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Political Cartooning: Footing into new ground

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Online platforms are full of editorial cartoons… the era of newspaper cartooning is over. Indian editorial cartooning has entered the world of online platforms.

by Sorit Gupto

Political Cartooning: That was somewhere in the early 90s. There was a panel discussion held in the Boimela or the Kolkata book fair where a number of famous Bangla cartoonists were invited for a discussion. The topic of the discussion was ‘Relevance of cartoons in the newspaper’. Well, besides cartoonists other panel members included a senior journalist associated with a popular Bangla daily and a cartoon collector.

At that time the newspapers, both Bangla and English, stopped appointing cartoonists except one. In other words, most of the speakers of the panel discussion – the cartoonists – were essentially jobless. The only cartoonist associated with a newspaper was absent because of some health issues. These details are necessary because what was supposed to be a panel discussion on ‘Relevance of cartoons in the newspaper’, rapidly transformed into a grievance redressal event of the (jobless) cartoonists. There was a general agreement among the cartoonists that for a long time newspapers have simply stopped publishing editorial cartoons but they were clueless (almost) about why? But someone had to be blamed. Imagine who was held responsible for the joblessness of cartoonists? Bapi Chanachur (a dalmoth/mixture brand)!

Now, one may ask how a humble brand of dalmoth/mixture has anything to do with the art of cartooning in the first place. Well, according to the panel of the speakers (the cartoonists) it was this dalmoth/mixture brand whose advertisements were eating up the space for the cartoons!

Not only the viewers, even myself – as a young person struggling to become a political cartoonist – this was one of the greatest mysteries of the known universe. However, it’s also a fact that the speakers were once famous cartoonists but now they are unemployed.

What went wrong with the profession/art of political cartooning?

The answer is a little complicated because there is more than one factor associated with the absence of editorial cartoons in the newspapers. There are a hundred ways to tell this story. This one is mine.Printing in general and printing of daily newspapers, in particular, is a European concept. The oldest direct handwritten news sheets circulated widely in Venice as early as 1566 carrying information on wars and politics in Italy and Europe. The Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, printed from 1605 onwards by Johann Carolus in Strasbourg, is often recognised as the first newspaper.

In India and even in Asia things were different. There were royal chroniclers or royal historians but the concept of the news presented in printed form for the consumption of the masses is completely an alien thing to Indian society.The British brought the concept of Newspapers in India. Published for two years, between 1780 and 1782, Hicky’s Bengal Gazette or the Original Calcutta General Advertiser, an English-language weekly newspaper published in Kolkata (then Calcutta), is claimed to be the first newspaper printed in India.

Newspaper, radio and film are considered to be the basic means of modern communication but there is a huge difference between newspaper, radio, and film. Take for example the technology of motion pictures. In 1888 England, Louis Le Prince of Leeds, Britain, filmed Roundhay Garden Scene, believed to be the first motion picture recorded and within fifteen years we had our own motion picture Raja Harishchandra.

The first voice and music signals heard over radio waves were transmitted in December 1906 from Brant Rock, Massachusetts (just south of Boston). In June 1923 the Radio Club of Bombay made the first ever broadcast in the country. The gap was just seventeen years.

But for the newspaper, we had to wait for more than a century. Why? Because of the widespread illiteracy. You don’t need a literate person to enjoy a radio programme or a film but for a newspaper, a literate person is a basic necessity.

Since the art of editorial cartooning is closely associated with the newspaper, one can’t expect an editorial cartoon without a newspaper. However, there were some art forms like Kalighat paintings where that ridiculed the contemporary social hypocrisies but their reach and influence were minuscules compared to a newspaper for all practical reasons.

Political/editorial cartooning was an integral part of a daily newspaper from its inception and it had its own reasons. Most importantly the reasons were purely technical. Nowadays we can’t imagine a big story/news in a newspaper without a photographs but historically things were completely different.

As a part of the content of the newspaper, the pictures are late comers. To put things into a perspective, although publishing since 1664, the newspaper from Mantu (Italy), Gazzetta di Mantova is the oldest living newspaper in the world the first-ever photograph appeared in the newspaper on July 1st, 1848. The name of the newspaper was L’Illustration, a French weekly periodical that published a photograph that showed Parisian streets barricaded due to a worker’s strike known as the June Days Uprising. In other words, the newspapers had to wait for roughly two centuries to print a photograph. This late entry of a picture in a newspaper was due to undeveloped (printing) technology.

