Saturday, 7 September 2013

Solid Waste

Recommended actions - solve 80% of waste problem
  1. Composting for food waste 
  2. Recycle waste through raddiwalah - paper, glass, wood, rubber, metal ...
  3. Recycle through manufacturer - electronic waste

Root cause of the problem
Non-segregation of waste at source - among food waste and non-food waste
Mixing of waste leads to dumping at land fill sites, stinking etc

Problem areas without solution
Incinerator is a very bad solution
Plastic waste - see plastic to oil solution, may lead to harmful gas emission - not using it seems only option
Bio-medical waste - diapers, sanitary napkin and condom and material with body fluids - blood, sputum etc.
Bio-medical waste - medical waste from hospitals

5 types of solid waste:
  1. Food waste (50 - 60% of total waste)
  2. Paper, Cloth, wood, rubber, plastic, metal - recycle (30% of total waste)
  3. Electronic waste
  4. Construction debris
  5. Bio-medical waste
Hazards due to waste/ process of waste management
     To society in general, rag pickers, municipal workers etc.
  1. Hazard due to bio-medical waste - including baby diapers, sanitary napkin, condom and other body fluid e.g. blood, sputum etc. Medical waste as syringe, stained cotton, glass / plastic bottles of medicines
  2. Broken Glass 
Hazards to public health / environment
  1. Worsening public health due to virus, mosquito problem, toxic soil and water due to waste..elaborate
  2. Contamination of underground water, fresh water lakes, rivers, oceans
  3. Burning of waste leads to harmful gas emissions
Waste Management at household level
Solution discussion - Composting of food waste
  1. Food waste needs water and air to turn to compost, and 3 months of time
  2. Compost bin should NOT be kept in closed premises - rooms etc, but with at least one side open - balcony etc, the area should be covered out of rain - to keep it at right moisture level
  3. Compost bin should be covered from top to retain right temperature level
  4. Need to churn the waste in compost bin at regular intervals - for air supply to the waste
  5. Initially, to start process of composting - put some old compost - to introduce microorganisms
example by - 3 clay pots (one over the other) - with small holes and mesh to prevent insects
- trick is right moisture level
        - too wet makes it smelly - should add dry leaves, wood powder etc

        - too dry will not turn into compost - should add water

The compost do not smell if moisture level is right
Hazardous waste of packaging
Packaging of chips, chocolates etc are blend of plastic and metal, or paper and aluminum etc - they are not biodegradable, and also not possible to recycle

PIL and manufacturer liability seems to be the only way out

Thursday, 5 September 2013

History of India

See the developments in light of events in Rest of Asia and Europe - specially after 1000 AD - Gazni, Muhammad Gori etc.
Vikramaditya was a legendary - 1st century BCE - emperor of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. (

The Gupta Empire - 320 to 550 CE - covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields.(
Tomar are a Rajput-Gujjar clan and claim descent from the mythical Chandravanshi dynasty, numbering the Mahabharata warrior Arjuna among their forebears. They ruled in Delhi from around 736CE - 1115CE and also in Gwalior (1438-1486) and Rajasthan

The Tomara dynasty of Delhi lasted until the demise of Anangpal Tomar II, who was responsible for the construction of Lal Kot, a fortified wall around the city, likely in reaction to the raids of Mahmud of Ghazni. Anangpal Tomar II appointed his grandson (daughter's son, and son of King of Ajmer), Prithviraj Chauhan, as the heir-apparent. Some historians believe that Prithvaraj was merely a caretaker king during his grandfather's lifetime. (

Anangpal Tomar, or Anangpal I, or Bilan Dev Tomar - 731–36 AD - was a Chandravanshi Puruvanshi Kshatriya, descendant of Samrat Parikshit. He was the first ruler to make ancient Indraprastha (modern-day Delhi) his capital. Tomars briefly ruled at Ujjain after decline of the Raja Bhoj's dynasty. Anangpal I, a chief of Tomara/Tanwar rebuilt his capital in Indra-prastha in 8th Century AD. Tomars of Delhi, Chauhans of Ajmer, Chandelas of Jejakbhakti, Solankis of Gujarat and Gaharwars of Kannauj (Rathores) were the most prominent kings of north India between 7th and 11th century. (

Prithviraj Chauhan (1149–1192 CE), was a king of Rajput Chauhan dynasty, who ruled the kingdom of Ajmer and Delhi in northern India during the latter half of the 12th century.

Chauhan was the last independent Hindu king, before Hemu, to sit upon the throne of Delhi.

He succeeded to the throne in 1169 CE at the age of 20, and ruled from the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi which he received from his maternal grandfather Arkpal or Anangpal III of the Tomara dynasty in Delhi. He controlled much of present-day Rajasthan and Haryana, and unified the Rajputs against Muslim invasions. His elopement in 1175 with Samyukta (Sanyogita), the daughter of Jai Chandra Rathod, the Gahadvala king of Kannauj, is a popular romantic tale in India, and is one of the subjects of the Prithviraj Raso, an epic poem composed by Chauhan's court poet and friend, Chand Bardai.

Prithviraj Chauhan defeated the Muslim ruler Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191 and set him free as a gesture of mercy. Ghauri attacked for a second time the next year, and Prithviraj was defeated and captured at the Second Battle of Tarain (1192). Sultan Ghauri took Prithviraj to Ghazni and blinded him, legend states that in an archery show, Prithviraj's poet Chand Bardai gave him the physical location of Ghori in the arena via poem and then as Ghori ordered the start of show, Prithviraj shot him dead with a Shabdbhedi-baan. After his defeat Delhi came under the control of Muslim rulers. (
Shahabuddin Ghori's conquests laid the foundations of Muslim rule in India. Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a former slave (Mamluk) of Muhammad Ghori, was the first sultan of Delhi.(
The Mamluk Dynasty (sometimes referred as Slave Dynasty or Ghulam Dynasty) was directed into Northern India by Qutb-ud-din Aybak, a Turkic general from Central Asia. It was the first of five unrelated dynasties to rule India's Delhi Sultanate from 1206 to 1290. Aybak's tenure as a Ghurid dynasty administrator ranged between 1192 to 1206, a period during which he led invasions into the Gangetic heartland of India and established control over some of the new areas.

Mamluk, literally meaning owned, was a soldier of slave origin who had converted to Islam. Mamluks held political and military power most notably in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Iraq, and India. In 1206, Muhammad of Ghor died. He had no child, so after his death, his sultanate was divided into many parts by his slaves (mamluk generals). Mohammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji got Bengal. Qutub-ud-din-Aybak became the sultan of Delhi, and that was the beginning of the Slave dynasty.

Aybak rose to power when a Ghorid superior was assassinated. However, his reign as the Sultan of Delhi was short lived as he died in 1210 and his son Aram Shah rose to the throne, only to be assassinated by Iltutmish in 1211.

