Food and its relationship with Hunger

Hunger is still a cause for concern in South Asia, despite numerous countries in the region already meeting its MDG target of halving, by 2015, the number of people, who suffer from hunger

It was the most unfortunate of circumstances when sub-Saharan Africa could not overwhelmingly meet its MDG goals by 2015. It had appeared during the time frame of the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that sub-Saharan Africa would perhaps meet its targets because a lot of the focus was on the impoverished conditions of the region. Furthermore, G8 leaders, from developed countries, such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom had also committed to increasing aid to Africa by 2010 but what followed was that sub-Saharan Africa has largely fallen behind to address the causes for concern, as outlined by the MDGs, instead.

It’s hard to draw comparisons even though both the regions are very poor, indeed, because South Asia is performing a lot better than sub-Saharan Africa, these years. In 2014, sub-Saharan Africa was found to have high hunger rates, much like South Asia; for South Asia, particularly, India has the highest percentage of the global extreme poor (32.9percent) followed by Bangladesh (5.3percent). However, according to latest figures, prevalence of undernourishment chalks at 15.7percent for South Asia and 23.2 for sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the primary causes for concern in South Asia is hunger, which can really give rise to an undernourishment problem, which is a significantly greater problem in South Asia, than elsewhere. Asian nations, such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Malaysia have already met one of the components of the first MDG target:

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

This is alongside sub-Saharan African states, like Mauritius, Nigeria and Ethiopia, but not Rwanda and Sierra Leone – the two states are expected to reach the target (before 2020) but what is so disconcerting is that the hunger problem still prevails in South Asia. In 2014-2016, hunger percentages from the level in 1990-1992 were slashed by a staggering 69percent for Nepal, a 52percent for Bangladesh and a 37percent for India. In comparison, many states performed very poorly with reduction of hunger, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, food insecurity in South Asia is still a major problem and this is simultaneously also reaping my concerns over consumer affordability because affordability for food is directly proportional to food security. But global prices for foods, such as wheat, vegetable oils, dairy, meat and sugar also recently saw an increase – a rise in prices can mean good profits-wise for agriculture and farming because harvest is managing to rake in such great prices for farmers, which can help them to increase their income bracket and provide the means to afford food more.

Why Theology Fascinates Me

I have never been a religious person. I don’t go to church every Sunday and I don’t fast when it’s Ramadan season. But theology has always fascinated me. Two very important religions are connected with each other: Christianity and Islam. Both the religions believe in the existence of a God, and that there is only one God. Furthermore, the two religions also share a historical and traditional connection: both originated in the Middle East and it is fundamental for Muslims to believe in Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity.

Reasons such as these are sufficient to want religious harmony between the two religions because these similarities are not ordinary similarities: so many religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which are also two major religions differ immensely from Christianity and Islam. It’s very disheartening to see that where there should be religious harmony, there is only differences sometimes because of a backward (and very incorrect) idea of religion itself.

Followers of Hinduism believe in the existence (and worship) of numerous gods and it’s a religion which can be classified as paganism. It’s not too much of a far-fetched theory exactly because in ancient Greek scripture, there are mentions of the Greeks believing in the existence of many gods. Buddhism, meanwhile, preaches that there is no personal god and that nothing is permanent and change is always a possibility.

I find theology interesting because what each religion preaches are sensible statements in today’s world.

Every religion comes with their own sets of ideas. In Islam, fasting is observed by Muslims during the Holy month of Ramadan. In one of the verses of the religious text for Islam, the Qur’an, it is written:

(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.

– Surah Baqarah 2:184

This writing can be interpreted as: a Muslim should fast because it will then help the conditions of the very poor because for 29 to 30 days, for a period during every day, Muslims are abstaining from amongst many things, food and drink, which the poor can ill afford. Furthermore, it is written that it’s good if a Muslim fasts but only if they know how to.

The verses of the Qur’an are the revelations, which Muhammad (the Prophet of Islam) had during his lifetime. After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an has often been understood (or interpreted) with the help of hadiths (Arabic word for ‘report’) and this practice is inclusive of the tafsir (Arabic word for ‘critical explanation/interpretation of a religious text’) written in the Qur’an.

