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Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Modi Govt. Wants to Spend More Than it Earns..

Someone wrote me over whatsapp this morning : 'मोदी सरकार का मन रिजर्व बैंक के 1 लाख 76 हजार करोड़ हड़पने से भी नही भरा है...'

Which took me back to the story I had not fully followed at that time.. Three months ago, RBI decided to give Government a large pay out of 1.76 lakh crores, the largest in the country's history. The Government had hounded RBI since 2018 over it, and it was largely thought to be the reason Governor Urijit Patel and Deputy Governor Viral Acharya resigned before their terms were completed. 

A committee headed by former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan was formed in Dec 2018 to recommend what the RBI's reserves should be and what it could give to the Government. The committee's report was accepted by the RBI board and this payout resulted. 

While the Reserve Bank might have high capital reserves, much of this is simply notional arising out of a falling rupee. Its actual free cash reserves are not very high. Amartya Lahiri, director of the RBI-funded Centre for Advanced Financial Research and Learning wrote in 2018 that the RBI is actually “one of the most under-capitalised central banks in the world”.

In fact, even the Jalan Committee Report said this August, that the Reserve Bank of India’s balance sheet should be strong enough to support banks if there is a need to recapitalise them during a financial crisis. India, with one the lowest sovereign ratings, and not having a reserve currency to boot, should not think that risky actions by the government would still be as safe as advanced economies, said the panel.

In the run up
to that decision by the RBI, what was not so widely commented upon, however was the lying by the Finance Minister (and hence the Modi government) in its presentation of the budget this July. 

The Economic survey had already shown that there was a big shortfall in tax collections over 2018-'19 (by as much as 13.5% of the estimate of total tax revenues), but the Finance Ministry presented fudged figures to show that that money had in fact been realized. The shortfall in fact, amounted to a whopping Rs 1.7 lakh crore. The shortfall was equal to one percent of India's GDP. This was the largest gap between tax estimates and actuals in India’s tax history.

This discrepancy is also reflected in government spending. Spending was shown in the Budget at Rs 24.6 lakh crore in 2018-19, while the more accurate figure in the Economic Survey shows that the government only spent about Rs 23.1 lakh crore, about Rs 1.5 lakh crore less.

Rather than acknowledge the shortfall in the budget speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman omitted numbers relating to the government’s overall revenue and expenditure. The entire Budget in fact had shrunk massively, by around 1% of GDP – but none of this was reflected in the budget statements provided to the public!

Thus, very significant cuts were made to public expenditure  in the wake of the decline in tax revenues. But how do we know which items of expenditure were curtailed, and by how much ? As Jayati Ghosh, Economics Professor, wrote : 'When a Budget is passed by parliament, the debate and discussion are essentially about allocations – so if the government has unilaterally made swinging cuts to particular items of expenditure, these must be brought to public notice. How can we trust any numbers coming out of the government if this is the manner in which they choose to hide the truth?'

Ms. Ghosh goes on to add : 'These numbers also cast into serious doubt the revenue projections for the coming year.. the proposed increase in revenues in the current budget for 2019-20 are so optimistic as to be completely unrealistic.. total revenues would have to increase by 25 % in the current year – by nearly Rs 4,00,000 crore – over what was actually achieved last year. This is close to unattainable.'

The amount of the shortf
all in realized taxes was in fact, so similar to the payout by the RBI subsequently, that it h
as since been speculated if that was the reason for the Government's hounding of the RBI.

In fact the Government had demanded nearly 4 lakh crores from the RBI, which it did not ultimately get. Perhaps the nearly 2.25 lakh crores more it demanded would have covered the gaping hole in the 2019-'20 tax collections ?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sequestering Carbon in Soils

There is increasing emphasis on identifying strategies that will reduce the rate of enrichment of atmospheric CO2 by offsetting emissions caused by humans.

Major human caused sources of increasing CO2 equivalent emissions include the combustion of fossil fuel, cement manufacturing, deforestation and the burning of biomass, and land-use conversion including drainage of peatlands, soil tillage, animal husbandry.

