The sinking state of the Nigerian food crisis

Nigeria is drowning in a food crisis. According to the United Nations, the country’s northeastern state of Borno is experiencing the worst condition with over 250,000 children under five who could suffer from acute malnutrition this year and almost 50,000 infants who could die.

The number of hungry people in the African country is on the rise on a daily basis as more towns are being freed from the shackles of the Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram. Currently, there are approximately 750,000 who can’t be reached in the north east, and aid groups think that the most affected areas in northeastern Borno are completely immersed in famine which hints that 30% of the inhabitants are suffering from malnutrition. These numbers are rapidly increasing since the beginning of 2016 with at least a million in “severity level four” and another 75,000 people facing outright famine.

In the past years, Nigeria has spent billion in importing food from various countries. A UN official stated that Nigeria spends around $20 billion on food yearly. Nigeria has faced food shortage for quite some time due to the insurgency by affiliate of the Islamic State; Boko Haram.

The Boko Haram war began back in 2009 whose consequences and repercussions are witnessed by Nigerian citizens today.They have been starved and deprived of stable livelihoods ever since the terrorist group began the conflict. Reports also state that the insurgency has left over 2.6 million homeless in the past seven years. A result of the Islamist group invasion has led to the spilt of northern Cameroon, western Chad, and southeast Niger. The entire northeast region used to be an expansive field for food production and animal husbandry, which is now charred and laid waste by the upheaval of Boko Haram insurgency. U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer said that conditions in the country were worsened by a “demographic explosion” in the Lake Chad basin when migrants started to move towards Europe.

The country is facing its worst ever catastrophe since the 1960’s war. The irony however, is the crisis in Nigeria is not being given the importance and attention it deserves despite the level of malnutrition being, “far, far, far above what (we find) in an emergency situation” as stated by Dr Bamidele Omotola, a nutrition specialist with the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Apart from the famine, the nation is also going through deep recession. Toby Lanzer said, “The government’s capacity to run itself is very stretched”. The Nigerian currency, naira has lost value and inflation has caused food, fuel and commodity prices to rise uncontrollably.

With the calamity worsening every passing day, the United Nations has appealed to many international donors to contribute and save the nation from getting doomed. As rightly stated by a UN spokesperson, the Nigerian economic condition demands expectation from the international community to “step up” and offer the resources needed to save the country. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will introduce a plea for funding on Friday at the UN General Assembly meeting 23 September.

Yadav controversy: Why dynasty politics needs to end in India

Dynasty politics is an age old tradition which has dominated the Indian union for decades. The recent truce between father and son of the most influential family of Uttar Pradesh, the Yadavs, shows the impact family feuds can have on the functioning of a government and how heirloom politics is not good for the country.

Shivpal Yadav, brother of Samajwadhi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, earlier last week resigned from the post of minister from the government led by his nephew Akilesh Yadav. This occurrence was a just a few days after the party chief had appointed him as the state party president. Shivpal regained his post few days later and had an agreement with Akhilesh to select candidates in unison for the next poll.  However, the sudden withdrawal from the government brought the underlying family and ideological differences among the nephew- uncle duo present in the dynastic party.

Son of Samajwadhi party chief, Akhilesh Yadav was a surprise choice for the post of the Chief Minister after the party won the State Assembly elections in 2012. Considered to be a political light weight and a convenient substitute for his father, the son was chosen as a replacement for the father to go ahead and pursue his larger ambitions of entering into national politics.

It was earlier this year that matters went out of hand when the rebellious uncle removed two of the Chief Ministers aides Anand Bhadauria and Sunil Singh Sajan without Akilesh’s consent. This caused great embarrassment to the novice leader leading him to retaliate by not attending the annual Saifai Mahotsav in his family village until his father conceded and got them reinstated.

As quoted by Siddarth Vadarajan in his article, ‘What lies behind the corrosive effect of dynasty?’, “The historian, Patrick French, looked at the background of all 545 MPs in the outgoing Lok Sabha and found that nearly a third of them, 28.2 percent to be precise, had entered politics through a family connection.” Vadarjan also talks about how French argues that most of the powerful political leaders are self-made and ministers, while ministers coming out of heirloom end up being purely “foot soldiers” for their parties.