But again the all-text newspapers were simply boring to the readers. At that juncture, the art of cartooning came to the rescue. Unlike a photograph (having halftones) cartoons were essentially line drawings and that’s why it is much easier to print. The first cartoon appeared in Ben Franklin’s newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754 entitled “Join, or Die,” depicting the eight colonies as a snake divided in eight pieces.

As a matter of fact, editorial cartooning had served two purposes for a newspaper. Being an image it broke the monotony of the text-heavy page and at the same time being an art form innately capable of ridiculing the powerful it had a popular demand among the readers. Soon cartoons became the most important content of the front page of the newspapers and the readers got cartoonists like Honoré Daumier, Rube Goldberg, Thomas Nast, James Thurber to name a few.

The high stature of the editorial cartoonists continued for the next one hundred and fifty years or so. Not a small time for any profession at all. Isn’t it? However, this profession saw a number of challenges. In India the most severe attack was the emergency when even newspapers were banned let alone publishing cartoons. But the irony is this was the time, India witnessed some of the finest editorial cartoons of all time.

But this scenario was about to change soon after the last decade of the twenty-first century and the onslaught came not in the form of some ‘chanachoor manufacturer’ but from the advancement of the printing technology combined with a number of softwares. By the last decades of the 20th century, we got a number of graphic software and offset printing which enabled us to print pictures easily. First, it started with black & white pictures and thanks to the rapid development in printing technology newspapers were able to print colour pictures within a decade. It was like a revolution and like most revolutions it was a bloodbath for a section of the newspaper professionals.

With the revolution in the technology in the newspaper something very untoward (or the obvious thing) had happened. The editorial cartoonists who were ruling the roost were suddenly shown the door. Though it was very unexpected for the cartoonists but equally obvious for a newspaper. Why?

The new technology enabled the newspapers to print pictures which enhanced the news value of the story. Can we imagine a sporting event without a picture? No. It’s true with any other subject. A picture is much more desirable for the newspaper. If it costs the job of a cartoonist it would be a very little price for the newspaper and they were more than ready to pay the bill. Interestingly, the software that put an end to the profession of the cartoonists also ate up other professions associated with the newspapers like pesters, page makers, and proofreaders to name a few. Nonetheless like any revolution in history it also created something absolutely new. For the first time we came to know someone named designers, creative directors, creative heads, etc. Till the last decades of the twentieth century, the design of the page was the last thing to consider but thanks to these software and the ability to print colour pages, availability of different fonts, etc. the aspect of the design and the look of the newspaper took the centre stage.

Though it’s a different story altogether. Let’s return to the profession of cartooning.

We know that the first massive attack on the Indian press was the emergency, but we seldom acknowledge the fact that the time of emergency was one of the finest time periods for the art of cartooning. We experienced some of the boldest and most beautiful cartoons during turbulent times of emergency. The momentum Indian editorial cartooning gained during the emergency continued till the last decade of the twenty-first century. The decade of the 90s is a watershed moment for modern history. This was the decade when we experienced the fall of the Berlin wall, the fall and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union, the end of the cold war and changing of world politics from a bipolar world into a mono-polar world with a hegemony of the US as a nation. The market economy established itself as the only ‘economic thought’. That was the time when the end of history was declared.

In domestic politics in India, the 90s was the era when after a series of political turmoil, economic liberalisation was introduced. It was also the decade of the destruction of the Babri Masjid which unleashed a new paradigm in Indian politics. The profession of cartooning thrives in the vibrant political scenario and needless to say every big change in the political canvas both on the national scale and the international scale eventually resulted in a new scope for political cartoonists. Going by the development mentioned above one may assume that the 90s onwards was the golden period for political cartooning in India but sadly the reality was completely different on the practical ground because during the last decade of the 21st century new technology and design software were introduced and soon the cartoonists were dethroned.

Soon cartoonists were transformed into ‘endangered’ species if not ‘extinct species’ like their pester, type-setter and proofreader colleagues.

However, this tide was changed with the advent of online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and last but the most important gadget the smartphone. There was a time when a set of technology devastated the art form of editorial cartooning, but it is another set of technology that has given a new life to editorial cartoonists. Now, they don’t have to get approval from an editor to publish their cartoons. With just a click of the mouse, s/he can share the cartoons with the whole world. Besides this, there is another advantage with this art form, that is, different cartoonists may develop a cartoon on a common topic but no two cartoonists will come up with the same idea. Moreover, no two cartoonists will draw a character, any politician the same. Every cartoonist has his/her own style and own pattern of thinking. These two factors make a cartoon absolutely exclusive. Contrary to Narendra Modi or for that matter any individual will look the same in every photograph irrespective of who the photographer is. That is another reason why social sites are flooded with cartoons nowadays. Social sites also provide no restrictions for a cartoonist, at least directly.

