Sweet success

The cracking of the sugarcane genome can transform the sector but India needs to firm up its position on GM foods first

In a commendable feat, scientists last week announced the sequencing of sugarcane genome. Belonging to the perennial grass family, sugarcane was one ...

A true democrat

A steadfast moderate, Atal Bihari Vajpayee led India ably in extraordinarily hard times

It was perhaps not an accident that Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his last Independence Day address from the ramparts ...

Kerala deluged

The floods have damaged not just the State but the larger national economy as well

It’s truly a deluge of biblical proportions in Kerala. With incessant rains over the last three weeks leading to the opening of the gates of 33 out of 39 dams, large parts of the State, especially in Idukki in the south and Wayanad in the north, are under water. The death toll — currently at 47— is mercifully not very large, but tens of thousands have lost their homes and are now housed in relief centres. With more rains forecast for the next couple of days, the situation is expected to deteriorate. The state stares at an unprecedented crisis on several counts. The immediate focus will, of course, be on the relief and rehabilitation of those affected. But the larger challenge that will crop up once the flood waters recede is one of livelihoods and shelter. The estimated over 60,000 people now in relief centres may not just have lost their homes but also their livelihoods. Standing paddy crop and plantations of banana, rubber, cardamom, pepper and arecanut have been devastated as the floods have been concentrated in the plantation districts of Idukki, Kottayam and Wayanad. It may also take a long time for soil fertility to be restored as the rampaging flood waters may have washed off the top soil.

The impact on the State’s economy will be felt in the months ahead. Given that it is largely plantation and agro-based with a sizeable contribution from tourism, the economy is sure to have been dealt a deadly blow by the deluge. The damage to infrastructure such as roads and power transmission networks is extensive and might take months to set right, which means that tourism will be a casualty. Sadly, the floods have happened just ahead of the tourist season in Kerala which starts towards the end of September. The impact of the floods will be felt not just by the State but also the national economy. Onam is just a few days away and the festival marks the onset of the season for bumper sales of everything from FMCG to consumer durables and cars in the State. India Inc is bound to take a hit in this year’s Onam sales with consequences extending down the chain to suppliers, agents, dealers, and so on.

The State needs all the support it can get from the Centre. While the ₹100 crore sanctioned for immediate relief is a good start, the Centre needs to work closely with the State government and open its purse liberally to help citizens. Both governments and people of Kerala’s neighbours — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh — should pitch in to help the State in its hour of need. Finally, with so much of precious water draining into the sea, we need to ask the question again: Isn’t there a way of connecting rivers and dams in the South to marshal excess waters? Surely a nation that nurses ambitions of being a developed nation in the next decade should be able to break free from this unending drought-flood cycle of misery.




DIPANKAR BHATTACHARYA looks at people and professions