Hadiths are subordinate to the Qur’an and numerous branches of Islam follow numerous hadiths. As a result, the general understanding regarding fasting (for Muslims) these days is that it’s mandatory but that’s not a belief, which seems to coincide with the above mentioned verse from the Qur’an – it is written in the verse that a person should really fast if they only know how to. The belief behind why fasting for a Muslim is a noble idea is reflective of the times today because there are many poor (and needy) people in the world and observing fasting during a holy month confines belief that a person can be one with the poor (and the needy) around the globe.

Turkey’s New Vote

New powers and a new reality, following a coup d’etat

Turkey’s new vote on Tuesday on amending constitutional rights and taking the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential democracy, resulted in a lead for the ‘Yes’ vote. It’s still pretty early stages but soon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could find himself granted with more powers and control over the state than before. Erdogan has been in power in Turkey since 2003 and he has grown into a leader who views opposition as enemies to the state.

Turkey is still fragile and healing from the aftermath of a failed coup – tourism in the country already took a bad dent for it. Rooting out corruption, extremism, ensuring greater security is a very bad need in Turkey, and the message from the referendum is loud and clear: the state is placing a great deal of faith in Erdogan’s power despite his checkered equation with democracy itself.

The campaigns put up by Erdogan’s party in power, the AK Parti, dominated both banners placed in town and the media, preceding the vote. The President likes to make the media bend and obey his every command, rather than offering them absolute freedom, and if his latest victory with constitutional amendment is installed, Erdogan will have full control over the budget, as well as cherry-picking parliament members, who do his bidding entirely. That is too much control for one politician to have and it’s not hard to pluck out authoritarian sentiments lining Erdogan’s latest desire.

It is true that no matter the nature of political ideology that the Turkish President likes to portray, with Erdogan in power, Turkey is taking turtle-steps towards bettering national democratic values. Erdogan and his party had once turned a shanty town inhabited by peasants from rural areas (who came to the locality to look for work) into a town filled with apartments, roads and shops. Erdogan had also promised to provide Kurds with rights and help them find peace, previously, although it’s important to note that since 2015 progress has stalled.

The latest military coup has brought back horrible pasts to Turkey, that it had thought it had said goodbye to. The coup d’etat has left Turkish people feeling trapped in their own country. Turkey is no longer the same republic it had been, when it was founded five years after the first world war. The state is a lot more against the West and more religious, nowadays – Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation. The national atmosphere has been one of defiance following the coup d’etat but there is no denying that the state needs to focus on nation building efforts, again, or nation rebuilding efforts, where the prime focus should be upholding democratic values and it can begin with a vote of confidence in Erdogan once more.

South Korea’s General Elections

Snap elections were announced following Park Geun-hye’s forced removal from office, and the result of that installed Moon Jae-in as the next President of South Korea

Moon Jae-in was recently declared the winner in the South Korean presidential elections, and his win came as a bit of a surprise, given Moon’s past track record of having constantly protested against dynastical rule by Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye. The win for Moon can be regarded as a landslide and it comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the negativity that has been circulating around South Korean politics for quite some time now. Ever since, the last president, Park Geun-hye, was sent to prison following a parliament impeachment because of having taken bribes from large corporations with a friend, as well as both permitting her friend to interfere in policy-making and sharing state secrets with her, the next wise political step for South Korea has been shrouded in confusion.

Moon’s recent electoral victory has largely been about making the Korean state fairer. The gap between the rich and the poor, corruption in South Korean society because of the government’s close connections to big corporations, and the grievous difficulty in securing jobs for the young are major issues, which Moon should use his singular five-year term in power to address. Moon has promised to make his government more kind to the public’s concerns – more than half of his votes came from young people in their twenties and thirties, so over the big question of providing more employment opportunities to young South Koreans, which at the time is tough to get without good connections, Moon has promised job creation, primarily in the public sector, a portion of which will be targeted towards young people in South Korea.