There are a number of Dos and Don’ts for a cartoonist working with a newspaper. Restrictions are sometimes direct and most of the time indirect. Have you ever noticed that the face of the PM is not there in the cartoon anymore? It’s ridiculous, to say the least because it’s the PM or the President of the country who is always supposed to be the prime target of the cartoonists. Strange enough nowadays, these are the Opposition leaders who are getting more and more space in the cartoon than the PM or other leaders of the ruling party. This abnormality is the new normal in the organised newspaper sector. The story is completely different in the unorganised information sector.

This little space is enjoying the freedom of expression like never before. Not only that, common people/readers share these cartoons making them viral. Online platforms are full of editorial cartoons. To cut a long story short, the era of newspaper cartooning is over. Indian editorial cartooning has entered the world of online platforms. However, things are not that easy. We need to develop a viable revenue model. There are some revenue models like subscriptions that are gaining ground.

Only time will tell what will happen in the future, I am more than sure that now no cartoonist (or a group of cartoonists) will blame some Bapi chanachoor for his unemployment. Welcome to the open market of online space. We the cartoonists have managed to get our permanent space in this super big bazaar. Now, we have to develop a strategy to sell our product.

(The Statesman/ANN)

(Sorit Gupto is Chief Cartoonist in Down to Earth Magazine)



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Opinion

Khan’s new war game

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By Zahid Hussain

IMRAN Khan’s latest change of tack has caught his opponents by surprise. For months, the federal government had braced itself for a siege, and was reinforcing security around the capital. But the PTI’s decision to call off the march and dissolve the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies has changed the entire scenario.It all happened on the eve of the change of guard in Pindi, lending a curious twist to the power game. The change of strategy came in the garrison city as the climax to the march that was aimed at forcing the government to agree to early elections.

It is apparent that the PTI’s months-long campaign could not achieve any of its objectives. But will Khan’s new move to checkmate the fledgling dispensation work? The dissolution of the assemblies in the two most powerful provinces and the possible pulling out of PTI members from the other provincial legislatures could certainly deepen the political crisis, making it harder for the fractious ruling coalition to survive.

However, it may not be the end of the game. While the PTI leadership has approved the decision, one is still waiting for its implementation. Apparently, there should not be any complication with the two chief ministers on board, but nothing can be taken for granted until it’s done. Notwithstanding its claims, the ruling coalition at the centre seems to have no power to block the dissolution. The option of governor’s rule may not be effective in this situation.

Indeed, the dissolution of the provincial assemblies will not constitutionally bind the federal government to dissolve the National Assembly and call for general elections. But elections in the two provinces within 90 days would change the entire political dynamics.Dissolution of the assemblies in Punjab and KP will deepen the political crisis.

Meanwhile, the PTI has also decided to approach the Speaker of the National Assembly to accept the resignations of its remaining lawmakers. With the PTI members absenting themselves from its proceedings, the National Assembly had already lost its effectiveness; the acceptance of the PTI resignations would only add to its dysfunctionality.The entire episode is set to completely destabilise the system. Can a weak coalition government withstand such mounting political pressure?

What is most alarming is the impending economic collapse and looming threat of sovereign default further complicating the situation. An inept government and its clueless finance minister do not seem to have any ability to deliver the country out of this mess. The rising current account deficit and runaway inflation have stifled economic growth.

Heightening political instability makes it much more difficult to stem the rot. The country is on a slippery slope with no hope of things getting better. We are witnessing what former finance minister Miftah Ismail describes as a “consistent downward slide”. But the dire warning about the sinking ship is drowned in the cacophony of a political blame game.

It’s not just a political or economic crisis; it’s a crisis of state in the midst of anarchy. With eroding state authority, the situation appears extremely grim. The worsening political instability has given space to non-state actors.There has been an alarming rise in militancy in the former tribal districts and other parts of KP. Banned militant outfits are back in action in some districts taking advantage of weakening state authority and political instability.