The Sultanate under Iltutmish established cordial diplomatic contact with the Abbasid Caliphate between 1228–29 and had managed to keep India unaffected by the invasions of Genghis Khan and his successors. Following the death of Iltutmish in 1236 a series of weak rulers remained in power and a number of the noblemen gained autonomy over the provinces of the Sultanate. Power shifted hands from Rukn ud din Firuz to Razia Sultana until Ghiyas ud din Balban rose to the throne and successfully repelled both external and internal threats to the Sultanate. The Khilji dynasty came into being when Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji overthrew the last of the Slave dynasty rulers, Muiz ud din Qaiqabad, the grandson of Balban, and assumed the throne at Delhi.
The Tughlaq dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin which established a Delhi sultanate in medieval India. Its reign started in 1321 in Delhi when Ghazi Malik assumed the throne under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq.

The empire grew under his son and successor Muhammad bin Tughluq, but the latter became notorious for ill-advised policy experiments such as shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad and introducing copper coins without effective regulation against forgery. Tughluqi has as a result become synonym for brilliant if stubborn eccentricity in the Urdu language. (

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Native Americans in USA - American Indian Wars

Till 1918.

American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America . The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonists who continuously sought to expand their territory, pushing the indigenous populations westwards. The wars were spurred by ideologies such as Manifest Destiny, which held that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast on the American continent, and which resulted in the policy of Indian removal, by which indigenous peoples were removed from the areas where Europeans were settling, either forcefully or by means of voluntary exchange of territory through treaties.

The Native Americans suffered high fatalities from the contact with infectious Eurasian diseases. Epidemics after European contact caused the greatest loss of life for indigenous populations.

In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the government to relocate Native Americans from their homelands within established states to lands west of the Mississippi River, accommodating European-American expansion.

Ideology of manifest destiny:
In the United States in the 19th century, Manifest destiny was the widely held belief that American settlers were destined to expand across the continent. The belief has been described as follows: 3 basic themes
1. The special virtues of the American people and their institutions;
2. America's mission to redeem and remake the world in the image of America;
3. A divine destiny under God's direction to accomplish this wonderful task.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

What we (don’t) know about the companies in aadhaar project - Usha Ramanathan

Usha Ramanathan

In July 2010, UIDAI announced names of the companies that had been selected to implement the core biometric identification system. These companies would design, supply, install, commission, maintain and support the "multi-modal Automatic Biometric Identification System and multimodal Software Development Kit for client enrolment station, verification server, manual adjudication and monitoring function of the UID application". These would create the ability to de-duplicate on the basis of biometric information collected during enrolment.

The companies were: Mahindra Satyam (as it then was) partnering with Morpho, HP with L-1 Identity Solutions and a recently set up Indian company 4G Identity, and Accenture with MindTree and Daon. L-1 Identity Solutions was also present and participating in the PoC on enrolment.

These are companies with interesting profiles. A promotional document found on the web around the time that L-1 Identity Solutions was selected to partner with the UIDAI speaks of a close connection between the company and the security and intelligence establishment of the US government. "L-1 provides highly specialised government consulting services that address the most important challenges facing US defence and global security", it announces. "More than 1000 specialists, most holding top security clearances", it advertises, giving a more specific figure of "93 per cent holding high-level government security clearances".

In 2007, Tim Shorrock, an investigative journalist based in Washington, took a close look at the connection between L-1 and the CIA in an article he did on the former CIA chief, George Tenet, titled Cashing in on Iraq. Shorrock wrote: "Tenet sits on the board of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software used by the US to monitor terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company with the closest ties with the CIA - and the biggest potential financial payoff for Tenet - is L-1 Identity Solutions, the nation's biggest player in biometric identification. L-1's software which can store millions of ID records based on fingerprints and eye and facial characteristics, helps the Pentagon and US intelligence in the fight against terrorism by providing technology for insurgent registration (and) combatant identification, the company says. L-1 technology is also employed by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security" When L-1 acquired Spec Tal, it got 300 employees with security clearances getting them several agencies with whom Spec Tal had contracts, "including the CIA, the NSA and the Defence Intelligence Agency." "We're in the security business, right? So he's a tremendous asset," Shorrock quotes an executive vice president of L-1 as saying about George Tenet.
Sagem Morpho which is among the participating companies is the Indian subsidiary of Morpho; which is part of the Safran group. Safran is a French defence company in which the French government holds 30.5 per cent shares.

In August 2011, Safran completed its acquisition of L-1 Identity Solutions. It was a $ 1 billion acquisition. With this, L-1 joins Safran's security business which was until then operating as Morpho, and which together with L-1 was renamed Morpho Trust.
Morpho and L-1 have, with this acquisition, merged. So, when Mr. Nilakeni says that UIDAI has created a competitive environment, that is not quite accurate.

This deal was held back for about a year between September 2010 and August 2011 till the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US approved the acquisition. Since US contracts make up about 80 per cent of L-1's business, and to protect US national interests, Safran was to establish "a three-person proxy board" to handle sensitive US contracts a common feature when security companies are acquired by foreign companies. It was contemporaneously reported that the proxy board was expected to include Barbara McNamara, deputy director of the National Security Agency and William Schneider Jr. former Under Secretary of state under Ronald Reagan.

Accenture is known widely as a consultancy corporation. What is less known is its place in the world of surveillance technologies. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre, writing about Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in their book, 'Spychips: How major corporations and governments plan to track your every purchase and watch your every move' (2006), introduced us to the patents and practices of Accenture in the RFID arena. It is interesting that Accenture describes itself as a "US based business the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company"; no word on surveillance. Yet, in 2004, Accenture was selected by US Department of Homeland Security to design and implement the Smart Borders Project which would be deployed at the land, sea and air ports of entry. In November 2012, Accenture was awarded a bio-surveillance contract by the Department of Homeland Security.

This proximity and interdependence between foreign governments, including their intelligence agencies, and corporate ventures in surveillance technology is no secret. Yet, the UIDAI claims that it is unaware of the countries from where these companies originate.

A question that has been raised time and again in various fora relates to the security of the data. What effect does handing over data to companies that are close to foreign intelligence agencies, or allowing them to handle it, have on security of the person, and on national security? Laws such as the PATRIOT Act in the US, especially provisions such as section 215, bring all agencies in the country within the control of agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. As for Morpho and L-1, the French government is part-owner of these entities. Despite the concerns this should have raised in the UIDAI and within government, there has been a silence which provides no answers.
The UIDAI's response to an RTI query is more disturbing still.

