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Online education in India is taking a toll on students, teachers, and parents too | Business Insider, 11 aug 2020
Big boost for Indian Scientists, Engineers: Special technology fund with the US to help research activities | Financial Express, 11 aug 2020
India's economy unlikely to recover soon despite growing job numbers | India Today, 11 aug 2020
Evolving Education In India: Lessons Of Leadership | Businessworld, 10 aug 2020
Now, Dr Manmohan Singh has a 'three steps' prescription for India's COVID'hit economy | The Indian Express, 10 aug 2020
What the New Education Policy Will Mean for Universities in India | The Wire, 09 aug 2020
OTC healthcare products: A growth area for India Pharma Inc | Express Pharma, 09 aug 2020
India increasingly using Advanced Digital Production technologies: UN report | Sunday Guardian Live, 08 aug 2020
Importance of technology in Indian agriculture | City Today, 08 aug 2020
Transform India's healthcare infrastructure | Deccan Herald, 05 aug 2020
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 jul 2020
The 'Report of the Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting' was recently released by Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA, Govt. of India) by MCA Secretary Rajesh Verma. The expert members of committee include Gyaneshwar Kumar Singh (Chairman of the Committee & Joint Secretary, MCA), Amarjeet Singh (Executive Director, SEBI), Chandan Kumar (Deputy Director, MCA), Ashish Garg (President, The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, ICSI), Atul Kumar Gupta (President, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, ICAI), Balwinder Singh (President, The Institute of Cost Accountants of India, ICMAI), Shankar Venkateswaran (Adjunct Faculty, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, IICA) and Viraf Mehta (Adjunct Faculty, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, IICA). The report, as part of new Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) regime, suggests that businesses will have to disclose in detail how they try to influence regulatory policies and public opinion and list the public policy positions they advocate. The report proposes two different reporting procedures - one comprehensive mandatory reporting for large listed and unlisted companies and the other 'lite' reporting version for smaller businesses to adopt voluntarily. Disclosure of lobbying is considered an essential reporting requirement. The report says, 'Businesses, when engaging in influencing public and regulatory policy, should do so in a manner that is responsible and transparent.' Businesses also have to disclose details of public policy positions they advocate, methods resorted to for advocacy and whether information on this is available in the public domain. The report considers inclusion and diversity, and environmental considertations as important components of reporting. Former Secretary of MCA, Injeti Srinivas, who formulated the committee, writes in the report, 'With several global companies being larger than many nation states in terms of turnover, the responsibility of businesses to their stakeholders will only increase in the coming years. The NGRBC (National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct) and its companion BRSR is a significant step to enable businesses in India to not just behave responsibly, but to also demonstrate to its stakeholders that it walks the talk. We can then proudly say 'Make in India - Responsibly'.' Gyaneshwar Kumar Singh, Chairman of the Committee & Joint Secretary in MCA, writes in the report, 'The endeavour of the Committee has been to ensure that the BRSR reporting format would serve as a single source for all non-financial disclosures. Over the last two decades, public policy across the world, has been moving in this direction. In designing the structure of the report, the Committee has made a conscious effort to balance the objective of self-regulation through disclosures while ensuring that there is no undue compliance burden on companies.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 jun 2020
India's agriculture should scale up to the next level in terms of empowerment to farmers, enhanced supply chain and logistics networks, advanced technological usage, superior quality of produce and global competitiveness. Recent announcement of reforms by the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitaraman, focusing on amendment in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, the Essential Commodities Act, and facilitating contract farming through price and quality assurance, has drawn a positive response from Ashok Gulati, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, who termed it as 'A 1991 moment for Indian agriculture.' M. R. Subramani, executive editor of SwarajyaMag, explains the present focus and what more is required for India's agriculture to revolutionalize itself and move into an era of overall success. He points out three areas - (1) Food Stocks: Going beyond fulfilling domestic demand; Food Corporation of India (FCI) show that current foodgrain stocks in the country are nearly three times the mandated operational and reserve storage norms; Indian agriculture should look more closely at consumers' interests, export markets and making optimum use of its human resources; Focus on producing healthy foods like diabetic-friendly varieties etc; Encouraging the production of coarse grains such as ragi, maize, bajra and sorghum will help farmers diversify and getter higher returns. (2) Focus on Inputs: Focus has been on the input side of agriculture such as seeds, pesticides and insecticides only and most subsidies are directed here; Efforts should focus on the output side of agriculture such as marketing and meeting consumer needs; Change in farmer's mindset is needed to think beyond just selling their produce only to meet their next crop's input costs and keeping a portion for personal consumption; To keep next generations engaged in farming new methods and processes are to be introduced for increased productivity and profitability. (3) Minimum Support Price (MSP) System: Indian MSP policy is under the scrutiny of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for distorting markets and is supposedly flawed as it does not reward productivity; Incentivise foodgrain production by rewarding farmers producing more per hectare, and this is necessary particularly when the outlook shifts towards meeting the consumer or export market demand, in addition to staying self-sufficient. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 may 2020
