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The age of garbage
India generates more than 100 million tons of municipal waste a year and most of it goes untreated. Akash Kapur highlights India’s garbage problem in an engaging feature published in the ‘New York Times’. Reporting from Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu Kapur writes about a scenic spot near the Union Territory which has been completely spoiled by piles of garbage — plastic bags, discarded plates, bottle caps and other waste — lying all around. “This is a common problem around here, and indeed throughout the nation. In cities and in the countryside India is choking on garbage. On a per capita basis, 100 million tons of garbage is far lower than most developed countries, but the amount of garbage generated is growing fast. More problematically, very little of India’s waste is properly treated. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that only about 60 percent of municipal waste in the country is even collected. A far smaller proportion is recycled.” Kapur suggests that a solution to the problem lies in India’s informal economy. For instance, it is estimated that ragpickers collect more than 10,000 tons of waste every day. “The informal waste economy is built like a pyramid, with ragpickers at the bottom, small traders in the middle and large companies that rely on recycled materials at the top. Bringing the informal sector into the formal economy is fraught with difficulties. Aligning the world views — and incentives — of ragpickers and municipal bureaucrats is a major challenge. But the scale of India’s waste problems is such that the country needs every bit of help it can get.”
Booked and cooked in Jaipur
Mark Magnier of ‘Los Angeles Times’ writes a gushy report on the recently concluded Jaipur Literature Festival. He declares it to be the best in Asia and rivalling the best in the world —Edinburgh, Frankfurt and Berlin. “With one difference: Jaipur charges no admission and welcomes all comers, leaving ambassadors to fight it out with students for seats. ‘I’ve never seen such an alive, vibrant festival,’ said Niki Marangou, a novelist who traveled from Cyprus to attend. ‘I really love the fact that it’s open to everyone.’”
Another difference, according to the report, is that while the other big book fairs are focussed on the business of publishing and signing of contracts, Jaipur Lit Fest is more of a celebration of ideas and humour. “Several author sessions are held at once in tents bedecked with colorful bunting on the grounds of the elegant 150-year-old Diggi Palace, now a hotel owned by descendants of a 16th century Mughal emperor’s political advisor whom the venue’s website calls the founder of a ‘virile,’ ‘fiery and impetuous’ line.” While Magnier is definitely taken in by the grandeur of the venue and intellectual pulse of the event, at the same time the typical India-problems don’t escape his eye. “The open-gate policy also means massive logjams between sessions, mirroring India’s roads outside the palace, and a certain amount of the disorganization India is famous for.” He can’t help but notice Delhi’s “bejewelled socialites” who flocked to the fest only to be ‘seen’ and “who may not read much beyond their credit card slips.” And, of course, hordes of uniformed school children seeking autographs from “anyone who looks vaguely important, including random Westerners,” also find a mention in the report.
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