In March 2011, Mr Veeresh Malik filed a request with the UIDAI for information, specifically asking for the "full name, address, websites of the foreign companies which are of US and non-US origin or control". In an appellate order of 21 July 2011, the Deputy Director at the UIDAI who is the Appellate Authority for purposes of the RTI, gave the names of three Biometric Service Providers to the UIDAI. These were, (i) Satyam Computer Services/ Sagem Morpho (ii) L-1 Identity Solutions (iii) Accenture Services. In a startling statement, the authority explained that "there are no means to verify whether the said companies/organisations are of US origin or not. As per our contractual terms and conditions, only the companies/organisations who are registered in India can bid. Any further information in this regard can be obtained from the UIDAI public domainĂ¯¿½" There is nothing more to be got from the UIDAI website.

Col. Mathew Thomas' RTI query asking for copies of the contracts entered into with the companies was refused by the UIDAI citing section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act 2005 which speaks of information including "commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property" disclosing which would "harm the competitive position of a third party" to the request. The exception to this provision is if the "larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information". At a hearing on 24 June 2013, the Central Information Commissioner has said she will hear and decide this matter. Snowden, and PRISM, have blown the lid, yet again, on surveillance by the USA.

Creating a database and handing the data over to companies, and with no discernible protection, should worry a government concerned about the safety of the people and national security, it would seem.

(The writer is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Corporate houses in agri sector will create crisis for ryots: Sainath

Corporate houses in agri sector will create crisis for ryots: Sainath

The governments’ anti-agrarian policies and the impending entry of corporate houses in the agriculture sector will create a crisis for farmers in near future, according to P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu . A sustained struggle alone would change this situation, he said.

He was addressing the All India Kissan Sabha’s special seminar here on Sunday to motivate farmers to participate in the 33rd all India conference to be held in Cuddalore between July 24 and 27 to discuss ‘Farming, poverty and growth’.

“Farmers’ struggle in the 60’s and 70’s compelled the government to enforce land reforms. The same can be repeated only if the farmers start an intense battle afresh,” he said.

Mr. Sainath predicted that the Union Government’s decision to upwardly revise the gas price to benefit Mukhesh Ambani’s company would double electricity tariff and fertilizer prices also in near future and hence the already dwindling population of farmers would decline further, which would help the ruling class to take farming from the farmers’ hands to the corporate houses.

“The adverse situations prevailing in the country’s farming sector drive 2,000 farmers every day out of their profession to become agricultural labourer and India is witnessing unprecedented migrations of these labourers from rural areas to the urban areas in search of livelihood that would lead to the creation of ‘census towns’ where there will be no basic infrastructure,” Mr. Sainath said.

The noted journalist, who has studied extensively the plight of farmers’ suicides in the country, said that the cotton farmers, who could buy one kilogram of local seed for just Rs.9 just a decade ago, had to buy the BT cotton seed for Rs.4,000 a kilogram in 2012.
The farmer, who had to spend just Rs.2,500 for growing cotton on an acre in a rain-fed area 10 years ago, had to shell out anywhere between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 now.

Even as the domestic price for cotton was crashing, the government, in a bid to help the local mill owners, banned cotton export even though cotton price at the international market was so high. Similarly, the multinational companies that encouraged the Kerala farmers to go in for vanilla cultivation and gave attractive procurement price for just two seasons let them down after they started receiving the cash crop from other countries. Subsequently, it led to thousands of vanilla farmers landing in debt trap, he noted.

“An MBA graduate from corporate companies will form farmers’ groups, teach ragi, chilli, cumin cultivation to our agriculturists, who have already got rich experience in cultivating a range of crops even in adverse conditions. This entry by the MNCs is an attempt to gobble farm subsidies to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees,” Mr. Sainath warned.

He also came down heavily on the governments and the banks which were giving farm loans to the rich while letting down the farmers, the real beneficiaries.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Naxalism - solution is Schedules V and VI of the Constitution

The Supreme Court recently complained that 'nobody looks at Schedules V and VI of the Constitution and the result is Naxalism'.  

Empower tribals or it will get worse - Ex-DG, BSF

Non-application of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.

As per the Constitiution, the Scheduled Areas of the country are to be ruled by the Governor by appointing a Tribes Advisory Council which will decide what is done with the area and how it is to be administered.
This Tribes Advisory Council has never been constituted by any governor. The chief minister has no role in the administration of the tribal areas and nor does the forest minister. The Tribes Advisory Council will decide whether the area must be given for mining or not. If you give the tribals this power, they will administer the area. If they want to extract minerals, they will have a liaison with the company, they will file an agreement and the company will take out the ore and the Panchayat will get the money.

The advasi does not have this right. The chief minister of the state signs an agreement with the company and they evict tribals from the area. Is it not illegal and unlawful?

The tribals are helpless. They have been evicted from hundreds of acres of land. The Maoists say, “The government is illegal and unlawful. We will have to fight them.”

We must ask why are civilians taking up the gun? It is because the government has been illegal and unlawful. If you remove the cause of insurgency, then it will disappear.

How are you going to help the adivasis when they see that the police are conducting operations? Do you know how many innocent people get killed in the process? How do you get the Maoists out of this game? That should be the objective.

Very simple. Enforce the Fifth Schedule. Let the adivasis administer the area themselves. The chief minister is illegally administering the area by signing a lease with the mining companies. Is that not illegal and unlawful?

Chief Minister may be democratically elected but he is doing an illegal thing. He has no power under the Act to administer the forests. The Fifth Schedule says it must be administered by the Governor of the state reporting to the President of India. Where does the Chief Minister come into this?

The Maoists are using the adivasis to come to power. You are not treating them justly which is why they are going to the Maoists. The Maoists will promise them that when we get the power you will administer the area yourself. The adivasis are poor, illiterate people. What can they do but agree? The only way out is to implement the Fifth Schedule.

But in 65 years, the Fifth Schedule has never been implemented and it is not going to be implemented in a hurry.
It is the law of the land and if you are not implementing it, then you are illegal and unlawful. I’ll give you the answer why it is not implemented. Because, there are millions of dollars available to the Government under these areas and nobody wants to give that money to the adivasis.

Monday, 27 May 2013

What’s behind that glass of milk? - Anusha Narain - Some grim details about the cow in India

Some grim details about the cow in India, the world’s largest producer of milk.

With 1.2 billion people and 400 million vegetarians, anyone who does not have a vegan diet contributes to the suffering of cows.

The business of producing milk — indeed, the multi-crore rupee cattle industry it’s a part of — is sustained by a process of relentless cruelty towards animals, from birth till death, with little letup. Cruelty compounded by poorly defined, poorly implemented methods and gross violations.

India - highest milk-producing nation, National demand of 150 million tonnes of milk by 2016-17.
Millions of cattle will be produced (mainly through artificial insemination) for this purpose.

Done through 'productivity enhancement, strengthening and expanding village-level infrastructure for milk procurement and providing producers with greater access to markets'.
Today India is home to the world’s largest cattle herd, with 324 million head.

The government is positioning this as a food security measure for the future.

