Curious Bends – lions, rural women, antibiotics and more

1. In a quiet corner in India trains are being slowed down as the population of Asiatic lions grows

The population of Asiatic lions in their only habitat in the Gir National Park has more than doubled since 1974. Their new enemies are not poachers or hunters, but trains. Six lions were run over by trains in 2013 alone. Sadly, many railroads still run through animal sanctuaries and India’s needs will force future railroads to be laid through more protected land. There is now a proposal to slow down such trains, but it is not clear how much that will help the lions. (2 min read)

2. Dumb phones help increase profits for self-employed women

The dumb phone is at centre of a revolution among one self-employed women’s group in Gujarat. These women get raw agricultural produce from farmers at market prices, process, package and sell them through the RUral DIstribution (RUDI) network of 3,000 other women. After the association overseeing this cooperative installed an SMS-based information management system, efficiencies spiked by 20% and income by 100%. (6 min read)

3. Toilets are urgently needed in rural India, but don’t expect that it will deter rapists

The horrendous incident in Uttar Pradesh is detracting attention from the real solutions to separate societal issues. Rape is a complex problem, which requires policy intervention. Toilet usage doesn’t. While the government has invested heavily in constructing toilets, its use remains dismal because of lack of education. Many families prefer to take a dump in the open even if they can afford to install a latrine back home. (8 min read)

4. Holy sites ‘may offer clues to antibiotic resistance

If you think a dip in the water of Rishikesh or Haridwar will purify you of your sins, think again. You might just be gargling some bacteria with antibiotic resistant genes. A study by an IIT-Delhi professor shows how annual human confluences that pollute these venerated waters could be a hub for the exchange and distribution of these genes, giving a cultural context to a rising global ill. (4 min read)

5. The Pakistani women behind the official FIFA World Cup balls

If Ronaldo gets Brazuca—the official ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup—to swing perfectly, it is because of the ball’s enhanced aerodynamic properties. But how likely are you to have known that it probably came from a small company in Pakistan, where they are sewed by unskilled women working? This isn’t a story of harassment but of outsourcing and its capacity to empower. (5 min read)

6. How Indian might be shaping rules to deal with international patents

Developments in India are leading to “a worldwide deteriorating trend on intellectual property,” according to a senior counsel for US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. Does he think India is the leader of a pack? Possibly, as Brazil and Argentina have started to pay attention to an Indian law that refuses to patent drugs which have seen only incremental improvement. They must have noticed it keeps prices down and the pharma lobby on the edge of its broad seat. (3 min read)

Chart of the week

“From 1980-2007, only 15% of hurricanes, typhoons, and the like troubled the residents of low-income countries, but 68% of people killed by these systems died in poorer nations.” What these numbers tells us is that climate change is going to be more unfair to poorer people. The chart shows the vulnerability of countries to climate change. See how very vulnerable are developing nations clustered near the the equator, where climate change effects are typically more intense. More on Vox.

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Email curiousbends@gmail.com with story suggestions or feedback. For more such stories, find curators Mukunth and Akshat on Twitter.

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