Covid-19 pandemic is affecting all aspects of human life, and even when the immediate severity of the crisis has subsided and nations start to ease lockdowns in hope of bringing their economies and people's lives back on track, the world will continue to see the after effects for a long time ahead. Experts share their views on pandemic's impact on future of design and how it will change the built environment in healthcare, hospitality, residential living etc - (1) Impact on Healthcare (Rahul Kadri, partner and principal Architect, IMK Architects): New generation of hospitals will be designed; Integrate tech-driven solutions; Better natural ventilation to minimize cross-infection; Segregation of general, semi-sterile and sterile zones; Net zero designing; Demarcation and separation of service and maintenance areas from the procedure areas; Rapid time to build and construct; Medical hub model. (2) Impact on Hospitality (Amit Khanna, design principal, Amit Khanna Design Associates): Screenings will become a part of entrance design in hotels; Use of automation to avoid human contact; Automated sliding or revolving glass door; Rethink on facilities like swimming pools, salons and health clubs; Top-end hospitality projects may prefer to redesign their communal facilities. (3) Impact on Urban Design (Mitu Mathur, director, GPM Architects and Planners): Towns need to be designed for all classes of society; Ensure housing-for-all; Promote affordable housing; Special design focus on migrant workers. (4) Using AI for Construction (Anand Sharma, founder partner, Design Forum International): Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry will have more use of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing etc; Building Information Management (BIM) Development promotes workers of industry to be collaborative, connected and transparent; Future of construction will innovate like utilising the Internet of Things and leveraging 3D imaging to replicate the experience of a site. (5) Impact on Housing Design (L. C. Mittal, director, Motia Group): Adoption of advanced technology in elevators and entrances, like voice-enabled elevators and key card entry systems respectively, to eliminate human contact; Sanitisation of common areas would become a mandatory exercise for societies; Daily needs shopping store will become an integral part of housing societies. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 feb 2020
Shrinking living spaces in cities along with small and tiny house movement is bringing new ideas in space utilization and maximization in interior design. According to Rakhee Bedi and Shobhit Kumar of RSDA, 'Scale and proportion should be carefully strategised to craft the sense of space in design. One of the most important aspects of 'making space' is by decluttering.' Following are some ways to do so - (1) Consider an Open Floor Plan: Remove walls and doors. Open floor plan should be between the living room, dining and kitchen. Vivek Singh Rathore of Salient, 'Dividing spaces by functionality, rather than solid partitions is essential to augment the volume.' (2) Choose a Light Colour Palette: Subdued colors reflect light and make the space seem large and breezy. Also for a pop of hue, go in for bright accessories or plants. Pankaj Poddar of Hipcouch, 'Light colours on walls blur the boundaries between the wall and ceiling, essentially making the ceiling seem higher. This is valid for flooring as well. Use light tiles or wood to maximise the effect.' (3) Bring in Sunlight: Natural light is a space enhancer. Use simple blinds or sheer curtains. Moreover, avoid dim lights, dark corners and low-level lighting. Ensure that the light is focused on the central areas of the space. Ms. Bedi and Mr. Kumar suggest, 'Wall sconces help by evenly spreading light and saving floor space while adding to the aesthetics.' (4) Use the Magic of Mirrors: A large mirror in front of the entrance reflects natural and artificial light and creates an illusion of space. Mirrors with artistic, vintage frames or even plain wood frames create an elegant look. Mr. Rathore explains, 'Using mirror-panelled walls also curates a sense of a larger space by adding volume.' (5) Opt for Multipurpose Furniture Pieces: Use furniture pieces that serve more than one purpose. Match the colour of the furniture with the scheme of the walls to create more depth and a feeling of space. (6) Furnish With Light Upholstery: Choose light and breezy fabrics for decoration. Avoid heavy rugs and drapes. Full length curtains or even sheers can be used to make the space look airy and light. Half-length window curtains inadvertently make your space look smaller. Mr. Poddar says, 'Full length curtains or even sheers can be used to make the space look airy and light. Half-length window curtains inadvertently make your space look smaller.' (7) Keep it Simple: Avoid anything over-the-top or grandiose. Opt for simple art pieces rather than elaborate pieces. Avoid complicated colour palettes, patterns and prints. Declutter and organise on a regular basis. Minimalistic approach is the key to make small space look big.Read on...