From the point of view of the animals, though, unthinkable cruelty lies ahead.
The first three stages of life — birth, maturity and motherhood — happen with inhuman haste. The female calf is born. She reaches puberty somewhere between 15 months and three years of age, depending on the breed, and is then impregnated, increasingly through artificial insemination.
Due to poor equipment and a lack of proper training, artificially inseminated cows sometimes become infertile and develop infections with few to care for them.

When the calf is born, they are separated from their mothers soon after they are born so that they don’t drink up all the milk.

If we take milk from cows, then what does the calf drink? By and large, unless the calf is what is called 'replacement stock,' it will get only the bare minimum necessary for survival. Often it will not even get that. 

To increase yield, the cows are also injected with Oxytocin, a hormone banned in India under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and section 12 of Food and Drug Adulteration Prevention Act, 1960. Cows injected with Oxytocin have a greater incidence of abortions, mastitis and lower conception rates, and their calves suffer higher than normal infant mortality and delayed puberty.

And what happens to unwanted male calves? Milk cows need to produce a calf every year and half those calves are male. While a fraction of these are used to pull ploughs, others are butchered. Their skin is used for leather, and their meat for local consumption and export. Calf leather comes from male calves of which India has a huge number.

With traditional backyard agriculture slowly giving way to 'intensive dairy farming', hundreds of cows are confined for long periods within cramped, dark and acrid quarters. At some places, calves are tied outside till they die of starvation; so technically they have not been killed.

And what about cows? Cows and buffaloes can be productive until about the age of 14 years. But in the existing set up, in which cows are kept pregnant for almost 300 days a year, most of them dry up by the age of five or six. And after spending most of her life being milked, enduring hormone injections and the trauma of separation, the cow is sent off to the slaughterhouse.

Twenty-eight Indian states have cow-slaughter protection legislations in place. Unproductive cows, therefore, are routinely trafficked to slaughterhouses in the states where laws are less stringent or non-existent — Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Lakshadweep, and especially Kerala. A large number of cattle is trafficked to Kerala, under inhuman conditions, from the neighbouring states as it is a major consumer of beef and does not have any regulation pertaining to cow slaughter. Cattle are also trafficked to West Bengal, from where they are taken to Bangladesh.

The latest delicacy in demand in the Middle Eastern markets is veal (the meat of a calf no older than three months). Flesh of unborn calves is known to bear medicinal value hence pregnant cattle are slaughtered.

In many slaughterhouses, the act of slaughtering involves smashing the head of a cow with a sledgehammer, which renders it unconscious; then skinning it; and or hanging it upside down so that all the blood can be drained from the slit jugular vein, then skinning it live.

The police insisted we file a complaint first, which gave the cattle owners time to hide the remaining cows. The slaughterhouse owners received an anticipatory bail.

According to the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, India has 3,600 slaughterhouses, nine modern abattoirs and 171 meat-processing units licensed under the meat products order. These do not include the numerous and ever-growing number of illegal and unregulated slaughterhouses, estimated to be more than 30,000. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture’s report on Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade, India became the biggest beef exporter in the world in 2012 with 16,80,000 tonnes of beef and veal exports, followed by Brazil with 13,94,000 metric tonnes and Australia with 13,80,000 metric tonnes of exports. In 2013, India’s beef exports are forecast 29 per cent higher to a record 2.16 million tonnes, accounting for nearly a quarter of world trade.

The government gives subsidies to slaughterhouses because beef exports are a gold mine. A US beef export federation study states India exported $1.24 billion worth of meat in the first half of 2012.

One dead animal is worth approximately Rs. 30,000. Tissues from a cattle’s heart are used to rebuild livers. Horns and hoofs are used to make buttons, skin is used for leather, flesh for meat, tail is used for fertility treatment, bones are used for whitening sugar, and producing gelatin.

In states such as Madhya Pradesh, where cow slaughter is illegal, trafficking is rife, and the dry cattle that are not transported are let loose on the streets, where they live the last days of their lives foraging in dustbins, eating plastic-infested garbage and drinking polluted water from open drains. 

The government runs several  goshalas , shelters for old cattle, across the country, but these are too few and are not governed by serious norms. Goshalas have started to operate along the lines of dairy farms; only accepting healthy, productive cows.

For all this, milk may not even be as rich in calcium as we have been led to believe. The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost non-existent.

Also, the growing numbers of cattle casts a heavy shadow on the environment. Bovines produce methane when they pass gas. It is estimated that a bovine produces, depending on the breed, anywhere between 100 litres to 500 litres of methane a day. This is equivalent to the per-day carbon dioxide emissions of a car.  India’s huge bovine population makes methane a dangerous pollutant.

There is also the ecological problem. Producing fodder for 324 million cows puts immense strain on scarce land and water resources.

The Humane Society of India’s report states: Animal agriculture occupies 30 per cent of the earth’s total land area. Approximately 33 per cent of total arable land is used to produce feed crops, in addition to vast areas of forested land that is clear-cut to graze or grow feed for farmed animals.

What, then, is the alternative? plant-based diet.

The government is using taxpayer money to subsidise dairy products (and indirectly the leather and beef industries). What it should be doing is to promote the production of protein-rich plant-based foods such as legumes, soybeans, pulses, fruits and nuts using the land and water resources that are otherwise used to produce cattle feed.  That, and only that, will work if we are to put food on the plates of our starving children.


Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
The American physician Dr. Michael Klaper, the author of books such as Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple  and  Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet
Help Animals India and Vishakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals, Vishakhapatnam
Animal Aid Unlimited in Udaipur
Sharan, Sanctuary for Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature, Pondicherry
People for Cattle in India (PFCI), a Chennai-based animal rescue group
Animal Care Trust, Mangalore
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Why economic growth has stalled – and it’s not what the FM is telling us - By R Vaidyanathan, IIM-B

May 15 2013

V Short
Unorganised sector (partnerships, proprietorships etc) is 65 - 80% of service sector. Software activities is less than 5%. Bank credit to unorganised' sector was 33% in 2010, with consistent decline. Interesting that corporate sector with 12% of national income, gobbles up half the bank credit - and also defaults on loans. Unorganised, or non-corporate sector, is the fastest growing segment, but its credit needs are met by private money lenders etc. Cost of borrowing is as high as 5-6 % per month – 70 % per annum. Black money used to be partly financing them is now in real estate and gold.
The growth rate of our economy has declined to around 5-6 percent now.
Economists as C Rangarajan and Raghuram Rajan ascribe this to the global slowdown as well as delayed decisions in acquiring land and providing clearances for major infrastructure projects. They are right – but only to a very small extent.

The main drivers of growth in our economy are services, whose share in GDP is around 65 percent. All software-related activities come under business services, which itself is less than 5 percent per cent of our national income.

