Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why not telecast veg.prices ?

It's a thought. They telecast gold/silver prices on daily news bulletins.Why can't they, vegetable prices? We don't buy gold everyday;we do, brinjal, beans, carrot or whatever. Prices of vegetables fluctuate. A daily telecast would help not just consumers, but small farmers who lack information on the right prices their produce fetch in the market.

Prof.E Vadivel of the Coimbatore farming university says their Extension Centre gathers the relevant market information. They have in place market analysts in 13 major vegetable wholesale centres in southern states, sending daily reports on prices of fruits and vegetables. Data so gathered is compiled for publication in the university website in Tamil and English.

But then our farming community isn't into the Internet. The university also puts out data on SMS for access through mobile phones. Dr. Vadivel reckoned that nearly 3,000 farmers access market data on their cell phones.Data on prevailing prices of as many as 50 vegetables and 20 different fruits in leading vegetable markets is made available by 1 p m daily. It is there online, waiting to be tapped by our local radio,TV channels and print media for the benefit of consumers and farmers alike.Contact information: Dr E Vadivel, project officer, e-Extension Centre - phone 0422-6611383 ; e-mail -

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Health - Failing at both ends.

The News that 50% of world's malnourished children live in India , along with the finding that India is likely to become the' diabetic capitol' of the world is significant. It means we are not able to manage Health at both ends of the spectrum. In one side we have become the 'Havenots' of the world, with suceesive Goverments both at State and Centre dubiously planning and implementing what we have achieved for our children. It is quite a shame after 60 years of Independence we have not been able to take care our children, quite a few of them die in the first year itself ( Again a record of sorts ) or if they survive death, are malnourished.
On the other side'the Haves' do not take care of their health resulting in entry of new diabetics every year. Till recently, very little was done in spreading the message the havoc it can cause.
Coupled with the fact that Asians and Indians are prediposed to certain heart conditions, diabetes will make it worse for quite a large chunk of population.
It is a paradox that we have major problems at both ends of the health spectrum with little, very little being done by successsive Governments.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Ideas 'Mela' in Mysore

Four-day TED-India conference to be held in Mysore (Nov.4-7) is reportedly sold out. The meet is expected to attract people from 46 countries, according to a media report. With some 40 speakers on the card, drawn from varied fields - scientist, artist, playwright, photographer, marine biologist and sports commentator - the event promises to be a mela for ideas.

As a resident of the host town, my concern, or rather my poser to organisers, is: Shouldn't local residents be allowed to benefit from the proceedings ? In a global event of this nature local enthusiasts tend to get crowded out by those from elsewhere. And, understandably, the organisers face severe space constraints, however big the venue.

Wouldn't it be nice if the they could arrange to have the conference proceedings screened through closed-circuit network in another hall - Kalamandira or some other place - for the benefit of local audience ? Or they could tie-up with the city TV channel for live-telecast of TEDIndia, as they do with Dasara concerts held at the Mysore palace grounds.

Would local residents be interested? How would TED proceedings be of local public interest ? I can't answer this question better than TEDIndia co-host Lakshmi Pratury. She says she would like those attending the Mysore conference to take back three things:
1) No one who sits through a talk or seminar is with it all the time, a hundred percent. Even if they stay focused on what they hear, for a brief moment , they should feel it is a moment when they would rather be here than anywhere else;
2) Her expectation is that on gatherings like this one meets at least one person who becomes a friend for life; and
3) Her hope is that those who sit through the proceedings would pick up an idea or two that is not necessarily related their prime interest.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Case for a farming channel

Canegrowers association in Mysore and neighbouring districts publish a farm weekly - Raitha Dwani - to share information on farming, notably, cane and paddy. The one-year-old publication plans to increase its subscribers, from 1,000 to 5,000 farmers in six months. Much too modest a goal;and, presumably, not cost effective.

Scene - 2
In neighbouring Tamilnadu they have a website - - that seeks to bridge buyer-seller gap caused by lack of information on commodity prices, poor marketing, exploitative middle-men and inadequate infrastructure. Online market such as connects buyers and sellers for meaningful trade.

The website provides information pertaining to commodity prices, cropping pattern, seeds and fertiliser availability, agro-based business opportunities, veterinary, organic farming, self employment training, herbal medicines, value addition in farm produce and farm credit.But then the digital divide and illiteracy limits the reach of cyberfarming among farmers in our country. An overwhelming majority that needs such farming guidance stay untouched.

A Tamil channel - Makkal TV - runs a phone-in programme - Uzhavar Sandhai -that covers the same ground, and, given widespread TV viewership and extensive use of cell phone even in rural areas, telefarming of the type adopted by Makkal TV has a reach among illiterate farmers.

At a recent Uzhavar Sandhai programme a farming expert,responding to viewers' questions, came up such info.:

1)Fruit-growers in Cumbum (TN), where they grow grapes on 2,000 plus acres, could come together to put up a juice-making unit. In the absence of such value-addition the farmers ae constrained to sell their produce for Rs.15 a kg.

2)Those planning to grow lemon would do well to visit Gudur (AP) a well known lemon growing area.

3) A retired army officer in Chennai has set up a unit that markets lemon concentrate in small sachets, for making two glasses of juice. The sachets can be retailed through grocery stores, pavement paan-bidi shops, and platform venders in railway stations.

4) With ever-increasing vegetable prices, people in cities take to roof-top kitchen gardening. A variety of vegetables, and spinach, can be grown on roof-top, with two fot deep soil cover. The expert on TV spoke of someone who has grown plantains on roof-top.