Major challenges also exist for Moon over bettering relations with neighbour states: Japan, China and North Korea. South Korea and North Korea still do not see eye-to-eye on matters very much because of the latter’s constant insistence of ramming up nuclear developments. It’s so tough to imagine a different orientation of matters but Moon has offered to reach out if things improve – at the moment, President Trump is pressing for payment of a US-born missile-defence system (THAAD), which brews concern over South Korea’s relations with China because the communist state is already unhappy about THAAD’s use, leading it to boycott South Korean goods. Meanwhile, Japan’s trouble with South Korea is an entirely different one though – the state is not pleased with a revival of anti-Japan protests in South Korea, over what happened during the second world war.

Patriotism in Films

What is patriotism to South Asian cinema?

In India, films with a patriotic theme seems to bind the whole nation together. It portrays nationalistic sentiments, love for one’s nation, and in a sentimental albeit heroic way. Patriotic Indian films also have the power to liven up spirits, teach new thoughts to people irrespective of the class they belong to, their religious or socio-economic background, and these Hindi movies appeal to both the educated and the illiterate.

On another train of thought, since the early seventies, leaving out films with an obvious Pakistani (or Pakistani-minded) slant, Bangladeshi films have often made the Bangladeshi film industry an important one. On the subject of patriotism, in internationally acclaimed director Zahir Raihan’s Jibon Theke Neya (1970), for example, which fictionally depicted the atrocities committed by Pakistan against Bangladesh, pre-independence, the story plays out like a tale of struggle for freedom for a husband, two boys, who are brothers, and some servants, from the clutches of an oppressive woman controlling her family.

In the landscape of the film, it is shown that protests erupt in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) against oppressive Pakistani rule, which signifies the days of Bangladesh’s language movement but the portrayal of the oppression was more symbolic than anything else, imprinted into a family drama. The turmoil of the oppression reflects in the lives of this family who begin to protest against the oppressive woman and her brand of family-regime by speaking loudly against her. The home front then gets more tangled inside a protest-theme, when a marital angle is thrown into the narrative: the two boys bring home two wives, who plot to snatch away sovereignty of their new family from this oppressive woman in power by obtaining the keys to the house – it symbolises gaining control of the house.

What was also rather interesting about the movie was the specific, symbolic caricature of former Pakistani President Ayub Khan’s autocratic rule in East Pakistan as a despotic female head of the house, with an ill-tempered nature – marriages and schemes for control tragically follows in the lives of the Bangladeshi family for it. Meanwhile, patriotism in Indian filmmaking is often proclaimed through the tense subject of Kashmir. Since 1947, a dispute has been happening at the shared border between India and Pakistan which has spelled out into three separate wars to claim Kashmir.

At the moment, India controls a majority of Kashmir, and I have always felt Kashmir as an entire state belonged to India, not Pakistan. In Hindi films, such as Mission Kashmir (2000) and Roja (1992) the theme of the Kashmir conflict is woven together with a major love story. It’s hard to picturise a romantic angle to a story in the theatre of war but that is what the narrative is often like for South Asian cinema – if it’s not romantic, it must be a family drama of all things, heavily reliant on symbolism to depict patriotism rising in the face of oppression.

The Pointless Eurosceptic Agenda Of The Tories

David Cameron’s Eurosceptic ways aren’t sound at all, as a Tory

In the United Kingdom, Brexit is on everyone’s mind, even though ideally it should not be because Britain’s place is with the European Union. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a Conservative foreign secretary in the past, echoed this in his opinion recently in a Brussels summit. He is for giving Britain (and like countries) some rights over protecting itself in a sea of Euro-zone nations. Britain also prefers to be detached from an exhibition of too-much-closeness, which has drawn criticism as well, and the Tories, in particular, want to prevent EU migrant workers getting welfare benefits for four years but this is going against the free movement EU treaty, which France isn’t prepared to change. An insignificant percentage of Britons would change their mind about leaving the EU if a cap isn’t put on benefits for migrants, but 9 percent is still a figure worth noting.

