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July 6, 2013
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WHERE ARE THE PADDY FIELDS?
Akash Kapur of The New York Times writes about how Indian farmers are sowing newer crops in tandem with changing weather conditions. "This year, I have been struck by an unmistakable sense that there are fewer rice fields. Along highways, agriculture has given way to real estate development. Even deeper in the countryside, the fields look different. There are fewer rice and other traditional crops like peanuts and sugar cane, and more casuarina, palm oil and other so-called cash crops, " he writes. The probable reasons being cited for this palpable shift include that traditional crops are labour or water intensive - drawing on two commodities increasingly in short supply. "But the shift is also an indication of hope - however incipient - for agriculture in this part of South India. It is a sign that farmers are trying to adjust, coming up with new crops and strategies to accommodate what has in many respects been a painful decade. " Old-time farmers say the best decades for agriculture in India were the '70s and '80s. "Recent years have been harder. Chemicals have depleted the soil. Cheap pumps and bore wells have lowered the water table. New opportunities in local industries and the cities have increased incomes. This last development is good for people in the villages, but it has made it almost impossible to find affordable labor for the fields. " In response to the changed agriculture scene in India, many farmers are going the organic way.
WATCH OUT FOR BIOTERROR
Jason Burke of The Guardian writes about the concerns of US diplomats that India could be the target of a biological terror attack. Confidential cables from the US embassy in New Delhi that Wikileaks exposed, he reports, reveal fears of "fatal diseases such as anthrax being released into the country before spreading around the world". The article talks of a senior Indian diplomat who told the US in 2006 that the possibility of a biological attack was "no longer academic". According to Burke, a cable sent to Washington said: "( Diplomat YK) Singh reported that Indian intelligence is picking up chatter indicating jihadi groups are interested in bioterrorism, for example seeking out like-minded PhDs in biology and biotechnology". Burke's report also talks of another cable pointing out that "advances in the biotech sector and shifting terrorist tactics that focus on disrupting India's social cohesion and economic prosperity oblige the (government of India) to look at the possibility of terror groups using biological agents as weapons of mass destruction and economic and social disruption". The US diplomats state the reason why India is more vulnerable to such attacks. "The plethora of indigenous highly pathogenic and virulent agents naturally occurring in India and the large Indian industrial base - combined with weak controls - also make India as much a source of bioterrorism material as a target. " Burke reports that this dispatch "is one of many dealing with the threat of terrorism" and was dispatched "both before and after the attacks on Mumbai".
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