The Express Tribune Editorial 30 October 2019

Climate change and agriculture


It seems climate change has started to bite agriculture in Pakistan. In the coming harvesting season in Punjab, rice grain is feared to be shorter in size and their setting weak. So the yield is expected to be 20 to 35 per cent lower. The low yield of rice crop has been persisting for the past several years. This is an alarming situation considering the fact that rice exports earn $2 to 2.5 billion in foreign exchange for the country. Likewise, cotton and maize yield has also been showing a declining trend in the recent past.
Representatives of farmers from Punjab say that this year their rice, cotton and maize crops have failed because of the unusually high temperatures and have demanded of the government to announce an incentives package to enable them to sow the next crops. They want monetary aid, special subsidy on fertiliser and seed, abiyana (water rate) waiver and loans on soft terms for the next crop. Farmers of south Punjab, especially cotton growers, suffered more than those from the rest of the country because of the unusual high temperatures and also due to the whitefly attack. They say the falling cotton yield would affect the textile industry also and thus reduce export earnings. The maize crop suffered grain loss due to the high temperatures. Some farmers sold them as green fodder to recover their losses partially. The farmer representatives say the poor maize crop would affect the poultry industry, which used corn as a major ingredient in animal feed.
The farmer representatives have urged the government to get a proper analysis of the climate change impact and share the results with farmers. They have also demanded a task force to assess the causes leading to lower cotton yield while insisting that the issues affecting farmers are important for the entire nation. It is farmers who feed people three times a day.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2019.


Bid to trick the world


A delegation of 27 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) has become the first international delegation to visit India-Occupied Kashmir since the repressive security crackdown was imposed on August 5. Even today, there is no internet access in Kashmir, though most phones have started working. At least 22 of the 27 MEPs are from far-right political parties. While the Indian government backed the visit, the European Parliament and the European Union hierarchy were not involved in the planning. In fact, several European embassies in New Delhi were unaware of the visit until Monday, when the delegates met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. EU officials also distanced themselves from the delegation, saying it was not an official visit and the EU had no role in organising any of their meetings.
On Monday, Modi told the EU legislators that the visit would give them a clear view of the development priorities of the region. He also claimed that special rights for Kashmir, such as a ban on outsiders buying property, had hindered its development. Given the far-right views of the MEPs, it will be interesting to see if they back Modi in his desire to let ‘outsiders’ relocate to Kashmir and take over land and industry from the ethnically different local population. Unfortunately, the fact is that European far-right parties, to varying degrees, are all anti-Islam. That, and the curious ‘private’ nature of the visit, would hint at a pre-decided statement already being worked out to support India’s position, with rubber-stamp support from the delegates.
As it stands, the EU, the US, and even the UN have been denied permission to send their own teams to investigate India’s criminal actions in the disputed state because, according to Indian media and politicians, they are under the influence of the Pakistan lobby. Curiously, this powerful lobby has not been able to get Pakistan removed from the FATF watchlist, increased foreign aid, or get any other benefits. Maybe this is because they aren’t under the influence of Pakistan. They are genuinely concerned by India’s oppression of over 12 million people whom it claims are its citizens.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2019.


Textbooks left to rot

It gives an idea what priority government functionaries give to education in Pakistan. According to media reports, recently thousands of books published by the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board have been found rotting in a government school in Narowal. Students and their guardians claim that such a large number of textbooks were left uncared for due to negligence on the part of the District Educational Authority. This act of negligence caused a loss of hundreds of thousands of rupees to the provincial government.
The Punjab government had provided thousands of free textbooks to a government school for students of classes VI to X at the beginning of the academic year in February. The school administration allegedly did not hand over these books to students, and they were left to rot in a classroom. Hence, students were forced to buy costly books from the market. Students and their parents claim these books will likely be sold to scrap dealers or might find their way into the market. Reports say a few years ago too, thousands of textbooks were sent to the school to be distributed among students. Some of the books were distributed while the rest were later sold as scrap. Parents claim that education department officials have been causing a loss of billions to the Punjab government on account of books apparently going to waste.
An official of the District Educational Authority, however, says the books found in a classroom of the Narowal school were not required by the school; they did not demand these books from the provincial government. The required textbooks were not sent, so he would write to the textbook board and return these books. Cases of textbooks left to rot in schools keep on occurring in the country. Informed sources claim they are either sold as scrap or to booksellers. Educational authorities should set good examples to students. Nature makes children happy and good; if they are otherwise, it is society’s fault.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2019.


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