The farmers were distraught: papaya trees were turning white and dying. Financial doom was knocking at their doors; even the might of agribusiness, peddlers of pesticides and other toxins, didn’t amount to much. Pushed to the brink, farmers sprayed eight times the recommended amount of pesticide—at which level it is poison. It had no effect.
Cumulative losses in a year were estimated at Rs.1,500 crore. Help, when it finally came, was from the government, not private corporations that have sway over how farmers protect their crops from pests. Scientists at the curiously-named National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Insects identified the culprit as the papaya mealybug. They found its natural enemy, a small wasp, and bred and distributed it in test tubes to farmers across the states.
In our cover story “The White Invasion”, Shamsheer Yousaf tells how this battle against the bug was fought on the ground, how a massive drive that covered 40,000 farmers was conducted, and how cost-effective biocontrol is (the test tubes were given for free).
The war in Syria is more than 1,000 days old, more than 1,00,000 people have died, and yet the world doesn’t know much about it. The country has remained difficult to access for war correspondents—the first witnesses—and dozens have been killed on the job. While traditional media have faced challenges, the war has taken YouTube journalism to new heights. A group of individuals—Arts students, out-of-work dads and others—have taken the task of disseminating hours of footage and social media commentary (much of which is devoid of context and cold facts). These secondary, virtual witnesses have become our primary source of information, with even traditional media outlets relying heavily on their wisdom as “experts”. The Syrian experience raises questions about the future of war reportage and journalism itself, writes Alia Allana in “Now streaming live: the YouTube war”.
Sachin Tendulkar’s last test match was not about cricket, or even him, it was about “we” the people in the stands, writes Srinath Perur, who was ringside for the carnival, in his story “The last stand”.
As 2013 draws to a close, there’s much of interest to look forward to. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has broken new ground and has impacted the calculations about the general election next year. Its success has jolted other players who now have to come up with new strategies, stings and plays to counter or discredit the AAP. Expect much sound and fury and moments of unintended hilarity from our politicians in 2014.
Happy New Year.
Saurav Kumar, Editor