We need to reduce CO2 , Methane  and Nitrous Oxide emissions and offset emissions through sequestration of carbon in soils and other terrestrial and inland aquatic ecosystems.

Land-use change, deforestation and soil cultivation have added CO2 equal to nearly 50 % of that caused by fossil fuel burning. Current rates of these activities are equal to 20 % of the emissions caused by fossil fuel burning. 

The Earth's natural systems, other than oceans and atmosphere, absorb over a third of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans every year. However the nearly two-thirds of the emitted carbon is added to the atmosphere and oceans every year and is fast pushing earth into a hot house state. 

Why 2 min / 24 hrs / 10 days electric composting machines being sold in India are a SCAM !

Laughably, Excel Industries sells a composter claiming to compost in 2 MINUTES ! (apart from Excel machines claiming to compost in 24 hours / 10 days). 

There are many other companies in India making similar claims - for example Alfa-Therm sells machines claiming to compost in 24 hours / 10 days. 

All of these machines are SCAMS, claiming to compost in 2 minutes / 24 hours / 10 days. Here is why i say this : 

1. No scientific study in the world claims to complete composting of organics in less than 2 weeks. 

2. Even where machines have been used for composting in a few cases in the west, the wet waste undergoes processing INSIDE the machine from 10 - 14 days ATLEAST. After that it undergoes further curing outside for some weeks. 

Please note that such a length of time to compost is far more than the manual aerobic process employed in revolving drum composting, where composting AND curing are completed in 20 days after the bin is full. 

3. ALL studies say that no shredding is required for kitchen wet wastes so one of the claimed functions of these machines is useless for this purpose. Studies ALSO say that no enhancers are needed for kitchen wastes which are teeming with microbial life. So this so-called function of these machines is also not of any use. 

4. Some of these machines provide artificial heating for composting which is a ridiculous proposition - when massed together, wet wastes with free flow of oxygen around them, teem with microbial life NATURALLY. 

In manual composting, the compost pile heats up within the first 4-5 days from the activity of numerous organisms breaking down organic matter - temperatures are typically over 50 degrees C when manual composting is done right.

5. Finally, the machines claim to mix all the wet wastes together - but they do it only during the duration of the wet waste in the machine which is only 2 min / 20 min / 24 hours. 

Mixing - which forces oxygen through the wet wastes, increasing microbial activity, is required throughout the composting operation. Only the revolving drum process achieves that, not ANY of these machines. 

6. The machines are NOT labour saving at all - the 10 day composting machine demands labour add only 55 kgs to it at a time, wait for 20 minutes, then cart the effluent from the machine in several baskets to a curing rack. This is not needed in a manual aerobic revolving drum process - once you put the wet wastes in, they only come out fully usable. 

One wonders what half-baked 'compost' will result at the end of 10 days as there is no daily mixing of wastes unlike in revolving drum system (the baskets in the machine system stay stationary). 

7. Further, in the 10 day machine system, the stationary baskets are automatically sprayed with water every 90 min, or so the company literature says. That is an astonishing step to take : wet kitchen wastes require NO water addition, studies say. 

In fact all this extra water addition will create anaerobic conditions which will :

A. Halt aerobic composting. 
B. Give rise to methane gas which is the same as PNG supplied in pipes for cooking across Delhi and surrounding towns. Methane is highly inflammable - which is why dumpsites across india where wet wastes are dumped, are always on fire. 
C. Produce ammonia, which is a highly irritating gas with a pungent, suffocating odor.
D. Produce some half-done wet mass in the end which cannot compare with aerobically produced compost which does enormous good to soils.

Aerobic manual composting done right produces no smell, no nuisance, and quickly converts wet wastes into compost. No power is needed and very simple equipment made from recycled wastes suffices.

In contrast, these machines, especially the 24 hour composting ones, use humongous amounts of power, which flies against the need to bring down electricity use - to save India from heating up due to coal burning.

The machines can also end up burning plastic wastes alongside wet wastes during heating, releasing noxious cancerous fumes. But even the machine variants that claim to not heat the wet wastes, do not follow scientific composting guidelines. 

