Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/umendra-dutt-and-kvm
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/debal
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/pRTL/a-journal-entry
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/high-tech-eye-on-forests
In the next six months Tata Consultancy Services [TCS] will implement GeoVun, a forest management software. This will enable effective patrolling of the forests, police poaching and measure the state of the forests. If successfully adopted across the country, there could be a dramatic improvement of forest cover. Tiger enthusiasts hope their tribe may increase - there are only about 1,400 tigers left in the country.
The pilot study will begin over the Sanjay Gandhi National Park outside Mumbai. Using satellite imagery and geographical positioning system hardware, the system will suggest optimal routes for patrolling forest guards.
TCS will cover the cost of Rs 30 lakhs as an expression of its social commitment. That would be in keeping with the Tata’s outlook of how business profits are meaningless if the society does not benefit. Story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/kiran-bedis-new-mission
Kiran Bedi, the energetic lady cop, who opted to retire from police service recently, has announced a promising initiative. It is common in India for a local police station to refuse recording your complaint, let alone act on it. It is a selectively followed practice, either to sustain a source of illegal income or to reduce work load. Usually, the way around is to know someone higher up.
Ms Bedi’s initiative will do just that. By registering your unattended complaint at saferindia.com you ensure it will be forwarded to the higher echelons. Kiran Bedi’s popularity with the public and the fact that a complaint has become public knowledge could goad the department to action. That at least, is the hope.
The site advises you to be responsible and ask for its services only if your complaint is truthful and you have tried hard -and failed- to have it recorded. For the mission to be effective, it must build credibility and seriousness. The site also has information on how the police system works and the processes it uses.Safer India
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/mazumdars-eye-mission
A single man’s passion has transformed Ahmedabad district of Gujarat into country’s leading source of donated eyes. Gautam Mazumdar has been recognised as the man who has stoked the fires for this passion among people. Since 1965, this man has raced around the district to inspire people to donate eyes. He is given the credit for 100,000 eyes donated.
The Government is also set to begin a Rs240 crores, formal programme to encourage eye donations. Eye banks will be funded and donors will get Rs 2,000 for a pair of eyes.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/rural-telephony-turns-profitable
Have you heard of the Universal Services Obligation Fund? It is the one that the Government used to dip in, to dole out subsidies to telecom operators to reach out to villages. Time was the operators did not find rural business profitable and had to be subsidised and coerced to serve there.
But things have turned around more than 180 degrees. In the latest round of bidding, there was keen competition among telcos to not only spurn subsidies but offer the government a premium to get the rural blocks they want. The forecast is mobile telephony will reach an additional 240million folks.
It’s a clear sign of rural prosperity and shows that the best subsidies are ones that die beautiful deaths. Report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/isro-order-book-filling-up
After successfully launching the 352kg Italian satellite, Agile, on April 23, the Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO]claims its order book is healthy. The copy-book Agile launch, is a major commercial success and ISRO joins the exclusive club of launchers made up of the USA, Russia, France, China and Japan.
ISRO’s marketing arm Antrix, says in August ISRO will launch a 300kg Israeli satellite. In 2008 it will launch an Israeli telescope. It is also set to launch six micro satellites for Canada.
ISRO related stories in GNI Agile launch New orders
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/village-courts-planned
6,000 village level courts are planned across the country. To be known as Gram Nyayalayas, these will handle both criminal and civil disputes. They will adopt a shortened procedure with full safeguards for natural justice. The Centre will fund the creation of courts and share the recurring costs with the States. A Bill to formalise this will soon be introduced in the Parliament.
The crowds of villagers milling around District and Taluka courts will no longer need to travel long distances and waste whole days or for that matter, be entrapped by greedy lawyers.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/s-s-r-varadhan-wins-the-abel-prize
Srinivasa S R Varadhan, born in Chennai and living in America since 1963 has won the Abel Prize for 2007. It is considered the Nobel Prize for mathematics. Varadhan is credited with playing a big part in mainstreaming probability theory.
Here is an interesting excerpt from the biographical note put out by the Abel institution: “It is reported that during his thesis defence Varadhan noticed a visitor whom he did not know and who asked many penetrating questions. After the exam he discovered that it was the great Russian mathematician and probabalist A N Kolmogorov. Apparently Professor C R Rao [Varadhan’s thesis advisor] arranged the date of the exam knowing Kolmogorov would be visiting India then, in order to show off his star student, and Kolmogorov was not disappointed.”
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/the-smritivan-idea-catches-on
Commemorative tree planting was an idea pioneered by Smritivan of Pune. The idea was to motivate people to plant trees by appealing to their sentiments. It has certainly caught on.
After Sikkim [over 50,000 saplings so far!] and Madurai [164 acres], the idea has now arrived in Chennai
For a one time payment of Rs.500 you can have a tree associated with your birth star, planted and maintained for three years by the C P Ramaswamy Environment Education Centre [CPREEC], Chennai. The State department that manages temples and temple lands in Tamil Nadu has directed 250 temples around Chennai to have Star Gardens.
For over 3,000 years Indians have associated each of the 27 birth stars with a specific tree. Despite the race to become ‘modern’, the pull of ancient memories appear strong in Indians
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/drugs-from-arecanut
Our forefathers were not unwise after all, to have included arecanut -betel- chewing as part of everyday life. Now two drugs have been prepared from the nut that can be used against diabetes and respiratory disorders. Licenses have been granted to Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Ayurveda Pharmacy to manufacture these formulations. If the initial market acceptance scales up, 5% of all nut grown in Kerala and Karnataka will find new markets. The development may also suck out the quantity available for chewing, a habit that has nullified any medicinal virtue our ancestors may have discovered in the nut!
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/rural-poverty-declines
Rural poverty by any measure, appears to have declined, according to the National Sample Survey Organisation [NSSO]. Between 1993 and 2005, the number of people below poverty line declined from 244 million to 170 million. But at the same time, urban poverty has increased.
That begs the question: has poverty only shifted, with people migrating from villages to the cities? “No”, argues Harish Damodaran in this report. If that were so, there should be a fall in the total rural population, which is not the case. India still largely -72%- lives in villages.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/a-weavers-son-innvoates
Typical of most inventors, S Shanmugam, son of a poor weaver in Erode refused to fall into the traditional mould. He refused to carry on his father’s trade, disobeyed his parents, worked and saved his wages for an education and three years after he left school, enrolled for a technical course .
There he blossomed: he innovated a way by which a weaver can produce three extra metres of fabric per hour. He had seen weavers stop every three minutes for a minute to extend the yarn. Shanmugam had seen this practice and refused to accept it. That was the seed that led to his innovation.
But what is more heartening to learn is that Mr Muthuswamy, Principal of the polytechnic admitted Shanmugam three years after he left school. And two, this innovation in a far corner of south India got noticed and the young man received the Grassroots Level Young Innovator Award from the hands of President Abdul Kalam. Story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/rubber-trees-as-border-guards
In an innovative move, the government is exploring the creation of rubber plantations all along Tripura’s borders with Bangladesh. These are notoriously leaky and soldiers can’t quite cope with illegal immigrants. Fencing with barbed wire is also very expensive and requires constant maintenance.
The idea is to create rubber plantations, populate them with tribals to manage them, get them to double as cost-free guards and have a profitable harvest of rubber, to boot. [!] A 3,784ha of pilot plantation has already been created and another 400ha will be added this year.Report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/oil-boom-ahead-in-mizoram
A big oil driven economic boom awaits Mizoram. Surveys have indicated that the state could have a reserve of 170 million tonnes of oil and gas. Oil exploration firms from France, Cypress and Ukraine await licenses to drill.
The state is next only to Kerala in literacy and it’s population is thinner. Prosperity can vault the state to the top of human development rankings. Story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/dabbawalas-diversify
Long before Lallu Prasad Yadav, the Railway Minister, came to be lionised by management students, the Dabbawalas of Mumbai had drawn worldwide admiration for their their flawless and timely delivery of home lunches to Mumbai’s office goers. They serve 200,000 households.
Now Airtel the cellular phone company has signed them on to market its phones. The Dabbawala has also got a free cell phone to help him along in his new business. They carry the necessary forms, get them filled, collect payments and deliver new handsets.
Airtel believes it can reach 4 lakh potential subscribers through the Dabbawalas. Story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/siege-of-goa-defeated
Amidst a real estate boom all around, urban folk command market prices for their land. But with rural and public lands, state governments have become high-handed land brokers. A price is fixed for vast tracts of land covering several villages, the state gets it acquisition machinery going, archaic laws are cited to support state action, promise of jobs in manufacturing or tourism are dangled and acquired property is handed over to business houses that wait in the wings with unctuous dignity, and they say, fat bags of bribes.
There is a collusion at work between commercial interests and politicians across the political spectrum to deny rights to native and accustomed habitats. Whether it is the right-wing in Gujarat that is callous about the Narmada-displaced or the left-wing in Bengal that hands over 1,000 acres of farmlands to a car factory in Singhur, the issue is the same. Who determines the price and decides to sell or not? - particularly, when public works like roads and bridges are not involved?
The foregoing is an emerging problem in India. The problem is slowly creeping into people’s awareness but knowing the problem is not enough. It won’t go away unless we seek a solution. The good news is, there is one. We have Goa to thank, for demonstrating it. It is worth studying in some detail.
India’s nouveau-riche has settled on Goa as a make-believe riviera that will do for it. The natural exuberance of Goans is packaged by resorts, hotels and spas as an ambience and lifestyle to bask in. Every surplusing coffer in the country therefore, wants to buy a toe-hold in Goa. Non Resident Indians and foreigners too are buying in. According to a detailed media report [-and a happy fallout]Russian mafia is brazenly buying property, breaking every law. It is widely agreed that politicians of all colours are in cahoots with commercial interests.
Therefore the Regional Plan 2011 [RP] unveiled in August,2006 by the state government should have come as no surprise to the people. It didn’t. But what surprised everyone was the collective, public anger that led to massive street action.
RP was the production of a Delhi based consultancy with dubious inputs from Goa’s Town and Country Planning [TCP]. There had been a draft RP in circulation for three years which elicited 1,000 objections. The final plan barely acknowledged them. It seeks to convert 1,500 hectares of forests, agricultural land and orchards as open to developers. Goa’s 105 km long coastline would be thrown open to construction. Builders, mafia, politicians and the wealthy had laid siege on Goa. Goans were trapped and their spirit was nearly emasculated. But they fought back.
The siege of Goa lasted five months. During this period common citizens and celebrity marched in the streets, explained the threat, wrote in blogs, signed petitions, unnerved their politicians and made the government uneasy. Media stepped in.
