Saturday, October 31, 2009

Health - Failing at both ends.

The News that 50% of world's malnourished children live in India , along with the finding that India is likely to become the' diabetic capitol' of the world is significant. It means we are not able to manage Health at both ends of the spectrum. In one side we have become the 'Havenots' of the world, with suceesive Goverments both at State and Centre dubiously planning and implementing what we have achieved for our children. It is quite a shame after 60 years of Independence we have not been able to take care our children, quite a few of them die in the first year itself ( Again a record of sorts ) or if they survive death, are malnourished.
On the other side'the Haves' do not take care of their health resulting in entry of new diabetics every year. Till recently, very little was done in spreading the message the havoc it can cause.
Coupled with the fact that Asians and Indians are prediposed to certain heart conditions, diabetes will make it worse for quite a large chunk of population.
It is a paradox that we have major problems at both ends of the health spectrum with little, very little being done by successsive Governments.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Ideas 'Mela' in Mysore

Four-day TED-India conference to be held in Mysore (Nov.4-7) is reportedly sold out. The meet is expected to attract people from 46 countries, according to a media report. With some 40 speakers on the card, drawn from varied fields - scientist, artist, playwright, photographer, marine biologist and sports commentator - the event promises to be a mela for ideas.

As a resident of the host town, my concern, or rather my poser to organisers, is: Shouldn't local residents be allowed to benefit from the proceedings ? In a global event of this nature local enthusiasts tend to get crowded out by those from elsewhere. And, understandably, the organisers face severe space constraints, however big the venue.

Wouldn't it be nice if the they could arrange to have the conference proceedings screened through closed-circuit network in another hall - Kalamandira or some other place - for the benefit of local audience ? Or they could tie-up with the city TV channel for live-telecast of TEDIndia, as they do with Dasara concerts held at the Mysore palace grounds.

Would local residents be interested? How would TED proceedings be of local public interest ? I can't answer this question better than TEDIndia co-host Lakshmi Pratury. She says she would like those attending the Mysore conference to take back three things:
1) No one who sits through a talk or seminar is with it all the time, a hundred percent. Even if they stay focused on what they hear, for a brief moment , they should feel it is a moment when they would rather be here than anywhere else;
2) Her expectation is that on gatherings like this one meets at least one person who becomes a friend for life; and
3) Her hope is that those who sit through the proceedings would pick up an idea or two that is not necessarily related their prime interest.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Case for a farming channel

Canegrowers association in Mysore and neighbouring districts publish a farm weekly - Raitha Dwani - to share information on farming, notably, cane and paddy. The one-year-old publication plans to increase its subscribers, from 1,000 to 5,000 farmers in six months. Much too modest a goal;and, presumably, not cost effective.

Scene - 2
In neighbouring Tamilnadu they have a website - - that seeks to bridge buyer-seller gap caused by lack of information on commodity prices, poor marketing, exploitative middle-men and inadequate infrastructure. Online market such as connects buyers and sellers for meaningful trade.

The website provides information pertaining to commodity prices, cropping pattern, seeds and fertiliser availability, agro-based business opportunities, veterinary, organic farming, self employment training, herbal medicines, value addition in farm produce and farm credit.But then the digital divide and illiteracy limits the reach of cyberfarming among farmers in our country. An overwhelming majority that needs such farming guidance stay untouched.

A Tamil channel - Makkal TV - runs a phone-in programme - Uzhavar Sandhai -that covers the same ground, and, given widespread TV viewership and extensive use of cell phone even in rural areas, telefarming of the type adopted by Makkal TV has a reach among illiterate farmers.

At a recent Uzhavar Sandhai programme a farming expert,responding to viewers' questions, came up such info.:

1)Fruit-growers in Cumbum (TN), where they grow grapes on 2,000 plus acres, could come together to put up a juice-making unit. In the absence of such value-addition the farmers ae constrained to sell their produce for Rs.15 a kg.

2)Those planning to grow lemon would do well to visit Gudur (AP) a well known lemon growing area.

3) A retired army officer in Chennai has set up a unit that markets lemon concentrate in small sachets, for making two glasses of juice. The sachets can be retailed through grocery stores, pavement paan-bidi shops, and platform venders in railway stations.

4) With ever-increasing vegetable prices, people in cities take to roof-top kitchen gardening. A variety of vegetables, and spinach, can be grown on roof-top, with two fot deep soil cover. The expert on TV spoke of someone who has grown plantains on roof-top.

During an hour long programme they can't take very many questions from viewers. Besides, Makkal TV runs Uzhavar Sandhai only once a week, Friday. There may be a case for such interactive programming on a daily basis; even for a full-fledged farming channel. We have channels dedicated to healthcare, religious discourse and bhajans. Why not a TV channel to address concerns of farmers - about marketing produce, procurement of seeds, fertiliser, opportunities for agro-business, horticulture, livestock and farm equipment maintenence.

Ad. and sponsorship may be an issue that inhibits private channels. Maybe Doordarshan, which is not ratings driven, could think in terms of a full-fledged farming channel. Apart from serving the interests of farmers, such a krishi channel would get more ad. revenue for DD than the Lok Sabha channel.