In Table 1, we have shown the activities that constitute the services sector (Construction, trade, hotel and restaurants, transport, Banking and insurance, Real estate, Education Medical Health ...). As can be seen, this sector encompasses diverse activities carried on by large multinationals as well as roadside entrepreneurs.

Services sector has a share of 65 percent of GDP in 2011-12

Within the services sector, businesses are dominated by the non-corporate sector – namely partnerships, proprietorships and household enterprises. The share of what is called the “unorganised” sector in these activities  is 65 - 80 %.

Data on bank credit categorise 'unorganised' sector under the household sector. Their share of bank credit, which was nearly 60 percent in the early nineties, has become 33 percent in 2010, showing a consistent decline.
The share of the corporate sector has gone up from around 30 percent to 49 percent and the government from 10 percent to 20 percent.

It is interesting that the corporate sector, which has less than 12 percent of our national income, gobbles up nearly half the bank credit.
The crony capitalists who default on bank loans get a larger share for their wasteful expenditure.

Even though the unorganised, or non-corporate sector, is the fastest growing segment, its credit needs are not met by the banking sector but by private money lenders etc.
And the cost of borrowing is as high as 5-6 percent per month – or around 70 percent per annum.
We estimate that more than 70 percent of retail trade needs were met by moneylenders/chits, etc, in 2010-11.

Finance Minister is going around with a begging bowl to New York and Tokyo for FII funds.
An aura has been created that FII and FDI flows though in the last decade they have met only 6-8 percent of our investment needs.

Our kiranas and Udupi restaurants and one-truck operators and barbers, plumbers, masons and small-time contractors are crying for credit at reasonable rates. But we will not bother about them. They are not sophisticated enough to argue at the Confederation of Indian Industry or Ficci conferences. They are pan-chewing, dhoti-clad and English-illiterate entrepreneurs. They are the real engines of our economic growth.

The current slowdown is directly linked to the choking of these activities. The huge black money generated in our economy used to be partly financing them.
Now that has also dried up since that money is more in to real estate and gold.

The solution is to create a separate body to develop a robust non-banking financial sector and free it from the RBI as well as the bureaucratic clutches of state governments. The RBI’s hands are full and so there is no point in complaining that it is not alert about the crores coming from non-bank sources – leading to dubious use and abuse. The developmental authority for the non-bank sector should primarily focus on helping partnership and proprietorship firms in the economy through appropriate credit mechanisms and non-strangulating regulations.

Waste pickers in Pune force corporates and the municipality to address safe disposal of sanitary napkins

Waste pickers’ cooperative in Pune - Swach Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit (also known as Solid Waste Collection and Handling, or SWaCH) sent bagfuls of soiled sanitary napkins to corporate offices of top feminine hygiene product manufacturers- Procter and Gamble, Hindustan Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, and Kimberly Clark Lever.

Problem - Occupational hazard

Handling soiled sanitary napkins exposes waste pickers to disease-causing microorganisms E coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause hepatitis and tetanus.

Waste pickers, most of whom work without any protective gear, are aware of the hazards. They often cut themselves with broken glass and sharp pieces of metal in the waste.

Problem - Environmental burden - disposal

Huge number
More than 90 per cent of a sanitary napkin is made of crude oil plastic; the rest is made of chlorine-bleached wood or cotton pulp. Under the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules of 2000, soiled napkins are considered part of non-recyclable household waste and are to be incinerated. The informal practice of burning soiled napkins in the open releases toxic gases like dioxins and furans. But most napkins end up in landfills because waste pickers are too put off by the waste to handle them. Neither method is a safe or sustainable way to dispose of soiled napkins.

Due to the heavy use of polymers, the products are non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. They pose severe environmental threats.

Companies’ neglect

In January, sanitary napkin manufacturers were invited to a consultation by Pune Mayor Vaishali Bankar and commissioner of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Mahesh Pathak. The companies once again did not respond.

After the protest staged by SWaCH on March 8, representatives from Feminine and Infant Hygiene Association (FIHA) called a meeting with SWaCH.

At the meeting, joint commissioner of the solid waste management department of PMC, Suresh Jagtap, explained that the burden of handling and processing post-consumer waste is being borne by waste pickers and the municipality. He asked FIHA members to develop disposal alternatives so that waste pickers do not have to handle such waste. He also requested manufacturers of sanitary products to develop a proposal with concrete steps for disposal of the soiled items.

The FIHA president refused to speak on the issue of disposal of sanitary napkins.

Consumer behavior - Use and throw
With no means for safe disposal, most women hide soiled napkins in newspaper or polythene bags in corners of the bathroom or storeroom, and discard them outdoors or in a garbage dump. A Delhi home-maker, was horrified to find her five-year-old son emptying a bag of soiled napkins hidden under the toilet cistern. “I washed his hands with antiseptic, but I was really scared. There are so many germs in used sanitary napkins. I have started throwing pads in the drain outside our house,” she says.

Major problems for the drainage system of cities - Used sanitary napkins and condoms clog sewage pipelines and hinder the proper flow of waste water.

As many as 0.25 million used sanitary napkins are discarded in Pune every day. They either choke drainage pipelines or litter footpaths.

The survey also indicated that 63 per cent of women do not have any provision for disposing of sanitary napkins at their workplaces. A similar survey by Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BSSWB) found that the main reason sanitary napkins are flushed down toilets is that women feel uneasy disposing of them in garbage bins.

Dubious classification
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has classified sanitary napkins as municipal solid waste. According to the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, soiled napkins, diapers, blood-soaked cotton and condoms are considered household waste, and are disposed of after segregation into biodegradable and non-biodegradable components. However, items contaminated with blood and body fluids, including cotton, dressings, soiled plaster casts, lines and bedding, are considered bio-medical waste and under the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, should be incinerated, autoclaved or microwaved to destroy pathogens.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that the virus that causes both Hepatitis B and C is very hardy and can survive in a drop of blood, body fluid or on a dry surface for weeks, and still be virulent - must be assumed that any and all soiled feminine care products may contain blood-borne pathogens.

However, the head of hazardous waste division of CPCB, Vinod Babu, says, “Sanitary napkins are not biomedical waste. It is body fluid. If it is categorized under biomedical waste, then spit and urine should also be. That would complicate the rules.”

Handling soiled sanitary napkins exposes waste pickers to disease-causing microorganisms E coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause hepatitis and tetanus. Same is also said by chief of laboratory of virology at the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi.

Waste pickers, most of whom work without any protective gear, are aware of the hazards. They often cut themselves with broken glass and sharp pieces of metal in the waste.

Producers Responsibility
The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, include certain provisions of Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR). These provisions make producers responsible for the end of life of the products and the financing and organising of an environmentally sound system for the management of waste generated from the products.

Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS) suggested including a disposable, biodegradable bag with each pack of sanitary napkins and diapers as part of the companies’ EPR.