Most commendably, NDTV aligned itself with the besieged. In a series of exposes. It revealed the nexus between policy makers and developers, covered rallies and gave ordinary citizens a powerful platform. As the campaign continued, the church condemned the plan and slowly politicians ignored party loyalty and joined the struggle. Artists, cartoonists, poets and commentators spoke out. On New Year’s eve 2006, swinging parties as well as orhanised protests made news.
On January 3, 2007 the controversial minister Babush Monserrate resigned. He had personified the plan but everyone knew more than one man was responsible. An NDTV expose showed the Chief Minister Rane’s son was deep in deals that would be benefited by the RP. This was virtually confirmed when Rane rejected Monserrate’s resignation.
Then, after a disquieting lull, suddenly on January 26, the siege lifted. The Regional Plan 2011 was scrapped and all clearances were cancelled retrospectively. People had won. They had asserted that it was their right to price land and decide on selling it. In this case, they determined their environment was priceless and therefore decided:’no sale’. Not since success of the movement to save the Silent Valley in Kerala has there been such a people’s victory in India. The siege of Goa had been broken.
As we leave the scene of celebrations, let us ponder the contrast with a cause that was lost. In october 2005, GoodNewsIndia had celebrated a landmark judgment by the Bombay High Court in the case of Mumbai’s lands belonging to obsolescent textile mills. The Court ruled that one third of the 600 acres involved had to be set aside for low cost housing and public use such as parks. Suffocating Mumbai had gained valuable lung space. But mill owners went to the Supreme Court which took a literal view of the law and reversed the High Court ruling.
The point to ponder is, had the public sentiment been anything like the one in Goa, could the Supreme Court have ignored it? Kalpana Sharma points out the difference people can make. The bottom line is this: in this sorry land, good news doesn’t happen spontaneously- it has to be wrought by people. While Indians may be full of good intentions, most of the time we are loathe to spare our time and money for causes and instead, wax indignant in our homes and among friends.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/coupons-to-fight-corruption
Bihar will endlessly surprise you. Written off as a basket case, its new Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is beginning to clean up public life. In a pioneering innovation, he has launched a scheme that might rid the Public Distribution System [PDS] of corruption.
Each poor family entitled to subsidised wheat, sugar and kerosene will be issued on a single visit, with a set of coupons for a whole coming year. They can then shop for their needs from any of the PDS outlets. Shops will get replenishment based only on coupons collected and submitted to the warehouse. With this single innovation leakages from the system are expected to be prevented and shoppers will not be harrassed with ‘no stock’ signs. The Planning Commission, highly impressed by the idea, has urged other states to follow the model. News report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/alternate-energy-breakthroughs
Despite their allure, alternate energy systems have really not been able to displace conventional, non-sustainable, polluting or hazardous sources like coal, petroleum or nuclear. Reasons are cost and scalability. Take solar energy. It is estimated that several times the planet’s total energy need arrives from the sun but costs of gathering and effectively storing it are prohibitive.
Nanosolar Inc, in California, USA began with a checklist of seven stumbling blocks in the way of solar energy’s success and has in 5 years of work, been ticking them off as overcome. It is now ready for wide commercial sales.
What was the state of solar technology that Nanosolar has improved on? The first generation technology used bulky, brittle and expensive silicon wafers to convert solar radiation to electricity. Costs were so prohibitive that it never amounted to much more than proof of concept. The next generation thin-film cells used much lesser quantity of semi-conductor material but the fabrication method of vacuum deposition resulted in low yields and high costs. Fragility continued to be an issue. Neither approach was amenable to large scale production.
Nanosolar’s approach is to literally print solar cells on continuous rolls of flexible, inexpensive substrate. It begins with Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide [CIGS] , a semi conductor material proven in the thin-film cell. Particles of CIGS are dispersed in the ‘ink’ and because of the nano-scale they maintain the element-level ratio required for photo-voltaic action. At nano scale, photovoltaic semiconductor quantum physics occurs. The cells are able to abstract energy from a broader spectrum of solar radiation than in the earlier cells.
With this approach Nanosolar has achieved lower cost of semiconductor and substrate materials, nearly nil rejection rate of produce, continuous production with least human error and economies of scale. It’s a breakthrough in fabrication technology. Nanosolar is building a large production facility and mass sales will begin this year. It plans to make roofing panels with pre-installed solar cells. They will also sell flexible solar cell sheets. Because these cells are bendable one can conceivably unroll a carpet of cells on a desert and draw power from it.
You can evaluate the maturity of their business from the fact that Google’s legendary founders spotted it in 2002 and became angel investors. A senior executive from IBM joined them and Nanosolar has effortlessly raised $100 million to build a factory. It is targeting sales of $100 billion by 2020. Not inconceivable at all. Nanosolar
The second huge stumbling block for alternate energy enthusiasts is the storage problem. Whether electricity is generated by wind or solar it is always uneven because of unsteady wind and sunshine regimes. Despite a number of available options, the storage work-horse is the rechargeable battery. Its size and cost make them unattractive. When cars are sought to be run on batteries the problem of quickly recharging them becomes yet another issue.
It is the point of view of electric cars -given the huge market potential- that drove EEStor in Texas, USA to its breakthrough innovation. Cleanly bypassing all manner of electrochemical storage devices - ie batteries- EEStor broke new ground with capacitors. In simple terms, the ubiquitous capacitor is two metal plates separated by a material known as a dielectric. A capacitor can repeatedly receive and discharge large bursts of electrical energy. EEStor has grown this basic principle into a marketable battery. The company is highly secretive and responds to no queries, comments or reviews. It does not even have website! So we don’t quite know how the huge electrical charge, ususal to capacitors, is tamed and issued in a steady stream required by cars.
Richard Weir, its confounder speaks little as in a recent interview to MIT’s Technology Review magazine. They will have automotive batteries ready for cars this year, he says. According to the magazine, “The company boldly claims that its system, a kind of battery-ultracapacitor hybrid based on barium-titanate powders, will dramatically outperform the best lithium-ion batteries on the market in terms of energy density, price, charge time, and safety. Pound for pound, it will also pack 10 times the punch of lead-acid batteries at half the cost and without the need for toxic materials or chemicals...”
EEStor’s products, to be known as Electrical Energy Storage Units [EESU], will start coming off a production line this year. The first EESU will be a 45 kg unit that gives a car a 350 km range and can be recharged in under ten minutes. In comparison with petrofuels, a EESU cars’s running cost will be 80% cheaper.
EEStor’s EESU can facilitate large scale, low cost solar energy storage. While Nanosolar’s work is incremental, EESUs make a quantum leap in innovation. EEStor claims its product is ‘game changing’. The whole sustainable energy scene could be changing too. MIT article
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/goans-fight-back
The gathering anger against large scale acquisition of land to promote tourism and industry at the cost of local people’s interest, has been further stoked by Regional Plan 2011 proposed by politicians in Goa. For over an year common citizens across social divide have come together to form campaign groups and to march in the streets. The Plan seeks to convert forest and beachside lands into real estate available for development into resorts and luxury homes.
Then late last year, journalists of the news channel NDTV pulled in their weight and made a huge difference. Controversial minister Babush Monserrate resigned on January 4, 2007. But giving credence to the widespread suspicion that he has volunteered to be the lightning rod, the Chief Minister has refused to accept his resignation. The battle continues but people have smelt victory and the power of the media has come to back them. A report from 2005 NDTV on the issue GoodNewsIndia story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/the-supreme-court-growls
In the course of a single month, India’s Supreme Court asserted its suzerainty over ground encroached by politicians.
Good news in India, for many years to come, will comprise of reaction to bad status quo, because cleansing the Indian public system is a work in slow progress. Much of that work is being done by the Supreme Court and a growing number of activists.
On December 23, 2005 eleven members of Parliament were expelled. They had been found guilty by the Ethics Committee of gross misconduct. This comprised of accepting bribes for asking pointed questions in the Parliament and misuse of funds assigned by the state for micro public works in their constituencies. It is pertinent to point out, the misdemenours were exposed by television, along with undeniable evidence.
The expelled MPs claimed their privileges as elected representatives had been compromised and approached the Supreme Court. On January 10, 2007, the Court held that expulsions were in order, because the overarching privilege of the Parliament had been compromised by the 11 MPs.
The Court did not stop there. Did it suspect some deeper design? Was the Parliament sneakily building a precedent in order to claim supremacy in the Republic? The Court declared that in India the Constitution alone was supreme and all legislative action -including the action to expel MPs- was subject to judicial review. “Constitutional system abhors absolutism” said the Court.
The very next day, the Court delivered a seminal judgment just in case any doubts still lingered about the oft-proclaimed supremacy of the Parliament. A nine member bench said that all laws placed in the Ninth Schedule after 1973 are subject to judicial review. That year and the Schedule require some explanation.
In 1951, the Ninth Schedule was created to bypass vexatious litigation against land reforms in a young India. The zamindari system was being abolished to break the stranglehold of powerful landlords. Laws placed under the Ninth Schedule were closed to judicial review.
Beginning life with such a noble objective, the Ninth Schedule has since become a safe haven for various cavalier laws passed with a view to pander vote banks. From the original 13 laws, the count of laws under Ninth Schedule is 284 - and growing.
1973 may truly be deemed a landmark year. In Keshavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala, the Court declared that though Parliament has powers to legislate laws they were subject to review to see if the basic structure of the Constitution was being affected. Although what is meant by ‘basic structure’ was not defined it has come to mean the rights to life, freedom, and equal opportunity. This judgment held ground during the infamous Emergency of 1975, when attempts were made to do away with even the right to life.
The two significant rulings on Jan 10 and 11 have decided once and for all, that it is the Constitution that sits at the apex of our Republic, that none has the right to alter it fundamentally and that it was the Supreme Court that is the ultimate authority to decide if an act was constitutional or not. This development has been widely welcomed as a bulwark against arbitrary action by the state.
Within a week of this, a new Chief Justice assumed office and that event too made history. Mr Justice K G Balakrishnan was born a Dalit in Kerala. He has vaulted all caste impediments using only education and routine opportunities that India offers its citizens. The people who come to man the Supreme Court may hail from better-advantaged classes but they are all home-spun, self-effacing men who have come to be known for their unswerving allegiance to the Constitution. And, that has made India, for all its problems, a land of the free.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/bottled-coconut-water
A way to increase the shelf life of coconut water for upto three weeks has been developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation [FAO] of the UN. Basically the idea is to filter, quickly chill and seal it in sterilised bottles. This prevents fermentation of coconut water that begins soon as it is exposed to air. The process seems a little too complex to be followed in the field but FAO claims to have developed a mobile plant that is error free.