Living Room Interior Design: 7 ways to make more space
Author: Rashmi Gopal Rao
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 dec 2019
According to nseinfobase.com, CSR spends of Indian corporates have increased 17.2% to Rs. 11867.2 crore in FY19 from Rs. 10128.3 in FY18. This is the highest spend since FY15 (Rs. 6552.5 crore), when the CSR spend was made mandatory through Companies Act 2013. It is observed that corporates are increasingly using their CSR spends on charitable contributions. The highest amount of Rs. 4406 crore were for schedule VII (II) that focuses on education. The next big spend was Rs. 3206.5 crore under VII (I) for eradicating hunger, poverty, malnutrition and promoting health and hygiene. Rural development got Rs. 1319 crore and remaining went for projects that include environment protection, benefits to the armed forces, disaster management etc. From geographical point of view Maharashtra and Gujarat were at the top to get contributions while Bihar and North-East states got the least CSR funds. Experts say that large spends have also seemed to have prompted closer attention to how the money is spent. Amit Tandon, founder and MD of Institutional Investor Advisory Services India (IiAS), says, 'There are more and more companies who are doing impact assessment...people recognise the need to do it.' Pranav Haldea, MD at Prime Database, says, 'Low CSR budget could act as a constraint for some companies to adopt monitoring mechanisms. It may only make sense for firms with very large budgets. Smaller companies may find it too expensive to employ an agency for external audits on a regular basis.' Read on...
Companies spent Rs 11,867 cr on CSR activities in FY19; highest so far
Author: Sachin P. Mampatta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 dec 2019
Social enterprises can become an important pillar of Indian economy just like corporations and businesses. India has more than two million social enterprises that include nonprofits, for-profits and hybrid models. According to a McKinsey study, 'impact investors' in India poured a total of US$ 5.2 billion between 2010 and 2016, with substantial focus on sectors like financial inclusion and clean energy. A survey conducted by Brookings India found that 57% of the social enterprises identify access to debt and equity as a barrier to growth and sustainability. In the budget Indian government proposed a social stock exchange (SSE) to list social enterprises and voluntary organisations. Suresh K. Krishna, MD and CEO, and Geet Kalra, portfolio associate, at Yunus Social Business Fund, explain what benefits this social stock exchange will bring to the social enterprise ecosystem and suggest that careful planning is needed in designing it. They explain, 'SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) set up its working committee on SSEs on September 19, however, many experts have already proposed distilling learnings from those of other countries. Some of these exchanges are either information sites, like in the case of the London Stock Exchange, or list nonprofit projects only. Canada's Social Venture Connexion (SVC) and Singapore's Impact Investment exchange are more advanced in terms of accreditation, valuation and monitoring, whereas the Brazilian model didn't use such valuations at all. While formulating a similar product for India, we need to have an extensive as well as 'cautious' approach. There is no consensus in the wider social impact community about what is and isn't a social enterprise, therefore the definition itself first needs more objectivity...Once we have a shared frame of reference in place, we can design impact valuation parameters for social enterprises based on social and environmental mission, target beneficiaries, service delivery, stakeholder involvement, and impact measurement.' SSE listing will provide visibility to social enterprises and assist in attracting funds in the form of private equity and debt. Listing debt products on the SSE would encourage banks, NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Company) and other investors to participate in the growth of social enterprises and enhancing their impact. Moreover, SSE impact valuation will encourage development of more innovative financial products. SME exchanges operated by BSE and NSE can also provide valuable learning in effectively designing SSE. Mr. Krishna and Mr. Kalra suggest, 'For a social stock exchange to meet its intended objectives, we need to take measures such as: educating market participants about the valuation metrics weighing both on social and financial returns; amplifying the efforts of creating and supporting social businesses; bringing policy and regulatory reforms to support investors, and facilitating research and development for small social enterprises.' Read on...
A social stock exchange will help in raising capital
Authors: Suresh K. Krishna, Geet Kalra
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 nov 2019
Human health is closely linked to the condition of the surrounding environment. According to the National Health Report (NHP) released on 31 October 2019, a degraded environment filled with air and water pollution continues to affect health of people in India. Air pollution-linked acute respiratory infections contributed 68.47% to the morbidity burden in the country and also to highest mortality rate after pneumonia. While contaminated drinking water caused acute diarrhoeal diseases that led to second highest morbidity at 21.83%. Moreover, cholera cases went up to 651 in 2018 from 508 in 2017. While releasing the 14th National Health Profile 2019, Dr. Harsh Vardhan (Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India), said, 'Data helps us to navigate health needs and issues, and helps devise area specific programme strategies.' But despite the increasing burden of diseases in the country, the budgetary allowance for controlling diseases has been steadily dipping in the last few years, says the report. According to 2017-18 budget estimates, India spends only 1.28% of its GDP as public expenditure on health. The NHP report pointed out that per capita public expenditure on health has gone up to Rs 1657 in 2017-18 from Rs 621 in 2009-10. While states are bearing 63% of this expenditure, out of pocket expenditure by the patients are not included in this estimate, which is known to be the biggest reason behind increasing debt in the population. Read on...