Aerobic composting is important for saving the earth from heating up as well - a set of recent studies showed that compared to the current dumping of wet wastes (shown in blue), aerobic composting will result in a massive amount of less carbon in the air (shown in green) over 20 years.

That is because the present dumping of wet wastes  is generating a high proportion of methane, 30 times as effective at warming earth as CO2. The wet waste dumping is also generating a huge amount of nitrous oxide gas, which is 300 TIMES as effective as CO2 at warming the planet. 

In fact, if all the presently dumped organic wet wastes were AEROBICALLY composted, that would result in the sequestering (capture from air) of a huge amount of CO2 as well.

While the study pertained to California, it surely has implications for the rest of the world. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

You dont have a water secure future in Noida - unless you do something about it..

12 per cent of India’s population is already living the 'Day Zero' scenario, thanks to excessive groundwater pumping, an inefficient and wasteful water management system and years of deficient rains.

By 2030, the country's water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people.

It is time to go back and start using our traditional practice of rainwater harvesting — catching water where it falls. 
A meagre 100 cm rainfall annually on a 1,000 square feet roof can provide a full year’s supply of water for drinking and cooking purposes for a family of five.

Presently, India captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall, among the lowest in the world.

NOIDA - overwhelming dependance on one source - Ganga water

The city’s groundwater table has been falling precipitously by 5 feet ever year since 2014.

Every year, 10 % more water than the total recharge of groundwater is withdrawn in Noida. 

Every day, the industrial hub of Noida uses 48 million litres of Ganga water to dilute hard groundwater, making it safe for residents to use. The water is diverted to Noida from a Ganga canal at Masuri-Dasna in Ghaziabad, another satellite town of Delhi, almost 22 kilometres away.

The total demand for water in Noida is about 332 MLD, of which 56 per cent comes from the Ganga, while groundwater takes care of the rest. 

Noida’s draft master plan says that by the end of 2021, the demand for water will be 553 MLD. To meet this demand, 302 MLD of Ganga water will be required. This means Noida will need more than three times the amount of Ganga water it consumes today.

Ganga water supply is periodically disrupted to Noida in the National Capital Region of India. See here too. And here

The authorities then supply water from tube wells. This is expected to have high TDS levels. Residents then complain of  very dirty, muddy water supply. Disruptions can last for as long as a month at a time. 

An official said that at such timesResidents should be prepared for slightly yellowish water as that was the colour of groundwater and low pressure...

Some areas of Noida get the dirty groundwater water supply more often than other areas. 

In any case, several housing societies at any given time are battling severe water shortages. See here and here also. And here

Rising silting on the Upper Ganga canal in 2018 forced the city’s authorities to deliver water to its residents using tankers. It’s imperative for the city to lessen the load on its groundwater.

Upkeep by Noida Authority is negligent

Residents said that even 43 years after its establishment, NOIDA has done nothing to modernize its water infrastructure. 

While work to increase Ganga water supply to some sectors has been going on, it is not keeping pace with spiralling demand. 

For the first time, in Sep 2019, the Noida Authority is testing the quality of the town's groundwaterA report is expected within two months, by the end of November. In the following phase, from December, random checks will be conducted on household water quality.

If the water quality is found to be acceptable at the source but not the consumers’ end, the focus will be on strengthening the supply system – like replacing old rusting pipelines or fixing leakages. 

If the problem lies at the source, water treatment will be taken up on a bigger scale. “Then, we will start industrial scale treatment of water, for which we will issue an expression of interest to an empanelled agency,” said the officer on special duty, Noida Authority. 

Even so, residents say the Authority is negligent about massive freshwater leakages, which can go on for days and weeks with no redressal. 

Many builders in Noida give possession to residents without completing connections for basic services such as water, solid waste and sewerage treatment. Complaints by residents to the authority about builders fall on deaf ears. See here also. 

Even complaints about water quality or quantity, or leakages seem not to be taken seriously by the Noida Authority. 

