces a lot of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. The good news is we may be on the threshold of being able to grow…

RTI - a tactical retreat by the government


Yesterday the government responded to rising anger and decided not to move the infamous amendment to the RTI Act - ‘for now’. The victory that activists are celebrating is misplaced given that the Evil Empire has only slunk away to recover; but the moment is nevertheless a watershed in India’s public life because of the way people organised themselves at home and abroad, marshalled technology to raise the decibel level, enthused RTI pioneers to lead on and finally humbled a sneaky state. The issue at hand was the attempt to emasculate the young RTI Act, already…

Water harvesting via the Internet


Let’s say you are bothered about the impending water crisis in India. Despite the enthusiasms of our President and the Hon’ble Supreme Court for it, you are convinced that not only is river water linking a pipe dream or, even if the dream were ever realised, it will not bring water to every hamlet of the country. You are against big dams too: they displace people, serve the wealthy and water for living is a low priority for them. You realise privatizing water is the ultimate crucifixion of the poor and big water schemes need private capital. “Why, oh…

A white elephant turns pink


The story of 153 year old Indian Railways has for long been one of a modern technology gone native. It has been an object of veneration and worshipped, but also indulgently forgiven as subject to karma, like you and me. It is rarely expected to be answerable or accountable. Its losses are stoically dismissed as part of an essential national service. So, if we are now told that the Indian Railways has just become the second most profitable public enterprise after the ONGC, we are likely to be likely to be surprised. How did that happen?

Novel energy options


As petroleum inches unstoppably towards $100 a barrel and global warming is a widely shared experience, it is nice to know there are solutions for a future without either of these. Here is a round-up of some options for Indian researchers and experimenters to get started on. These developments are from overseas and are worth our attention. The appeal of biodiesel is well known but there are concerns that when land use is changed to produce liquid fuel, food production may suffer and famines ensue. Tree based oils -as against those derived from field crops- do…

Their home is a school every evening


Every evening between 4 and 8 O’clock, Kamalam, Kannan and their little son surrender their house to 150 children who swarm to it. The house becomes Bharatiyar Evening School. A sign on the house proclaims the name and adds: “No Fees”. It’s a pleasant lower middle class street in Chennai’s Tiruvanmiyur area. The rented house has four rooms that the family lives in when it’s not a school. Children are from poorer households nearby. Teachers are modestly paid professionals or are volunteers. Kamalam and Kannan are also teachers.

Jantar Mantar: India’s Sphinx


Although in its judgment of April 17,2006, the Supreme Court has not stopped construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Medha Patkar and her humble-folk friends, who fasted for twenty days, have scored significant victories. The Court has given just 3 months to the involved states to comply with letter and spirit of true rehabilitation of ousted people; or, it’d order stoppage of construction. A report by ministers of the Central Government has damned official statements and given credence to Medha Patkar’s claim of several years that relief and rehabilitation were a sham. Above all, Medha’s struggle of…