Science

Curious Bends – AIDS-Control in Trouble, Quitting Beef, Caves of Meghalaya and More

1. Cash-strapped Maharashtra suspends core-interventions against AIDS

“The decision is a blow to the HIV community as Maharashtra is one of the six high prevalence regions in India along with Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The state accounts for nearly 420,000 HIV cases, second only to 500,000 cases in Andhra Pradesh, the highest number of HIV cases in India. Maharashtra has an HIV prevalence of 0.40%, higher than the national average of 0.35%, according to the National AIDS Control Organization’s (NACO’s) HIV Sentinel Surveillance report of 2012-2013. Since November 2013, India’s HIV programme has been starved for funds even as health experts and activists have been saying that disruption could lead to drug resistance.” (5 min read, livemint.com)

2. The technical loophole that lofts Panjab University to the top of university rankings

“Panjab University has a strong physics department that’s been associated with the Large Hadron Collider experiments in Europe. In the context of scientific publishing, these experiments are known for including the name of every member of the collaboration as authors on all papers based on their results. In May 2015, for example, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations published a 33-page article in the journal Physical Review Letters with a combined authorship of 5,154 – a world record. If a team from University X was part of this group, then the paper will count against X’s research output that year. “Looking at the example of Panjab University, the contributors to the ATLAS collaboration are unquestionably respected researchers,” Prof. Sriram said, “but the issue is whether their contributions should be counted against the ATLAS collaboration or Panjab University.”” (4 min read, thewire.in)

3. India’s ‘third gender’ is marginalized and sanctified

“”Often, I dream of being at a family celebration. I am wearing a sari, but they accept me as I am. They are happy with me, sharing all the joys of life. When I wake up, I am alone.” Paradoxically, for hijra like Kali, the same gender ambiguity that makes her a social pariah also grants her a holy status among some Hindus. Hijra are associated with Shiva, god of destruction, who is often worshipped in lingam form—as a stylized fusion of male and female genitalia. This coupling of the masculine and feminine symbolizes an inseparable cosmic unity. Hijra are also associated with the mother goddess Yellamma. Their intersex status is widely attributed to spiritual possession, a perception that allows hijra to perform blessings in exchange for money or goods.” (5 min read, vice.com)

4. ‘How to make a bitch give up beef’

“This week, we feature a satirical piece by poet Meena Kandasamy and artist Samita Chatterjee from The Obliterary Journal, an anthology of comics and artwork centered around the theme of meat-eating, published by Blaft Publications in Chennai, India. In 2012, lower caste Dalit student organizations at Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, organized a beef-eating festival to combat what they viewed as “food facism” in hostels. Beef has traditionally been part of the Dalit diet, and 1,500 people were fed beef biriyani as part of the festival. Right wing Hindu organizations opposed the festival on grounds that eating beef goes against Hindu belief. Violence erupted when members of the Hindu group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) marched towards the festival ground and were stopped by police.” (5 min read, pen.org)

5. Limestone- and coal-mining threaten the fascinating caves of Meghalaya

“About two months ago, I was in Shillong—the capital of Meghalaya—and after four days of waiting for an Arunachal Pradesh permit, I was weary of the crowds and tired of the March sun. After trawling a few pages online that sold me the root bridges of Sohra in Meghalaya, I chanced across the possibility of disappearing into the earth in the Khasi hills. The descent into the krem—khasi for cave—is the beginning of an adventure involving jagged low ceilings, slippery inclines, belly-crawling, and wading through crystal pools of water. The thrill of it lies in the discovery of absolute darkness and silence hosting endemic species—such as bats, fish, insects and arachnids—fossil passages, and fantastically shaped stalactites and stalagmites that slowly formed over thousands of years.” (8 min read, caravanmagazine.in)

Chart of the Week

“A newly completed but not yet published report for the government on reforming agriculture, led by Ashok Gulati of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in Delhi, is likely to blame politics. Food inflation upsets voters, so politicians respond to sudden spikes in food prices by imposing national export bans. Regional politicians do something similar. When potato prices soared in West Bengal last year, the state banned traders from shipping potatoes to other states. Amid such uncertainty, farmers are disinclined to invest or specialise.” (6 min read, economist.com)

Source: The Economist

Source: The Economist