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A few more Lessons India can take from Russia

india Updated: Aug 09, 2010 01:11 IST
Bharati Chaturvedi
Bharati Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times
foreign policy

India's foreign policy pundits have frequently leaned on Russia for all manners of learning. It's also time to learn from the terrible summer they are having.

Temperatures have risen above 30 degrees, the hottest in Moscow for over a century, possibly a consequence of climate change. Amongst the disasters is the decline in wheat outputs due to drought. The Financial Times reports that this might be as much as 30m tons! Russian exports stand banned till December this year. Since Russia is the world's third largest wheat exporter, global wheat prices have gone up. There's going to be less to eat for every rupee spent globally.

Turn to India. We are as ill prepared for this disaster as we are for the Commonwealth Games. This paper exposed the scandal of our rotting grain and children eating mud in its Tracking Hunger series. Can you recall that over 10,688 tonnes of grain has been lying damaged in the Food Corporation of India's depots, in part because it was in the open? Or that the government is unwilling to spend money distributing grain to the poor, so it lies under tarpaulin sheets?

This summer's lesson: the right to food security is key to climate change adaptation. Our government must do this by through ensuring minimal employment so the poor can afford food, implement all its nutrition related schemes, ensure the mid-day meal system is not a mockery, and revitalize the public distribution system. That would be a robust first step to tacking climate change. Nothing less will work.

Oil's not Well

On Saturday, two ships collided just off Mumbai and an oil spill followed. No one knows how big or small it is, because there is no clear information. People need information to protect themselves. Is fisherman's catch safe to eat? Are the beaches safe for children? Can locals help monitor the situation? We can't answer these key issues without information freely available. We need a ruling where, during any disaster, big or small, all available official data must be fed into the public domain.