Saturday, January 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Spread ‘water literacy’

This refers to many news items on water , SYL (politics) and available water resources, ground water depletion etc. As per the law of diminishing returns, water has already become the most important limiting factor and even the biggest threat in sustaining increased growth rate in agricultural production in Punjab.

In fact, under the highly irrigation-intensive agriculture followed in the state the water balance scenario, worked out way back in 1993 by Prihar et al., has shown a net deficit of 12.5 MAF of irrigation water (39.7 MAF of total normative water requirement minus 27.2 MAF of available fresh water resources), because of which the existing water resources have been stressed beyond their limits. The problem is getting further accentuated due to increasing unplanned agricultural-intensification, cultivation of water-intensive crops like rice, sugarcane, etc., pumping of groundwater faster than the aquifers are replenished and increasing urban/industrial needs.

But in spite of such a factual deficit, huge quantities of water are being allowed to get lost (evaporation, deep percolation, etc.) or wasted (excessive irrigation, rising watertable/waterlogging) at farm level, mainly because of negligible awareness/realisation (water illiteracy) of the farmers to properly adopt the recommended site/crop-specific water management practices, which in turn results in rather low water-use efficiency (production/unit of water).

Surprisingly, while we are fighting for generating additional water resources (by putting in huge expenditure), hardly any concern is expressed about the conservation of existing water resources and necessity of their efficient utilisation at the farm level.


The first line of attack should be to create a huge mass movement on “water literacy” by increasing awareness of the people, imparting education/training/ skills to farmers, improving irrigation-related understanding of the state (and even private) development agencies (top to bottom) and motivating local action about improving region/crop/site-specific on-farm irrigation efficiency. We must reprioritise research towards water (conservation, efficient-irrigation)-related technology generation.

Water (fresh, harvested, brackish) and its efficient management should be an important subject even in schools. Students can act as technology-transfer agents. Farmers/people should have free access to user-oriented water-related information. Enactment of legislation (if needed), mobilisation of farmers/people to promote efficient water management and establishment of participatory linkages between farmers/people, scientists, NGOs and different State development departments will effectively trigger synergistic push to the whole farmer/people’s participatory “water literacy” and “efficient water management” programs. In fact, ensuring efficient on-farm utilisation of “whatever water we already have” is as important as generating additional water resources.

Dr. M.S. BAJWA, Ludhiana

Power sector

Power engineers have been rightly criticising the westernised ideology of market forces being promoted by the Haldeal Committee appointed by the Punjab Government to suggest reforms in the power sector. The Word Bank-sponsored privatisation of the power sector in Punjab will not only destroy the agricultural economy of the state and make electricity beyond the reach of the common man but also cripple the state industry .

One must learn lessons from the experiences of others and should not commit the same follies. Vertically integrated electricity boards are the best suited for India provided they are insulated from political interference.

V.K. GUPTA, Ropar

Verka milk supply

I have all the praise for the person who has taken the pains to expose the malpractice indulged in by the Verka Milk Plant. This corruption is being done in a very systematic and well thought of manner. After every couple of days/weeks and in very irregular period, the pouches are filled with un-noticeable less quantity of milk. For example say by 20 to 25 ml (gms). In a city like Chandigarh, where lakhs of milk pouches are sold in one day, they save thousands of litres of milk on that day. This fetches them thousands of rupees by selling this unaccounted for milk on the black market. This corrupt practice has been going on for long.

I have had similar personal experience of underweight milk pouches many times in the past many years. I settled in Chandigarh after retirement in 1979. At that time, milk was sold in glass bottles of 500 ml capacity.

Once I noticed a dead fly sticking inside the bottle. It appeared the milk plant was not washing and sterilising the bottles in the prescribed manner before refilling. I was very upset and after contacting the Manager on the telephone, I told him that he was playing with the health of the people by supplying unhygienic milk. He appeared to be very sorry for the lapse. I did not pursue the matter further.

D.R. SINGAL, ex-Chairman, Punjab State Pollution Control Board, Chandigarh.

Asia’s first?

We have Asia’s largest grain market at Khanna, Asia’s largest gobar gas plant at Jamalpur, near Ludhiana, and God knows how many more firsts in Asia are in India. The latest addition to this list is brought by a front-page report “Asia’s longest ropeway by year-end in Gulmarg” (Jan 7). I doubt if there is any Asian body which verifies such claims and issues certificates in case they are found correct.


Sehajdharis’ right to vote

Mr H.S. Mattewal has very wisely put the legal and historical perspective in his article “Should Sehajdharis have right to vote in SGPC elections?” (Jan 5). But the situation in the present context is very different. Now there are more Patit Sikhs than ever before who trim their beard, take alcohol, opium, tobacco or other intoxicants and are not eligible as Sikh voters. Should they be enrolled as voters in the guise of Sehajdharis?


Castrate dogs

The population of dogs is increasing at an alarming rate as the killing of dogs by poison baits has been banned. Many road accidents take place due to stray dogs. The dogs should be castrated so that their population goes down. I think there is no need to take the permission of President Bush for castrating dogs nor any foreign exchange is required.


Waiting for pension

Capt Amarinder Singh has announced that government-aided school teachers (retired) will get the pension and other facilities equal to the government school teachers. Our cases are lying with the DPI office and we are waiting for a favourable decision.


English stenos

Though unemployment cannot be eradicated on all fronts, there is a wide scope for matriculates, undergraduates and graduates to enter the field of English stenography.

Pick up any day’s newspapers or employment notices, you will find vacancies for English stenos, PA & Private Secretary, having a good command over English and well versed in handling independent correspondence. Now, elementary knowledge of computer has also become essential. A large number of vacancies exist but candidates are not available.

T.S. PHULL, Patiala


Of China’s growth & India’s excuses

As a Canadian of Indian origin, I am a frequent visitor to India. This year I decided to stop over in Beijing to see what progress has been made in China. Here are my impressions which may provide some food for thought to Indians. China is currently the brightest star on Asia’s sky. This is no mean achievement with a population of one billion or so. There are no homeless people on the streets of Beijing. People are well dressed and there is no litter to be seen. The buildings are well-conceived, uniform and harmonious with the surroundings. The roads can be compared to those in any developed country in the West. Commercial vehicles are well maintained as are buses, subways and cars. Beijing airport is an impressive feat of modern engineering and is comparable to any fashionable, world-class international air terminal.

The Forbidden City, although a little desolate, has been adequately maintained as a national treasure and attracts hundreds of tourists everyday. The old Taoist Temple at the back of the whole complex, in particular, has retained a degree of its original charm and peacefulness. Surrounded by a garden with trees and bamboos through which the rustling wind makes an extraordinary sound, one has the feeling that one has been transported back a few hundred years when this was a sacred spot. Now contrast this to India where national monuments are in ruins and often even used as public toilets, where it is no offence to litter the streets with copious amounts of garbage, where the poor starve and live in poverty while the 10 per cent elite live in palaces and eat far too much for their own good. There are beggars on every street corner in Delhi and thousands of homeless people in every city. The roads are falling apart around the country. Even new buildings in India seem to vie with one another in ugliness in a mishmash of architecture, while they are often inadequate or dysfunctional right from the beginning.

After seeing China’s model performance, however, all the standard excuses for India fall flat. One cannot help but ask: is this the fruit of democracy? Is this really a spiritual country?

CHANDA ATWAL, Chandigarh


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