Diseases linked to a degraded environment continue to ravage India
Author: Vibha Varshney
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 jul 2019
According to the online research by Booking.com, 59% of youth surveyed want to give back to society as part of their travel experience. This is almost double the global average (31% of Gen Z) that want to volunteer while travelling. Report surveyed 21807 respondents of 16 years or above in 29 markets with about 1000 from each country. 71% of Gen Z travellers consider volunteering as enhancement to their trip's authenticity - more interaction with local people and making a difference. Sustainability travel is also on the rise with care for environment at the top of traveller's mind. Ritu Mehrotra, country manager India at Booking.com, says, 'Over 71% of all travellers want to reduce their carbon footprint by limiting the distance travelled. This number increases further among the Gen Z to 76% as they want to use more environmentally-friendly transport, walking or biking, during the holidays.' Read on...
More youth want to volunteer while travelling: Report
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 jul 2019
Even though India has achieved success consistently in agriculture sector through policy and reforms, but there is still a lot to be desired. Farmer suicides and droughts become headline news from time to time. Ken Ash, Director of Trade & Agriculture at OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and Silvia Sorescu, Policy Analyst at OECD, provides an overview of India's state of agriculture and what needs to be done to tap opportunities. According to them, many smallholders have not been able to exploit the opportunities opening up to them; they remain hampered by low productivity, an under-developed food processing and retail sector, and water and environmental degradation. They explain that India faces 'triple challenge' in the agricultural sector similar to other countries - delivering safe and nutritious food to a growing population at affordable prices; providing a livelihood for farmers and others in the food chain; and overcoming severe resource and climate pressures. According to the OECD and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) report in the Agricultural Policies in India 2018 study and the 2019 OECD Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation, India's domestic and trade policies (like restrictions due to agri-marketing regulations, export restrictions, huge farm subsidies for farm inputs etc) have combined to reduce Indian farm revenue by an estimated 5.7% in the past three years. Moreover, funding for public services - such as physical infrastructure, inspection, research & development, and education and skills - that are essential to enable the long-term productivity and sustainability of the sector has not kept pace. India can draw lessons from Ashok Gulati's analysis of farm policy developments in China, and also from EU's (European Union) agricultural policy reform experiences. Persistence is critical for the success in the sector. Electronic National Agricultural Market (eNAM), the 2017 marketing model act, and the recently implemented direct cash transfers scheme to small-scale farmers, are steps in the right direction. Authors suggest, 'Scarce financial resources should be directed towards investment in public services that enable a productive, sustainable, and resilient food and agriculture sector. Doing so would require strengthening the institutional framework; eliminating duplication and fragmentation is a pre-requisite to ensuring coherent policy packages are developed and consistently implemented. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing the 'triple challenge' will require new policy directions in India, as elsewhere.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 may 2019
India's CSR legislation is a step in the right direction and is globally praised. Recently, 47 participants from 33 global multinational companies that are associated with WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) visited India to learn about sustainable businesses. WBCSD Leadership Program is a year-long series of engagements and learning exercises in partnership with Yale University. Rodney Irwin, Managing Director of WBCSD's Redefining Value and Education program, says, 'The legislation asking large companies to spend 2% of their profit on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is appreciable, but large companies should not stop there. These large firms should look at making their businesses sustainable by integrating the concept of environmental, social and governance advantages into the core business.' He advocated the need for integrating sustainable approach to doing businesses along with maintaining profitability. He adds, 'In long-run, profitability can be greater if you embrace opportunities that accompany sustainable approach.' Since a number of large Indian companies are family-owned, he says, 'The companies that have family connections tend to not just make the businesses successful but they want to make sure that the business can be passed on to the next generation. They have a long-term vision.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 apr 2019
Biotechnology is expected to be the next big thing for the Indian economy, just like the IT industry has been, explains Amit Kapoor, President & CEO of India Council on Competitiveness and Honorary Chairman at Institute for Competitiveness. According to him, '...biotechnology industry seemed poised to take over the mantle. In the span of a decade beginning in 2007, the industry has grown exponentially in size from about US$ 2 billion to over US$ 11 billion in terms of revenue. By 2025, it is targeted to touch US$ 100 billion.' In the past, both Green Revolution (agricultural transformation) and White Revolution (dairy sector transformation) became successful because of the contributions from biotechnology. At present India's rising competitiveness in pharmaceuticals is also the result of biotechnological advancements and research. Moreover, energy needs of rural areas are also met by biomass fuel, produced through application of biotechnology. Mr. Kapoor explains evolution of biotechnology in India, 'As early as 1986, Rajiv Gandhi, recognising the potential of biotechnology in the country's development, set up the Department of Biotechnology...Department of Biotechnology has set up 17 Centres of Excellence at higher education institutions across the country and has supported the establishment of eight biotechnology parks across different cities...Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in 2012, which has successfully supported 316 start-ups in its six years of existence...As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups.' According to Mr. Kapoor, the sector faces many challenges and they need to be addressed effectively and promptly - (1) India's research and development expenditure is quite low at 0.67% of GDP, not only compared to mature biotechnology economies such as Japan and the US (around 3%) but also in comparison to emerging economies like China (around 2%). (2) Specific to the biotech pharmaceutical sector, there are a few India-specific challenges with the country's IP regime. There are two main areas of contention for the industry in India's approach to intellectual property. The first issue lies in Section 3(d) of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005, which sets a higher standard for patentability than mandated by TRIPS. The industry argues that India's stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. The second issue is that of compulsory licensing, which gives the government power to suspend a patent in times of health emergencies. Although India has used this option only once, the industry feels that such regulations keep investors clear of Indian markets. (3) Another challenge lies in the risk involved in the Valley of Death, that is, the risk of failure in the transition of innovative products and services from discovery to marketisation. Most of the early research funding, often provided by universities or the government, runs out before the marketisation phase, the funding for which is mostly provided by venture capitalists. It becomes difficult to attract further capital between these two stages because a developing technology may seem promising, but it is often too early to validate its commercial potential. This gap has a huge impact in commercialisation of innovative ideas. Read on...
The Economic Times:
Why biotechnology can be Indian economy's next success story
Author: Amit Kapoor
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 feb 2019
India's 'Development Agenda' as outlined by current government includes development of 100 smart cities, 40 million dwelling units, 20 million affordable homes, better infrastructure facilities through the AMRUT scheme, focus on urban development and transformation, slum rehabilitation, and 'Housing for All' by 2022. It is estimated that to fulfil this agenda there is requirement of 75 million skilled people in real estate and infrastructure. Moreover, according to reports there is need of 4 million core professionals (architects, engineers, planners). Shubika Bilkha, Business Head at The Real Estate Management Institute (REMI), explains the key aspects that architectural graduates and planners should keep in while building their skill set in evolving environment - (1) Be Multifaceted: Take advantage of a number of roles- from design architecture, structural or liaisoning architects, to urban planning, property development, sustainable development, teaching or getting involved with disaster relief/re-building communities. Require skills such as engineering, design, supervisory skills, managing people/teams/vendors/client expectations, an understanding of key building/designing/construction/smart technology, strong communication and persuasion skills to communicate their vision. Have much larger role and bigger scope getting involved from pre-design services, to cost analysis and land-use studies, feasibility reports, environment studies to developing the final construction plans etc. (2) Be Business Minded: Understand key real estate and planning concepts and calculations, municipal and local development regulations, legal limitations, the social and urban infrastructure, fundraising/financing and the evolving policy framework. (3) Be Responsible: Consider social and environmental impact of the recommendations. Understand sustainability and implement it effectively. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 jan 2019
According to the 'Global Highly-Cited Researchers 2018 List' by Clarivate Analytics, India has only 10 researchers among the world's 4000 most influential researchers. Even though India has many globally renowned institutions, but it lacks breakthrough research output. Top three countries in the list are - US (2639), UK (546), China (482). Prof. CNR Rao, world renowned chemist from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Sciences and named in the list, says, 'About 15 years ago, China and India were at the same level, but China today contributes to 15-16% of the science output in the world, while we currently contribute only 4%.' Prof. Dinesh Mohan, environmental science academic at JNU and included in the list, says, 'Areas such as climate change, water and energy are areas where research is more relevant nowadays. Where you publish your work is also important for impact.' Dr. Avnish Agarwal, also named in the list, says, 'We need to improve our research ecosystem...There is a lack of focus on quality research in Indian academia. If teachers do not do high-quality research, they will not be updated with new developments.' Others in the list are - Dr. Rajeev Varshney (Agriculture researcher at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics-ICRISAT); Dr. Ashok Pandey (Researcher at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research); Dr. Alok Mittal and Dr. Jyoti Mittal (Researchers in environmental science, water treatment, green chemistry and chemical kinetics at the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology); Dr. Rajnish Kumar (Researcher and professor at IIT Madras's Department of Chemical Engineering); Dr. Sanjeeb Sahoo (Researcher in nanotechnology at the Institute of Life Sciences); Dr. Sakthivel Rathinaswamy (Professor and researcher in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Bharathiar University). Read on...