It is hoped that the ongoing upgradation of the district collectorate office will imporve the efficiency of management. 

Water Consumers need to do more too

In Nov 2019, connections of nearly a 100 institutional water consumers in Noida were cut off for non payment of dues of Rs. 5 lakhs or above. Another 300 large consumers have been served notices as well. 

Communities in Noida make efforts to organize cultural and religious festivals but not to work on their water security, leaving that to the government. 

Treating used water

80 % of the water supplied to consumers is returned as wastewater to drains. Much of this is untreated and leads to pollution of water bodies, leaving even less water to be redistributed. 

Image by MilaAdam on Wikipedia
Neighbouring Delhi has implemented some innovative projects to clean drain water and direct it back to the ground to recharge groundwater.

Noida has a total of six STPs across Sectors 54, 50, (two each) and 123, 168, with the capacity to treat a total of 231 MLD of sewage, which is beyond the 175 MLD the city currently generates. 

The Noida Authority, had announced that its sewage treatment plant in Sector 168 has raised its capacity from 50 million litres per day (MLD) to 100 MLD.

“We decided to reuse the treated water for irrigation purposes in the Biodiversity Park located in Sector 91 as well as other green areas located in sectors 84, 85, 86, 91, 93, 137, 138, 140A, 142, 143, 143A and the green area along the Faridabad-Noida-Ghaziabad (FNG) Expressway." An official said. 

Prior to this initiative, the authorities would irrigate these green patches by extracting groundwater.

All this has an impact on real estate too

16,500 ready flats are unsold in NCR and over 80,000 across the country. 
Among the factors contributing towards low sales in ready-to-move inventory in the NCR are the infrastructure issues prevailing in the area, which includes water supply, sewage and roadways.

Rainwater Harvesting in Noida

In July 2019, the Noida Authority formed twenty committees for creating awareness amongst all stakeholders on water conservation. E
ach committee comprises three members — officials/engineers - across all work circles of Noida Authority that will check the functioning of completed rain water harvesting pits across the city. The committees were directed to ensure that all completed and ongoing infrastructure projects being implemented in Noida were equipped with rooftop rainwater harvesting systems.

Noida has a total of 472 underground water recharging points located in parks and green belts. These are being maintained regularly by the three horticulture divisions of Noida Authority. Wetlands and ponds at five different locations in the city were being restored also. 

Chief architect planner and urban designer at Noida authority says that around 2,432 hectares of green areas in the city can harvest around 740 million cubic metres

However, Noida’s future plan is to stop using groundwater and shift entirely to Ganga water for domestic purposes. Why the city wants to stop using groundwater and invest in sourcing Ganga water from a distant place is hard to understand.

Water is needed for the area's water bodies and wet lands too. Great volunteer leadership was shown by 26-year-old Ramveer Tanwar, an engineer and social activist, who revived around 10 lakes in Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh.

In 2013, Ramveer organised a small gathering called ‘Jal Choupal’ to discuss water conservation in nearby villages. Issues such as garbage disposal and lake encroachments were discussed in these gatherings. Due to lack of awareness, people in the village would waste water incessantly. They were doing this out of ignorance. Fining them is not a solution.

In 2014, Ramveer started reviving lakes by cleaning them with the help of villagers; they did this by setting up a double filtration system. All water entering the lakes would have to pass through a mesh of wooden planks and then a mesh of grass.To clean the lakes of slush made up of small finer particles, Ramveer, along with volunteers, encouraged farmers to raise 10,000 slush-eating fish. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Compost in 24 hours ? Really ?

The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers notified the Policy on Promotion of City Compost in 2016 which makes it mandatory for all big offices, schools, hotels, housing complexes and municipal corporations in India to convert their wet waste into compost. Post this, companies promising 'compost in 24 hours' from organic waste, have been mushrooming all over the country. 

Such a technology does not find mention in the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 or in the Advisory on On-Site and Decentralized Composting of Municipal Organic Waste, issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2018. But companies selling such technology are still mushrooming. 


