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The Indian capital, Delhi’s air pollution, has turned from low to severe over the course of the Diwali weekend due to the burning of crop stubbles in nearby states and people bursting crackers in violation of a Delhi state government ban.
While the festival of lights inevitably brings the problem of smoke and ash spewed by crackers, the bigger worry is that of farm fires — a phenomenon that has been gradually choking the national capital even though the vehicle load has somewhat eased because of Covid.
The problem of crop stubble burning is hurting our society in multiple ways. It virtually buries Delhi under a cloud of haze every year, as well as destroys beneficial soil bacteria. Thousands of tons of paddy straw, convertible to green fuels or manure, simply go up in smoke.
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The recurring administrative paralysis has now put the ball in the Supreme Court’s domain. Indeed this is one situation that requires wisdom, sagacity, and stringent action for the benefit of society.
Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Air and Pollution Control Act of 1981. On December 10, 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned crop residue burning in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab where the practice is prevalent.
In M.C. Mehta vs Union India, (Order in IA Nos.158128 And 158129 of 2019 In Writ Petition (C)No.13029 Of 1985), the Supreme Court had asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to stop their farmers from stubble burning immediately.
It has also warned that their entire administrative and police hierarchy, from the Chief Secretary to the sarpanch to the local policeman, will be held responsible even if one instance of stubble burning occurs in the future.
The apex court held state governments responsible for stubble burning and said that instances of stubble burning would be penalized. It has made the local and civic bodies as “personally responsible” as the errant farmer who puts fire to his crop residue, putting in effect the ‘Polluter Pays Principle.’
Stick alone won’t be effective
But wielding the stick alone won’t work. Only this week, the number of farm fire incidents in Punjab crossed an all-time high of 73,000. That too, within days of First Information Reports being lodged against farmers and arrests being made in adjoining states of Delhi. A solution to this complicated rigmarole requires, besides political will, sincerity and earnestness for the sake of everybody’s health.
What prompts farmers to burn their rice stubble in northern India?
A combine ‘harvester and thresher’ used in the harvest of paddy, the machine leaves behind a significant length of straw and stubble on the field. This straw, lying on the field, comprises the stalk and the leaves of the crop with limited nutrients. It is reported that is September- October each year, farmers burn an estimated 35 million tons of crop waste from their paddy fields as a low-cost straw disposal practice.
With often only a couple of weeks gone between the rice-harvesting season and the start of wheat-sowing, farmers burn the debris to clear the field quickly for the new crop. For them, every day matters.
The apex court has realized that regulatory action won’t be enough to resolve the problem. After all, the majority of our farmers are small and marginal, who struggle to employ farm machines needed for sowing, let alone afford equipment required to clear stubble from their fields.
In its wisdom, therefore the court has directed that a sum of Rs 100 per 100 kilograms (quintal) be provided, especially to small and marginal farmers, along with farm machinery free of cost to prevent them from burning the stubble.
However, such a measure would amount to states having to pay Rs 2,000/acre to support such operations besides the additional cost of providing the machines. Moreover, the 2-4 week time window available between harvest of the summer crop and sowing of the winter varieties presents a time challenge. The result is that no state has embraced the proposal earnestly.
Delhi state Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has expressed the hope that a new technology developed by the Indian Institute of Technology to spray a chemical that will convert the leftover crop into manure might provide the solution.
Other scientific solutions can be used productively as well. For example, the conversion of rice straw into bricks or blocks for use as biogas or ethanol can substitute pollution-causing petrol and diesel.
It is here that a robust enforcement mechanism, well regulated, under the central government can go a long way. Earlier this month, the central government introduced a new law through an ordinance to curb air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region. The new law dissolved the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) and instead set up a commission with over 20 members.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: ‘पाक ने हिंदू, ईसाई महिलाओं की चीन में ‘उप-पत्नी’ के तौर पर मार्केटिंग की’
It also says that “any non-compliance or contravention of any provisions/rules or order/direction of the Commission will be an offense punishable with a jail term up to five years or with fine up to Rs one crore or with both.” This will apply to the red zone for stubble burning — Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh apart from the Delhi-NCR region.
However, matters related to agriculture are not only sensitive but also complicated. With farmers comprising the country’s largest workforce spread across thousands of farms dotting the countryside, the job of policing them becomes all the more complex. Under the Indian Constitution, agriculture falls in the concurrent list, which means neither the central government nor state government can regulate this completely.
The central government is due to submit another report to the Supreme Court to outline the proposed measures to stop stubble burning. Still, the bottom line is that New Delhi will need the support and cooperation of adjoining states for addressing the problem.
Paddy straw can be a potential goldmine
Given the dynamics, the only practical solution can be when both farmers and their state governments respectively see a sufficiently strong financial motivation. The world over green fuels is catching on as geographies such as the European Union and Japan are moving towards zero-emission.