ONLY 10 AMONG THE WORLD'S TOP 4000 INFLUENTIAL RESEARCHERS ARE INDIAN: REPORT
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 nov 2018
There are many sides to India's agriculture story. But, what we often hear is the sad one of farmer poverty and suicides. Although many challenges remain including that of humanitarian crises of farmer suicides, but Indian agriculture is going through many positive transformations. According to recent data, tractors sales ended the last fiscal year with a growth of 22% due to good monsoon and strong rural demand. Improvements in road connectivity has boosted tractor sales even in the remote parts of Jharkhand, Telangana, Haryana and other states. The Bloomberg Indian rural economy indices provide a steady upward movement in rural output growth. Two-wheeler sales, a positive indicator of rural growth, have also picked up in recent months. Moreover, there are other visible innovative aspects of Indian agriculture that are good news. India is one of the biggest agrarian economies and even though it lacks in productivity but with 30% of world's organic farmers it is the largest organic farming country. People like Subhash Palekar, who preaches 'zero budget spiritual farming', or farming using only natural and low-cost fertilisers and techniques, are bringing the much needed change. His work has had an impact on 400000 farmers in Maharashtra and adjoining states. Top Indian restaurants and chefs now promote black rice and brown rice grown in India. Customers are also willing to pay a premium for organic produce, thus encouraging cropping up of startups and entrepreneurial ventures in organic farming space. Sikkim has recetly won a prestigious United Nations award for its status as an organic food-only destination. There are also innovations happening in dairy sector with startups putting the certain regions into limelight. India remains as one of the top milk producing countries in the world. Indian agri-tech startups have grown to such an extent that they now have their own exlusive expo that promotes diverse innovations like new pumping techniques, soil testing and management systems, and raw food supply chain breakthroughs. Read on...
How to join the dots of growth in Indian agriculture
Author: Hindol Sengupta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 aug 2018
As the saying goes, 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention' - A temporary ban on firecrackers by Indian Supreme Court, an appeal to scientisits from Dr. Harsh Vardhan (Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, GOI) to develop e-firecrackers and social campaigns against their use due to environmental concerns, has driven a team of scientists from Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISERM) led by Prof. Samrat Ghosh (Chemical Sciences) to innovate and develop 'green' firecrackers that are safer, smoke-free and reusable. Prof. Samrat says, 'I have filled combustible material in the disposable bottle. This material is ignited with a source, like a spark. The launcher ignites the material which burns and generates pressure, pushing the bottle upwards, like a rocket. This is one of the safest methods of bursting crackers. In the community where I have tested this, even four-year-old kids feel comfortable operating this. Additionally, the combustive recipe in the device is very benign and not at all harmful for the user and the environment.' Regarding additional usage of the invention, Prof. Samrat says, 'From driving away animals in agriculture fields to airports using them to clear runways, the device is beneficial in many different situations.' Read on...
The Better India:
Exclusive: Meet The Scientist Behind Smoke-Free, Debris-Less & Low-Cost Firecrackers!
Authors: Ahmed Sherrif, Gayatri Mishra
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2018
Education and awareness about protecting environment at the early stage of student learning can play a big role to save it. Bhavisha Buddhadeo, a social activist and an expert in organic farming and kitchten gardening based in Gurgaon (India), is doing just that as a mission to promote ecological wellbeing and safeguard environment. She conducts learning workshops and lectures on importance of sustainability and how to better care for the environment. Ms. Buddhadeo says, 'I have engaged children and women in plantation drives, kitchen garden activities and (a) solar energy initiative to educate them regarding the utmost importance of conservation of nature. Schools are doing environmental education and (the) best have made sustainability a school-wide, hands-on project, rather than just another topic for children to write reports on. My programs offer opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom, (and) enable students to make connections and apply their learning in the real world.' In her career spanning about 20 years she has taught 100000 students from across many states of India. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2018
According to meteorologists, the recent flooding in southwestern state of Kerala in India has occured due to two-and-a-half times the normal monsoon rains. Climate scientists caution that if the global warming continues unabated more unusual weather events will happen. Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, says, 'It is difficult to attribute any single extreme weather event - such as the Kerala flooding - to climate change. At the same time, our recent research shows a three-fold increase in widespread extreme rains during 1950-2017, leading to large-scale flooding.' According to the study published in Nature last year that Mr. Koll co-authored, flooding caused by heavy monsoons rainfall claimed 69000 lives and left 17 million people without homes over the same period across India. Kira Vinke, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany), says, 'These floods that we are seeing in Kerala right now are basically in line with climate projections. If we continue with current levels of emissions - which is not unlikely - we will have unmanageable risks.' Mr. Koll explains the weather patterns behind the excessive rains, 'Rapid warming in the Arabian Sea and nearby landmass causes monsoon winds to fluctuate and intensify for short spans of three-to-four days. During those periods, moisture from the Arabian Sea is dumped inland.' Elena Surovyatkina, a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and monsoon expert, says, 'Over the last decade, due to climate change, the overheating of landmass leads to the intensification of monsoon rainfalls in central and southern India.' According to a World Bank report titled 'South Asia's Hotspots', 'On current trends, India's average annual temperatures are set to rise 1.5 degree Celsius to 3 degree Celsius compared to that benchmark by mid-century. If no corrective measures are taken, changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures will cost India 2.8% of its GDP and will drag down living standards of half its population by 2050.' Ms. Vinke says, 'What we will see with climate change in India is that the wet season is going to be wetter and the dry season drier. Already we are observing that the monsoon is becoming harder to predict with traditional methods.' A recent research predicted, 'If man-made carbon emissions continue unabated, some regions in northeast India could literally become unlivable by the end of the century due to a deadly combination of heat and humidity during heatwaves.' Read on...