Better options

A Delhi-based firm, Washroom Hygiene Concepts, installs and maintains units designed for the disposal of used sanitary towels and tampons. The units can be installed in the washrooms of offices, schools and other institutions. Employees collect the discarded napkins and the waste is incinerated.

A more sustainable solution would be to manufacture biodegradable or recyclable sanitary napkins. In 2007, Amita Malik of Delhi-based Shriram Institute for Industrial Research developed a technology that uses bamboo pulp in the manufacture of sanitary pads. Bamboo pulp can be composted, is 300 per cent more absorbent and safer than wood pulp. This is a pilot project and the product is not yet being mass manufactured. In 2012, a research group from IIT Madras started to develop a biodegradable sanitary napkin, without the outer casing of non-woven plastic. Another start-up enterprise, Azadi, claims to have developed a 100 per cent biodegradable, low-cost sanitary napkin.

With increasing consumer awareness, biodegradable or recyclable sanitary napkins, coupled with an efficient disposal system, could go a long way in reducing the burden on waste pickers as well as the environment.

Indian Middle Class are 25% of population - should be called elite

We consider ourselves middle class, though we are not anywhere close to the middle of this country in income or standard of living.
25 percent of Indians in the middle class, among 1.2 billion population.

The elite in many parts of the world do not like to be called the elite - In UK they called themselves the nobility; in current American discourse, the elite are called the job creators. In India, the elite call themselves middle class.

India’s elite has devised the middle-class narrative to capture more public resources in subsidies, often at the cost of the country’s poor millions - using influence in policy formulation, government’s allocation of funds and media amplification.

e.g diesel subsidies. Farmers consume 12 to 18 percent of these subsidies – rich farmers can afford tractors or pumps – majority of the small farmers hardly use any diesel.
A government panel report last year called diesel subsidies a “major contributor to India’s fiscal deterioration”.

The elite capture of India’s subsidies take a toll on the country’s poorest, who genuinely need the discount for subsistence. Food Security Bill highlights this problem.
This year’s budget waived about $12 billion in customs duties on the import of gold, silver and jewelry.

India is going through its own version of the American Gilded Age. The Gilded Age (1865-1900) was marked by fast economic growth, business corruption and cronyism, a shift from agriculture to industry, rapid urbanization and the surge of a new middle class. This was followed by the Progressive Era, a time of cleansing the system, ousting the corrupt and channeling private wealth into social causes. Presidents like Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) and Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat), received wide support from middle-class professionals to weed out the corruption of the Gilded Age, to bring about major reforms in education and economic policies that gave more Americans a level playing field to prosper.

With only 25 percent of Indians in the middle class and hundreds of millions impatient to break into the zone, both the barons and the masses have incentives to glide on the gilded turf for a few more years.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Why is Science Behind a Paywall? - restricted access to published research papers - by Alex Mayyasi

The Internet was created to help scientists share their research, but not used fully by them !!!


Model (developed in response to 17th century problems):
  • Publicly funding research 
  • Act of publishing - sharing your research with the world, publishing it in academic journals 
  • Private companies buy and profit from copyrights as publishers of new scientific knowledge (from 1960s). Most published papers sit behind pay-walls.
  • University libraries account for 80% of their customers 
  • Scientists (consistent pattern) - apply for grants, perform research, publish results in journal
  • Scientists’ most important qualification today is their publication history. 
Journals transitioned from a means to publish findings to take on the role of a marker of prestige. Scientists’ most important qualification today is their publication history.  

Subscription of journals
  • An article is published in only one journal. Researchers ideally want access to every article in their field, so libraries bought subscriptions no matter the price.
  • Journals charge thousands of dollars per subscription.Subscription costs have risen dramatically over the past generation.
  • Increase in costs are the result of the consolidation of journals by private companies.
  • Publishers acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals
  • Providers bundle journals together - this forces libraries to buy less prestigious journals to gain access to indispensable offerings. 
  • There is no set cost for a bundle, instead providers like Elsevier structure plans in response to each institution’s past history of subscriptions.

Data, facts
  • When comparing on the basis of the price per citation (an indicator of a paper’s quality and influence), non-profit papers do more than 5 times better.
  • Elsevier profit margins of 36%, average of 4%-5% for the periodical publishing business. 
  • From 1984 to 2002, the price of science journals increased nearly 600%. Elsevier prices are 642% higher than industry average.
  • In April 2012, the Harvard Library stated that their subscriptions to academic journals were financially untenable.
Systemic problem
- brand value of publishing in new Open access journals vs others, and career of researchers tied to it.
If universities source the funding for research, and its researchers perform both the research and peer review, why don’t they all switch to OA journals?
Some notable successes of the Public Library of Science’s well-regarded open access journals.

However, current scientific culture makes it hard to switch.

History of publication in prestigious journals is a prerequisite to every step on the career ladder of a scientist. There is a trade-off in submitting paper to a new, unproven OA journal, or renowned brand.

Even if a tenured or idealistic professor is willing to sacrifice in the name of science, what about their PhD students and co-authors for whom publication in a prestigious journal could mean everything?

Problems, criticism
Critics - professors, library administrators, PhD students, independent researchers, science companies
Over profiting is only one part of the scientific process that needs to be fixed. 
  • Subscriptions limit access to scientific knowledge.
  • Prices are increasing at a time when the Internet has made it cheaper and easier than ever before to share information.
  • Even world’s wealthiest university cannot afford access to new scientific knowledge - even though universities are responsible for funding and performing that research. 
  • The bigger problem - scientists have not fully utilized the Internet to share, collaborate, and invent new ways of doing science.
  • Universities are paying for research that they themselves produced. Universities fund research with grants and pay the salaries of the researchers behind every paper. Even peer review is performed on a volunteer basis by professors whose salaries are paid by universities.
  • Costs of Closed Publishing: The Reinhart-Rogoff Paper - most important technical flaws are uncovered after papers are published
  • Current journal system slows down the publication of science research - Peer review (1 month), Papers rewritten - half a year. While quality control is necessary, thanks to the Internet, articles don’t need to be in a final form before they appear.
  • Experiments that fail are just as important to publish as successful ones. The scientific community lacks an efficient way to learn about dis-proven hypotheses. Worse, it encourages researchers to cherry pick their data and express full confidence in a conclusion that the data and their gut may not fully support. But journals could not remain prestigious if they published failed experiments.
  • Moving to open access journals would expand access to scientific knowledge, but if it preserves the idolization of the research paper, then the work of science reformers is incomplete. 
  • When careers are made and tenures earned by publishing in prestigious journals, then sharing data-sets, collaborating with other scientists, and crowd-sourcing difficult problems are all dis-incentivized.
However, current scientific culture makes it hard to switch to open access journals.