During an hour long programme they can't take very many questions from viewers. Besides, Makkal TV runs Uzhavar Sandhai only once a week, Friday. There may be a case for such interactive programming on a daily basis; even for a full-fledged farming channel. We have channels dedicated to healthcare, religious discourse and bhajans. Why not a TV channel to address concerns of farmers - about marketing produce, procurement of seeds, fertiliser, opportunities for agro-business, horticulture, livestock and farm equipment maintenence.

Ad. and sponsorship may be an issue that inhibits private channels. Maybe Doordarshan, which is not ratings driven, could think in terms of a full-fledged farming channel. Apart from serving the interests of farmers, such a krishi channel would get more ad. revenue for DD than the Lok Sabha channel.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Action on 'Household energy audit'

G V Krishnan, in his previous post has suggested a household energy audit with the help of school children. I have acted on this and have started a small program for school children. Vidyavardhaka school in Kuvempunagar, Mysore showed tremendous interest in the energy efficiency education program and asked me to conduct a program for 7th grade. Today was the first class and the students seemed to take it really well. Here is the presentation on slideshare.

More on this at the Sapgreen blog. Next week, I will be continuing this activity at the same school and also trying to get more schools to provide me this kind of an opportunity.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Household energy audit

Mobilising Mysore students for doing household energy audit in their neighbourhood during weekends is a good idea. But how do we make it happen? Or as Dr Bhamy Shenoy put it, who will bell the cat?

The Green entrepreneur Ashwin has offered to draft a project paper; and also conduct a pilot programme to give us a sense of its working - 'I know of a school (Vidyavardhaka, Kuvempunagar) which has many eco-conscious teachers'. He proposes to persude them to adopt energy audit procedure as part of extra-curricular activity of their students.

According to Ashwin, getting students to do energy audit in their own houses as a class project would would help us take the energy audit scheme forward.With a bit of publicity we could persuade more schools to adopt the programme.Rotary Schools and Kendriya Vidyalalya appear suitable candidates

Naveen, who has worked on projects involving students in his locality - Laughing Waters - suggests we focus on pre-defined areas,to start with, for tangible results. He has in mind apartment blocks, where kids can be put to work on collecting data on energy usage/wastage in apartments and the common areas in their residential complex.

A closer look at the use of household appliances - TV, washing machine/drier, water for bath/flushng,light bulbs - would help in drawing up a checklist for a comprehensive energy audit. Here is a link to a piece on energy saving tips.

Dr Shenoy reckons a household energy audit project ought to be promoted by Chesco. In the US,he says,the power supply companies are mandated to support such initiative. Dr.Shenoy says we can count on help and guidance from an expert in energy audit and BARC scientist,Dr D V Gopinath.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Students summer jobs

Read about a California non-profit that trains students to help neighbours go green. Training is offered to those who opt for summer vacation job,for which the
students get paid - $10 an hour. The students, after a crash-course in household energy audit, make house-calls. And each pair can do up to 12 households in a day, spending about 30 minutes going through a checklist of items that include water connections, electrical fittings, sockets used for household appliances.

Energy audit includes:
1) Checking water meter and water pressure;
2) testing faucets and toilets for flow and possible leaks;
3)suggesting installation of water-saving faucet aerators and high-pressure showerheads (done free under sponsorship);
4)replacing conventional lightbulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs';
5)checking electrical wiring,notably,in the attic;and
6)offering guidance on energy-saving practices such as solar panelling, usage of recyclable items, and tree-planting.

Sponsorship for such programme could come from government agencies related to youth welfare, renewable resources;coporate social reponsibility projects of
companies, builders and architects associations and local chambers of commerce.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The thamboolam is a mandatory take home at all Indian festivals and ceremonies, at weddings especially. The thamboolam bag (made of plastic, cloth or some polyester fibre, rarely of paper) contains a coconut or grapefruit, a couple of betel leaves, a packet of betel nuts – all auspicious tokens.

I don’t know what others do, but when I come home with the thamboolam, I put away the betel nut packet to be passed on, throw away the betel leaves which have started wilting, and use the coconut to cook. The bag if sturdy enough, will be reused as a carrier bag, that is if one doesn’t mind being the publicity person for the caterer. I have often felt that the fancy bags are a waste - especially when I see the grandeur of the bags – so much money spent on things no one really wants.

Long before the advent of plastic, the thamboolam was packed in ordinary paper bags on which the bride and groom’s names were printed. As plastic came into vogue, thin bags were used. Little by little the bags grew in size and show…….

So I was heartened when I read this news . Mayor of Chennai M. Subramaniam introduced an innovative concept at the wedding of his son recently, one that can be emulated by all. He gave away as thamboolam 3000 saplings to his guests to take away and plant. This delighted all environmentalists and eco-conscious citizens – zero pollution, plus greening.

The saplings are all avenue trees, and he had made arrangements with a nursery for the saplings to be readied by the time of the wedding.

I loved it, and I am sure GVK fellow blogger, who has been pushing for distribution of saplings on all possible occasions will too. Many of us can follow this trend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lisa's Bangalore connection

Tinu, 7, hyper-active; fond of chicken biryani; wants to grow up to be a policeman.
(below) Santosh,12, quiet; noodles; engineer.