India is sitting on a potential goldmine. Thousands of tons of paddy straw can be converted into green fuels like ethanol or even compressed natural gas. Of course, such a solution will require a chain of supportive infrastructure such as warehousing to store the paddy straw bales as well as sufficient processing capacity for their conversion into fuel.
Equally importantly, India will need to set up an efficient logistics system for the collection of the paddy straw from the farmers and transporting them to storage hubs. This will not be an easy challenge. However, given that the Food Corporation of India already has the storage infrastructure for wheat, rice, and other crops for which it pays a minimum support price, the state machinery should be able to cope with this demand.
Such an initiative will be timely as the government is keen to boost its ethanol blending program, which currently stands at 5% compared to a targeted 10% for petrol. While it may take time to implement this fully, the program can go a long way in trimming India’s bloated crude oil import bill.
The problem of farm fires has again underscored the need for better technology for our rural sector. Drone technology has already rescued a swathe of northern India in combating the menace of locusts. Speeding up the draft rules can go a long way in detecting and fighting stubble burning.
Moreover, effective digitization can make the task of spreading awareness among farmers that much easier. In essence, the means are very much at hand, if the will is there. Since India has pledged to drive down its emission intensity as part of the Paris Climate Change accord, it is hoped that robust regulation and the scientific solution would drive in a new era in handling stubble burning- sooner than later. (IANS)
Many young and middle-aged people today are dying of sudden heart attacks. Studies show that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) strike Indians a decade earlier compared to their Western counterparts. Why is this happening? How can we prevent it? Are we just focused on post-heart attack action? Or should we be focused more on prevention?
Luke Coutinho, Holistic Lifestyle Coach -- Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine shares an input that could prevent heart attacks at a young age:
Cholesterol is not the culprit, inflammation is: Many people believe that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are the sole culprits behind their heart attacks. The main reasons behind most heart attacks are inflammation and oxidative damage in the heart, blood vessels, endothelial lining, arteries, and more. While maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important, we cannot blame heart attacks on cholesterol levels alone. What then can you do to keep inflammation in check and your heart strong? Adopt simple lifestyle changes.
Many people believe that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are the sole culprits behind their heart attacks. | Flickr
Switch from ordinary substandard cooking oils to cold-pressed oils: Refined oils are highly inflammatory and a threat to your heart. Using refined oils just to save some money isn't a wise idea. Choose the right quality and quantity of oil to boost your heart health. It might cost you a few extra bucks, but remember, your health is not a cost but an investment.
Refined oils are highly inflammatory and a threat to your heart. Using refined oils just to save some money isn't a wise idea. | Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash
Switch from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one: Even if you don't engage in a full-fledged workout, just stay active. Walking and yoga are the most effective exercises. Choose fun workouts that you enjoy -- dancing, aerobics, Zumba, swimming, whatever it is, but keep that body moving. People who live a sedentary lifestyle are at high risk of heart attacks. Having said that, over-working out with little orno rest or recovery period is equally harmful. So, figure out the adequate level of activity your body needs and stick to it.
Even if you don't engage in a full-fledged workout, just stay active. Walking and yoga are the most effective exercises. | Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash
Don't take matters to your heart: Before renting out your heart space and mind space to a person, event or experience, ask yourself if it is worth it. While stress is inevitable, what sets a happy person apart from a stressed person is their capacity to diffuse and navigate stress and see things in a positive light. You can continue attending stress management classes and workshops, and while all of them can help you feel better for some time, the real change happens when you start changing your perspective towards life and how you relate to stress.Learn to accept and let go. Build your self-worth, create a beautiful inner world, reflect inwards, and allow these teachings to slip into your daily living.
Before renting out your heart space and mind space to a person, event or experience, ask yourself if it is worth it. |cPhoto by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Fix your sleep routine: There is nothing cool about pulling an all-nighter to work or socialize more. Your body only cares about survival. Remember, your sleep is your heart's free drug. The chronic deprivation of it can increase your risk of a heart attack. Your heart is a muscle that needs recovery. Lack of sleep increases your insulin resistance and makes you more prone to type-2 diabetes and a gamut of metabolic conditions. So, adopt a fixed sleeping schedule and sleep deep.
There is nothing cool about pulling an all-nighter to work or socialize more. | Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash
We cannot wait for more misfortunate incidents to realize the importance of lifestyle and start prioritizing it. We must wake up and work towards prevention. Many of us may go through heart disease later in life, no matter how well we exercise or eat clean. So, identify risk factors and work towards tackling them. Even if one of your risk factors is genetic predisposition and there is nothing you can do about it, you can still alter your lifestyle. Our intelligent human body was designed to fix and heal itself. The least we can do is invest in it and help it do its job effectively. Lifestyle can help you bridge this gap.