Is it a technical glitch or a fraud in broad daylight? wondered the residents of Salarpuria Symphony apartments in Bengaluru as a swanky machine gathered dust in the corner in 2019. The residents’ association had purchased the machine in 2017.

The seller had assured residents that the machine would churn out instant compost. But, says Sudhakar Shanmukham, a resident, “But all that the Rs 9 lakh machine produces is ash.”

While selling the machine, the company had also promised to buy back the output at Rs 1 per kg. But it stopped procuring after the initial purchase of 2,000 kilogrammes without giving any explanation.

In fact, the company officials did not respond to calls when the machine broke down and started billowing smoke, Shanmukham says.

Another society in Bangalore has a machine in working condition, but what it produces is not compost. “It is a kind of charred material. We have tried offering it to our landscape gardeners and farmers in nearby areas. But they say it’s of little use to them.” Small wonder, this company too too has stopped procuring the compost. They too, had an informal agreement with the residents’ association to buy back the compost at Re 1 per kg.

With mounds of “compost” piling up in the basement, the association plans to sell the machine at scrap price and install a traditional composting unit. 
D Randeep, commissioner of solid waste management at the Bangalore Municipal Corporation, says they are against insta
nt composters. These generate ash instead of good quality compost, he says.

Here is a typical story of a 24-hour composting machine : At an apartment complex in Electronics City in Bangalore, the management had installed an automatic compost machine in 2016 at a cost of ₹10 lakh. Initially it worked well and the company even bought the ‘compost’ generated as promised. But soon, things started to change.

According to Sudhakar S., a resident of the apartment complex, smoke billowed out from the machine, which also began to consume a lot of electricity. The exhaust had to be finally turned towards a vacant plot adjacent to the building to avoid the smoke.

“The electricity bill went up to ₹30,000 a month. The compost generation was also not efficient. When we reached out to the company, they began dodging our calls and later blocked our numbers,” he said. Today, the machine is gathering dust.

In another instance in Padmanabhanagar in Bangalore, residents procured a compost-making machine. which assured ‘pre-compost’ by drying the wet waste fed into it. Within days, the machine broke down, said B.R. Moudgal (name changed on request), a resident of the apartment.

“Some of the key elements broke down and the machine kept burning stuff in it. Luckily, we had taken it only on a trial basis and we gave it back,” the resident added.


In 2018, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (Gurgaon) (MCG) was trying to identify suitable composting technologies for housing complexes in the city. It was approached by several vendors dealing with instant composters. Before validating the technology, MCG wanted them to run pilot projects in various localities. However, their output was charred, clumpy and had a burnt or foul smell. Based on this, then MCG commissioner Yashpal Yadav refused to approve the empanelment of instant composters in the city. 


In 2014, Pune municipal corporation incurred an expense of Rs 15 crore to install 13 wet garbage composting plants, with a running cost of electricity bills worth Rs 1 lakh for a 3-tonne machine and Rs 2 lakh for a 5-tonne one. 

Organic waste can be shrunk up to 90% in a day by these composting machines but the 'compost' takes 30 days to mature. When these plants were conceived, there was no plan to store this compost for maturing. With no option, the municipal corporation now dumps the output of the machine in the vicinity of its plants, but is facing opposition from locals. 

The Pune municipal corporation admitted in an affidavit to the National Green Tribunal (NGT)  in 2017 that conversion of organic waste into compost in 24 hours is practically impossible, as it takes at least 30 days for the compost to be ready.

Pune based, Nagari Chetana Manch asked the NGT to shut down the solid waste processing plants in Pune, as the so called 24-hour micro organism-based compost is scientifically impossible. Tests had found that the so-called compost from these machines was hazardous to plants as well as human beings. 

Dr S A Ismail, soil biologist and ecologist said, “Composting is a natural biological process where the organic material undergoes gradual decomposition, and in a natural system takes a minimum of 30 days.”

Ismail added that the 24-hour machines do not produce compost. They only produce an end product of pulverised material. “It may be harmful to the soil if used as compost. This 24-hour process can at best reduce the volume so that it can be used for land-filling.” 

The Final Word ?