They are among Lisa Morais' 39 children she came to 'adopt' during her volunteering stint at a Bangalore orphanage last summer. Her work triggered the spirit of giving in the public-spirited Suresh, who messaged Lisa, saying he had decided to donate part of his pay for the uplift of the orphans and the disabled.
Other messages : 1) I am relocating to Bangalore and interested to do some voluntary work for children and senior citizens - Nash.

2) I am a montessori teacher;want to help disabled work for them. Where I can go for this, in Bangalore - Shanthi

3) I want to stay with and teach orphanage students,doing a day job to earn my living - Kamal

Who is this Lisa ? A New Hampshire school teacher who did four months of volunteer work at an orphanage in Bangalore. The experience so impacted Lisa that, on her return to the US, she organised fund-raising events, made slide-show presentations, and set up a blog to spread community awareness about the orphanage.

Vincy (eight months)
The senior most, Sugandhi,16

Bangalore-based Grace Fellowship Charitable Trust runs a home for 39 orphaned and abandoned boys and girls. The youngest is Vincy, eight-months; and the senior most is sixteen-year-old Sugandhi. Lisa lists them all in her blog, with photo and thumb-sketch of their personality traits, their likes, interests, and aspirations. Sugandhi, described as calm, caring and helpful, loves noodles, and wants to be a teacher. So do eight others.

Mini,12. abhi,11.

Others in the orphanage wish to be doctors, engineers, pastors and policemen. Maybe, their exposure to a host of other professionals, such as scientist,aviators,techies and fashion designers, would widen their worldview. Kamal, Nash, Shanti and Suresh would do well to mobilise their professionl contacts to visit the orphanage and interact with the children.
The Bangalore-based Volunteers could work with the orphanage trustees to orgnise group visits of these children to offices and factories to give them a feel of various workplaces. Periodical visits to old people's homes can widen children's horizons.

How we connected with Liza

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Are we really world's largest democracy?

Two news items around the same time should make every Indian feel ashamed.

First, an international study shows that India ranks fourth corrupt country in Asia which is headed by Indonesia followed by Thailand. This is a matter which shames a Nation, but need not, as one of our Prime Ministers once said famously, as corruption is a universal phenomenon and one need not feel ashamed about it!

Secondly, as part of ‘Declaration’ of their assets, most of our politicians have made their wives ‘super- duper’ rich, after a short span in power. No matter which party they belong to, some of the candidates are either ex- convicts or have cases pending against them. But candidates of all parties without exception, have assets disproportionate to their known sources of income by at least, a mile, add or take away a furlong or two! That during the period involved in ‘public service’ they have amassed so much wealth, which, they have coolly transferred on to their wives’ names, who most of times are either illiterates or have hardly involved in any job or vocation .This is the real shame of democracy which our media have largely ignored or have not shown the interest to question these so called ‘Leaders’ how they amassed so much wealth in so short a time. It is so disgusting and amusing to read, some of them with crores as their assets, claim they do not even own a car!

What kind of leadership these selfish, corrupt ‘leaders’ can provide to the Nation? Are we really the worlds’ largest democracy or the world’s largest rogue’s gallery?


Monday, April 6, 2009

A rajpal's plug for Reva

Arunachal Pradesh Governor, General (retd) J.J. Singh drives a Reva on the Raj Bhavan estate at Itanagar. The Raj Bhaven maintains two electric cars. And they have done 20,000 km each.

Though the Bangalore-based car makers have been in business for nearly a decade there are less than 3,000 Revas on road worldwide. The car, they say , can do 80 km on a charge - suited for today's city mobility. It doesn't pollute; it is sized small enough to work its way through Bangalore's traffic jam; has space enough to fit in a family of four - two kids,mom and dad. Reva has an onboard charger, for easy plug-in into any 15 Amp socket at home or at work.

And yet, the urban middle-class hasn't taken to it. Reva is seen, not so much a utility vehicle, as a fashion statement by green-minded freaks . Bangalore, they say, has fewer Revas than London. The car is sold in United Kingdom, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Japan, Srilanka, and it has been test marketed in Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Nepal. Marketing the car in India is about changing middle-class mindset. Besides, Reva remains positioned as the second car in a two-car family.

China, they say, is poised to develop its electric car; and they do things on a massive scale. This development has raised the question whether mass marketing electric car is indeed a green option. In China, 80 percent of electricity comes from coal-driven power plants. And putting electric cars on road would only shift carbon emission from city roads to the areas where power plants are located . Besides, China is associated with dumping its products, cheap in foreign markets.

Where does this leave Reva, which has plans to step up its production to 36,000 cars a year, from its current level of 6,000 cars? Reva can find its future in a solar-driven hybrid car, with provision to plug-in when it gets cloudy. Maybe they are thinking in these terms. Reva's CTO Chetan Maini, in his university days at Michigan had raced a solar electric car from Florida to Michigan. He was also in the General Motors sponsored World Solar Challenge, a 2000-mile drive from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia.

Friday, March 27, 2009

There Is An Alternative!

If you think of the political scene in our country, over and above despair, the query ITNA (Is There No Alternative) invariably brings up the cliché 'TINA'. Perhaps we can now look forward to an immensely possible alternative.
You'll find Hasan Suroor's explanation on exactly such an idea
A Gandhian idea gets a British makeover extremely heartening - a change for the better is after all quite possible. In the UK there is a "high-profile campaign to reduce the dominance of organised political parties and provide a platform for citizens to contest elections as independent candidates".
Captain Gopinath of Air Deccan seems to have precisely these ideals when he decided to enter the election fray.
One would like to think there's still time now for someone to put together the Indian equivalent of The Jury Team - Politics without Parties (started by Sir Paul Judge)

(I realize I may have gone around in circles around this very same idea in these two posts - Leadership in short supply and Fittest minds in Needy Places.)
Cross posted from Feast for Thought

1. The Professionals' Party of India (PPI) is fielding candidates who want to make a difference.
2. Mallika Sarabhai, Meera Sanyal are candidates with intentions of making difference, independently of any party.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why not mileage meter for autos?