  • Use internet to share research and collaborate in the discovery making process. No reason for research teams to work in silos and share their findings according to the publishing schedules of journals.
  • Advocates of open science present a strong case that the idolization of publishing articles in journals has resulted in too much secrecy, too many false positives, and a slowdown in the rate at which scientific discoveries are made. Only by changing the culture and incentives among scientists can a system of openness and collaboration be fostered.

There is a simple solution: open access journals.
  • Like traditional journals, they accept submissions, manage a peer review process, and publish. But they charge no subscription fees - they make all their articles available free online.
  • Unlike traditional journals, which claim exclusive copyright to the paper for publishing it, open access (OA) journals are free of almost all copyright restrictions.
One game changer would be governments mandating that publicly financed research be made publicly available.
  • Every year the United States government provides over $60 billion in public grants for scientific research. In 2008, Congress mandated (over furious opposition from private publishers) that all research funded through the National Institute of Health, which accounts for 50% of government funding of science, be made publicly available within a year.
  • Extending this requirement to all other research financed by the government would go a long way for OA publishing. 
  • This is true of similar efforts by the British and Canadian governments, which are in the midst of such steps.
A Scientific Process for the 21st Century
Banyan, a startup whose core mission is open science.
They want to go after peer review
Lots of people still print their papers and [physically] give them to professors for review or put them in Word documents that have no software compatibility.
Banyan recently launched a public beta version of their product - tools that allow researchers to share, collaborate on, and publish research. The basis of this is that scientists will go open source if given simple, beneficial tools.

New tools facilitating an open culture of sharing and collaboration - arXiv, which allows physicists to share “preprints” of their papers before they are published. This facilitates feedback on ongoing work and disseminates findings faster.

Another practice he advocates - publishing all data and source code used in research projects along with their papers - has long been called for by scientists and could be accomplished within the journal framework.

New tools that don’t yet exist - A system of wikis, for example, that allow scientists to maintain perfectly up to date “super-textbooks” on their field for reference by their fellow researchers.
An efficient system for scientists to benefit from the expertise of scientists in other fields when their research “gives rise to problems in areas” in which they are not experts.

Until scientists have clear incentives to contribute to them.
Since publication history is all too often the sole metric by which a scientist’s work is judged, a scientist who primarily assembles data sets for others to use or maintains a public wiki of meta-knowledge of the field will not progress in his or her career.
Addressing this issue - open spirit amongst coders working on open-source software - There is no reward system right now for open science. Scientists’ careers don’t benefit from it. But in software, everyone wants to see your GitHub account.

Talented coders who could make good money freelancing often pour hours of unpaid work into open-source software, which is free to use and adapt for any purpose. On one hand, many people do so to work on interesting problems and as part of an ethos of contributing to its development. But coders also benefit personally from open-source work because the rest of the field recognizes its value.

Employers look at their open-source work via their GitHub accounts (by publicly showing their software work, it can effectively function as a resume), and people generally respect the contributions people make via open-source projects and sharing valuable tips in blog posts and comments. It’s the exact type of open pursuit that you would expect in science. But we see it more in Silicon Valley because it is valued and benefits people’s careers.

My solutions/thoughts:
Sharing of meta-information for research (in SE)
Ability to publish in more than one journal - competition among publishers to promote and earn!

The Creation of Academic Journals
Into the 17th century, scientists often kept their discoveries secret. Public funding of research and its distribution in scholarly journals began at this time, allowing scientists to pursue their research in a stable, funded environment. By subsidizing research, they hoped to aid its creation and dissemination for society’s benefit.
Academic journals developed in the 1660s as an efficient way for the new academies to spread their findings. At the time, the market for scientific articles was small and publishing a major expense. Scientists gave away the articles for free because the publisher provided a great value in spreading the findings at very little profit. When the journals market became more formal, almost all publishers were nonprofits, often associated with research institutions. Up until the mid 20th century, profits were low and private publishers rare.

Universities have since replaced academies as the dominant scientific institution. Due to the rising costs of research (think linear accelerators), governments replaced individual patrons as the biggest subsidizer of science, with researchers applying for grants from the government or foundations to fund research projects. And journals transitioned from a means to publish findings to take on the role of a marker of prestige. Scientists’ most important qualification today is their publication history.

Today many researchers work in the private sector, where the profit incentives of intellectual property incentivize scientific discovery.

But outside of research with immediate commercial applications, the system developed in the 1600s has remained a relative constant. This system facilitated a scientific culture which to this day rewards the sharing of discoveries with jobs and prestige for the discoverer.

The Monopolization of Science
The Harvard Library singled out one group as primarily responsible for the problem: “certain publishers to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.”

The most famous of these providers is Elsevier, Reed Elsevier Group - its parent company - 495th largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization.

Companies like Elsevier developed in the 1960s and 1970s. They bought academic journals from the non-profits and academic societies that ran them, successfully betting that they could raise prices without losing customers. Today just three publishers, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, account for roughly 42% of all articles published in the $19 billion plus academic publishing market for science, technology, engineering, and medical topics. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Photocopying for course packs in Educational Institutions

Why students need the right to copy

The lawsuit by publishers seeking to stop Delhi University from distributing photocopied course packs goes against the spirit of education for all
BREAKING FREE: The case also shows why it is necessary for academics to explore alternative open access models.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Average per capita net availability of foodgrain declined in every five-year period of the 'reforms' without exception

The Food, the Bad and the Ugly - P. Sainath        

Edited for clarity

Average per capita net availability of foodgrain declined in every five-year period of the 'reforms' without exception (1992 - 2010).
In the 20 years preceding the reforms — 1972-1991 — it rose every five-year period without exception.

The country's total foodgrain production is expected to touch a record 250 million tons this year (2011-12) - Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar PTI, February 17, 2012

Record foodgrain output of 235.88 million tons in 2010-11 - Sharad Pawar, PTI, April 6, 2011

India's foodgrain production hit a fresh record at 233.87 million tonnes in 2008-09 - Sharad Pawar, Lok Sabha, July 20, 2009

The Minister (Mr. Pawar) said food grain production in 2007-08 had reached a record 227.32 million tonnes and record production has been achieved in a number of crops. - Economic Times, April 23, 2008

“During 2006-07, the agriculture sector has posted new landmarks. The record production of 216 million tonnes of food grains…” - Sharad Pawar, November 13, 2007

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar cite foodgrain production rises every year.
Sticking to absolute numbers helps him maintain a modest silence on another record he's been a big part of.

Daily per capita net availability of foodgrain has been falling steadily and dangerously during the “reform” years (five-year averages for those years from 1992 to 2010) without exception
474.9 grams of cereals and pulses for the years of 1992-96 to 440.4 grams for the period 2007-2010.
A fall of 7.3 per cent. There has not been a single five-year period that saw an upward blip.