However, Abhishek Gupta, managing director of Reddo natura, defends the technology. “Our machines accelerate the process of composting which takes five to six months."

He is wrong ofcourse. Aerobic composting takes just 30 days except in winter, when it may take uptill 45 days.

In 2018, a citizens’ group, Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT), analysed instant compost. “We compared the samples with compost prepared using traditional methods, such as vermicompost,” says Savita Hiremath.

Unlike traditional compost varieties, which are repositories of microbes, instant compost had zero microbial content, poor carbon-nitrogen ratio and was highly acidic. Acidic compost hinders absorption of nutrients by plants. 

“The vendors say the machines are organic waste converters. But in reality, they are just incinerators." 

What the 24 hour 'composting machines' do is an entirely different process from composting. These machines simply remove water and other volatile components out of the organic material thrown into it for composting.

“Many a times the waste that goes inside there is not entirely organic waste. Sometimes plastic waste get into it and thus, when the processing starts inside the machine, it releases toxic fumes which are very harmful for health,” Savita Hiremath clarifies. These toxic fumes that contains carcinogens like dioxins and furans get into the air we breathe. “What comes out of these machines is not compost, but burnt carbon.”

According to SWMRT, the automated composting machines are causing pollution at all levels. The burning of mixed waste, high power consumption, emission of toxic smoke and dumping of the same into the soil is triggering groundwater pollution. All of these are hazardous to the environment. Its report also suggests sustainable decomposing methods that are safe and natural as they rely only on microorganisms.

SWMRT has submitted a letter to the KSPCB, urging the body to issue an advisory stating that the machines are not composters but incinerators, thereby laying an embargo on the buying and selling of the machines. The letter also requests an official inquiry and a ban on these machines.

“The concept is very close to burning garbage,” a scientist pointed out. The best approach, experts and government officials say, is to compost the organic way, which takes about 30 days.

These are machines that were rejected in countries like Canada but are allowed to be used in our country. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Blatant Misrepresentations..

I have earlier documented startling departures from the truth in PM Modi's statements. Here are some more I found when reading on some other topic :

Modi said in parliament in early 2018 : “Till the time you (UPA) were in power you lied and said the NPAs were 36% but in 2014 (the year the BJP came to power) we started seeking the truth and looked at the documents. We realised that you gave wrong statistics. NPAs were at 82%,” 

In contrast, the Reserve Bank of India has said that in the year 2013-14, gross NPA (as percentage of total loan amounts) stood at 3.8% – a far cry from the 82% Modi said it is.

Modi went on to say in Parliament that total advances by banks climbed to Rs 52 lakh crore in March 2014 – as part of the UPA government’s bad debt. “This was the money of India’s poor.”

But in fact, the Rs 52 lakh crore refers to total advances by public sector banks, according to RBI data, and not NPAs.

Could even a high school student have made these wild misrepresentations ?

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Droughts are Coming...

Droughts are among the most costly natural disasters, affecting agriculture, ecosystems and societies. A study found that climate change has been impacting drought risk in the world since 1900. All the models are projecting that one should see unprecedented drying soon, in a lot of places.

Although it is floods that grab the headlines and trigger aid quickly, droughts have “shockingly large and often hidden” impacts that can last for generations, the world bank said in a report.

Girls in rural Africa born during a severe drought are more likely to grow up poor and hungry, be less educated, stunted, wed younger, give birth to underweight babies and bear more of them, the bank said.

This is an example of a poverty trap that has been created by a single episode of drought … and it continues across generations.

Nor are cities – the economic engines of most countries – immune from drought. The economic impact of droughts on city businesses is four times worse than that of floods.

Urban economies slow because of power outages, weak sales and increased health problems such as diarrhoea and dysentery.

Large swathes of eastern Australia have been in drought for periods ranging from a year to seven years.