Today's autorikshaw-meters show rupee/paise figures. The metered fare is calculated in accordance with the starting minimum and the per-km rate fixed by the Regional Transport Authority (RTO). But then the rates are subject to periodical revisions, entailing re-calibration of meters in keeping with the latest fare structure.

It is cumbersome, and not all auto-drivers re-calibrate meters every time there is fare revision. The situation leaves considerable scope for argument/dispute over the legitimate fare. Consumer rights activist Asha Vombatkere suggests fitting out autorickshaws with meter showing distance travelled, rather than the fare payable by a passenger.

Autos fitted with mileage-meter need not be re-calbrated whenever the authorities revise the fare structure. All they need to do is issue a fresh fare-chart to auto-drivers. Ms Vombatkere,spokesperson for Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP), said the revised auto-fare chart could be published in the local media, and displayed in railway station, bus station, and autorikshaw stands.

Ms.Vombatkere says Mysore has over 17,000 autos, most of which have out-dated mechanical meters, although they had been directed by RTO to switch to digital meters in 2002. Many auto-drivers prefer the good old mechanical meters that are eminently amenable to tampering. A media report quoting official sources said atleast 100 cases of alleged tampered meters are booked against auto-drivers every week.

Related item - Incredible India, incorrigible auto-men

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sight-n-smell of our open-ness

Ours is an open society. We are unashamedly open in doing things - such as dumping garbage,and peeing in very public places.
Doesn't It look more like a garbage dump that doubles up as a bus stand? The picture, taken from an inter-city bus on way from Trichy to Salem, reflects our collective indifference to public hygine. Littering trash on public space appears socially acceptable.

So does urinating in public. I didn't have the nerve to photograph what I witnessed people doing on a busy roadside close to the main bus station in Trichy. Of course one doesn't have to come all the way to Trichy for such sight and stench of Incredible India. Pay-and-use facilities are no solution. They may well be part of the problem in some places.

At Srirangam I found an open stretch with tell-tale stains,right next to a pay-and-use facility. Which charges Rs.2 for a go. The message is clear. It is social statement by those who can't or won't pay for it.
Public notice threatening offenders with a fine of Rs.100 is widely ignored.I heard local residents saying the notice was put up at the instance of the contractor who has taken the pay-and-use on lease from the municipal corporation. Local traders, auto-drivers, hawkers and beggers milling around the temple evidently find better uses for their two rupees. Besides, they have yet to get used to the idea of having to pay for it, not Rs.2 at any rate.

Surely,the temple management can afford to spend part of their hefty earnings from 'hundi' collections on a free and properly manned public conveniences. Outsourcing them to contractors may make business sense for the municipal authorities. It doesn't serve the interests of the people; nor does it promote upkeep of public hygine.

Meanwhile, I came across a blog post in GreenLivingTips making a case for doing it outside, but in the privacy of your garden. It saves water; it's organic fertilizer, containing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They have a website promoting the idea; and even designated a Pee Outside Day - April 19.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Community health-care

A unique home-based palliative and chronic care movement is sweeping through Kerala. Thousands of trained citizens are volunteering two hours a week to take care of the chronically ill in villages and cities. Funding for this community-based scheme that has won WHO recognition comes in cash and kind from citizens, including schoolchildren, bus drivers, labourers and others, writes M Suchitra

Under this new initiative, thousands of trained volunteers from different backgrounds spend at least two hours a week on homecare visits, running out-patient clinics, organising family help, and raising funds. Besides dressing wounds and sores, they sit with patients and listen to their problems and fears. They also listen to the concerns of family members and train them in simple nursing tasks like catheterisation. All NNPC volunteer groups are supported by trained doctors and nurses.

Reading the full story ought to set us thinking.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Helping the domestic help

Anita, Saroja, Veeramma, Sarojini, Munni amma, Ashu...

Anita in Kanpur - a very quiet worker. She'd come with her gate-pass twice a day, and do all that she needed to, silently. It was difficult to get her to talk or have any dialogue with her - she was content to listen and proceed. In a smooth takeover, she had replaced her sister Susheela who got married and 'went away'.

Saroja in Bangalore is special. The only language she knew was Kannada. Neighbour-talk consisted of warnings that 'language problem' is likely to result in the house looking unkempt. We established a rapport on day 1, even as her husband apologetically said 'amma, she does not know Hindi' (the expect-you-know language in our circles). Because of her I learnt to make not only 'akki rotis' and parathas, but also conversation in Kannada - she is the reason that I can easily impress a localite with a better-than-average smattering of Kannada. Even now we exchange updates once in a while, and that routinely turns out to be a comfortable refresher course for me (continuing education programme!)

Veeramma in Sulur - Not at all quiet by any standards, but a reliable help to take care of the housee-cleaning routine. She wouldn't mind chopping spinach occasionally or readying methi leaves, but would leave for her mother's place for brief stretches, thankfully after arranging a substitute Sarojini, whose efficiency belied her rather large frame.