If coconut water is reliably delivered, India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines will carve out huge, new markets that will benefit rural folk. Full report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/a-miracle-rice
How seductive are those emerald green fields of the Indian countryside, with waving paddy shoots modulated by even little breezes. The acres of water in which they stand tempt you to linger and inhale the cool heady smell.
Sorry to intrude, but your rice field is causing good-sized environmental violence. A kilo of rice on your table needs 5,000 litres of water to grow. And the rice plant produces a lot of methane, which is a greenhouse gas.
The good news is we may be on the threshold of being able to grow rice in a more ecologically sensible way. A new rice plant, christened Aerobic Rice has been developed that promises much. Traditional rice cultivation is termed an-aerobic because standing water causes decomposition of organic matter in the absence of oxygen and this process generates methane. It is estimated that up to 25% of all methane generated in the world is from rice fields.
But aren’t flooded fields required to grow paddy? Well, no, not if you grow the right kind of rice. And there were in India, several strains of rice that grew well with little water. How? They had strong and vigorous root systems that absorbed moisture from below the surface.
The Green Revolution is lazy farming with appropriate costs all around. The high yielding variety of rice that led the revolution, had short roots which had to be pampered with water without it having to make the effort. Ergo, flooded fields. This was deemed good plant efficiency, when measured in terms of rice yield per given weight of plant. But no one worked out total efficiency and cost of agriculture. Floods of water, energy to pump it, fertilisers and pesticides to force feed the plant and keep it alive, the net profit to the farmer and of course the net loss to the planet in terms of methane generation were not reckoned with. Even worse, where once farmers grew rain-fed rice and other crops that needed little water, they now came to believe agriculture was not possible without a river or a well near puddled fields. Large acreages that were once farmed were abandoned.
The search for a rice that yielded good profit with little water began six years ago. According to a report in 2002, five Indian institutions and 20 scientists began work under a $350,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. They began with 3,000 native genes from which 800 were found promising. Then hybridisation of various combinations were tried.
In Nov 2006, Prof H E Shashidar of the University of Agricultural Sciences [UAS], Bangalore, one of the five institutions doing research, announced the development of Aerobic Rice. This has three times the length of currently cultivated rice strains, requires half the water and yields are about the same. It can grow in purely rain-fed conditions, can be broadcast directly in the fields which means the cost of transplanting is avoided. With reduced labour and energy costs, net profit for the farmer increases. Being aerobic, methane generation is nearly nil. Anaerobic rice, standing in water and fattened by fertilisers attract pests to their succulent stalks. The miracle -aerobic- rice is austere and so pests keep off. An added bonus is that aerobic rice growers may get an additional income by claiming carbon credits.
UAS has developed six types of aerobic rice that are set to be released to farmers in the coming year which could lead agriculture in a wholesome direction.
Almost on the same day as this story went online, world media carried news that seems to stand the methane theory mentioned above, on its head. GoodNewsIndia is indebted to reader Kris Rallapalli for bringing this to our attention.
According to a research report published by the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics at Heidelberg, Germany, anaerobic conditions, such as flooded paddies, are not necessary for methane production. Even ordinary plants, in rich oxygen realms, exhale substantial quantities of methane; in fact 30% of the whole methane production!
Fearing that this piece of news might trigger a blame game on what causes greenhouse methane, the Institute on Jan 18, 2007 released an explanation of the whole scene. It argues that plant derived methane has formed a non-threatening methane baseline ever since the planet began to support life forms. The discovery that plants even in aerobic conditions produce methane, does not add to the methane load but only increasses our understanding. The gobal warming crisis is clearly due to the rapid increase above baseline caused by fossil fuel burning. Planting more trees certainly remains a non-threatening idea.
And the bottomline on miracle rice? By reducing methane even further than in flooded paddy conditions, aerobic rice is a part of the solution and not the problem.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/isros-nine-in-a-row
ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle [PSLV] made its ninth consecutively successful run into space today. It is termed a copy-book launch and makes India’s launch service a reliable one. The PSLV injected 4 satellites: the Cartosat-2, a space recovery module and one satellite each for Indonesia and Argentina. The Cartosat in particular is likely to carve out a large share in the lucrative space imagery market as it is capable of 80 cm. resolution, bettering the 1M offered by global leader Ikonos.
ISRO’s marketing arm Antrix says it has a steadily growing order book. Canada, Italy and Singapore are some of the countries that are turning to its assured, lower-cost service.
Links: ISRO Launch Coming deals
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/itc-helps-harvest-water
High profile TV ads and media reports rightly celebrate a unique programme in corporate social responsibility. Originally the Imperial Tobacco Company, ITC has transformed itself into a hospitality and processed food major. Building on its vast network of associating farmers, ITC has become active in water harvesting and restoring soil health. Beginning in 2001 it has so far helped create over 900 water storing bodies, big and small, that help irrigate over 10,000 hectares. In the coming decade, the programme termed ‘Aashirvaad: Boond se sagar’, hopes to cover 50,000 ha.
The company draws a small percentage of the proceeds from the sale of Aashirvaad branded products to form a big corpus, from which 75% of the cost of construction is given out; villagers provide the balance 25%. Company site News report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/vultures-may-return
India has been lauded for initiatives to safeguard the survival of three species of Indian vultures that have been poisoned to near extinction by a veterinary drug they ingest from dead cattle. Vulture population came down by 97% in 15 years and last year, the Indian government acted. It banned dicolfenac and recommended a harmless alternative, meloxicam in its stead. However growing back a new population may be slow as it may take a decade before residual poisoning ceases. But at least India has begun doing something about it.
Meanwhile, in active collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds [RSPB], two vulture breeding centres were set up in Hariyana and West Bengal with a stock of 127 vultures. Today there was happy news from Pinjore, Hariyana: a first set of chicks of the Oriental white-backed vultures was hatched in captivity, a piece of news widely applauded by conservationists. Background News report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/ninan-picks-six-trends
T S Ninan has picked six mega-trends discernible in India today. Five will make our hearts glad: Indian businesses will rival global giants in scale; speed of all manner of transactions will improve all round efficiencies; urbanisation and the growth of middle class that will follow it, will spawn caste-neutral politicians and force governments to provide better quality of life and services; common-Indian’s steadily growing integration with the world will bring about a new confidence and style in behaviour; with something like half of India being under 25, youth will gain ascent and their throbbing energy and desire for fairness will change India in unforeseeable ways.
The sixth one, his #4 in fact, is what makes Ninan’s exercise a serious one. Ninan says the destruction of environment, irresponsible energy use and insensitive pursuit of wealth could easily turn the modern day fairy-tale that the other five trends foretell, into a nightmare or even an endgame before collapse.
The full article
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/rti-delivers-change-in-banda
Alka Pande details in the Indian Express how the Right to Information [RTI] Act brought an end to sixty years of isolation for 14,000 people in 8 villages, about 60 km from Banda town of Naraini block in UP’s Bundelkhand region. They had been without roads, crucial bridges over two rivers, a primary health centre or accessible education for their children. Patient periodic appeals brought no relief. And then came the RTI. A single specific query was made asking what became of a recent fact-finding visit of the District Magistrate.
Action swiftly followed from the Collectorate and work on bridges, 8 km of roads and electrification was soon afoot. It is important to notice the action was not spontaneous on part of the villagers. They had the services of a group of volunteers working under Vidya Dham Samiti. India needs several such groups that will spur people to action. Report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/irulas-political-rope-tric
In north Tamil Nadu, Irulas a tribe of snake catchers is being organised by NGOs like the Bharathi Trust to participate in electoral politics. Their traditional occupation of catching snakes and rodents no longer pays them enough to live on. So Irulas are turning to education for bettering their lives. But bureaucrats immersed in stereotyped perception of what Irulas must look like or do for for a living, do not easily issue them caste certificates needed for claiming priority in education. Their habitats are neglected by local bodies responsible for providing amenities like roads.
Now Irulas are striking back. In the recently concluded panchayat elections in Tamil Nadu, they contested in 35 panchayats and won presidentship in 15. Read the full story.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/chip-designing-in-india
Disproving the caricature that India’s service boom is made of low-paid staff manning phones for the West, reports regularly emerge of new frontiers being conquered.
According to “IC Design Industry: Rapid Expansion”, a report by a US market analyst, India based semi-conductor designers are expected to grow their revenue from the current half billion to over $2.0 billion by 2010. By then, more than half of all the world’s chip designing will be done in India. This article in the Hindu details specific success stories in recent months.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/welcoming-pelicans-back-to-kolleru
Kolleru is a large lake in Andhra Pradesh that lies between Krishna and Godavari rivers. For long an unspoiled habitat for flora and fauna, aquaculture had been destroying the ecological balance in recent decades. Generations of Kolleru residents have sustained a love for pelicans, a fact observed and recorded by the British in 1883. Alas, the last pelican was sighted in 1994.
One young IAS officer Lav Agarwal, went to work last year and convinced the people to allow destruction of aquaculture farms. He worked out alternative livelihoods through responsible tourism. A Supreme Court order in June, 2006 accelerated the reclamation of encroached land.
Efforts have paid off. The pelicans have returned; 350 new nests have been sighted this year. And so have other birds come to the lake restored to its old glory. Report. Overview on Kolleru and how to get there
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/adilabads-antidote-to-suicides
Sonu Jain writing in the Indian Express picks the reasons why Adilabad district in AP had just 2 farmer suicides in 2006, while barely 100 km away in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra the figure is a shameful and shocking 222.
In Adilabad under a government programme called ‘Polambari’, agricultural extension officers make a huge difference; in Yavatmal they are nearly invisible or somnolent. Adilabad farmers attend field demonstrations on plant care, crop rotation and minimising pesticide use. Farmers are encouraged to draw pictures of pests so identification skills improve. Pesticide is brushed on instead of being sprayed mindlessly. Its sale in Adilabad has fallen from 70 tonnes to 18 and profits have risen to a neat Rs35,000 an acre.
In Yavatmal pesticide merchants and money lenders stalk the fields sowing debt and death. The article will enable you to understand the phenomenon of farmer suicides.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/indian-women-caused-the-economic-boom
R Vaidyanthan in an insightful article in BusineesLine today, says the Indian housewife is the real hero and reason for the current economic boom. Braving shortages, inflation and inefficient services she has saved enough and put the money into education, housing and healthcare. If India’s savings rate rose from 8% in 1960s to the current 30%, it is because she has refused to be become a wasteful consumer and instead put her money away to be saved. While politicians and tycoons have been lauded for reforms and enterprise, not many realise that it is her frugality that led to great capital formation.
The article sets out revealing data in tables. Since 1950, the household sector’s savings has consistently exceeded those of the government, corporates and foreign investors. And that doesn’t even include the gold the housewife buys and puts away as insurance against hard times.