The above fact has clear evidence as apart from a few left parties and BJP, most Indian political parties are run by influential and rich families who have emerged out of mass movements. Heirlooms become leaders, irrespective of their capabilities and competence. Dissimilarity in thoughts and beliefs among the different generations is what causes internal rifts among political families.

The oldest national party in India, the Indian National Congress has the highest number of family tussles and rifts. Rahul Gandhi’s incompetency as a leader who hides behind the shadows of his mother and his wrong decisions on several internal reforms are one of the reasons for the public’s gradual disbelief in the party name.

Lalu Prasad Yadav has for a very long time been on the top of the political ladder. The new generation of Yadavs from the RJD, Tejaswi, Tej Pratap and Misa might have moved from the older circle but their decisions continue to appease the older ones and have also tarnished the grand alliance in the recent times. The Badals in Punjab have ruled the state for decades with many intermittent intervals.

The Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s son Sukhbir Badal is the deputy CM but largely handles most of the state affairs while his wife Harsimrat Kaur is a member of the Cabinet. The Badals also had a similar lashout among the family members when in 2010, Manpreet Singh, the alienated nephew of Parkash Singh Badal, was expelled from the Shiromani Akali Dal including his position as a state Finance Minister being revoked over difference in opinions.

In Indian family politics it is the patriarch or matriarch who usually heads the party and is not answerable to anyone. The list and the recent feud of in the Samajwadhi party clearly indicates the extent of prejudice and bias required to gain foothold in Indian politics, which is evidence that political dynasties corrodes public life and political institutions.

Source:  Aljazeera

Indian Express

Devendra Jhajharia: The single handed javelin brilliance

After a 12 year long wait, Devendra Jhajharia has once again made India proud by winning the gold medal in the F46 men’s event at the Rio Paralympics, 2016. The 36 year old javelin thrower became the first Indian to receive the honour for the second time at the Paralympic games.

Born in Rajasthan, eight year old Devendra Jhajaria lost his left hand when he came in direct contact with an 11,000 volt cable while climbing a tree. Being called weak at various occasions, this fatal accident became the turning point in his life after which he started taking sports with seriousness. Recalling his childhood days Jhajharia says, “I started in athletics with javelin. I liked it because I could do it with one arm. I was very thin and weak so I couldn’t really do shot-put. Even discus was heavy. This was a little easy. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that this requires better overall fitness than the other field events, and it is the most injury-prone sport.”

Ever since Jhajharia became the district champion at the tender age of 14, there has been no looking back for the athlete.  He gained his first international laurel at Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled, in Korea in 2002 where he won a gold medal. It was his achievement at the Paralympics in 2004 that shot him to fame as he overshadowed his previous high of 59.77m. Jhajharia also won the Arjuna award in 2004 and later in 2012; he was accredited with the Padma Sri from President Pratibha Patil which made him the first paralympian to obtain the honour.

This year, by endearing the first place, Jhajharia broke his own previous record of 62.15m which he had set at the Athens Paralympic games in 2004. The incredible sportsman was not able to take part in the earlier Paralympics at Beijing and London in 2008 and 2012 due to the absence of the F46 category in the tournament, one which is for people with one-sided upper limb impairment. However, receiving the much desired opportunity so many years later, Jhajharia aced it in his third attempt by making an improved 63.97m throw.

When Jhajharia was young there was hardly any awareness about Para sports in India. But regardless of the hurdles and lack of facilities, Jhajharia managed to reach the top position. According to Jhajharia, things are slowly starting to change in the country, “People’s attitudes have gone through a world of change since I started playing. They don’t think that the differently abled are incapable of doing great things. But a lot more needs to be done.”

In a recent interview with the Hindu, Jhajharia also noted that para athletes like him are a source of inspiration for the differently abled, as they are in constant need for recognition and acceptance from the society. “All of us, the athletes, realise it and we keep telling everyone from our community that you overcome physical challenges with whatever resources you have,” the gold medallist said.

At present, Devendra Jhajharia lives with his wife and daughter and is working with the railways. He is also member of the Paralympics committee in Rajasthan.

