News Wrap


As the Union Health Ministry of India failed to ensure timely orders for the supplies of life-saving drugs, the country’s public health system has run out of Tuberculosis medicines for children and critical testing kits for AIDS patients. The shortages could cost lives and worsen problems of drug resistance. Many lives are at risk. In India’s otherwise dismal public healthcare system, the shortages have affected the two infectious disease control programmes, which are seen as rare bright spots. ‘‘Buffer stocks’’ are running low and ‘‘Stock out’’ levels are fast approaching, in a major system failure. The frontline treatment centres in many parts of India are without the TB drugs and AIDs testing kits they needed. An estimated 300,000 people die from TB each year in India, and the country is one of the world’s heaviest Tuberculosis burdens. About 2.4 million people live with HIV/AIDs.

Paddy Variety in Punjab
Ludhiana’s Punjab Agriculture University has developed a number of environment-friendly paddy varieties. But farmers in Punjab still prefer the PUSA 44 variety, which is ‘‘anti-environment, water guzzling, and long-duration paddy’’. Even as the Punjab State Government discourages the PUSA 44, farmers have sown PUSA 44 on around 30 to 40% of the area under paddy cultivation in Punjab. More than 70% of the area is under PUSA 44 in districts Patiala, Sangrur and Barnala. Eight or nine varieties of rice have been sown in Punjab this year, on 27 lac hectares, compared to 27.5 lac hectares in 2012. The state has decided to decrease the area under rice by 10 lac hectares, which could be achieved by sowing a short-duration variety. Farmers view yield as more important than anything else. With PUSA 44, a five acre farm will yield 160 to 170 quintals (80 to 85 quintals per hectare), as compared to 140 to 150 quintals of environment-friendly and disease resistant varieties like PR 121 and PR 122.

Enough paddy in assam
Over the past few years, Assam has become self sufficient in production of paddy. Rice output registered a surplus during 2000-01, and the output reached 50.45 lac tons in 2011-12. The farmers are expected to produce 55 lac tons during 2013-14. The Assam Agricultural University has targeted a record output of 100 lac tons per year, in less than a decade. New rice varieties are high yielding and submergence-tolerant. Double cropping is being encouraged aggressively across the state. Produce of the farmers is reaching Food Corporation of India godowns for the first time this year, with the Assam State government having fixed a minimum support price. Slow and time consuming older generation of rice mills are being replaced. Thirty four modern rice mills have been set up during the year, with the government putting in 50% of the total cost or Rs 8 lacs, whichever is higher. The scheme is being financed under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, a state scheme, involving additional central assistance. The new mills have a capacity of up to 500 kg paddy per hour, and expected to run for at least 300 days a year.

Corruption in Bulgaria
Since June 2013, tens of thousands of demonstrators assemble every morning at 8 am outside the communist era council of ministers parliament building in Central Sofia, in Bulgaria. The ‘‘Protest Coffee’’ is directed at parliamentarians, who arrive for work. The protesters come after 6 pm every evening, as Sofia’s offices close. They call for Bulgaria’s government, elected in May 2013, to stand down, and hold new elections, under new rules. Protests are against a whole political class perceived cronyism, and economic stagnation. Some of the young protesters come dressed in prison uniforms, while some carry large coloured brooms, to sweep away all four political parties in Bulgaria. Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city, which like others around the country, has also seen daily protests. There are allegations of politicians being corrupt, having dubious business interests, and who defend oligarchic ties. The ruling party is the centre-right citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria, in a technocratic coalition with the Socialists. Bulgaria has a population of 7.4 million. The establishment is considered corrupt and unaccountable. Despite low wage levels, Bulgaria has become one of Europe’s most ‘‘On-line’’ countries, due to huge investment in high speed broadband. The young, part of ‘‘Generation F’’ is creative and connected. The protests are driven by social media.

Taiwan’s fishermen
Fishing is an important industry for the island nation of Taiwan, particularly for the small towns near ports such as Donggang. During the tuna spring season, the giant bluefin tuna brought into the port, each weighing hundreds of kilos, can sell for higher than $30 a kilo, for the best quality fish. Far away from coastal areas, the annual catch of Taiwanese deep-sea fishers, is worth about $1.3 billion, with another $0.4 billion in revenue from related industries. In 2010, Donggang port handled a catch worth more than $100 million. Agriculture, including fishing, accounted for about 2% of Taiwan’s economy in 2012. At a time when over fishing has depleted stocks, Taiwanese fisherman are being hit by the rising demand for fish. Greater competition has been generated in the seas, by rising demand. Better equipped Japanese and US fishing vessels have pushed fishermen further out into disputed areas. China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam are fighting over a series of small islands, and the rights to the resources off their shores. Disputes continue in the neighbouring East China Sea, over the Japanese controlled Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu in China. A boycott of Japanese goods in China and Taiwan cost manufacturers millions. The fishermen work on the front line of territorial conflicts between Asian Nations, asserting their conflicting claims to the rich resources of the region’s seas. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and none of Taiwan’s neighbours officially recognizes or deals directly with the government in Taipeh. Nations, such as the Philippines, have realized the value of the fish the Taiwanese are catching. Taiwanese are occasionally known to fish in other countries’ waters. The uncertainty over where one territory ends and where another territory starts, leads to poaching of fish stocks. Small fights between vessels escalatses into a diplomatic crisis, and military drills in the region.

Vol. 46, No. 10, Sep 15 - 21, 2013

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