The article in full
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/india-will-lead-organic-cotton-produce
India now ranked second after Turkey, is soon expected to emerge as the largest producer of organic cotton in the world. Its current production of 10,834 tonnes is within 100 tonnes of Turkey’s. Organic cotton is a premium produce commanding a handsome price in the market place. For environmentalists, a greater point of satisfaction is that its cultivation makes do without genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
Does not this news, seen in the context of GM cotton failures and farmers’ suicides, prompt us to a solution? Well-informed farmers are making money and poor farmers are un-informed.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/up-one-notch-in-human-development-index
When main media gloats over India’s shortcomings, the news that in UNDP’s Human Development Index [HDI] for year 2006, India has moved up by one notch is a cause for quiet satisfaction. Having said that, a current rank of 126 out of 177 is pretty dismal, but could it be that India has reversed the trend and begun a slow climb from here-on?
HDI looks beyond GDP figures and seeks to evaluate a country’s standing from the points of view of health, poverty and education.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/world-forests-growing-indias-too
According to a study by Pekka Kauppi and others, published by the National Academy of Sciences, USA, world’s forests are growing back. New York Times reporting on the study says, countries, including India, seem to be reversing a trend of depletions. One of the authors of the study said he had expected to live on a ‘skinhead’ earth by 2050 but now believes a steady recovery is possible.
In India, China and Turkey, “a strong measure of public policy, including tree-planting campaigns, restrictions on clear-cutting and more efficient agricultural practices” has helped says the report. There is also a cautionary note, that the findings are based on data supplied by governments, which is not always reliable.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/world-forests-growing-indias-too1
According to a study by Pekka Kauppi and others, published by the National Academy of Sciences, USA, world’s forests are growing back. New York Times reporting on the study says, countries, including India, seem to be reversing a trend of depletions. One of the authors of the study said he had expected to live on a ‘skinhead’ earth by 2050 but now believes a steady recovery is possible.
In India, China and Turkey, “a strong measure of public policy, including tree-planting campaigns, restrictions on clear-cutting and more efficient agricultural practices” has helped says the report. There is also a cautionary note, that the findings are based on data supplied by governments, which is not always reliable.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/making-judges-accountable
As a first step to making judges’ performances accountable, a Judges [Inquiry] Bill 2006 is being prepared for consideration by parliament. If passed, a Judicial Council will come into being, to which complaints regarding a judge’s integrity and diligence can be addressed, without attracting contempt provisions. The move follows a recommendation by the Law Commission.
The Bill covers only judges of upper courts. Presumably, they would in turn sharpen their vigil on lower courts where most irregularities and delays occur.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/brand-indias-growing-overseas-investments
Even as a growing section is complaining about globalisation, Indian entrepreneurs are taking to globalisation with effortless ease. PTI in a report today says that this year, FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] flows out of India will exceed inflows. Tata’s Corus acquisition alone is $8 billion out of the total outflow of $10 billion this year. The trend of Indians acquiring overseas companies in telecom, auto, pharma and IT sectors is strengthening. But economists say India with its foreign exchange reserves of $165 billion has no cause for worry.
It used to be many columnist’s staple to periodically contrast China’s higher FDI inflows with India’s. Maybe Indian entrepreneurs are playing a game in bigger league.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/are-indians-worlds-business-gurus
It would seem the world’s business education is being deeply influenced by Indians and their outlook. About 10% of professors at Harvard Business School, Kellog’s, and Michigan’s Ross School are of Indian descent. C K Prahlad, Ram Charan, Dipak Jain and Vijay Govindarajan are but a few of the many prominent business teachers and consultants. It was inevitable perhaps, that the Bhagavad Gita is replacing the thus far fashionable Chinese classic ‘Art of War’.
Where aggressive moves in business were earlier taught, Indian gurus -and, American ones- are now teaching selfless, unemotional, fearless commitment to duty and the larger good.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/antrix-to-market-images-directly
Images from space, generated by India’s satellites are of great demand in world markets. Antrix, the marketing arm of ISRO has been selling these images since 1994 - but through an intermediary. Now Antrix has decided to be more aggressive. It has arranged to download images in Antarctica and sell them through its own network of resellers in Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Greece and Australia.
India’s share in the $1 billion space imaging market, is Rs 400 crores and that is likely to increase when ISRO’s new Cartosat-2 begins to send images of one metre resolution. News report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/india-to-survey-gas-hydrates
Although great odds are to be overcome before they are extracted, gas hydrates found deep in the oceans, are a fuel resource no nation is likely to leave alone. India’s stock of gas hydrates is said to be nearly 2,000 times its conventional gas reserves. India has now decided to spend $4 billion to survey 100 sq.km along the Andhra Pradesh and Andaman coasts. No assured extraction process exists yet as one has to contend with technological, environmental and safety risks. But no one is likely to shy away because of that: estimated worlwide reserves are said to be sufficient to meet world’s needs till late 21st century. India has begun to make its own moves.
News report A introduction to gas hydrates
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/tata-corus-raises-indias-profile1
While the Mittal-Arcelor deal just 4 months ago created the world’s largest steel company, it aroused a lot of investor hostility and left most Indians cold with indifference. In contrast, the announcement today of Tata’s taking over the Anglo-Dutch Corus has triggered countrywide celebrations. That speaks highly for Tata’s reputation, built over a century of commitment to India. Tata Steel, in the last decade has reinvented itself to become the world’s lowest cost producer of steel.
The $8 billion deal was the largest overseas investment by an Indian company and has been welcomed by the management and workers of Corus. There is another little noticed feature about India’s economy, which is growing at close to 9% despite little foreign direct investment [FDI]. The mammoth FDI China receives is often held out to contrast with India’s lowly number. Has anyone observed this: in the last nine months India received $8.3 billion as FDI but Indian companies have pumped out $7.5 billion to acquire 115 companies around the world.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/10-ponds-revived-by-civil-society-in-meerut
Here is the exciting story of a collaboration between Rain Centre and Janhit Foundation in Meerut, UP that has led to thousands across civil society participating in revival of neglected water bodies. They first surveyed over 600 villages, discovered most of them to be in disuse and roused people’s interest in water security. In several places, ancient folk histories were recalled to emphasise spiritual origins of some tanks. For instance the Gandhari pond, in Parikshit Garh, was named for a Mahabharata heroine. The movement also broke caste barriers: Asha Rani, a Dalit woman of Alamgirpur emerged as a great leader mobilising people. Many -including government officials- contributed physically to de-silt ponds. Several homes, factories and offices have opted to rig their houses for harvesting rain water. The Women’s Police Station in Meerut now sports an elaborate RWH system.
Impressed, the Planning Commission ordered a countrywide census of water bodies. That could be the base document on which to mount a wider campaign. Full story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/children-reporters-of-koraput-orissa
An year old experiment to increase the awareness of children about social issues is now slowly spreading in Orissa. The idea was to turn them loose outside classrooms to observe and report on events and issues. For children of Ankur, a village in Koraput district of Orissa, the school used to be a pigeon-hole but now their village is their school. No longer do they walk past an accident, a broken pipe or accumulating dirt. They whip out their diaries and make an entry. Best reports are printed in the monthly newsletter ‘Ankurodgam’ and circulated among NGOs and decision makers.
The project was conceived under the Advocacy and Partnership programme of UNICEF in 2005. Begun with 100 reporters from 10 schools, there are today 1,500 child reporters in 286 schools. And they have their own blog now. Here’s a news report on the programme. You can mail and cheer them at email@example.com
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/child-labour-law-becomes-more-effective
Employment of children under 14 as domestic help, in hotels, motels, teashops, resorts etc has been banned under an amendment to the Child Labour Act of 1986 that comes into force today. Violators face a fine of Rs 20,000 or one year’s imprisonment or both. District collectors have been directed to raise awareness of the new law, to detect violations and to rehabilitate rescued children. Organisations working with children, help-lines, postmen electricity meter readers and neighbours are all expected to be encouraged to look out for offenders.
A law is a slow mover, but it is relentless and brings about change in the long run. We should see a somewhat better deal for young, poor children of India in the coming years.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/the-importance-of-kanshi-ram
The Dalit politician Kanshi Ram who died today aged 74, may not have been the darling of India’s intelligentsia, but as an instrument of social change within our democratic system, he is to be esteemed. In a very short period, he carved out a space for Dalits in electoral politics, who till his arrival had been been milked for their votes and then ignored. An educated man, he personally knew no oppression but is said to have read Dr B R Ambedkar’s ‘The Annihilation of Caste’, three times in one night that led to his quitting a secure job as a scientific officer and jump into politics. No doubt he thwarted the forward caste politicians by practicing an amorality that was greater than their own, but that is not the point of Kanshi Ram’s life.
A very perceptive article by Harish Khare in the Hindu says, “Many extremist groups have tried to enlist Dalits in their “struggles” against the Indian state but rarely do we hear of Dalits arming themselves. Instead, Kanshi Ram’s BSP is a potent advertisement that numbers, not violence, works in democratic India”. Full article
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/india-rises-in-global-competitiveness-report
India has risen by two places to the 43rd, in the Global Competitiveness Reports published every two years by the World Economic Forum. Countries may be small but highly competitive as Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Singapore, the top 5 suggest. Among the large growing economies, India  leaves behind China , Russia and Brazil . USA and Japan are the only countries in top 15 that have populations above 100 million.
The ranking is a measure of effective use of technology and capital, innovative skills, soft infrastructure like education, financial and legal institutions, markets etc and relative efficiency. WEF site and Report highlights
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/85000-mw-from-alternate-sources
The Ministry of Non Conventional Energy Sources [DNES] says that the installed capacity of energy from renewable sources -wind, solar etc- has crossed 85,000 Mw in India. That’s great news.
But along with that comes the news that DNES is planning to compress biogas and pipe it with natural gas to homes. Wonder if anyone has worked out the costs involved. Hope it’s prohibitive, because GoodNewsIndia believes energy must be locally generated and consumed by local people just as food and harvested rain water.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/india-is-second-big-investor-in-uk
According to a report by Ernst & Young, India has emerged as the second largest foreign investor in UK, which remains the favourite European destination for overseas investors. For countries seeking to do business in Europe, Britain offers many advantages. India with 21 new projects, is second only to USA’s 145.