The return of militants to Swat valley more than a decade after they were driven out from the region by the Pakistan military indicates a failure of our national security policy. The reported presence of heavily armed men is reminiscent of the bad old days of Pakistani Taliban control in 2008. The resurgence of the militant network in Swat does not seem to be an isolated phenomenon. The TTP is now active in the former tribal areas too, particularly Waziristan.

Curiously, their activities seem to have increased after Pakistani security agencies entered into peace negotiations with the militant outfit operating from their sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan earlier this year.

There is a strong suspicion that the militants returned to Swat as a result of a deal. Most of them had fled to Afghanistan after the military operation in 2009. They have reportedly been joined by local radical groups.In the midst of political chaos in the country, the TTP has called off a tenuous ceasefire and ordered the militants to launch attacks across the country. There is nothing surprising about the announcement; the ceasefire had never been implemented.

The so-called peace negotiations seem to have given space to the militants. According to media reports, the interior ministry has warned of some TTP factions joining the militant Islamic State group.Thousands of people have turned out in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent weeks to protest against the resurgence of militancy and the inaction of the security agencies.

The residents have not forgotten the days when the rampaging Taliban had established a reign of terror in the area. The reassertion of militant groups could further destabilise the country.

Meanwhile, in the midst of chaos, the country has a new army command. The transition may have defused the controversy over the appointment but the challenges before the new chief are daunting. Although the security establishment has pledged to keep itself out of power politics, it may not be that easy, given how deeply the military is entrenched in the power structure.

There is always the danger of it getting sucked into the fray, with the political forces at war with each other.

Imran Khan’s latest move to dissolve the provincial assemblies may have pushed the ruling coalition into a corner but it has also intensified the political confrontation and deepened the chaos.The former prime minister can force the government to agree to an election date a few months earlier than the end of the National Assembly term. But it is doubtful that this would calm matters.

A major question is whether the warring sides can sit together to agree on a mechanism for free and fair elections. More important is how to deal with the worsening economic crisis and the resurgence of militancy that present a serious threat to national security.

(The Dawn/ANN)
The writer is an author and journalist.

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Opinion

Bali Declaration: Is it the clarion call to #endTobacco?

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By SHOBHA SHUKLA, BOBBY RAMAKANT – CNS

Tobacco use is among the unhealthy behaviours that result in preventable burden of cancers, strokes, and heart diseases, said Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Indonesia’s health minister. In Indonesia tobacco use is the second largest risk factor for untimely deaths, he added. World Health Organization had earlier underlined that without clamping tobacco use, we cannot deliver on the promises enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Indonesia has walked the talk on building a grounds-up movement against tobacco. In 2011, twelve Mayors had come together to forge a Mayors’ Alliance to advance tobacco control in their respective cities. Today in 2022, there are over 150 Mayors of different Indonesian cities that are part of this Alliance, who are adapting as well as enforcing local laws to reduce tobacco use, said Dr Bima Arya Sugiarto, Co-Chair of Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT) and Mayor of Bogor City in Indonesia. “Mayors’ Alliance has been the main driver for banning tobacco advertising and promotion, as well as preventing tobacco industry interference in public policy” he said.

Both were speaking at the opening ceremony of 7th Asia Pacific Summit of Mayors (7th APCAT Summit or #APCAT2022) being held in Bali, Indonesia.Another sterling example of grounds-up tobacco control movement in Indonesia is the fact that “as of November 2022, over 300 cities have adopted the local smokefree laws,” said Dr Bima Arya.

That is why Indonesian health minister called for stronger partnerships “to reduce tobacco use” and “expand the on-the-ground effective programmes for tobacco control.”

“I would like to extend my gratitude to Mayors who have passed local smokefree laws. It is important for central government to collaborate with local governments to achieve tobacco control,” said the Indonesian health minister.

Despite alarming levels of tobacco industry interference, it is indeed commendable that Mayors and sub-national leaders of Indonesia have been able to advance tobacco control.

Agrees Kelly Larson of Bloomberg Philanthropies: “We acknowledge the role of sub-national leaders in Indonesia and commend the Mayors of over 300 cities who have passed local smokefree laws, that protect 75% of the country’s population from the hazards of tobacco smoke.” Kelly Larson shared that prioritising tobacco control and public health in New York resulted in increased life expectancy of 2 years for its citizens.