Munni Amma, here in Delhi, a senior citizen who is pretty quick (to leave soapy residues in vessels). But our mutual ways are set, and she's not a complaining character and is happy to work to meet her financial commitments. But her substitute Ashu - is lightning personified. I was bemused to find that she 'completed' a half-hour job in one-third the time.

After that long prologue you'll finally get to read the purpose of this post - my way of marking this significant day (IWD, March 8). In an effort to help the domestic help, I have offered to teach each of these ladies - members of the unorganised labour sector in India - their mother-tongue, with mixed results.
- Susheela and Anita - they had to get back home quick, and alphabets had to wait.
- Saroja, that devout vegetarian. Twice a week, after completing chores at my place and hers, she'd bring her notebook and pencil, and sit with the beginner's book I had got for her. I had got familiar with the Kannada alphabet and simple words through making out route-boards on buses, an alphabet chart, and the helpful series '30 days to Kannada' (through Tamil). So you can recognise the need for me to stay ahead, if Saroja had to become lettered! Her keenness to learn, and her hopes for her school-going boys to become toppers, her diligence in all that she did, and her ready giggles helped a lot, and I like to think that she's well on the way to minimum literacy. (Our mutual understanding even saw us through a tough period when the local police placed her family also among the suspects in a daring daylight robbery at our place).
- Veeramma - 'No, madam, I can't spend time or effort on studies'. But she let her children attend some extra classes.
- Sarojini had too many domestic responsibilities, and a drunkard for a husband, and I was not successful in taking her mind away from her worries.
- Munni Amma is lettered and even knows a few English words, draws pension, and runs a happy-enough household.
- Ashu - all of 18 and, a mother of a two-year-old. She's never been to school. When I offered to teach her -
"What will you charge?"
"I'll have to ask" and later "My family said 'no'"
"Need to look after kid, so I have to get back home ASAP"

If each of us (any member of the household including elders and teenagers) can spare a couple of half-hours a week to help (at least the willing) domestic help, methinks we are doing our mite to help our nation's womenfolk take further steps forward, remember - "If you educate a man you educate a person, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Look inwards, Kamalnath tells IT vendors

Commerce minister Kamalnath says it is time Indian IT vendors targeted the country's domestic market, notably, its middles and lower segments. The minister may not have read our earlier post,in which we had said the same thing. Agreed,it makes a difference,coming from the minister.

Mr Kamalnath's call for IT to look inwards came at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum 2009 meeting in Mumbai.The minister reckoned that the time for the IT sector to consider it future strategy was NOW. Looking inwards is the best, and probably, the only way to go for Indian IT vendors, considering the scale of domestic market waiting to be tapped. Mr Kamalnath mentioned that hardly two percent of India's population used computers.

Didn't realise, did you, it was so low;and we count ourselves as a fast-moving economy. Anyway, Mr Kamalnath, while pointing to the direction IT vendors need to take, could have as well given us his thoughts on how they could go about reaching out to the middle and small-scale segments of domestic economy.

In suggesting an inward-looking strategy the minister would need to respond to in-house scepticism, as reflected in a comment by Ashutosh Didwania, IT professional. His perception is that our domestic market isn't mature enough to convince the IT majors that they need not look beyond national boundaries.

We see a perceptional difference here between what the minister says and Mr Didwania's take on the approach IT vendors' adopt to tap domestic market. Going by Mr Kamalnath's reported statement, it is for the IT majors to do the convincing (not the other way about) and educate uninformed segments of our domestic ecomony, about the efficacy of using IT application to improve efficiency and productivity.

To quote Mr Didwania further, 'IT service sector,..based on the demand-supply chain...needs (domestic) demand to be significant in order to make business sense...An IT services bound to depend on selective projects. It's not about selling products to millions, it's about providing services to the select few which as a matter of fact are very rare in India... Indian market has a long long way to go before it can attract IT biggies in a significant manner.
IT companies scaling down profits or employees accepting lower perks is simply not an option as for that to happen there needs to be a strong domestic base, which currently is way off target.

Mr Didwania's comment reflects the mindset of an IT professional. Those who dismiss the idea of IT scaling down revenue expectations would do well to consider this. In the prevailing global situation neither our IT companies nor their employees can hope to see anytime soon the kind of pre-recession profits/salary levels they had got used to for so long.

If only our IT companies and their staff were to lower revenue/pay level expectations, it would facilitate reaching out to the vast untapped segments of our domestic economy. TCS, they say, has its smaller centres (say,Gauhati) workng for domestic clients. Domestic market accounted for seven percent of TCS total revenue. Infosys earns 1.5 percent share of its total revenue from domestic clients. Moving to Tier II and III centres - Nagpur, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pondy , Mysore - where IT companies offer lower compensation packet to their empyees may well be a major first step to seeking domestic clients.

Maybe CNBC, NDTV-Profit and other business channels should line up talk-shows to assess the industry mood and mindset on an inward-looking IT growth strategy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Need Help with the Borewell Project

Some of you may remember I had written a post about Borewell Deaths in India a while back.

My friend has come up with a plan for starting work on covering up these open pits. I have been roped in to write a brochure for her that she will use to contact people and get them to take action. I have also been assigned to task of naming the project. And I am drawing a blank here :(

Would really appreciate your creativity in coming up with something.

I just had a couple (very boring) names:

"Shut the Death-Traps"
"Borewells: Lets make them green"

Please help!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Coping with job losses in IT sector

Pundits say joblessness of our IT professionals has to do with the knock-on effect of the economic down-turn in the west, notably the US. It is evident that our software companies have been way too dependent on foreign companies and clients for their business. The latest
quarterly results of the top two IT majors - TCS and Infosys - make a telling point. That is, TCS revenue from India represents merely 7 percent of their global earnings; and the figure is 1.2 percent in respect of Infosys.