The Economic Times:
India's devastating rains match climate change forecasts
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 feb 2018
Team of scientists at Indian Institute of Science (IISc Banagalore) led by Prof. Pradip Dutta and Prof. Pramod Kumar, have developed a super critical carbon di oxide Brayton test loop facility that would help generate clean energy from future power plants including solar thermal. The new generation high efficiency power plants with closed cycle CO2 as the working fluid have the potential to replace steam based nuclear and thermal power plants, thus reducing the carbon foot print significantly. While inaugurating the facility Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology (Govt. of India), said, 'I am sure all these intense scientific efforts and collective endeavours would enable us to realise the vision of an affordable, efficient, compact, reliable clean energy systems which will be robust and suitable in diverse geographic conditions.' The advantages of using S-CO2 in a closed loop Brayton Cycle include - 50% or more increase in efficiency of energy conversion; Smaller turbines and power blocks can make the power plant cheaper; Higher efficiency would significantly reduce CO2 emissions for fossil fuel based plants; Power plant's use of solar or nuclear heat source would mean higher capacity at lower operating costs. Read on...
India Education Diary:
Indian scientists develop next generation technology loop to generate clean energy
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 19 sep 2017
Team of architects at Ant Studio (India) - Monish Siripurapu, Abhishek Sonar, Atul Sekhar, Sudhanshu Kumar - have used computational technologies (CFD Analysis) and reinvented the traditional evaporative cooling technique to lower temperature of emissions from an electronics factory with less cost, energy consumption and impact on surrounding environment. Ancient Egyptians, Persians and later on Mughals in India utilized the evaporative cooling technique to overcome hot climate. According to a research study by Prof. Asif Ali of Aligarh Muslim University (India), published in International Transaction Journal of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies (2013), 'The emperor's throne at the centre of Diwan-e-Khas is surrounded by two sets of openings four meters apart from each other. These openings were covered with grass mats with sprinkled water during summers...' The architects from Ant Studio stacked cylindrical terracotta cones, giving it a circular shape, and water was made to run over them. Hot air coming from the generators passed over the system lowering the temperature substantially. Further technical details of the system can be obtained from an ArchDaily.com article 'This Innovative Cooling Installation Fights Soaring Temperatures in New Delhi.' Monish Siripurapu, founder of Ant Studio, says, 'As an architect, I wanted to find a solution that is ecological and artistic, and at the same time evolves traditional craft methods...I believe this experiment worked quite well functionally. Findings from this attempt opened up a lot more possibilities where we can integrate this technique with forms that could redefine the way we look at cooling systems, a necessary yet ignored component of a building’s functionality. Every installation could be treated as an art piece...The circular profile can be changed into an artistic interpretation while the falling waters lend a comforting ambience. This, intermingled with the sensuous petrichor from the earthen cylinders allow for it to work in any environment with the slightest of breeze. Having said that, there are many factories throughout the country that face a similar issue and this is a solution that can be easily adopted and a widespread multiplication of this concept may even assist the local potters.' Read on...