Not surprisingly, tobacco industry and its front groups are trying to create hurdles when local sub-national leaders try to advance tobacco control and health promotion. Effective enforcement of strong tobacco control laws hurt the industry profits. For instance, in 2017, Bogor City had become the first Indonesian city to implement a point-of-sale tobacco display ban as part of its smokefree law. But soon after a legal battle ensued. Finally, in February 2020, the city of Bogor won the court case when Supreme Court had upheld its ban on the display of tobacco products at point-of-sale.

While exposing how tobacco industry approaches election candidates to influence public policy, Mayor of Bogor City Dr Bima Arya said in 7th APCAT Summit opening session that “every candidate of local elections was approached by the tobacco industry…”

#APCAT2022 Declaration gives hope for a better tomorrow

“We, the delegates of the 7th Asia Pacific Summit of Mayors, recognize that APCAT is a vital platform to share experiences, shape local actions, and secure greater leadership as well as look for synergistic actions between specific health and development programmes.

We commit to accelerate progress towards eventually ending tobacco use, as well as preventing the avoidable burden of NCDs, eliminating Tuberculosis, and improving synergy between health and development programmes and promoting integrated responses where possible, thereby reducing disease burden and averting untimely deaths, by:

– Leading effective implementation of tobacco control programmes that include smokefree environments; a complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship; promotion of larger graphic health warnings with plain packaging on tobacco packs; smoking cessation programmes; and a ban on electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products, shisha, and other similar products;

– Working with national government and policy makers to raise taxes and prices on unhealthy commodities (such as, but not limited to, tobacco products, alcohol, sugary and sweetened beverages);

– Ensuring accountability to prevent interferences and rejecting funding, logistics, donations, or grants from, and partnerships with, any entity related to any unhealthy commodity industries (such as, but not limited to, tobacco, alcohol, sugary and sweetened beverages);

– Investing in tobacco control for prevention of tuberculosis, non-communicable disease, and stunting. It includes smoking cessation in TB and NCD clinics, and family health programs; universal screening for TB and NCDs

– Adopting One Health approaches and processes to ensure that “a healthy city is a resilient city”.

Every tobacco-related death is preventable

The 7th Asia Pacific Summit of Mayors, which opened today in Bali, Indonesia, is jointly organised by the Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT), Ministry of Health, Republic of Indonesia; Ministry of Home Affairs, Republic of Indonesia; National Centre for Health Promotion, Ministry of Health, Cambodia; Bloomberg Philanthropies; Cities of Bogor, Denpasar and Klungkung of Indonesia; Balanga City, Philippines; Association of All Health Offices Indonesia (ADINKES), Indonesia Mayor and Regent Alliance, Indonesian Public Health Association; Udayana Central; Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Vital Strategies; Tobacco Free Generation International, The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union); APCAT Parliamentarians and Asia Pacific Media Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT Media).

Over 1000 national and sub-national leaders, public health experts are attending the 7th APCAT Summit in Bali, Indonesia in person and virtually. Participants include mayors, governors, ministers, members of parliament, tobacco control advocates, and media from across the Asia Pacific region.

Over 8.67 million people die of tobacco use every year (out of which one million die due to second and third-hand tobacco smoke). Despite the crippling onslaught of COVID-19 public health emergency and humanitarian crises, tobacco industry has heightened its deceptive strategies to protect and expand its markets. In addition to the mountainous death toll and avoidable disease burden, tobacco use has also resulted in an annual economic loss of nearly USD 2 trillion to the global economy.

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Opinion

Achieving food security:Integrated plan necessary

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BY Dr. C. S. Weeraratna
csweera@sltnet.lk

According to United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, “Food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Pogramme (WFP) estimate that 6.3 million Sri Lankans are facing moderate to severe acute food insecurity. This could be attributed mainly to shortage of food and high food prices. The latest WFP assessment reveals that 86 percent of families are buying cheaper, less nutritious food, eating less and in some cases skipping meals altogether. This unfortunate situation is the result of many factors among which are poverty, unemployment, decrease in land productivity, scarcity of foreign exchange reserves, depreciation of the local currency, etc. The report further states that the production of maize, mostly used as animal feed, is about 40 percent below the past five-year average, with negative effects on poultry and livestock production. Likewise, the production of vegetables, fruit, and export-oriented crops, such as tea, rubber, coconut, and spices, is well below average, causing a significant decline in households’ income and export revenues. The total cereal import requirement in 2022 is estimated at 2.2 million mt. In the first six months of 2022, more than 930,000 mt of cereals were imported, leaving an outstanding import requirement of 1.27 million mt. Given the persisting macroeconomic challenges, there is a high risk that the remaining import requirement will not be met.

