Why a problem of plenty is hurting India's farmers

  • 8 June 2017
  • From the section India
Farmers throwing vegetables on a road during a protest as part of the Maharashtra bandh over various demands in Nagpur, Maharashtra Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption Farmers in Maharashtra have dumped their produce on the roads in protest against low prices

Farmers are on the boil again in India.

In western Maharashtra state, they have been on strike for a week in some seven districts now, spilling milk on the streets, shutting down markets, protesting on the roads and attacking vegetable trucks. In neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, curfew has been imposed after five farmers were killed in clashes with police on Tuesday. Last month, farmers in southern Telangana and Andhra Pradesh staged protests and burnt their red chilli crop.

The farmers are demanding waivers on farm loans and higher prices for their crops. For decades now, farming in India has been blighted by drought, small plot sizes, a depleting water table, declining productivity and lack of modernisation.

Half of its people work in farms, but farming contributes only 15% to India's GDP. Put simply, farms employ a lot of people but produce too little. Crop failures trigger farm suicides with alarming frequency.

The present unrest is, however, rooted in a problem of plenty.

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Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Arundhati Roy's much-awaited second coming

  • 5 June 2017
  • From the section India
Arundhati Roy Image copyright Mayank Austen Soofi
Image caption Arundhati Roy waited for 20 years to write her second novel

"Normality in our part of the world is a bit like a boiled egg: its humdrum surface conceals at its heart a yolk of egregious violence," writes Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy in The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness, her whimsically titled second novel.

"It is our constant anxiety about that violence, our memory of its past labours and our dread of its future manifestations, that lays down the rules of how a people as complex, as diverse as we are continue to coexist - continue to live together, tolerate each other and, from time to time, murder one another."

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Is India's ban on cattle slaughter 'food fascism'?

  • 2 June 2017
  • From the section India
An Indian vendor makes kebabs made from beef at the Tundey Kebabi restaurant in Lucknow on May 17, 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Beef kebabs are popular with millions of Indians

A lawmaker from India's southern state of Kerala has announced that he is returning to eating meat, fish and eggs after practising vegetarianism for nearly two decades.

There's nothing unusual about a lapsed vegetarian but VT Balram said his decision was prompted by the federal Hindu nationalist BJP government's attempt to seize the people's right to eat what they wanted.

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Did India hide its first cases of Zika virus?

  • 30 May 2017
  • From the section India
Mosquito Image copyright SPL
Image caption Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which is most active during the day

Did India conceal its first cases of the Zika virus?

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said India's health ministry had confirmed three cases of the mosquito-borne virus from the city of Ahmedabad in western Gujarat state.

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Why are millions of Indian women dropping out of work?

  • 18 May 2017
  • From the section India
India women taxi drivers Image copyright AFP
Image caption More women are finding work in cities

Why are millions of women dropping out of work in India?

The numbers are stark - for the first time in India's recent history, not only was there a decline in the female labour participation rate, but also a shrinking of the total number of women in the workforce.

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Aadhaar: Are a billion identities at risk on India's biometric database

  • 4 May 2017
  • From the section India
Aadhaar Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption More than a billion residents of India have a unique identity number

"My fingerprints and iris are mine and my own. The state cannot take away my body," a lawyer told India's Supreme Court last week.

Shyam Divan was arguing a crucial petition challenging a new law that makes it compulsory for people to submit a controversial biometric-based personal identification number while filing income tax returns.

Read full article Aadhaar: Are a billion identities at risk on India's biometric database

Is India losing Kashmir?

  • 26 April 2017
  • From the section India
A Kashmiri female student throws a rock on police during clashes in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 24 April 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Schoolgirls have participated in protests against Indian rule

As India's most restive region stares down the abyss of what a commentator calls another "hot summer of violence", the doom-laden headline has returned with a vengeance: Is India losing Kashmir?

Last summer was one of the bloodiest in the Muslim-dominated valley in recent years. Following the killing of influential militant Burhan Wani by Indian forces last July, more than 100 civilians lost their lives in clashes during a four-month-long security lockdown in the valley.

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Why are farmers in India protesting with mice and human skulls?

  • 21 April 2017
  • From the section India
A farmer from the southern state of Tamil Nadu poses as he bites a mouse during a protest demanding a drought-relief package from the federal government, in New Delhi, India, March 27, 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Chinnagodangy Palanisamy says he will be forced to eat mice if the farm crisis doesn't end

Last week, Chinnagodangy Palanisamy, 65, held a live mouse between his teeth to draw the government's attention to the plight of farmers in his native state of Tamil Nadu.

"I and my fellow farmers were trying to convey the message that we will be forced to eat mice if things don't improve," he told me, sitting in a makeshift tent near Delhi's Jantar Mantar observatory, one of the areas of the Indian capital where protests are permitted.

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The 'studious' 12-year-old victim of India's Kashmir problem

  • 14 April 2017
  • From the section India
Faizan Fayaz Dar's mother with his photograph Image copyright Abid Bhat
Image caption Faizan was one of eight people killed during last Sunday's violence

The day 12-year-old Faizan Fayaz Dar died, he woke up in the morning in his hilltop home in Budgam in Indian-administered Kashmir, had a cup of salted tea, recited the Koran and pottered around in the kitchen where his mother prepared breakfast for the family.

His grandmother offered him a plate of grapes, but she doesn't remember whether Faizan had it. The son of a farmer then put on his pheran, the woollen cape-like garment Kashmiris wear, and quietly left for his Sunday lessons.

Read full article The 'studious' 12-year-old victim of India's Kashmir problem

How PM Modi destroyed rivals in India's Uttar Pradesh

  • 11 March 2017
  • From the section India
Indian supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate outside the party office as state assembly votes are counted in Lucknow on March 11, 2017. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Narendra Modi personally campaigned in the absence of a chief ministerial candidate from his party

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) decisive win in elections in India's politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh - it sends 80 MPs to the lower house of parliament, has produced nine prime ministers, and is located next door to the capital, Delhi - is clearly being seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Modi was the face of the campaign in the absence of any clear chief ministerial candidates.

Read full article How PM Modi destroyed rivals in India's Uttar Pradesh