Seen in the light of noises made on jobs lost to India due to outsourcing, this ranking shows it is not a one way street. India seeking world markets, is investing its capital overseas creating new jobs there. Report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/indias-290-billion-gold-horde
While pointing out how India is sitting idly on its gold, Bloomberg columnist Andy Mukherjee brings out some amazing facts about India’s barely visible wealth. India is the world’s largest consumer of gold at 676 tonnes per year, three times more than China. Even as gold price rose steadily between 2002 and 2005, Indians simply bought more. There are 15,000 tonnes of gold right here, in this land. That is a value of $290 billiion at $600 an ounce. The article juxtaposes this with the fact that to become world class in physical infrastructure, India needs just $150 billion, a mere half of the reserve.
A new financial reform intiative of 2006, called Exchange Traded Fund [ETF] might induce Indians to feel secure enough to put their gold to productive use. Gold ETF in the US have brought in a 28% return to investors. Full article
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/kolkatas-wonder-wetlands
For a city of 12 million, Kolkata has no conventional sewage processing system. Human and biological wastes are sustainably handled by nature in 12,500 hectares of living marshes known as East Kolkata Wetlands [EKW]. It is home to 300 ponds producing 13,000 tonnes of fish annually and farms producing150 tonnes of vegetables a day. There’s also a square mile of garbage dump within EKW. People and small wildlife have lived in productive harmony here for over a century. It’s a living lesson for those that do not appreciate the importance of wetlands. Read an exciting profile of EKW.
EKW is in news now because a research team from West Bengal University of Technology has mapped its microbial population and identified 20 bacteria that can remove lead, cobalt, iron, chromium, nickel and silver and also many other chemicals that flow down from industries and tanneries. Some bacteria can degrade oil and some secrete enzymes useful in pharma and soap industries. DownToEarth [subscription required]
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/women-hindu-priests-of-pune
From nowhere thirty years ago, women Hindu priests are over 500 strong in Pune. Vinita Deshmukh, writing for Women’s Features Service, says it was due to Shankarrao Thatte who in early 1980s started the Shankar Seva Samiti to train women in priestly duties. He was riled by the unprofessional ways of male priests who were in any case becoming scarce. Widespread opposition of early days has given way to acceptance though for funeral rites many still prefer male priests. Thatte’s breakthrough came when he took 22 women priests on a tour of Indian homes in US and UK. Today they officiate in many pujas and wedding, christening and other ceremonies.
The big honour must be reserved for Gulabbhai Tripathi who died aged 86 in 2005. In conservative Allahabad, UP, she defied men priests since she was 11. She built her own funeral ghat on the Ganga and ran it for 70 years. Read the full exciting story here.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/indias-online-tutors
Reuters today has a story on an online business called TutorVista, run from Bangalore. It has 150 e-tutors on its rolls who help out students, mostly in the USA. Most of the tutors have Masters degree, are trained in US curriculum needs, history and manner of speaking. They teach everything from grammar to geometry using instant messaging, voice and whiteboard. The charge is just $100 per month for unlimited hours, v. the $40 charged by similar US services. Face to face tutoring in the US goes up to $100 per hour.
TutorVista has signed up over 1,100 students. The report quotes a happy mother as saying her daughter was now on top of every subject in her class. Though US education is very well designed, it seems currently there’s a crisis with only 60% of students graduating from school. See how TutorVista works
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/coconuts-take-on-colas
Surprising coconuts have taken this long to confront colas: they are safe, healthy, biodegradable, competitive and put profit into our farmers’ pockets and not some far MNC’s.
What they needed was someone to make them appealing, easy to open at the point of use and ensure reliable supplies. Health Magic, a Bangalore company has just done that and business is growing among techies and upscale pros. H R Yogesha worked out a way to attractively carve coconuts into a standard shape, preserve the fresh cut white look and made them un-messy to handle and dispose off. Sales are 2,000 nuts per day and growing. “...if we miss a single day, phones start ringing,” says a happy Yogesha.
Read the whole delightful story here.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/palak-muchal-is-225-and-going
Since GoodNewsIndia ran this storyin 2000, baby Palak Muchal has grown to be a little lady of 14. The number of children’s heart surgeries she has sponsored so far, through her singing talent, stands at 225 now.
Palak gives away all the money she receives from her popular concerts, for getting heart surgeries done on children in need. She then coordinates with helpful surgeons and hospitals for reduced prices. There is a backlog of 400 children now waiting for surgeries. And Palak is determined to stay the course. [Based on an update in Businessline today]
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/railways-make-headlines-again
It is becoming difficult to keep track of all the exciting happenings in Indian Railways, ever since it became a media darling. There has been a constant stream of innovations.
Today, various media reports say the accident rate has fallen by nearly 50% in five years. This happened because the railways, in a bold move, decided to replace in one go, 19,000 of a particular type of wagon that caused most derailments. There have been other safety innovations as well. This week, the railways begin constructing the first of its several dedicated ‘freight corridor’ tracks that will eventually girdle the country. There is also the announcement today that all trains will be air conditioned in a few years. Then there was the announcement that markets for farmers’ produce are to come up in land adjoining several stations.
Just a fortnight ago, the minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, addressed the prestigious Indian Institute of Management [Ahmedabad] explaining his approach to innovations. He is sure, an original.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/nepa-mills-recycles-newspapers
Started in 1956, Nepa Mills in MP was using Salai wood and bamboo to make paper. This has creates considerable pressure on forests. Then in the late eighties, while expanding capacity, the mills switched to old newspapers as its main feedstock. It now seelks to buy 6,000 tonnes of old newspapers a month. The long and wide nationwide network of rag-pickers, aggregators and big dealers have got busy. Supplies are coming in from Hyderabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Bangalore and Chennai.
Businessline ran a story on it today because a Chennai vendor has won a competitive tender to supply 3,000 tonnes per month and has already supplied 20,000 in five months. Before that, most of the newspaper waste was sent to Sivakasi to produce crackers that are produced often using child labour. And crackers pollute the air and leave a litter of shredded paper on the ground.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/affordable-hepatitis-b-vaccine
Indian pharma entrepreneurs competing with world majors is familiar news by now. But here’s a surprise player: the National Dairy Development Board [NDDB]. It has launched Elovac-B, its branded, low-cost vaccine for humans against Hepatitis-B. Human Biologicals Institution, a division under NDDB’s wholly owned manufacturing arm, Indian Immunologicals Ltd will produce the vaccine. Elovac is said to be 40% of the cost of similar products from Indian and MNC pharma companies. About 200 million doses are expected to be manufactured and distributed mostly through its own countrywide network of 2,000 clinics.
NDDB is also working on measles, DPT, TT and combination vaccines. Links to story and NDDB
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/workers-in-managementn-tea
Kanan Devan Hills Plantation [KDHP] is the world’s largest company that is run by participatory management. 97% of its over 13,000 employees own shares in the company and direct its policy. Today’s Businessline has a story on a director of KDHP. She is Ms A Chandra, a tea plucker earning Rs 83 per day from the Rs 105 crore company which she helps govern.
Chandra is an award winning plucker, having recorded 216 kg of leaves a day. No wonder an earlier report said that productivity at KDHP has risen by 35%. The plantation is now seeking to diversify into growing herbs and medicinal plants.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/model-madrassas-of-bengal
It seems madrassas in Marxist-run state of Bengal have no adverse image problem. How come? Pakistan, whose madrassas are often profiled as terror schools, wanted to know and asked the state government.
Jayanth Jacob, reporting in the New Indian Express today, says the reasons are simple and few. Madrassas in the state are not exclusively for muslim children only. Other communities send their children too. Nor are they for boys only; nearly 65% are girls.Finally, appointment of teachers is done by the government- the only extra qualification specified is that the candidates have a knowledge of Islam and its culture. The state spends a whopping Rs130 crores in running madrassas.
Is socialism a better mullah?
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/muslim-enthusiasm-for-sanskrit
The Hindu today has a story on Murthuzaviya Educational and Cultural Foundation, a Muslim organisation in Chennai’s Triplicane area, which has been offering Sanskrit language courses for 30 years. In that time, over a 1,000 have enrolled for the course and over 200 have gone on to pass the Kovidh examination conducted by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Several of them are Muslims, especially girls. One of them, Misbah Fathima has a master’s degree in Mathematics but wants to teach Sanskrit.
In the light of Muslims’ recent protests about compulsory singing of Vande Mataram because of its idolatrous tone, this enthusiasm for Sanskrit shows that it belongs no one religion exclusively nor that it has only ecclesiastical use. The full story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/supreme-court-strikes-two-blows
In just one week India’s Supreme Court struck two blows in favour of furthering democracy.
In a landmark judgment, a 3 member bench headed by the Chief Justice directed the government to implement the reforms suggested by various National Police Commissions [NPC] since 1979. Now reforms cannot be postponed after January 2007.
The malaise of politician-police nexus is due to the powers vested in the former to appoint and transfer of police officers at will and convenience. Various NPCs have concurred that this nexus is best broken by independent bodies to manage this function. Separation of criminal investigation from maintaining law and order is another measure expected to come into force. Collusion to protect criminals who serve political ends can be expected to diminish. The full judgment
The same week the Supreme Court also ordered implementation of the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations to regulate elections in universities. These have been proxy battlefields for political parties. Now “students” above 28, those with criminal records or with less than 75% attendance are barred from participating in elections. There are other measures as well.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/kerala-takes-to-linux
30,000 computers in Kerala’s 12,500 schools teaching 1.5 million students, are switching from Microsoft’s Windows operating system in favour of the open source Linux. Microsoft offered ‘a competitive pricing-value model’ at Rs1,250 to 1,500 per copy. Linux more than matched it: its free! Education Minister M A Baby however said his greater concern was longer-term consequence of Microsoft’s dominance.
This development follows the Life Insurance Corporation switching to Linux in 2005 and saving $2 million. BusinessWeek: “Linux spreads its wings”
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/ec0-clubs-in-schools
The National Green Corps intiative by the central Ministry of Environment and Forests [MoEF] has resulted in the creation of 70,000 eco clubs in schools across India since the programme began in 2002. The idea is to make children in secondary schools more sensitive to environmental issues and induce responsibe behaviour among them.
Given the track record of MoEF in the last few years as a guardian of the environment, this may be no more than a lunge at tokenism. But often those that pay lip service are hoist by their own petard. Even marginal exposure to ecology can add members to help build the critical mass required to combat official ignorance and vandalism.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/ncdex-is-third-in-the-word
After just two years of operation, India’s National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited [NCDEX] has emerged the third largest online trading mechanism in the world. NCDEX is a private initiative floated by nine Indian financial institutions to offer a dynamic, transparent market for commodities. It deals in 56 commodities, the majority of which are farm produce. NCDEX ensures best current prices and assured future markets. UNCTAD says NCDEX has grown spectacularly, leaving behind the New York Board of Trade - and that, when India’s agricultural growth at 2%, lags far behind industrial growth. The potential for the future is therefore obvious.