Architects in India Use Natural Cooling to Take the Edge off Factory Emissions
Author: Vittoria Traverso
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 aug 2017
Industry experts are bullish on India's agriculture and suggest that it has potential to double farmer's income and grow exports to US$ 100 billion by 2022. Rajju Shroff, President of Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) and MD of United Phosphorus Ltd, says, 'Globally, exports in agricultural products is over US$ 1500 billion annually as per the latest data from WTO and India's share is less than US$ 35 billion at present.' According to the latest report by Centre for Environment and Agriculture (Centegro) and Tata Strategic Management Group, released by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, 'Agriculture's contribution to India's economy extends beyond the rural economy and encompasses many activities in manufacturing and services sector. Export surplus from the country's agricultural trade is higher than the corresponding figure achieved by the manufacturing sector.' Report urges the government to launch 'Grow In India' campaign to achieve gains in agri-exports with a single authority to monitor India's international agricultural trade. Report suggests that organic farming is not sustainable because of low yield and need for huge amount of unavailable manure. Mr. Shroff explains the dynamics of India's agricultural growth, 'This is all due to small and marginal farmers who deploy family labour and engage in intensive multi cropping all year round. They also manage livestock & poultry efficiently using agriculture waste as animal feed and to produce manure.' Read on...
The Economic Times:
Agriculture exports may grow to $100 billion by 2022 - Experts
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 20 apr 2017
Balancing tradition and modernity can be one of the effective approaches in architecture and design. Architect Sathya Prakash Varanashi explores and explains how use of natural materials can empower the designer to create ideas rooted in tradition, yet retain the freedom to interpret modernity in form and preception. In today's world, reducing environmental degradation through sustainable approaches is a challenge acknowledged by all. Although availability of natural materials is less as compared to manufactured materials, but a balanced hybrid approach to design that gels well with local environment and surroundings along with utilizing traditional techniques can be an effective solution. Mr. Varanashi shares an example of recent architectural installation at Kochi Biennale (India) where the architect Tony Joseph has designed an auditorium, built largely with natural materials such as mud, arecanut, jute and coloured fabric, it also juxtaposes with steel trusses with sheets as wall panel and roof. Mr. Varanashi concludes, 'Given all this, why are the natural materials losing out against manufactured materials? It may not be only because modern materials have greater potential in some respects, but also because we are forgetting certain design fundamentals which would enable us to mix and match the local material to create excellence. Design has to do more with designing than a blind application of a technology or a material.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 sep 2016
According to the conditions set forth in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Law in India, all companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or revenue of Rs 1000 cr or net profit of Rs 5 cr should spend 2% of last 3 years average profit on charity work. CSR management firm, NextGen, studied the annual reports of the top 100 firms by market capitalizations on NSE (National Stock Exchange) for 2014-15 & 91 firms for 2015-16. The total spend on CSR activities for 91 firms is Rs 6033 cr for FY16, while it was Rs 4760 cr by 100 companies in FY15. According to Abhishek Humbad, co-founder of NextGen, 'More and more companies are realizing that not meeting 2% makes them look bad, and for large companies, it can turn out be a reputational risk.' The energy sector accounted for nearly 26% of the total CSR spending. Reliance was the largest spender in FY16, using 2.3% of its profit (Rs 652 cr) on education, health and other social activities. Jagannatha Kumar at chairman's office of RIL says, 'The amount spent on each of the focus areas varies on an annual basis depending on the scope of work for the year.' In FY16 RIL spend on healthcare halved to Rs 314 cr while on education it increased to Rs 215 cr from Rs 18 cr in FY15. According to Parul Soni of Thinkthrough Consulting, a CSR consultancy, 'Manufacturing companies like automotive have been well poised to do CSR because they focus on communities around their plants and it helps build engagement with local communities. Also, many of them are working in skill development.' Some of the top causes that corporates spend on are healthcare, poverty eradication, education, skill development, rural development, and environment. Noshir Dadrawala, CEO of Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, says, 'Skills have been trendy. These causes have seen an increase because many of the skilling initiatives instead of being classified as an education initiative is being put under providing employment and reducing poverty. Also when it comes to healthcare, conducting blood donation camps is a popular way of doing CSR as it is easy and effective.' Ravi Chellam, ED of Greenpeace, points out that environment is not a priority issue for most Indian corporates. He says, 'On environmental issues, companies seem to prefer to focus on either their own campuses or areas immediately surrounding their locations.' According to Loveleen Kacker, CEO of Tech Mahindra Foundation, '50% of all our CSR capital goes into empowering women and another 10% for the disabled. We believe that any development can happen in any of the areas - from nutrition to sanitation, only when women are empowered. And we feel only economic empowerment of women can bring about social empowerment.' The top geographical regions that were beneficiary of CSR funds for FY16 are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka. Vinod Kulkarni, head of CSR at Tata Motors Ltd, says, 'It is part of our policy to invest CSR funds in geographies in close proximity to our area of operation. It amplifies the outcomes and impact.' Arun Nagpal, co-founder of Mrida Group, comments, 'The reasons for firms to select geographies close to manufacturing plants or areas of work are valid but this leads to an imbalance in the division of CSR funding.' Read on...
Firms ramp up CSR focus on healthcare, poverty, hunger
Authors: Arundhati Ramanathan, Moyna Manku
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