Australia's biggest city Sydney is running down its water supply at the fastest rate on record. The amount of water flowing into the dam was just 10% of what it was a year ago. Catchments that have been historically reliable are now facing a critical shortage of water. A recent survey of Sydney residents found that despite the dry conditions and declining water supply, 47% of people did not realise there was a drought.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The Jews in Iran

I was surprised by the public hangings though as I had thought of Iran to be a modern nation despite being headed by a religious figure. So I looked up various documentaries on iran and was surprised by many aspects.

There are 10,000 – 25,000 jews in Iran although Iran considers Israel to be an enemy. The Jews in Iran have the same rights as others, and are even free to travel to Israel or the US. The Jews there have never experienced anti-semitism and prefer living in Iran though they could immigrate to lsrael anytime as Jews.

The Jews have their own schools, run charity hospitals and have freedom of worship. Unlike the rest of the world, the synagogues in Tehran don’t even need any security.

Persian Jews have lived in the territories of today's Iran for over 2,700 years. They were expelled from the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian (then Iraq) king who had annexed it. But in Persia (now Iran), the Jews had sanctuary, and in the 6th century, the Persian kings enabled Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its temple.

Homosexuality law in India and Iran

Someone wrote to me : 'ईरान में तीन लोगों ने ज्वैलरी शोरूम लूट लिए और मालिक को मार डाला। सरकार ने उन्हें दुकान के सामने लटका दिया. 15 दिनों के भीतर न्याय.'

I wrote back : 'These admiring messages on summary justice and executions are generally forwarded by right wingers. Would they like india to be headed only by religious people, like iran ?

This kind of ‘justice’ is sharply criticized in the world though as it is not transparent, there is no proper defence available to the accused, and because of so many death sentences awarded. Only a few of the executions are public though, as a lesson, I suppose.

Sadly, over 6000 gays have been hanged since the Islamic revolution in 1979 as homosexuality is illegal in iran.. we have got to remember though that the ugly law that punished homosexuality by upto 10 years in prison was only outlawed in india 13 months ago !'

This person wrote back : 'Yes I know Modi Government is not opposed to homosexuality. This is a very progressive government.'

I wrote him back : 'History does not bear this out. Subramniam Swami and Ramdev (especially the former who issued vicious statements) were very vocal against homosexuality in 2013 when the Supreme court overturned the Delhi high court judgement which had decriminalized homosexuality.

Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi, issued statements agains the Supreme court judgement.

Even in 2015, the Law Minister refuse to do anything to change the law. Subramaniam Swamy said the BJP’s position was that homosexuality was a genetic disorder. Modi maintained a studied silence.

In 2016, Narendra Modi tweeted out his condolences for the 50 people killed in the horrific shooting at an Orlando gay club. A lady called Rachita responded on twitter : "There's no point of giving "thoughts and prayers" to the families of the LGBTQ community in Orlando if you don't walk the talk. You have the power to ensure LGBTQ people in your own country don't get harassed, hurt, and criminalised by the state. You're quick to show solidarity with the victims of Orlando without acknowledging that your government is responsible for continuing hate speech against LGBTQ people. Where are you when your party members use hate speeches against the community? Stop with this "thoughts and prayers"--you are in a position to decriminalise millions of LGBTQ Indians and till the time you do that, you don't have a right to show solidarity with the community in Orlando."

His Govt. STILL did not do anything. Gay people kept on petitioning the Govt. with no response.

The Supreme Court judgement in 2018 decriminalizing homosexuality came on the petition filed in 2016 by these courageous people : dancer Navtej Singh Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath and Keshav Suri, and businesswoman Ayesha Kapur, wherein the petitioners argued that they had all been directly aggrieved because of Section 377, alleging it to be a direct violation of fundamental rights.

The only sensible role that the Govt. played was this : It abstained from the hearings and left the matter to the “wisdom of the court". BJP spokesperson did say that any decision on the matter "takes in sync with the jurisprudential developments on gay rights the world over would be welcome". In January 2018, the BJP's coalition partner, the Shiv Sena had supported legalisation of homosexuality.

The right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh conveyed its agreement with the court's verdict as it didn't believe homosexuality was a crime, but did label the orientation as "unnatural". Congress issued a statement welcoming the ruling and remarked that the judgement should bring about "the beginning of a more equal and inclusive society".'