Sources: Live MintDNA

Will India’s river island district be saved?

Becoming the first river island district of the country, besides winning the title of the world’s largest river island may seem prestigious and pride worthy, but the deploring state of Majuli is nothing but worrisome. Due to the rapidly eroding coastline of the great Brahmaputra, the survival of the newly formed district continues to be a major threat. Located almost 400 kilometers east from Assam’s largest city Guwahati, Majuli’s island district status, is now giving some hope that there will be a revolution which will save the sinking state of the island.

The most backward constituency in the state, Majuli is home to Mishing tribal people, whose major source of income is fishing and agriculture. Apart from a large number of monastries which were forced to displace to the mainland after being washed away, Majuli has almost 65 monasteries following Vaishnavism.

The epicenter of Neo- Vaishnavite culture, Majuli is now Assam’s 35th district. The submerging condition of the Island turned district is one of the main reasons for its sudden prominence. According to PTI reports, the Island has lost one-third of its area in the past 30-40 years, reducing from 1,256 sq km in 1991 to a mere 875 sq km today. News reports also state that the erosion troubled place mainly came into the forefront during the state assembly elections earlier this year, where BJP chief ministerial candidate Sonowal promised to restore Majuli from its dying condition and offer it the special position.

The first deputy commissioner of the district, Pallav Gopal Jha said, “The chief minister has directed that the Brahmaputra Board and the Water Resources Department would be housed together in a single complex so that this can function as a command and control center during floods.” Adding to the several promises being made, Sonowal’s government has also assumed that the Bogibeel Bridge is at its final stage of development while the Dhola Sadiya Bridge is set to be commissioned in 2017.

Previous government reports itself state the lack of priority given towards the island’s development over the years. However, the newly formulated mega scheme funded by the World Bank which is said to do a detailed study on the features of the Brahmaputra is expected to improve the conditions of the district.

In the first meeting outside Guwahati, the cabinet meeting focused on aiming to make Majuli a world heritage site under UNESCO so as to increase tourism at the river island. The world heritage tag is a long pending one with the request initially being filed as early as 2004. Fearing the end of the river island’s cultural identity, the Assam chief minister stated that a cultural university in the river Island district is also set to be built in the coming months.

The current energy of the government to improve and mend the infrastructural and developmental challenges will be proven only when the conditions of the depreciating river island see a transformation.

Read more at: Firstpost, Assam Tribune 

Sauteed Stories: Worth going back to

Started by a few young entrepreneurs, the vegetarian café, Sauteed Stories at KoregaonPark  is tucked between a busy road. It is a cosy, quirky and hippie place with artisan carvings placed throughout. Initially coming off as a dingy and shady café,once you enter, the restaurant gives you a true sense of comfort and relaxed environment perfect for a friendly outing. Filled with lamps, the café has a very eccentric ambience which complements its sassy and vivacious décor.

Having an unconventionally short menu written on a black board, the café serves European and Continental cuisine. The well-known honey chilli fries were the unsaid choice for the appetizer apart from the Nachos. The sweet, sticky and salty flavour in the fries is what makes the dish unique and a must try at the restaurant.  The extra kidney beans filling in the nachos were a put off, but the dish was savaged by the succulent sour cream which was to die for.

For the main course we ordered a thin crust exotic veg pizza. Being true to its name, the Italian specialty which was made in a wood fire oven had the perfect amount of seasoning with the right combination of exotic veggies like bell pepper, mushroom and jalapeno.  We also ordered the Barbecue mushroom pizza which was mediocre, in comparison to its counterpart. After relishing the exotic delicacy this pizza fell short of our expectations and failed to surprise any of our palates. The last dish we ordered was the café’s version of AgioOlio pasta labelled as speedy spaghetti. This one took mere moments to disappear from the plate with the tiny morsels of capers and the zing of garlic perfectly enhancing the flavour of the olive oil tossed spaghetti.  The only disappointment was the ice tea which was served in a fancy bulb like container but lacked any taste and was totally unworthy of the price.