Nandan Nilekini was heard telling the BBC that he considered India's economy basically strong ; and that the global econmic downturn would drive our IT companies to come up with new business models. Which, I reckon, means that our IT majors would do well developing business within our economy, instead of chasing high-paying foreign clients. This inward-looking strategy would help them redeploy, rather than retrench IT professionals. This calls for a mindset change on the part of our IT majors as well as their high-paid employees. Proposition 1) software companies need to scale down their profit margin to the level acceptable to domestic enterprises ; and 2) IT professionals working for Indian clients would need to accept lower pay and perks.

As part of their business development strategy; and as an aspect their corporate socio-economic responsibility our IT companies could educate medium, small-scale, and also trade and service sectors about benefits of IT applications. The uninitiated segment of these sectors can be made to realise a) that the computer can do for them a lot more than they think it can, by way of process re-engineering, data warehousing, and supply chain management; and b) that all this can be done at a price they can afford.

The catch is in the acceptance of a meaningful profits/pay cut by our IT companies and their army of underutilised professionals .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

After B Tech,what?

This is the question that stares at IT grads fresh out of college. IT companies that have suspended campus recruitment suggest that leading educational institutions introduce a one-year post-graduate programme for students on loose ends; that is, those passing out of colleges this year. The suggestion is reported to have come from the communications manager of a leading IT company.

This way colleges could hold graduates in class-rooms for one more year, by which time IT industry would hopefully recover from the current recession. The suggestion has not evoked response from any leading educational institution. What is there in it for them ? Besides, students are looking for jobs, not parking space till the industry is ready to take them. And where is the guarantee that they would get jobs after the stop-gap post-graduate programme ?

The suggestion would, perhaps, be acceptible if 1)IT companies come forward to sponser students for the stop-gap programme; and 2) if the sponsored candidates can be sure of employment after successful course completion.

Newspaper industry in Britain used to have a sponsorship scheme,in which school-leavers recruited by newspapers were put through a proficiency course in the National Council for Training of Journalists. Curriculum, designed with guidance from the media, focused on working experience and hands-on training. And the graduating candidates get a proficiency certificate and job in the nespapers that sponsored them.Their course is paid for by the newspapers that also provide a stipend to students.

Would IT majors consider such a model for eligible IT graduates, now on hold for possible employment in 2010? Corporate India is used to cherry-picking recruits from leading Tech and B-schools.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Holiday Waste

By Holiday Waste, I mean the waste generated after the holidays. When this waste-line increases the results can be disastrous!

Journeying through India in the past few years has been a very pleasant experience. The monuments, architectural marvels and scenic delights are all preserved and taken care of so well. But then I did come across some eyesores too... particularly the water bodies. They are misused and left uncared, the result is waste getting accumulated in them.

Edible fish have ceased to exist in these water bodies due to continued bouts of hypoxia. Most of them I am sure are mosquito nurseries of these scenic sights. It was a shock for me to see the locals washing clothes at Agastyatirtha Tank at Badami in North Karnataka. I did try to talk to the locals; they seemed to be very casual about this pollution.

At other places like in Daulatabad in Maharashtra, the locals blamed the tourists. Much of the waste, the plastic bags and bottles are left behind by the holidayers they said. The problem needs immediate attention of the tourism industry.

How do you handle Holiday Waste?

After every festival or holiday we create a lot of waste stuff; left over food, dead batteries, wrapping paper, packaging, bottles, cans and more. Those that can be reused must be reused, if further reuse is not possible recycle them and then the final step, dispose properly. If only the tourists followed this meticulously, these sight seeing places can leave sweeter memories.

Look at this bird struggling to find a neat corner to sip water from. When will we learn?

Read more: Facts on Holiday Waste.
How to Reduce Holiday Waste

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thrown to the wind

No,this isn't about the untapped potential;it is about unused installed capacity in wind power generation. It is reckoned that over 1000MW windmill energy generated in Thrunelveli, Kanyakumari and Tuticorin districts in Tamilnadu go waste.Tirupur garments exporters and textile mill owners who have invested in putting up giant windmills in Udumalpet area reportedly face revenue loss.

Because the state electricity board has not put in place effective and adequate feeder/transmission system connecting wind farms with the nearest electricity
sub-station. This results in unacceptable wind power wastage, while there is all-round energy shortage.It is reckoned that adequate transmission infrastructure would go a long way in bridging power shortage.

In places with an average wind speed of 8 to 12mph,they say, small-sizes windmills that can be fitted in one's backyard is feasible; and a US company is reported to have devised a 33ft tall windmill with six-foot blades. Heavy duty Suzlon wind turbine has 144-ft long blades,from hub to tip. Suzlon's main factory is in Pondicherry, where some 1,200 employees assemble turbines and mold giant fiberglass blades.

High installation cost and long payback time may inhibit individual house-owners from going in for small-size windmill. But the backyard model can find institutional customers.They can be installed in urban open space, on the fringes of schoolyards, public parks,zoos, and other public institutions where there is space enough to fit in a minimum viable number of wind turbines. Railways could explore possibility of fitting in windmills along rail tracks.

Wonder if we have a wind-power map,identifying locations with tappable wind speed. District authorites, with support from the Met. office and the depatment renewable energy can work wonders in this area.