Now with a view to offer competition to NCDEX , India’s Forward Markets Commission is planning to encourage more such exchanges. NCDEX
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/with-no-reservation
Today’s New Indian Express has a report on Thakurnagar, a village in Bengal’s 24 Parganas district, where 95% of the population is of the backward classes. Reservations for them by the government in jobs and educational institutions has nearly split the country but Thakurnagar is no admirer of government largesse.
In 1948, Pramatha Ranjan Thakur a Member of Parliament, set up the Thakurnagar High School and things haven’t quite been the same. Without waiting for the government to help it, Thakurnagar has produced 11 IAS and IPS officers, two university Vice Chancellors, four doctors with FRCS and a number of senior civil servants, engineers and other professionals. One of the old boys is a Sahitya Academy Award winning poet and another studied economics under Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh.
Everyone recalls 1948 and Thakur as the turning point. Now grateful alumni have bought and handed over a 12 acre plot for setting up the St Stephen’s College of Science and Technology.
Maybe the government should get pro-active in setting up elementary and secondary schools instead of throwing sops at under-privileged people.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/muslim-bhajan-singer
Sheikh Muslims are a community that lives near Mohalla Sayid Hassan, that’s on the way from Delhi’s Connaught Place to Karol Bagh. For 400 years, Muslim quawwali singers living around a dargah here have not felt any conflict singing the praise of Sikh gurus, Krishna, Durga and Ganesha.
Shabbir Hussain, a star among them has sung at Badrinath, the Puri Jagannath Temple, Delhi’s Gurdwaras and even Chattarpur Mandir whose orthodoxy does not permit film playback singers to perform. Another of the famous Sheikh Muslims, Sajan Shola says he always begins a concert with an invocation to Ganesh. Another, Jameel Bharti says, “I don’t know much but ours is an art, and art has no religion, or it encompasses all reigions.”
This article appears at a time when a controversy rages across the country as some Muslim leaders have declared the patriotic song ‘Vande Mataram’, idolatrous and anti-Islamic.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/goonj
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/markets-chas-dabbawalas
They are stars now on a par with actors and cricketers. With their legendary efficiency and lovable public image, dabbawalas of Mumbai, who deliver hot, home lunches to thousands of office workers, have become India’s pride.
Now they are flexing their marketing muscle. TV channels and corporates have realised that dabba racks are premium, mobile billboards. Dabbawalas have corporatised their Trust with expert professional managers. The Trust has a huge database of customer information which it can ethically, effectively use to target advertising and sales. They are also not averse to delivering small products for a fee.
Consideration of ethics will come in not just with customer information- dabbawalas have decided they will screen advertisers for suitability. Read this delightful story here.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/bismilla-khan-an-indian-icon
For a man who was all of 90 years when he died yesterday, Bismillah Khan, the shehnai grandmaster, has triggered off a wave of national grief. If Banaras is the soul of India, the Ustad was the soul of Banaras. He was charmingly, defiantly loyal to his values.
Winner of the highest national award, the Bharat Ratna, he spurned ostentatious living, but provided for a household of 66. He preferred to travel by cycle rickshaws and trains and chose modest hotels when he travelled. A devout Muslim who prayed five times a day, he was also a devotee of Baba Vishwanath of Kashi and Goddess Saraswati. He refused to air-condition his house since his neghbours could not afford to do likewise.
He spurned a Rockefeller Fellowship that would have required him to live away from his beloved Banaras, asking “where will I find Baba Vishwanath and Ganga?”
Get to know him at this link.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/rti-amendments
Yesterday the government responded to rising anger and decided not to move the infamous amendment to the RTI Act - ‘for now’. The victory that activists are celebrating is misplaced given that the Evil Empire has only slunk away to recover; but the moment is nevertheless a watershed in India’s public life because of the way people organised themselves at home and abroad, marshalled technology to raise the decibel level, enthused RTI pioneers to lead on and finally humbled a sneaky state.
The issue at hand was the attempt to emasculate the young RTI Act, already a vanquishing avatar in many peoples’ eyes. Since Oct, 2005 when the Act came into force people all over the country, from every social strata have used it with increasing success to fight extortion, concealment and harassment by civil servants, petty and high.
Success stories were piling up. NDTV which played a notable role using its website and news channel, has catalogued various successes. A lady in Karnataka wrote how she is fighting official collusion in a land registry to systematically grab land. An activist in Gujarat waved the RTI Act to get healthcare running again for salt pan workers. In Tamil Nadu, a man fought exorbitant billing on his mobile phone. In Rajasthan a mere threat to use the Act got long delayed pensions paid to four poor women. In Kerala, a poor sign painter was saved from extortion by a petty village official.
There were successes at the other end of the scale too. Arvind Kejriwal,-who fittingly got the Magsaysay Award during the fight-back- has written how the Delhi government was exposed by use of the RTI Act: it had wrongly awarded a consultancy contract under pressure from the World Bank. Elsewhere a citizen sought to be shown a copy of the letter written by the then President K R Narayanan, to Gujarat Chief Minister Modi disapproving that state’s failure in containing communal riots. Aruna Roy who has done more than most to mid-wife the Act, has asked “How many Indians, for instance, are aware of the details of field trials being conducted on genetically modified foods in India? This is no longer food that will be consumed by cattle but brinjal and other foods that will be directly consumed by humans”.
Clearly the Act was a threat to the Evil Empire that thrives in the very darkness that the Act was shining a light on. A conspiracy was hatched to maim the Act if it was too late to kill it. The Act was to be amended to exclude ‘file notings’ from the scope of information a citizen may seek. We will come in a moment to learn what file notings are, but in sum the citizen will be told what decision was taken but he may not know how or why such a decision was taken. In other words, a corrupt official or minister can evade detection. How?
Here is Maja Daruwala explaining file notings: “File notings, then, are X-rays of government functioning. They are proof of fair play and reason , or dishonesty, bias, and negligence. They are the shield that most honest bureaucrats wish they had and the sword that dishonest ones fear. It is only by allowing thorough public scrutiny of the evidence of how the government works at every level that corruption can be fought. File notings fall squarely within the definition of ‘information’ in the Act.” [The full article]
The cabinet decision to amend the Act came, as Kejriwal has wryly observed, at the very moment when the Prime Minister was waxing eloquent about the importance of transparency in public life. It came in the middle of very successful series of campaigns to popularise it all over the country. People were thronging to workshops to learn how to use the Act. NDTV gave commendable coverage to the campaign.
So when the move to amend the Act became known, all hell broke loose. Aruna Roy, a slightly built lady, went on national TV, all clenched fist and steely jawed, saying she will not let it pass. Within 24 hours there was an online petition that people could sign. In under three weeks 5,600 people signed it. Over 80,000 people signed NDTV’s petitions. Aid-India, an organisation of young influential Indians in America bristled with anger. They targeted to raise $25,000 to beat back the amendments. With typical savvy of the young in America they issued a campaign kit detailing how to fax- and mail- bomb politicians, how to call the Prime Minister and officials, what were the talking points, what could be a good letter to the press and so on. In india, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Sailesh Gandhi, Shekar Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, Sandeep Pandey and most importantly Anna Hazare stepped out to take on the government. Delightfully, many serving civil servants spoke against the amendments because their own honest notings would be buried with the dishonest ones.
August 9 was designated the day to begin a global relay fast by Indians; in the US in front of the Indian embassy. Anna Hazare threatened to return the national honour conferred upon him. He began a fast unto death in Maharashtra and Sandeep Pandey, likewise in Delhi. Seeing the overwhelming support to the campaign, politicians began to step out and speak against the amendments. By Aug 18, it was clear to the government that its sly move had been frustrated: it just couldn’t muster enough political support to carry the amendments in the Parliament.
Yesterday, it threw in the towel and said it would not try to amend the Act, ‘for now’. So perhaps it’s a victory: though the Evil Empire only retreats to fight another day, the next time around more formidable forces will be arrayed against it.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/breaking-into-muslim-ghettos1
It is widely agreed the alienation of a majority of India’s Muslims is because of the insignificant part they play in making and sharing the new economic pie. In the notoriously backward Kanpur - Lucknow belt of UP, Muslims toil away at low paying tannery and hand embroidery jobs. Keeping their women at home and off new opportunities through education is common. But here is a tiny new initiative trying to change that.
Rasheeda Bhagat reporting for BusinessLine says a series of courses run by Datamation Foundation is coaxing Muslim girls out of their conservative homes, giving them new skills and making them employable in the emerging new economy. Girls who can barely afford the Rs 40 per month fee for the courses are earning, after a year’s training, up to Rs 2,500 per month as office assistants, receptionists, beauticians and data entry operators. Two girls work at call centres earning Rs 8,000. Many of these are children of coolies, rickshaw pullers, hawkers and sweat shop workers. Full story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/an-algae-to-clean-up-heavy-metals
Scientists at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute [CMFRI] have discovered that the algae Sargassum wightii, can not only remove heavy metals like cadmium and lead but also leads to their recovery. It is more effective than the currently used activated carbon and zeolites.
Scientists packed a perforated box with powdered algae and placed it in contaminated effluents. In 30 minutes, 80% of cadmium and 70% of lead were absorbed by mannuronic and guluronic acids produced by the algae. After that, placing the soaked algae in an alkaline solution recovered the metals. CMFRI is calling it a Bio-battery. News report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/shgs-to-fight-militants
There are close to 30 million women in India benefiting by membership in Self Help Groups [SHG]. But that’s no longer news. It’s clear SHGs are improving the lot of the poor. But a story filed from Assam by Nava Thakuria, talks of a visible connection between prosperity and peace.
There are over 100,000 SHGs in Assam. Many of its members were sympathisers of pro-Independence militants but that support is now waning thanks to the success of SHGs. Men seek to marry women who are members of SHGs to assure stable family incomes. Takuria writes: “militant cadres do not dare put a ban on SHG activities for fear of a popular uprising against them”. Full story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/a-measure-of-indias-knowledge-potential
R Arvind, a final year student of engineering from the unfashionable Chennai suburb of Pammal and studying at an obscure college even further away in Tambaram has been given a $121,597 fellowship to pursue his PhD in the US. He had always been interested in missile systems. His project at the college was on minimising errors in missile navigation. An Internet search led him to discover that Prof Jay A Farrell at the University of California was working on the subject. The professor looked at Arvind’s work and offered him the opportunity.