The sentiment that it is going to be very tough for David Cameron to renegotiate the terms of the EU treaty is getting heavily popularised: the referendum is scheduled for June 23, and it is too horrific to imagine what will happen to David Cameron if he loses the referendum. 3mn (or maybe even more) jobs survive with EU trade in the United Kingdom, because relationships have been amicable with fellow Euro countries. It is not expected that trade with the EU would discontinue entirely even if there was a Brexit, so playing up false fears is a shoddy way to speak about the full impact of Tory expectations from a second win.

In the Conservative Party, controversies surrounding Europe is not new. When Margaret Thatcher was still the Prime Minister, in 1990, her government fell spectacularly because she impossibly opposed the European Commission’s federal agenda. Her strong opposition to it led Geoffrey Howe, her foreign secretary (in the past) to resign two days after the incident, triggering the end of the Thatcher era. This promise of a Brexit campaign has been delayed for three years, and now less than half of Cameron’s 330 MPs are for Out, and it counts two somewhat familiar names: Michael Gove (a firm Eurosceptic) and Boris Johnson (a political figure who can play with opportunities). Family trouble is brewing because of the three’s disagreements over Brexit, as YouGov reports that nationally most Tory members want to go for an Out.

The Tories, historically, have always been pro-Europe – only the fringes of the party wanted a Brexit in the 1990s, in the face of stiff opposition. Similarly, when a step behind integration with the Euro failed, most Tories recommended a greater unity with Europe as a part of it’s policy-plans, even going ahead and expressing hope for a federal Europe. But David Cameron prefers to be different from his party and show his true colours as a thorough Eurosceptic, and an ally of the anti-EU UKIP. In the near past, all this colourful display of anti-EU emotions from inside the Conservative Party would have been an out-of-place ideal, and the truth is that it is still the same today because even though it might be so very hard to believe, Thatcherism is no longer worth a political catastrophe in London.

A Battle For The White House: Trump Vs. Clinton

In 2012, Mitt Romney was expected to win in the polls but Barack Obama came out as the President returning for a second-term, to a shocked America. But how uncertain is the political game this time around?

In the United States, it is a good time to set priorities straight. Elections-fever has gripped the nation but there is also widespread rage over the local political narrative: the general idea for decades now has been that America needs a new direction to steer to. Wages have been sluggish, as the rich keep on getting richer, and fears in American cultures, such as the white population dwarfing nationally dictate the American economy; all of this are the aftermath of the dissolving of the Soviet Union, and the United States of America enjoying for quite some time a status as a global superpower, all alone. So, when Trump and Cruz promise to make the country great again, it all sounds so artificial.

China is a country on-the-rise, and if America was Europe there would be protests by now over Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders) but this is America: Trump is all-poised to maybe even win. Protests in the country are always against aristocracy because British colonial history has implanted that legacy in the fabrics of their history. The whole electoral system distributes central power and the race has been so intense, from Iowa to New Hampshire. What was all fueled up to be a Bush-Clinton farce over the White House, spat out a more civilized battle between Trump-Clinton, I believe, with Cruz completing the triangle.

Trump has his own money influencing the campaign, for a change from his in-party contender, and what is working against the political tide is that Americans are only properly fired up about politics in the primaries, during which the thought “the state of the United States” is on everyone’s mind, even though unemployment is not a huge concern and neither is the United States’ economy, which is performing better than fellow developed nations. Soon, the race grows boring even for the most politically-dedicated – Sanders was also expected to oppose Hillary Clinton less by going out of steam as he approached the South, populated by delegates, which has been proven partly true. Clinton, meanwhile, has black Democrats backing her, but Trump is still quite ahead because he has broken out a fiery performance for the crowds built of Cruz-haters and Trump-happy people.

The Republican Party has put up front runners, who are both actively destroying the positive image that the party has always normally been associated with. Neither Trump nor Cruz offer any sound policies or economic solutions but they are on the ballot providing a much more pleasant alternative to Jeb Bush. Trump is also busy forking out from the right and the left, and there is always a great worry that he could win over the center with his brashness. At the end of the day, Cruz and Trump are naturally better at campaigning than Clinton, but a major poll is suggesting Clinton has a greater than 50 percent chance of winning the elections, this year.

