Tuesday, October 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Straw burning: where is the alternative?

I have observed with interest a number of articles that your paper has featured against the burning of paddy and wheat straw. As a responsible citizen, who wishes to see his future generations survive with sustainable development, I am also against activities that cause pollution. Raising awareness about pollution issues by your paper is very commendable, but please do not single out farmers.

I also happen to be a farmer, so I know first hand why farmers resort to burning of wheat and rice straw. You see farmers have no desire to pollute the environment, but they are also governed by economics. For all their edicts against burning straw, the government or for that matter other agencies such as PAU, have yet to present to the farmer an economically viable alternative.

As far as wheat is concerned, following harvest by combine harvesters, the straw is scattered all over the fields. the farmer is under pressure to prepare the land for the next crop. So the stubble and straw are burnt. Some straw, about 20%, is recovered for use as animal fodder. Recovering straw for “toori” is expensive and once the farmer has recovered enough for his needs there is no economic incentive to recover more.

Unless someone comes along with a viable scheme for not burning straw, the straw has to be burnt. It cannot be left to rot in the fields because of its high carbon content, and it usually interferes with the sowing of the next crop.


A cardboard mill near our village does use some rice straw, but it has recently been under scrutiny because of the pollution that it has been causing, dumping waste into the local Bei river.

It should not be beyond India’s scientists to devise a relatively clean fuel product based on rice and wheat straw. It would be a renewable energy resource. There are examples in other parts of the world where plant waste has been successfully used to generate power. There has been a successful project in the UK using a type of grass as an input to create fuel bricks, which power a local power station. Let us not castigate India’s and Punjab’s farmers, who have weathered a drought at a great cost to themselves. If we want to look at pollution, there are a lot of other things that can be done. We continue to use plastic bags and then burn them in our own backyards. Three-wheelers openly flout pollution norms by mixing kerosene in their fuel. One wonders what the resulting thick black smoke does to school children’s lungs.

Raw sewage still pours into rivers and is rendering one of our most valuable resources — underground water — toxic and unusable. Of particular concern is the seepage of toxic heavy metals into the underground water. The Sutlej river has been turned into a toxic sewer, with Jalandhar’s sewerage flowing into it, completely untreated. It stinks for miles around, the underground water is hardly fit for human consumption.



Population problem

The editorial Birth control: politics won’t do" (Oct. 23) was a pleasant surprise as it is since long that somebody somewhere has spoken about the problem. It seems, like the political leaders in the government, the Press has also forgotten this vital issue.

Whatever progress is made by the country in any field is more than neutralised by the population growth. If immediate stringent steps are not taken to check this growth it will not take many decades for the nation to crumble under the weight of his population growth.

Y.P. MAKKAR, Malout


Medical education

There is only one medical college in Haryana up to postgraduation whereas in other states there are several such institutions.

In Pt B.D. Sharma Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Rohtak, there are a few seats for MD and a few diplomas recognised by the Medical Council of India (MCI). The government should open more medical colleges and upgrade the diplomas to MD, especially where there is need for speciality. The D.G.O. is not recognised. Even then girls opt for it because it is a special course for girls. More so, the state needs the services of gynaecologists.

K.M. MADAN, Panchkula

Army withdrawal

The NDA dispensation at the Centre has forced the Army to blink first in its eyeball-to-eyeball face-off with the Pakistan army. The decision to relocate the troops back to the peacetime positions is as irrational as the initial decision to amass them on the border in December last. This exercise in futility was a knee-jerk reaction which resulted in a huge strain on the state exchequer. There have been no tangible gains on the ground and the argument that this deployment helped hold free and fair elections in Jand K is specious.

Free and fair they may have been, but they were certainly bloody. And, by the same perverted logic, the Army should stay put at the borders because the Gujarat elections are round the corner. Gujarat is also a border state, and Pakistan/ISI is very much likely to play mischief there as well. So what have we gained in all this? Nothing!

The fact of the matter is that the NDA has lost its way and is groping in the dark. One only hopes that the whole thing does affect the morale of the Army.

M.K. BAJAJ, Yamunanagar

Cancer hospital

Cancer is a dreaded disease and its treatment is lengthy and expensive. Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Delhi, is the only hospital in northern India to offer specialised treatment for this disease. This hospital is not on the approved list of the Haryana Government. The employees who get treatment for this disease in Rajiv Hospital are invariable declined reimbursements. Political V.I.P.s and senior officials of the state are entitled to specialised medical treatment for all serious ailments from any hospital in India and abroad. .

DEV RAJ, Karnal

Boy beaten up in train

This refers to the news item in Ludhiana Tribune (Oct 23) about the beating of a physically challenged boy, Gagan, by a retired police officer in Amritsar Shatabdi Express on October 5. Gagan, who happens to be one of my patients, had to be subjected to several operations for congenital defects before he could stand erect and walk slowly with the support of sticks in both his hands.

One has to be proud of such a boy who braved through various ordeals with perseverance and needs to be constantly encouraged. The beating of such a boy and his mother on a trivial issue of a seat in the train makes one wonder how some people retain and exhibit sadist instincts on those whom they consider weaker to them under the obsession of power they hold.

Worse, the former SP refused to tender even an apology. Such people, however, not only need to be condemned but also brought to book legally and socially. The civil society has to learn to react to such events so that these are not repeated.

Dr ARUN MITRA, Ludhiana

Environment education

Environment education is the need of the hour. Many states have made environment education a compulsory subject at the school and graduation levels. But we cannot expect good results until adults are also educated about the environment.


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