The modest circumstances of the young man did not matter once he rode the Internet highway. The story is both a measure of India’s knowledge potential and an indicator of how true genius is less likely any more, to die unnoticed.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/gurcharan-das-on-the-india-model
Writing in the influential US magazine “Foreign Affairs” Gurcharan Das highlights features of India’s unique development model. Unlike China and Asian Tigers, India’s growth has not been export driven but based on domestic markets. Because of this Das argues, in the last 15 years, the economy has been less vulnerable to global vagaries, led to increase in consumption of Indians, created a middle class of 250 million and generally been people friendly. There has been less inequality of incomes as denoted by a Gini index of 33 vs. USA’s 41, China’s 45 and Brazil’s 59.
Das also points to other contrasts: entrepreneurial intiatives instead of government’s, services creation instead of manufacturing, rises in productivity instead of investment capital, high tech instead of low tech etc are the notable features of India’s emerging success. The long article is a review of the good and bad of the last decade and a half of India’s reform years. Read it here.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/peace-dividends-in-mizoram
The Week magazine in its July 30 issue carries a report on twenty years of uninterrupted peace since 1986 when the Mizo Accord was signed. For twenty years before that, there had been an armed rebellion.
How fares the state now? The report says rising levels of education and economic development have been reinforcing each other. Mizoram today is 90.27% literate, second only to Kerala’s 90.91%. Chief Minister Lalthangliana says, “We are trying to beat Kerala by 2006 end”.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/water-harvesting-via-the-internet
Let’s say you are bothered about the impending water crisis in India. Despite the enthusiasms of our President and the Hon’ble Supreme Court for it, you are convinced that not only is river water linking a pipe dream or, even if the dream were ever realised, it will not bring water to every hamlet of the country. You are against big dams too: they displace people, serve the wealthy and water for living is a low priority for them. You realise privatizing water is the ultimate crucifixion of the poor and big water schemes need private capital. “Why, oh why, can’t we save all the rain that falls, where it falls?” you moan.
You are probably cut off from your rural roots, are sitting in a far city or town in front of a computer reading this, feeling helpless. You are reasonably well-to-do, but are beginning to wonder how you can make a difference in matters that worry you. Well, here’s one way to start: fund an Oorani.
Oorani is a Tamil word meaning village pond. It is an institution as old as Tamil society. Poet Thiruvalluvar referred to them 2000 years ago. Every village had three water bodies: one for irrigation, one for cattle and an Oorani for drinking water. All three are rain-fed. Many villages have survived centuries because of these catchment bodies.
Ooranis were usually endowed by ruling or merchant princes. Beneficiaries were involved in excavation and maintenance. They developed a sense of ownership. With Independence however, a disconnection has occurred. As government departments took over every realm of village management, Ooranis too fell to neglect. Maintenance and dredging became businesses for contractors.
A classic example of central planning is the one-design-suits-all drinking water scheme under a Rajiv Gandhi Mission. A borewell, an electric pump, an overhead tank and a distribution pipeline with taps was the standard prescription. All that the people had to do was open a tap. An incredible leap indeed, it seemed from having to go fetch water until, in several places, groundwater got scarce, the electricals failed and leaky taps wasted water. No one had planned for recharging the groundwater. Soon it was like old times again, with the additional jeopardy that old ways of rain water harvesting [RWH] had been forgotten. Today in several villages women and children trudge between 2 and 3 km for two pots of water.
This is probably the story across India, but enough now of the ills. Let’s get positive. The focus here is on Tamil Nadu because of an assured opportunity that let’s you participate in RWH by reviving Ooranis.
In the last five years the government here has become very active in RWH. Through a fiat all buildings across the state were mandated to be rigged for RWH. Suddenly water security became a people’s movement. RWH became a buzz phrase. The attention soon turned to traditional water systems. Tamil Nadu has few rivers but 40,000 man made water bodies.
Since governments for all their good intentions are always slow, DHAN in Madurai, took the initiative to do something directly. First they formed village committees known as Vayalagams ["Field and Hearth"]. DHAN works through them to address farming issues. In the last few years, revival or creation of Ooranis has generated much enthusiasm. Projects are executed by a three way partnership: Villagers, DHAN and donors. The works range in cost between Rs.1 and Rs.5 lakhs. Villagers contribute between 20 and 40% by way of money, materials or labour, DHAN’s planning, supervision and reporting amount to an average of Rs.78,000 and donors fill the balance.
After a series of discussions between DHAN and GoodNewsIndia, a rewarding proposal has emerged. Go visit this page to learn more about Ooranis. Then visit individual pages to read about each Oorani project now under planning. And write to DHAN with your intention to donate. The person at DHAN who is heading this is Ms. Raghini Mohan [mohanraghini-At-gmail.com]. To keep transaction costs and times low, it is suggested you consider donating at least Rs.5,000.
Donor names will appear in the appropriate Oorani page. Additionally, at the Oorani site, a commemorative plaque will list your name. You can go further: What better permanent memorial to a loved one than an exclusive plaque at an Oorani entirely funded by you? You will receive periodic reports on the status of completion. Photos of the completed work will appear in the web page. If you keep goodnewsindia-At-gmail.com informed of your donation, your name will be listed at this site as well.
It takes less than the price of a car to fund an entire Oorani which will sustainably serve a village of 600 to 700 people forever. It’s a powerful statement you can make and inspire others too. Ruling and merchant princes of old whose munificence built many public works were probably no richer than an average 35 year old professional of today. They however enjoyed the advantage of direct connection with people, that has been severed by changing times. DHAN reconnects you with rural India.
2000 years ago Poet Thiruvalluvar summed up what is being proposed here. First roll your tongue over the lovely Tamil sounds in this couplet [No.215 at this link]:
Freely translated it means, “The wise man knows that when his wealth rises just as water does in an Oorani, it is only to benefit the world at large.”
Write to DHAN
Street Address & Tel
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/the-banaras-bounce
In an stirring piece in the Hindu, Vidya Subramaniam details how Varanasi coped with terrorist bombing of the Sankat Mochan Temple in March this year. The hero clearly is the Mahant of the temple, Veer Bhadra Mishra who is also a professor of engineering. Within hours of the attack, he had the temple cleansed, shooed away hysterical reactionaries, calmed nerves and held the arati on schedule.
Muslims cowering in fear of retribution, responded to Hindu restraint with collective condemnation of terrorism. The Mufti of the Gyanvapi Mosque arrived at the temple and received Ganga Jal in an act of togetherness. Burqa clad women chanted the Hanuman Chalisa. Far from the expected discord between the two communities, a euphoric amity prevails in Varanasi. This is a must read classic.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/prince-of-hearts
On July 21, 6 year old Prince fell into a borewell in Haryana and became a darling that the whole of India took to its heart. The well is 60 feet deep but it was luckily dry. Little Prince stoically bore his ordeal feeding on biscuits that were lowered.
By the time he was rescued by the Army after a 50 hour operation, he had the whole nation praying for him. Channels covered his rescue live. Politicians arrived on the scene. Finally, a bewildered Prince emerged to the thunderous applause of a vast throng. His parents are poor labourers and it was refreshing to see them getting the consideration that the rich mostly enjoy in India. BBC Report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/a-rice-to-grow-on-beaches
A team lead by Dr Arun Lahiri Majumder at the Bose Institute in Calcutta has developed a strain of rice and mustard that can tolerate high levels of salinity. The discovery can lead to the hundreds of square miles land by India’s coast producing food crops.
The team discovered a wild rice -porteresia coarcata- that grows in the mangroves of Sunderbans, Bengal and isolated from it, inositol synthase, an enzyme that enables salt tolerance in mangrove species. Inositols are said to enable all manner of plants to withstand salinity. The Institute is currently raising salt tolerant rice and mustard in its laboratory. Patents are pending.News report Technical abstract
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/fortune-from-snake-venom
The Irula Snake Catchers Industrial Cooperative Society [ISCICS] in Chennai has shown sustainable livelihood is possible through snakes. Irulas, a snake catching tribe of south India have been weaned away from trading in snake skins to extracting their venom periodically and releasing them again in the wild.
The 350 members of the Society, of whom 150 are women, extracted venom of 3,200 venomous snakes -krait, cobra, Russel’s viper and saw-scaled viper- last year, and had a revenue of close to a crore of rupees. A gram of dried krait venom costs Rs 80,000. The New Indian Express has a story today which says the caught snakes are held for a month, their venom extracted weekly and then released in the wild. The whole operation is supervised by forest officers. The venom is processed into a dry powder that is effective for vaccine making for ten years.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/cream-of-camel
Would you have ever guessed that India has a National Research Centre on Camels [NRCC]? Well it’s pretty active too. Now make anoher leap and associate camels with beauty. Believe it or not, there’s connection, say the scientists at the NRCC.
They have developed an anti-wrinkle cream from camel’s milk. The cream irons out wrinkles and then makes the skin glow. Wonder what’s making a camel look all wrinkled up and un-glowing.
When it’s not developing beauty products, NRCC researches ways to improve the camel breed stock and mainatain its health. Let’s not forget that camels are draught animals in India. Report
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/business-ranis
Members of women’s Self Help Groups [SHG] in Warangal, AP are climbing the agri-business value chain. According to a feature article in the Deccan Chronicle today, they began gathering neem seeds lying to waste and supplying them to corporation like ITC. This year the district collected almost a third of the state’s total of 760 tonnes, earning a net profit of Rs 14.5 lakhs out of a turnover of Rs 65 lakhs.
But they haven’t stopped there. They now want to add value to the seeds and then sell them directly to local farmers as bio-fertilisers and -pesticides. They smelt another opportunity while doing business with farmers. The state is encouraging production of maize which requires less water than paddy. Finding farmers reluctant because of a lack of an assured market, these SHG have stepped in and guaranteed a floor price to growers. Farmers can now deal without middlemen and also have the produce picked up at their doorstep by the SHGs.
These women are now plotting to extend agricultural credit to farmers on a wide scale.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/bamboo-boom
UNI reports today that the recently built bamboo cottages at Assam’s Kaziranga National Park have been a runaway hit with visitors, sparking a new interest in bamboo as a building material. Several more bamboo structures are coming up for public use in the North East [NE]. These are based on traditional building techniques popular throughout the NE, where bamboo is central to people’s lives. It gives them homes, food, artifacts and craft items for sale.
The Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre [CBTC] has been actively reviving an esteem for bamboo among urban folks in the NE who are turning to steel and concrete houses. CBTC has also been developing countrywide and worldwide markets for bamboo products from NE. Visit this link and scroll down that page for news on the bamboo initiative.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/women-hostelers-school
The Outlook magazine has run a heart-warming piece on the evening school run by 207 residents of the Lady Brabourne College Hostel in Calcutta. Keeping up a 36 year old tradition, these girls welcome close to 40 young children every evening from poor homes nearby. Between 5 and 6.30 PM they use innovative methods to teach and help the children with their class work. The College stands behind in silent support but it’s the hostelers’ show and funds too are pooled by them.