(Article originally written by: N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: lifestyle, heart, oil, stress, sleep, human, body, health, heart attack
When it comes to burgers, its not just the patty that makes it all worthwhile... one can't forget the cheese or the crunchy lettuce either. In India, McDonald's ensures their burgers use the freshest produce, which means that don't use any ordinary lettuce. The iceberg variety was first introduced in India by McDonald's, as early as the 90s, at a time when not many people were familiar with lettuce and used cabbage instead. Lettuce is a key ingredient known for its crunch, its odourless and is ideal for salads, sandwiches and burgers.
The fast food giant collaborated with local Indian suppliers and pioneered the local production of iceberg lettuce in the country. Their lettuce undergoes 30 quality and food safety checks. After harvesting, the lettuce is pre-cooled to a temperate of below 40C at the farm gate to maintain its freshness. It is then transported in refrigerated vehicles to the world-class processing plant where it is shredded to a measured length and width and then washed and cleaned thoroughly before being vacuum-packed.
The fast food giant collaborated with local Indian suppliers and pioneered the local production of iceberg lettuce in the country | Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash
Today, the lettuce that goes into your favourite burger is produced at a pristine height of 10,000 feet under the rain shadow areas of the Himalayas in the Manali and Lahaul districts. Over the last 15 years, the farm base that produces lettuce for McDonald's menu items has grown from 5 acres to more than 100 acres. The process for growing lettuce is very rigorous and thoroughly monitored starting with the selection of seed variety, nursery production, fertigation, integrated pest management and post-harvest technology. Over the years, the company has continued to engage with local suppliers in good agricultural practices, meeting the Gold Standards of food safety and hygiene. It has transferred global best practices in irrigation, pest control, seed selection benefitting nearly 250 small and marginal farmers across the country. These practices ensure the right conditions for the iceberg lettuce to grow.
With over 60 years of experience in developing the best quality standards for the industry to follow, it continues to build and strengthen the foundation of good food practices and knowledge transfer, while serving great-tasting menu items at a value to its customers. "At McDonald's, we are committed to offering great tasting food using high quality ingredients to our customers. To offer the best to our esteemed customers, we take extra care in ensuring that the highest levels of hygiene and food safety are maintained at every step of how our food is produced, where its ingredients are sourced from and how it is processed . We are committed to responsible sourcing and supporting farmers community growing lettuce for us." said Rajeev Ranjan, COO, McDonald's India , North and East.
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: burger, india, lettuce, McDonalds, locals, North, East
By Devakinanda Ji
Derived from the Sanskrit word muc ("to free"), the term moksha literally means freedom from samsara, release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma. The transcendent state attained as a result of being released from the cycle of rebirth.
62) OṀ MOKṢHASĀDHAKABHŨMYAI NAMAH:
OṀ (AUM)-MOK-ṢHA-SAA-DHA-KA-BHOO-MYAI— NA-MA-HA
ॐ मोक्षसाधकभूम्यै नमः
(Mokṣha: Liberation, not returning to saṃsāra; Sādhaka: Seeking, spiritual discipline)
Mokṣha is liberation from the trans-migratory existence and from the cycle of birth and death (what we call saṃsāra). The topic of bandha (bondage) and mokṣha (liberation) has been widely discussed in all the systems of Hindu philosophy. It is the last pursuit of the human goals in life. The synonyms for mokṣha are: mukti, kaivalya and nirvāṇa.
There are other schools which advocate nishkāma karma (action not motivated by selfish desires) or bhakti (devotion to God resulting in His grace) as the means to mokṣha.
Bhārata bhumi is conducive for the practice of one or all the paths enjoined by the Vedas, i.e., Karma yoga, Rāja yoga, Bhakti yoga and Jnāna yoga. To pursue these paths, we have thousands and thousands of temples, puṇyatīrthās, discourses by swamīs and gurus and many others. We have the Vedas, Upanishads, purāṇas, Brahmasūtrās, āgamās and many more sacred texts and literature for answers and clarifications. Beyond showing us the paths to liberation, our scriptures tell us how to be liberated while living. One cannot ask anything better than that. The prayers from the Upanishads, is apt: 'Asatomā satgamayā; tamasomā jyotirgamayā' meaning- 'lead me from unreality to reality and from darkness to light'. Here spiritual ignorance is compared to darkness, and self-knowledge is compared to light.
The land which teaches us to worship God with 'karmaphala tyāgam, niṣhkāmakarmam, Īsvarārpaṇa buddhi' and attain 'mokṣham' is thus 'Mokṣhasādhaka Bhūmi'.