Dilma Rousseff & Brazil’s Economic Uncertainty

Dilma Rousseff is one of the most charismatic leaders to have come out of Latin America but that is not what everybody would like to think

Brazilians, overwhelmingly, reject Dilma Rousseff. As the President of Brazil, she is fast becoming the target of criminal charges, that seems to have no solid ground to stand upon but was nonetheless pressed into reality by Eduardo Cunha, the lower house of Congress’ Speaker. This is happening as political evidence points towards her term coming with excessive spending, bad management skills, huge unemployment figures, and a bad-performing economy – all of this is only in Dilma’s first term. In her second term, Congress ran out of her control, and no news really about much needed fiscal reforms and spending cuts to help Brazil’s economy. A troubled economy is feeding into the perception that the public have of Dilma and it is obviously a very unfavourable one, as notices file up about her hiding the full extent of government misspending. In Brazil’s recent history, Dilma can be looked at as a defective President: the criminal charges pressed against her might have been motivated by bitter vengeance, but the fact remains that unpleasant political derivatives in Brazil because of Dilma needs sound justice.

This year is meant to be about hosting the Olympic Games for Brazil, the first country in South America, to have received this honour. Amidst preparations for a national party atmosphere, is the looming thought about the country’s political hardships. The state debt scale has been reduced to junk status, the finance minister quit prematurely in hopelessness, and the economy is expected to be slashed by around 2.5percent to 3percent this year, which is topping up the same amount for last year. Brazil cannot be an emerging economy in distress because it is a part of BRICS (B) and that status is indicative of it being an economy that can be classified as a rapidly growing one (in size), like Russia, China, India and South Africa. The catalyst of the problems in Brazil now can be traced back to excessive spending to fork out pensions and a tax relief for industries on the hotbed for favouritism, and now the only solution within sight seems to be the increment of taxes and alienating the thought of too much spending.

With a new finance minister at the helm, Dilma should move towards securing a more stable pensions system because right now, Japan, a richer state than Brazil, shelves less for pensions. In Brazil, on average, women retire at the ago of 50, and men retire at the age of 55, and the national minimum wage, as now, cannot be at the same level as the expected pensions rate, if Brazil is to smoothly expand economically. Furthermore, labour laws have fenced in expensive firing for workers who can never do their job right, slim international competition inside of Brazil is thinning productivity, and most of public spending is secure from cuts because of a cause for celebration back in 1988 over the termination of military rule, which made it possible to grant security over jobs, as well as national advantages. The good news is that borrowing, for the most part has been in the national currency, so there is no fear of defaulting, but there is a great fear of inflation because of a mountain of debts. Inflation can happen if Brazil’s government cannot transform the national climate, so that means a possibility of more poverty again, or at least no economic progress, and a political way forward is historically much more sound for Brazil.

China’s Economic Woes

How much should socialism really remodel itself in today’s China?

Economic uncertainty is a widespread concern for China despite the prevailing national sentiment that it should not be so because projections suggest there will be no slash in growth rates and targets will mostly be met. But this isn’t the full picture: the index fell 7percent at first and then another 15percent during the beginning of the year, and this, frankly speaking has been China’s worst economic performance when the economy is supposed to be in an excellent state as the new year settles itself into the summer. Most of the fear is not stemming from the idea that it will be so tough for the Far Eastern nation to become a stable income country but rather it is about a hesitation to warm to technocrats. Economic trouble around the world has made the start of this year the second worst after 1970 and China is not indifferent to it. This means that the popular image of the country back in the day of a Communist state on the rise is now changing hands with the growing debts, trouble in the labour market and a political system unable to grapple with market, as much as the national idea of Mao.

