Curious Bends – Hudhud, fewer cyclone deaths, population control and more

Curious Bends is a weekly newsletter science, tech. and data news from around South Asia. Akshat Rathi and I curate it. It costs nothing to sign up. If you’d like a sample, check out the one below.

India went from 15,000 cyclone deaths in 1999 to just 38 last year

“The difference in the number of fatalities between Cyclone Phailin and the Uttarakhand cloudburst is instructive here. Both storms happened last year, yet Uttarakhand left more than 5,700 dead and millions affected. Although Phailin would also affect millions, its casualty count was kept to double digits. A big part of this was simply that there was no advance warning about the Uttarakhand cloudburst, while the Met department and local authorities had been tracking Phailin for weeks.” (4 min read,

How supercyclone Hudhud got its name

“For years cyclones that originated in the north Indian ocean were anonymous affairs. One of the reasons, according to Dr M Mahapatra, who heads India’s cyclone warning centre, was that in an “ethnically diverse region we needed to be very careful and neutral in picking up the names so that it did not hurt the sentiments of people”. But finally in 2004 the countries clubbed together and agreed on their favourite names.” (3 min read,

Central government officials’ attendance record is now public. Thanks to Ram Sewak Sharma.

“The website is a near-complete digital dashboard of employee attendance—it logs the entry and exit time, among other things. The entire system is searchable, down to the names of individual central government employees, and all the data is available for download. And with that single step—making the entire platform publicly accessible—the government has introduced a level of accountability and transparency that India’s sprawling bureaucracy is unaccustomed to.” (5 min read,

Indian women pay the price for population control

“23-year-old Pushpa, narrates a similar tale of pain. The nurse at a public health facility inserted her with an IUD after she delivered her first child. Her consent was not sought. The procedure was done after getting the consent form signed by her husband, a daily wage labourer who had studied up to Class V. He wasn’t explained what an IUD is and what the form was for.” (13 min read,

After 67 years of independence, India gets a mental healthy policy

“Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out that earlier laws governing the mentally ill, the Indian Lunatic Asylum Act, 1858, and Indian Lunacy Act, 1912, ignored the human rights aspect and were concerned only with custodial issues. After Independence it took 31 years for India to attempt the first enactment, which resulted another nine years later in the Mental Health Act, 1987. But due to many defects in this Act, it never came into force in any of the states and union territories.” (3 min read,

Chart of the week

“The survey of 44 countries, a quarter of them in Asia, shows that economic optimism has followed economic growth: eastward. The continent with the highest proportion of respondents believing their children will be better-off than they are is Asia, with 58%.” (2 min read,