Curious Bends – India's business-friendly budget, vanishing women farmers, a water-supply scare and more

1. For its ignorance of human capital, the 2015 Budget was a step back into the Third World

“Oddly, the recent Budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) junks these insights and goes back to the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, when growth and development sounded synonymous, physical capital was thought to be the key, and human capital took a back seat. Growth, we are told, is the overriding objective of economic policy — the rest will follow. And the key to growth is “infrastructure” — or rather, a certain kind of infrastructure that the corporate sector supports. Further, infrastructural investment has to be done mainly by the government. So, public investment in infrastructure (mainly roads and railways, à la Nehru) gets huge funds, and most other things get squeezed with the notable exception of defence. Health and education, in particular, receive unprecedented shock treatment.” (7 min read, thehindu.com)

+ The author, Jean Drèze, is a noted economist who conceptualised and drafted the first version of the NREGA.

2. Budget cuts by Modi could boost five water-borne diseases

“With India struggling with an old and continuing health crisis, there were hopes that healthcare spending would be boosted, but the healthcare budget was cut by 15%, as IndiaSpend reported. The National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP) – launched in 2009 – was allocated Rs 11,000 crore in 2013-14. When it took charge in May 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government cut funding to Rs 3,600 crore for a programme that aims to provide safe drinking water to 20,000 villages and hamlets across India.” (3 min read, scroll.in)

3. India’s science budget has done nothing more than keep pace with inflation

“”What we have in this budget is inflation-adjusted funds,” says Dheeraj Sanghi, a computer scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He says that Indian science departments need at least a 14–15% increase in funds each year. That would take into account the national rate of inflation, aspirations for high-quality research, and the need for more grants to fund research at the increasing number of elite centres in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) group, he says.” (4 min read, nature.com)

4. In the last few years, more than 93,000 springs have disappeared in Mongolia. This photo series explores the impact on its nomads.

“Korean photographer Daesung Lee’s remarkable series Futuristic Archaeology explores what the desertification of their home means for Mongolian nomads through a series of fantastically staged images. They feature landscapes-within-landscapes — barren, desert environments inlaid with decidedly greener ones. These incredible scenes aren’t digitally orchestrated: Lee actually printed out billboard-sized photographs and strung them up on site, using former nomads as models. Inside the smaller images, people ride horses, herd goats, and go about their lives fenced in by red rope barriers.” (3 min read, hyperallergic.com)

5. India’s women farmers work with little or no help from the men, and rarely count in discussions of agriculture

“When she gets home from work, Shyampati grazes the family’s buffalo and four goats for an hour, cuts fodder and brings it home. Before and after these tasks, she cooks for the family. Her daughter helps with the utensils and clothes. Shyampati’s profession varies, depending on the work she gets, and life for India’s rural multitaskers only gets more difficult. In visuals of Indian villages, in stories about rural India, in news clips about farmer suicides or about farmers coming together to demand their rights, women seldom feature.” (6 min read, indiaspend.com)

Chart of the week

“The report states that with more than half of India’s total area is facing high to extremely high stress, almost 600 million people are at higher risk of surface-water supply disruptions. Shrinking supply might have serious ramifications for the country’s agriculture sector which uses 90% of the available water. While the current situation looks quite grim, there is a possibility that it can get worse. Water supply is expected to fall 50% below demand by 2030.” Qz.com has the details.

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