Speaking of national sentiments, the prevailing question about the uncertainty in economic understanding for Xi Jinping and his party, brings to the forefront of memory how hard China had it as early as 2009. Less babies were being born, which meant a dent in the working age group, and a growth in the elderly people diaspora, and the constant dread of having to accommodate looking after the old, for the young. This was alongside unemployment for graduates that just kept on peaking, unaffordable property prices, and an environmentally unfriendly attitude to industrialisation. The party, though, can proudly label itself as a socialist reformer, taught up at the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The state in the past had a burdened welfare structure, it permitted NGOs to operate within its borders, business people dominated Chinese ranks and low-scale elections for posts within the party wasn’t such a strange thought.

There is half democracy, a totalitarian slant, manufacturing job cuts in store for blue-collar workers that can’t be looked upon as a positive occurrence, instead now but the Communist party doesn’t think along those lines when it abhors protest movements. The rural class and the middle class need to feel economically secure for the government to be looked upon favourably so the challenges keep on looking tougher for the inflexible model of socialism the Communist party likes to abide by. It is very similar to the regular spotting of Confucian traditions in dining interspersed with braised hog insides, because these dishes were once a part of Confucius’ family dining experience, in China. Cookery in this style is not about delicious roast duck as it is about following the political slant within the Communist party, but as a roast duck fan, myself, I wouldn’t find it sad at all to skip on tasting out the cooking of hog in a rather absurd primitive style.

India: Pollution + Economic Growth

Environmental pollution and a barely-there, economic growth for India. Where is the local excitement?

India is one of the most densely polluted countries in the world. Everyday it sees fine powders of arsenic, black carbon, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in it’s metropolitans, especially in the capital; in fact, this environmental damage is twice the amount that China has to witness daily, and Beijing is already known around the globe, for it’s less-than-average green credentials. In stark contrast, economic growth is happening for India (a first in the millennium) and China is instead trailing India in it. Overall, the last quarter of 2015 saw India lose out on economic growth, but this is still considerably higher than the economic growth rate for it’s rival, China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies Delhi as the most polluted developing city and this is a growing concern for the health of all residents. Many people in Delhi die annually because of air pollution, and admissions to hospitals to treat respiratory illnesses is sometimes even ballooning. But where is all of the big smoke coming from? Confined to plenty of other Indian metropolitans too, the causes for the smoke aren’t cars or factories, primarily but instead it is home cooking. North India, specifically, has this problem because of stubble-burning in a rural environment. Cars and other vehicles are a major contributor to pollution too: recently local government efforts saw the implications of emissions standards for brand new passenger cars, and it is hoped that the same set of standards will follow suit for both two-wheelers and three-wheelers. There is also a great big rush in the government-level to make sure the calibre of fuel gets a lot better.

If all of the efforts are rolled out by 2020, then environmental pollution will be slashed into fractions of what it is today. Other such similar expected measures, includes the development of the metro network in Delhi, and sustaining roads more, which singularly feed into air dust. All of these new initiatives run parallel to the ones introduced more than ten years ago, when rubbish-burning was curtailed, both power plants and industries badly polluting the country were no longer allowed to operate, and vehicles, such as buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis were required to use natural gas as fuel to drive. The government also did very little in the past to ease environmental concerns when it dwindled diesel to attract support from farmers using it for both water pumps and tractors. This move catapulted a push towards the vehicle industry mushrooming into a diesel-dominating one. The new initiatives, because of that, are welcome moves because more and more vehicles travel on the roads in India now, than they did back then.

Meanwhile, the major roadblocks to economic improvement for India, range from cement production to investment, but as a developing country, India, has alone come a very long way. Issues of bureaucracy are still hurting the local Indian business environment, which is a major issue for a country predicted to become the third largest economy in a little over decade, right behind the United States and China. Furthermore, the dampening of weather conditions lately has impacted agriculture, and Narendra Modi has highlighted that his government prioritises all farmers worries, and stressed the importance of a good calibre of seeds and irrigation patterns. There are also plans to introduce refrigeration facilities, raise the incomes of farmers, profits free-flowing from reaped produce direct to the pockets of farmers, and decrease any losses amounted by farmers, right after harvest season.