Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Swine Flu and the failing monsoons...

So there are two immediate crises facing the country today, which therefore find a lot of mention in the media and daily newspapers as well as in random conversations. While one crisis is more direct and has people worried, the other is slowly looming in the background. Of course, I am talking about the Swine Flu crisis as well the monsoons, which now seem to be well and truly deficient.

Till a few weeks back, many people, including me, used to think that swine flu was a epidemic mostly confined to those travelling to the West (Mexico) and hence common people need not worry much unless they came into contact with such persons. But the last week has shaken that belief completely. Ten deaths and counting is India's toll today. Suddenly, it seems that no one is immune. And the government seems to have been caught napping. Our honourable Health minister, fresh from his insights on how to control population growth via television, now has a growing problem on his hand. Especially with huge congregations of people expected in Mumbai and Pune in the coming Ganesh festival, one can only hope that things do not get much worse from here. Pune especially, is in danger of turning into a ghost city if all public places start to close down. As individuals of course, all we can do is to take adequate precautions.

The other crises is the monsoons, or rather the lack of it. This could have significant medium-term ramifications. In the twenty odd years that I remember of, I have never seen such a dry August in Mumbai. And currently I am in a town called Ankleshwar in Gujarat. This time last year, the place was full of muck on the (so-called) roads. This time around, the roads are completely clean and dry and the sun beats down like any other summer day. While the lack of rains is already affecting parts of Mumbai (30% or more in water cuts), the more significant implications would be reduced agricultural output, resulting in higher prices and smaller rural incomes, with potential downside for many industries. Already the stock market is nervous thinking of this possibility. If that comes anywher close to a reality, we are sure to have a wider crises staring at us.


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