Fellow blogger Anjali’s post ‘The transition' put me on this track. This is something that has to be dealt with - by all of us.
Domestic violence.

Often have the women who help me at home complained of the menfolk in their families beating up either themselves, or their daughters or their sisters. They take it with resignation, while I advise them to protest, or make a complaint at the nearest police station.

All to no avail. While some men think it is their birthright to slap their womenfolk around, the victimised women tend to say that it is a family matter, and outsiders should not interfere.

Sons, who grow up watching their mothers subjected to violence and sympathizing with them, unfortunately end up like their fathers, thinking it is their heritage to hammer women. And so it continues….

Apparently this is prevalent in all layers of society.

It may not be possible for us to physically be present and prevent such abuse. But we can at least raise the level of awareness about this problem. Talk to the men, wherever possible - make them understand their responsibility to care for their women; tough I know, but at least an effort would have been made. Talk to the women, tell them they don’t have to suffer this indignity, and ask for help. We can put them in touch with organisations that help women in such situations, or other social services.

When I saw this in my mailbox today, it was too much of a coincidence for me to pass over. It is the publicity material for an awareness programme about domestic violence. Actor Boman Irani is the Brand Ambassador for the programme called “Bell Bajao” (Ring The Bell).

This video has been created by Ogilvy & Mather,
The project was created by ”Breakthrough” in collaboration with the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNIFEM.

Watch the video here:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Coconut fiber car parts

A research team at Baylor University, Texas, has made car parts - trunk liners, floorboards and car-door interior covers - using fibers from the outer husks of coconuts, replacing the synthetic polyester fibers typically used in composite materials.

The husk fibers are blended with polypropylene fibers before being hot-pressed (compression-molded) into required shapes.The coconut fiber provides a rigid architecture for the lightweight, yet stiff, composite. Mechanical properties of coconut fibers are just as good,if not better,than synthetic and polyester fibers when used in automotive parts.Coconut does not burn very well or give off toxic fumes,which is key in passing tests required for their use in commercial automotive parts.

Sourced from LiveScience

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Charity begins at home...

...but it should not be limited to the home!

Parents teach their children to be nice to their siblings, to help each other out when need be, so on and so forth. But unfortunately, very often that is where the lesson ends.

We need to take it beyond our homes, and into our neighborhood, our city, our country, and finally our world!

Instead of shielding our children from the injustices happening in the world, we need to make them aware of it, and also teach them that it is their job to change these things. Teach them that they CAN make a difference!

A few things I can think of that parents can do regularly to make their child a responsible citizen...

1) For every three new toys a child gets, he/she needs to pick a good one from their existing pile and donate it to an orphanage. This teaches the child not only to give and share, but also teaches them to not be too greedy and keep asking for more and more and more.

2) Maintain a piggy bank that the child puts at least 1 rupee into everyday, and donate this money to a charity on the child's birthday. If the charity is a local one, encourage the child to go give it personally.

3) Every few years, celebrate their birthday party at an orphanage. If started at an early age, of say 5 years old, I think this will go a long way into building the child's character. It will teach them to treat the less fortunate ones with equality and respect.

4) If the maid servant comes to work at a time when the child is at home, then encourage the maid to bring their kid to work. The kids can then either play or study together like friends. I would recommend studying :-)

5) Teach the child to treat the servants with respect. We HAVE to teach them to respect other people's labor! We HAVE to teach them to treat the servants as "people", not just servants!

I remember reprimanding a 5 yr old ordering her maid to bring her a glass of water. I felt that was not right. The servant's job was to cook and clean, and help the kid with things she could not do. When I asked her why she won't go inside and get it herself, she said, that's what she is for! I then gently explained to her that "Didi is here to help Mamma with her work because she does not have time. If you cannot reach the tap, then you can ask Didi to help you with it, but it is not right to say, "Oye, paani laao!" She is older than you are, and we need to treat elders with respect, right?" She was still a little confused though. She agreed to the bit about respecting the elders, but disagreed about not ordering the maid. I hope she gets it when she grows older!

6) Parents can also lead by example by volunteering at NGO's on a regular basis.

7) Another interesting trend that I have been noticing recently is that of "voluntourism". It is volunteering combined with tourism. You get to see new places, and can also pitch in to help those that need it. Just google for it, and you will see the various options available.

I strongly believe that it is the moral and social responsibility of every human being to help those that are less fortunate. And that this sense of responsibility needs to be imbibed into our children at a very young age. Along with teaching the child to be helpful, we also need to take care that they do not start to feel "superior" to those that they are helping.

That said, I leave it up to the actual parents to decide how they can raise upright citizens! I after all have NO first hand experience with kids :) So I ask the real ones to share stories of how they inspired their children, and also add to my list.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Borewell deaths


Last year a friend of mine talked to me about this issue of bore-well deaths. I had no clue about this until she pointed it out. Basically, what is happening is, people dig very very deep bore-wells hoping to strike water. Which is a good idea, BUT, in case they do not strike water, they do not care to cover up the well! The result is horrendous!
These are some headlines my friend has compiled:

A nine-year-old boy who fell into an open borewell in Karnataka's Raichur district was today found dead after a 55-hour operation to rescue him. The body of Sandeep, which had started decomposing, was pulled out of the borewell in Neermanvi village in the district this evening, Additional Superintendent of Police P B Kitali told PTI. He fell into the abandoned borewell in an agricultural field at around noon on Tuesday and was stuck at a depth of about 40 feet. "

"Ujjain, Dec. 31 (PTI): An eight-year-old boy died after falling into a 200-foot-deep borewell despite a rescue by the district administration. Kalu Singh was trapped at a depth of 40 feet after he slipped and fell into the well yesterday. He was pulled out early today but died before he could be treated."