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Tamil Nadu's Bhopal - or how Unilever dumped Mercury waste

I wandered into reading on Tamil Nadu's Bhopal - or how Unilever dumped Mercury waste on Kodaikanal's pristine environment for 18 years..  and refuses to clean up even after it was forced to shut down its factory in the wake of the public uncovering of its dumped waste.

Kodaikanal is a hill station at 7000 feet on the Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu. It is part of the Shola eco system across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which itself is a part of the Western Ghats.

Its hills are always kissing the clouds resulting in a high amount of precipitation.. the trees are short due to high winds, and there are extensive grasslands.. which make this ecosystem unique.

Mercury is one of the most toxic elements known. Ponds moved its factory  (later acquired by Unilever)  to make mercury thermometers from New York to its present site in 1983 as the temperature was low year round.

Legislation on mercury handling in the U.S. had begun to change after toxic side effects began to be publicised. The Ponds India management got special permission from the Central government in India to set up at Kodaikanal on the grounds that it was a non-polluting glass manufacturing unit (!). No formal site selection or screening process was undertaken to assess and minimise the impact of a mercury thermometer plant in an eco-sensitive area.

The Tamil Nadu Factories Inspectorate and the Pollution Control Board found nothing amiss in their periodic inspections of the factory including on workers' health. In 2001, it was citizens - the Palani Hills Conservation Council and Greenpeace, which caught the management selling mercury-contaminated glass to a local scrap dealer. Faced with the evidence, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board asked the factory to close.

Toasted Pineapple !

I have always loved pineapple. I was introduced to it in my teenage years but only pieces from a can. After I was married and experimented with food in my kitchen, we started having raw, fresh bought pineapple. But we usually had to put it in a sugar solution or add cheese.

Else the raw pineapple would give me a bad throat leading to flu sometimes. But when out eating at Barbecue Nation with my father perhaps a couple years ago, we were served with lots of baked pineapple smeared with oil, salt and red chilly. It was va-va-voom !

Now we bake cut pineapple pieces in our oven regularly - no oil, but with some salt and chilly smeared on it. 7-8 minutes in the oven is enough.

Apparently, there are tremendous benefits from eating pineapple : including for asthma, cancer, blood pressure and diabetes.

On sharing the above information on whatsapp with friends, the following exchanges were interesting.. Friend 1 : 'Try grilling it ; you will love it more.' Me : 'Smile.. well the oven has the heating rod on above and below. That setting in my oven is called 'toast'.'

Friend 2 : 'Yeah you can do it in a pan too. If it’s a bit tart, few sprinkles of sugar gives nice caramelising and smokiness. Oven is more like cooking through and pan depending on heat is either cooking through or just charting and caramelisation.' Me : 'Ah !'

Friend 3 : 'Pineapple is a great food all round- like papaya it has a good digestive enzyme and it's great for metabolism. But like you I have some difficulties with it. It's almost always too tart for me and causes mouth ulcers, rashes, sore throat, tummy ache, etc.

It's the reason I love pineapple on pizza because its one of the few times I can eat it. But your idea of baking it is interesting and I will try it when I get back to Oz. When we were in Egypt many years ago, the hotel had fantastic breakfast buffets including lots of pineapple.

To my delight, the pineapple was uniformly so sweet that I had no difficulty eating it at all and ate lots every day. Have never encountered pineapple like that since even though Queensland is a big pineapple growing state in Australia.'

Me : 'Yes.. such sweet pineapple in india is only from Kerala in my experience.. no problem eating it raw there !' Friend 4 : 'But cooking fruits spoils vitamins.' Me : 'Not necessarily, as these links would show you : here, and here.

I think toasting for 7-8 minutes would deliver only as much heat as steaming for a few minutes so loss of nutrients should be minimal.
Besides, vegetables too lose some nutrients in cooking, while gaining some others. But we do cook them, dont we ?

Lastly, I would fall sick if I had raw pineapple in Delhi (though it is fine for me in Kerala). So I have no other way to eat it !'