In view of this situation, President of Sri Lanka has launched a programme to ensure food security in the country. The vision of this Food Security Programme is to ensure every citizen has access to enough food at a reasonable price to lead an active and healthy life and to ensure that no citizen of the country should starve due to lack of food and no child should be a victim of malnutrition.

Food Security was not an issue in the past. Even a few years ago we were almost self sufficient in rice. But, the foolish decision of the former President of Sri Lanka Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa banning imports of fertilizers such as urea and other agrochemicals affected local production of rice causing us to import rice which has resulted in lowering of food security level. Not only rice production, production of maize, mostly used as animal feed, vegetables, fruit, and export-oriented crops, such as tea, rubber, coconut, and spices, have been affected.

National food insecurity is due to many factors. Among these are wild elephants roaming in some of the dry zone villages causing death to many and destroying crops, Chronic Kidney Disease affecting thousands of farmers in the dry zone, inadequate water supply, lack of reasonable transport facilities, non availability of fertilizers such as urea, and other agrochemicals at correct times, inability to sell the produce at reasonable prices, land degradation etc. House-hold Food Security is closely related to the economy which has deteriorated during the last few years mainly due to drop-in crop production and several other factors. Prices of most food items have been on a steady rise since the last quarter of 2021 and reached a record high in August 2022, with the year-on-year food inflation rate at nearly 94 percent, further limiting the purchasing power of households.

According to Dept. of Census and Statistics around 14.3 % (nearly 3 million) are below poverty level. Unemployment, lack of resource production factors such as land and/or capital are the main factors causing poverty. Ill-health and sickness among family members, addiction to drugs and alcohol, frequently occurring natural disasters such as floods and droughts in some parts of the country, inborn defects such as deformities, blindness, inadequate knowledge on nutrition also tend to affect food security among households.

Land Degradation: One of the important contributory factors for the decline in the productivity of land is Land Degradation. Soil erosion, soil compaction, and nutrition depletion, cause productivity of land to decline, making crop production less profitable. In view of the importance of land degradation, the Ministry of Environment, in 2005, established an expert committee on Land Degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in SL. This committee comprised a number of experts in the field of land management and the main role of the committee was to advice the Ministry of Environment, on issues related to controlling land degradation. At the first national symposium on Land Degradation held in 2010, organized by the Ministry of Environment and the expert committee on Land Degradation, the participants, who were representing many land-related institutions in the country, revealed that a substantial amount of soil/ha/year is lost due to soil erosion. They were of the view that urgent action such as implementation of proper land use planning and the soil conservation and environment act etc. need to be taken by the relevant organizations to control land degradation.

Milk is an important food item for people, especially children. The total annual expenditure on importing milk and other dairy products is around Rs 40 billion. If we are to reduce our trade deficit which is around US. $ 10 billion annually and increase food security, increasing local milk production is important. To increase local milk production, a few years ago, the Government brought down 5000 heifers from New Zealand and Australia. The heifers imported were distributed among middle-scale entrepreneurs in Nuwara Eliya, Matale, Kandy, Kurunegala and Badulla districts. According to newspaper reports the Government had spent Rs. 520,000 per heifer and sold it to farmers at a lower rate of Rs. 200,000. It has been reported that some of the imported cows suffer from Bovine Viral Disease (BVD) and around 200 out of the 5,000 heifers imported to Sri Lanka have died without contributing to local milk production. Simply importing high yielding cattle will not increase milk production, unless they are properly fed and appropriate veterinary services are provided. Cattle imported from countries such as New Zealand and Australia are not acclimatized to local conditions and hence their productivity tends to decline. The farmers complain of insufficient pasturelands to feed the cattle. There is no appropriate programme to cultivate improved pastures such as Brachiaria sp. Napier and CO3. Pasture grasses can be grown under coconut but there was no effective programme to improve pasture production. It is foolish to import cattle to enhance milk production in the country without implementing an integrated programme to upgrade local cattle, making available cattle feed and improving veterinary practices in the country.

There are numerous organization in the country involved in various aspects of food security which is related to several Sustainable Development (SD) Goals. Authorities such as SDG council, Agric. Ministry, Paddy Marketing Board, Institute of Post Harvest Technology, Pulses and Grain Research and Production Authority, Research Institutes etc., need to take cognizance of all these issues and develop an integral plan and implement it if they are keen to achieve Food Security in the country.

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