After fun-filled lessons, children get fruits and snacks before they head home. Hostelers also raise money for books and stationary for needy children. Of course they’d welcome your contributions: Phone- 033-22448120
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/olcott
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/better-luck-for-lesser-florican
The Lesser Florican [Kharmor in Hindi], a bird facing extinction, has been given a break by an innovative scheme of the Madhya Pradesh government. When special sanctuaries established in 1983 did not yield any hope, they thought of involving farmers with cash incentives.
In 2004, a prize of Rs 5,000 was announced for each farmer who reports the whereabouts of a bird and protects its egg. From zero, then 9 the current score has gone up to 23. All for a cost of a mere Rs 1,50,000. Grasslands may see the birds again. Full story.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/a-bit-tech-now
Their system of sorting and daily delivering thousands of lunch Dabbas in Mumbai is world renowned. Their homespun code was studied and was classified Six Sigma by management gurus- so low is their error count that uses Indian brain as software and a piece of chalk as hardware.
PTI reports today that they are beginning to use technology now: mobiles and a computer. Why, was the old system failing? Not at all. They use tech only for marketing their service. Now people can use SMS and the Dabbawalas' web-site to join or order their meals. Chalk is still their core hardware.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/waste-power-in-bihar
Dr Hari Sharan, an internationally renowned energy expert is seeking to convert agricultural waste in Bihar, into electricity, says an article in Deccan Chronicle. Rice husk, ipomea and dincha stalks are dried and used to generate a gas that can run gensets. Almost any bio-waste can be used as feedstock.
Desi Power a company he runs has nine similar plants running around the country. The plant in Orchha, MP has since 1996, logged 18,000 hours on ipomea, a ground cover that grows wild and free. In Bihar, Dr Sharan is planning power generation in ten clusters of ten villages each, producing between 20 and 100kw at each location.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/a-white-elephant-turns-pink
The story of 153 year old Indian Railways has for long been one of a modern technology gone native. It has been an object of veneration and worshipped, but also indulgently forgiven as subject to karma, like you and me. It is rarely expected to be answerable or accountable. Its losses are stoically dismissed as part of an essential national service. So, if we are now told that the Indian Railways has just become the second most profitable public enterprise after the ONGC, we are likely to be likely to be surprised. How did that happen?
Let us begin with a look at the gentle beast. There are today 84,000 km of rail track around the country on which over 16,000 trains run daily, threading through 36,000 stations. The railways are never still. They are the heart-beats of the nation. At any given time, somewhere, some train is unfussily running.
Trains have become a part of Indian life. They have been the cause of social change [-castes have had to share the same space], urbanization [-migration to far off cities became possible] and national integration. Passenger usage has grown: from 4 billion passengers in 1996, the number grew to 5.7 billion in 2006.
With this huge growth, sloth also settled in. It’s Ministership has been sought after and fought over as it is a seat of patronage: it employs 1.4 million people and has a budget of Rs.55,000 crores.
Presentation of its annual budget was met with resigned boredom by Indians. To cover deficits, passengers fares and freight rates were regularly raised. Obviously it was not the right recipe, though people accepted rises as inevitable. Net Revenue Receipts [NRR] fell from Rs.4135 crores in 1996 to Rs.1071 crores in 2001.
Then how come the NRR has come to stand at a whopping Rs.14,300 crores in 2006, breathing down the neck of topper ONGC’s Rs.15,143 cr? First came the realisation in 2004, that no amount of price increases can pay the bills; to make ends meet, the freight revenue had to increase. The economy was growing and so there was enough business but industry was not going to take flat dictated rates. The new Golden Quadrilateral too, was making road transport quick and attractively priced.
Correctly reading the sign of the times, Railway management looked inwards. They discovered that it took a wagon 7 days to turn around at each end. By merely reducing this to the current 5.5 days, the number of trains available for transport increased from 565 to 800. All without any additional investment or increase in costs. They then adopted flexible pricing. The steel industry which is among its largest customers, got a negotiated rate. In essence, that has been about the extent of reforms so far, but the dramatic increase in profits has whetted their appetite.
On the anvil is a freight corridor, exclusively for freight trains. This will be a parallel of the highways but will be aligned to run through major industries. Railways are benchmarking themselves against China, a country comparable in size and growth rate. China’s trains run at 150 kmph and India’s at 25; China strings together 150 wagons per train and India, a mere 65. It is common for a goods train to stand aside to let as many as ten express trains. The exclusive freight corridor will change all that. Even though it will cost an astounding Rs.65,000 crores, freight volume growing at 15% per year will easily make that investment profitable.
Rising diesel prices have played to railroad’s advantage. 60% of a truck’s operating cost is due to diesel; for trains, it’s a mere 8%. As this article goes online, there has been another fuel price rise. The Railway Minister Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, however has spun that to an advantage. While the truckers have to increase freight rates, the railways won’t, he says. Quite soon, all trains will go electric, he added.
Though it is freight that is more profitable, the passenger sector is not being ignored. The growing number of private airlines have not so much sucked away rail travellers as they have created a new market. Here too, rising fuel prices has increased the fare differential. Railways are also piling on friendlier service. Greater attention is being paid to cleanliness. Ticketing has become hassle free, trains tend to be reasonably punctual and their coverage is wider. For destinations that can be reached by an overnight journey, trains are the first choice.
Selective privatisation has added to railways’ profits and passengers’ convenience. Vast free spaces of stations are being turned into arcades for franchisees’ shops. Food courts, convenience stores, browsing centres, WiFi networks are becoming common. Recently the State Bank of India offered Rs 14.5 crores as license fee to locate 650 ATMs. Many consumer brands are likewise bidding for opportunities to sell to 5 billion annual foot-falls. Innovations are being daringly experimented with by the management team. Double decker trains for containers, ferrying loaded trucks over hilly terrains, growing jatropha in its wastelands to produce biodiesel for its use, setting up of its own broadband network along track-ways, inviting modern hotel chains to set up on its vacant lots are all initiatives one is not likely to associate with staid old Indian Railways.
It’d be churlish therefore, not to acknowledge that all these transformations are being brought about by our much reviled politicians and bureaucrats with nary a big-name consultant in sight.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/eye-capital-of-india
Two deeds have made Neemuch,MP, a town of 150,000 people, the leader in eye donations in India.
Back in 1975, Shyamukh Garg became its first eye donor and seeing how his grandson, born blind, went on to become an engineer, townsmen took to donating their eyes. To ensure extraction and preservation processes are done expertly, a second native son of Neemuch, G D Agarwal started the Gomabhai Nethralaya and Research Centre [GNRC - Phone: 07423-20122, 21526] Hospital there in 1992. Agarwal had made a fortune through his coaching classes in Bombay and decided to do his bit for his village.
Neemuch donated 1,230 pairs of eyes in 2005 and backs GNRC which has so far done 6,000 surgeries, half of them free. Full story in Outlook magazine of this date.
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/patents-for-places
The latest to get a patent for a product unique to a geography is Pochampally, whose sarees were being widely imitated. The Andhra Pradesh Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society [APCO] took the initiative to get what is known as Geographical Indication certificate.
In the last one year, sales of original Pochampally sarees have increased 25%. APCO is now trying to patent Ahimsa silk, whose yarn is produced without killing the silk-worm. Elsewhere, another famous Andhra produce, Kondapally toys are seeking GI certification as well.
All these are positive spin-offs under Trade Related Industrial Property Rights [TRIPS] that India gained as a signatory of the World Trade Organisation [WTO].
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/man-made-glaciers
The work of Chewang Norphel is probably worth telling many times, which is why the Outlook issue of this date has covered it again.
Just before the onset of winter, Chewang begins to divert small streams of water through pipes to shallow locations about four or five kilometers above Ladakh’s villages. He plugs any gaps for leaks. During winter these lakes freeze into artificial glaciers. Being at relatively lower levels of 13 to 14,000 feet, these glaciers melt by spring to provide water for farming.
He has created about six low cost water storages across Ladakh that are often a village’s only source of fresh water. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/a-gurukul-in-hariala
The Hariala Gurukul, 40km from Ahmedabad has 450 students that other schools don’t want because they are considered incapable of formal education. The Gurukul however has been turning them into achievers: it has a pass percentage of 90% over the last 15 years of its existence. Students are from affluent as well as from poorer ones. Costs are waived for the latter. Many parents are businessmen and bureaucrats.
65 year old Bhaktajivan Das Shastri has taught for 45 years in the Indian Gurukul system, where students live full time with the teacher. He taught at the famous Rajkot Gurukul for 30 years before starting his own. He feels most children show poor performance because parents are too busy with their careers. [Source India Abroad News Service]
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/the-scholarship-trail
The Hindu today has a story on the scholarship programme at Chennai’s SSN College of Engineering, run by Shiv Nadar, founder of HCL.
The Rs 14 crore per year programme has created some heart-warming successes. Saravanakumar’s parents were dhobies, Rajeswari’s father drove an auto-rickshaw and Jayapraksh’s father sold biscuits.
But Senthilnathan’s story has to be the most pleasing for Shiv Nadar, who was himself helped by a scholarship in 1964, when he was studying engineering. Senthil used to fall asleep in class because he worked as a night watchman to pay his way. The college gave him a scholarship and he’s now a security analyst at Wipro. Today, Senthil sponsors the enginering studies of a girl in his hometown. Full story
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/rites-as-service
S Sreedhar in Chennai has been cremating or burying the dead of poor Hindus for 20 years. Admittedly sectarian, because obviously, most poor would be from the majority community.
The Anatha Pretha Kainkarya Trust that Sreedhar began in 1984 has now become a well recognised organisation in the city. Recently the State Bank of India gifted it a hearse.
For the 50 year old, this is an all consuming commitment. Once a year he visits Kashi to immerse the ashes of those the Trust had cremated. A profile of him in the New Indian Express today gives his phone number: 0- 92821 - 50330
Story link: http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/sieve/article/rising-care-for-chennai-lakes
Chennai edition of the New Indian Express’s City Express today has a story on two water bodies near the city, actively being nursed by citizens.
In the first, at Keezhakattalai people have come together to resist a sewage pumping station’s location that might jeopardize their beloved lake. Spread over 80 acres, this lake’s rain water storage remains plenty and sweet.
The other, the Ninnakarai lake at Maraimalai Nagar is being revived by a coalition of citizens, civic authorities and politicians. Covering 125 acres, the lake is now being excavated, the removed soil piled on the periphery to form a 20’ wide bund with a road on it, to be planted later extensively with trees.
There’s a third lake at Pammal closer to the city [not covered in the above story], where too citizens are fierce guardians of the asset.