Unaware of the exact location and mood of the restaurant we went for a Sunday lunch. However, the café is amazing for evening coffees or dinners as the outdoor setting, décor and lighting will give a very soothing and serene feel. On the whole, Sautéed Stories is a good choice for vegetarians looking for a delicious meal with a novel yet comforting ambience and visitors are sure to return with a story to tell.

Meal for two-Rs.1000/-

Weaving ways to revive Handloom

In 1905, August 7thwas the day the Swadeshi movement was officially launched in India. The movement focused on the removal of British Empire and improving the country’s economic conditions by boycotting British goods and production of local products. Today, over a century later,the country celebrates this day as National Handloom day. The day marks the importance of Handloom weavers in India whose unique and exceptional skill set form a huge part of pride for the nation.

From Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram silk sarees to Jammu and Kashmir’s pashmina, handloom in the most basic sense is a hand woven fabric, the industry encompasses almost one tenth of the India’s complete production of textile. Having the world’s largest weaver industry, it is a significant part of the rich heritage and culture of the nation.Mahatma Gandhi who chose the chakra to weave his own clothes as a manner rejection to the factory made British goods is another testimony of the valuable history attached to Khadi and hand spun clothes in India. Over the years, large varieties of indigenous cotton, suitable raw materials, age old techniques and skills have died down with the introduction to newrange of American cotton and westernised preferences in clothes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra at the first town hall on National Handloom day this year, “Khadi for fashion and Khadi for nation” is an attempt to revive and revolutionize the Handloom sector in the national as well as the international space. The campaignis also aims atincreasing the awareness of Handloom industry among the youth who have largely been influenced by modernization and western standards. The ultimate goal is to increase the use of indigenous handloom and handicraft products. Thiswill snowball job opportunities and ensure stable livelihoods for the weaver community and bring Handloom to the foreground, which has been a long promise of the Prime minster in his constituency, Varnasi.

In a bid to keep up to its promises seven days before the National Handloom day, BJP government’s 20 days old Textile Minister, SmritiIrani also started a #IwearHandloom campaign on social media. The campaign went viral within 24 hours and garnered attention from several handloom enthusiasts across ages. However, Irani’s agenda to modernize the sector while retaining its sensitivity and traditional approach of the weavers is the tricky task which the ministry has to tackle.

Some people feel that a mere campaign exhibiting handlooms won’t lead to any change or bring a difference in the life of the weaver community. But increasing dialogues on creating, savouring and embracing indigenous hand woven goods is also encouraging many to invest, understand and provide a market for this sector. Last few seasons of the Amazon Fashion week and India Couture Week are good examples to explain how high-end designers are growing tounderstand the beauty, pride and uniqueness that is Handloom. The coming years will show if efforts by the government have been concrete enough to provide employment to vast majority of craftsmen who await their return in the mainstream market.


An amendment which risks the country’s future

The assent by President Pranab Mukherjee for the amendment of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 seemed like a hasty and regressive step for a legislation which focuses on removal and eradication of child labour in the country. The new amendment which was passed in the Rajya Sabha before reaching the President allows children up to the age of 14 to work in family businesses outside school and during vacations.

Though the changes have been made considering the social and economic conditions of many communities in India, the law indirectly exploits the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. India already witnesses a massive amount of child labour with over 33 million children from age 0-18 involved in the illegal activity. The amendment allows a chance of manipulation on part of employers and families who often risk the future of children for the purpose of survival. The United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) has claimed that this amendment will especially be harmful for marginalised and tribal communities who highly suffer from poverty and lack of rightful education as rates of child labour among these communities are 7% and 4 % respectively,

The new Child Labour Act will also give a leeway to farmers to employ their children in agriculture which constitutes almost half of India’s child labour work. Managing work and education is an exceedingly tedious and impossible task; expectation from adolescents to manage and cope with such circumstances is an unattainable reality. The capacity of learning, aptitude and health of children who will indulge in such family run trades will clearly be affected. The absence of complete attention on studies might also result in several drop outs. In a bid to acknowledge the socio economic conditions of the country, such a major change in an act which tries to safeguard the interest of children is only retrograde move on part of the parliament which will prove precarious for the future of the nation.