"Bhavnagar, March 11 (PTI): A four-year-old girl who fell into a 60-ft-deep borewell died here this evening before experts from the army and ONGC could arrive. Aarti Chavda fell into the abandoned well while playing."

"Bikaner, April 2007: Girl trapped in borewell dies. A one-and-a-half year old girl, who got trapped inside a 155-feet deep borewell at a village in Bikaner two days ago, was found dead"

"MP: Boy falls into borewell. A three-year-old boy fell into a 50ft borewell at Goreshwar village near on Sunday, prompting the administration to launch a rescue operation"

Bangalore: A nine-year-old boy, who was trapped in an abandoned bore-well in a farmland in north Karnataka since Tuesday, was found dead Thursday, police said."

Dharmapuri Feb.16. Two persons were arrested yesterday in connection with the death of a four-year-old boy, who fell into a 605-foot deep borewell at Athiyaman Kottai here on Friday."

There are a lot more such incidents that she had in her report. I have picked just a few of them to highlight the point that the problem is all over India! Rescue teams spend hours and some times days in futile attempts to save these little kids. A lot of money is also spent in these missions. In most cases they are unable to save the kids. The owners are arrested and prosecuted, but yet, not many folks bother to cover up these pits.


The first thing that would come to mind to prevent this is to cover the pits with chamber covers. But this would not work! The covers would get stolen in NO time! The solution that my friend, a landscape architect, has come with is this:

The easiest way to stop this is getting the borewell agencies to list sites where they havent struck water....and simply plant a tree in them. These pits are 9" to 3' in diameter and go upto 80-150' down. The roots will hold on to the soil and fill the pit as well as make the world lil greener. A root ball is 15" to 18". We can get plants about 15' tall. If they are smaller, we can put 3 plants around the pit. Within one monsoon, the plant should take charge of filling in the pit by holding onto the soil. Plants have a natural tendency to move towards sunlight, similarly underground the roots move in the direction of easy penetration or loose soil as compared to hard rock... If the pit is too wide to plant something in, it can be surrounded by 3 plants forming a protective ring to warn people.

The most important thing, though, is to find these unguarded pits. My friend is looking into what sort of registration (if any) is done before digging is started, and when the work is finished.

It is an extremely simple and effective solution to a horrendous problem!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Power from rice husk - a 3-in-1 idea

Generating electricity from rice husk, besides being eco-friendly, can be a viable business model with three streams of income - 1) sale of electricity generated from a rice-mill by-product; 2) sale of husk ash to cement units; and 3) carbon credit accrued by way of reduction in carbon emissions in electricity generation.

Husk power system (HPS) drives mini-power plants, each capable of generating electricity to meet the requirement of 300 to 500 households for 8 to 10 hours a day. Five pilots plants, powering 12,000 households, are up and running in Bihar's paddy belt. They are working to get from the government Clean Development Mechanism certification to enable them to sell carbon credit.

The idea is credited to two students in the US. They are not power engineers, but have an engineering mind to transform a socially benefitial concept into a working model. Manoj Sinha, whose idea it was to empower people in his Bihar village, was a microprocessor designer with Intel; Charles Ransler, project strategist, has been into software development pertaining to digital publishing. What brought them together was their social activism. Manoj produced the idea; Charles came up with a business model.

They were joined by Gyanesh Pandey (left),so taken up with the proposal that he gave up a promising career abroad to come to Bihar to run their pilot project. Ratnesh Yadav completes the team. He is locally influential. Ratnesh is described in the company website as 'politician/entrepreneur, who promotes business enterprises in Bihar'.

HPS promoters conduct an energy audit and, before taking up a project, discuss with the village panchayat aspects such as power delivery system, payment mode (pre-paid), and training of local residents for consumer service and maintenance of the power plant.

Photos credited to : Development Through Enterprise and HPS website

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sleep vs Sound

Sleep is an important part of one's life which starts even before one's birth in womb and for pregnant woman too. Right from a growing child to elderly and sick including the harried and stressed-out executive, it is only sleep which can relieve the stress, help in overall health more so for growing children.

An eight hour undisturbed does wonders for one's health and cheer the next day.

May be considering the importance of it, the Supreme court have made it mandatory that no loud speakers should be used between 10 at night and 6 in the morning.

Like every aspect of our lives, this is all flouted by all and sundry with impunity. We need very little incentive to start off blaring music with earsplitting loudspeakers to celebrate any event sometimes beyond midnight. Whether it is marriage, birthday, felicitating a politician - for anything under the sun, - music is played at the highest decibel , so the the event could be considered a 'hit'. More often the guardians of Law , the Police, are helpless bystanders or participants if the function involves a local politician. This is a shame considering they are supposed to enforce the law.
These days even religious hymns, slokas, shabad keerthan in the name of Gods, Goddesses, Christ and Allah are played right from early morning at 5 or 5;30 hrs. While sentiments of every religion is no doubt important and should be respected deeply, it should be kept within the confines of the premises or there should not be any loud speaker.No religion should disturb the sleep of just born or the sick who need sleep as a tonic. In fact every religion wishes good health and long life for its devotees!

When will we realise this? How to put an end to this nuisense ?