What about the 20 years preceding the reforms? That is 1972-1991?
The per capita availability figure rose every five-year period without exception.
From 433.7 for 1972-76, to 480.3 grams in 1987-91. An increase of 10.7 per cent.

Not reaching the needy

Consider the average for the latest five years - 441.4 grams for the period 2006-2010.
That's lower than the corresponding period half a century ago. It was 446.9 for the years 1956-60.
Not great news for a nation where malnutrition among children under five is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa's.

If production is rising, if the upper classes are eating a lot better - and if per capita availability keeps declining — that implies three things at least.
That foodgrain is not getting to those who most need it.
That the gap between those eating more and those eating less is worsening.
And that food prices and incomes of the poor are less and less in sync.

It also tells us how disastrous the reforms-era policy of “targeting” through the Public Distribution System has been.
The poor have not gained from PDS. The “reforms” period has seen more poor and hungry people shut out of the PDS in practice.
The latest budget suggests that - a universal PDS covering all would cost much less than what the government gives away each year in concessions to the corporate sector.

Economic Survey document

Food availability - highest figure for any year in our history was the 510.1 grams for 1991.
And the average for 2010, after nearly two decades of “reforms,” was 440.4 grams.

This is the point at which someone pops up with: “It's all due to the population. The poor breed like flies.” Is it?
The compound annual growth of population was much higher in pre-reform decades than it is now. But the CAGR for food production was always higher and ahead of it.
Even in 1961-1971, when the CAGR for population was 2.24 per cent it was 2.37 for grain production.
In 2001-10, the figure for population was just 1.65 per cent. But foodgrain production lagged behind even that figure, at 1.03 per cent.

In all the southern states the fertility rate is either at replacement level or even below it. And the population growth rate is falling everywhere in the country.
Yet, per capita availability has declined. So the population claim does not fly.

The buffer stocks with the government show an increasing trend. So per capita availability is in fact declining at a faster rate.
It means the poor are so badly hit that they cannot buy, or have access to, even the limited grain on offer.

GHI ranking

‘Let-them-eat-cake' opinion makers may say that people now care less for cereals and pulses. They're eating much better stuff since they're doing so much better.
So much better that we'd be lucky to reach Sub-Saharan Africa's rate of child malnourishment in a few years.
Presently we rank 67 in the GHI (out of 81 countries with the worst food security status). Rwanda clocks in ahead of us at rank 60.
India's GHI value in 2011 was worse than it was 15 years before that in 1996.

We've spent 20 years promoting cash crops at the expense of food crops.
No one knows quite how much land has been converted from the latter to the former, but it would run to lakhs of acres.
As food crop cultivation has grown less remunerative, many have abandoned it. As farming tanks across large swathes of the country, more and more land lies fallow.
The owners have given up on the idea of making a living from it. Close to seven-and-a-half million people quit farming between 1991 and 2001.
Two decades of policies hostile to smallholders, but paving the way for corporate control, have seen public investment in agriculture crash.
No surprise then that foodgrain production is “growing” only in absolute numbers but falling at an alarming rate in per capita terms.

Maharashtra State Govt. Revokes BT Cotton Seed License (Monsanto)

August 9, 2012

Reasons of ban -
Charges are black marketing, hoarding, inferior quality seeds - not the suicides of farmers!!!
Almost all have suppressed the name of Monsanto!


In Parliament, a tabled report seeks ban on genetically modified food crops and a halt to all field trials.
Maharashtra cancelled Mahyco Monsanto Biotech’s license to sell its genetically modified Bt cotton seeds.

Mahyco Monsanto Biotech is a 50:50 joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto Holdings Pvt. Ltd. The company has sub-licensed the Bollgard II and Bollgard technologies to 28 Indian seed companies, each of which has introduced the Bollgard technology into their own germplasm.

But now, all trade activities of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech are illegal in Maharashtra.

Kishore Tiwari, head of farmers’ advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti said:
“We welcome the decision”,
We demand all other 28 companies sub-licensed by MMB should be banned and replaced by traditional Indian cotton seed.
“Bt cotton seed has played a key role in the Vidarbha farm suicide saga since June 2005”.

Debt for costly genetically modified seeds that are supposed to repel cotton pests, as well as the pesticides they must buy when pests take over anyway.

About 90 percent of India’s cotton-growers have adopted Bt cotton, paying high prices for the seed in the hope that they could save money on pesticides.
The drought-prone Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state has recorded more than 8,200 farmers’ suicides in the past decade, 209 in 2001 alone.
Across India, farmer suicide figures are much higher. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 1995 and 2010, more than 250,000 farmers took their own lives.

In January 2012, for the first time, the Indian Agriculture Ministry linked farmer suicides to the declining performance of the Bt cotton.
An internal advisory sent by the ministry to cotton-growing states said -
Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton.
The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers

Bollgard II was developed by Monsanto by inserting two genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into cotton. These genes produce two proteins toxic to the main insect pest of cotton, the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa, so that when the Helicoverpa caterpillars eat Bollgard II cotton they die.
But the cotton bollworm has been developing resistance to Bt cotton.

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra and BT Cotton

Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint - P. Sainath

Vidarbha's rainfed irrigation led to low yields, as cotton needs two to three waterings.
Don't use Bt here, in unirrigated places like this.
He was silent on why Maharashtra, ruled by an NCP-Congress alliance, promotes Bt Cotton in almost entirely rainfed regions.
Maharashtra State Seed Corporation (Mahabeej) distributes the very seeds the State's Agriculture Commissioner found to be unsuited for rainfed regions seven years ago.

Maharashtra's record of over 50,000 farm suicides between 1995 and 2010 is the worst in the country as the data of the National Crime Records Bureau show.
And Vidarbha has long led the State in such deaths.
The farmers also spoke of vast, policy-linked issues driving agrarian distress here.

Times of India, October 31, 2008
“There are no suicides here and people are prospering on agriculture. The switchover from the conventional cotton to Bollgard or Bt Cotton here has led to a social and economic transformation in the villages [of Bhambraja and Antargaon] in the past three-four years.”.
“Not a single person from the two villages has committed suicide.”

This news came in TOI 2008, when the controversy over genetically modified seeds was raging across India, this story painted a heartening picture of the success.
Same story was run again in the same newspaper, word for word. (Times of India, August 28, 2011) - this time as advertisement from company Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech.

The villagers themselves had a different story to tell in Bhambraja to shocked members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.
“There have been 14 suicides in our village”
“Most of them after Bt came here”
“Sir, lots of land is lying fallow. Many have lost faith in farming.”
All after 2002, the year farmers here switched to Bt

Over a hundred people, including landed farmers, have migrated from this ‘model farming village' showcasing Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech's Bt Cotton.

August 2011 ad was published after the government failed to introduce the Biotech Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill in Parliament in August 2011.
The failure to table the Bill sparked frenzied lobbying to have it brought in soon.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, who were disturbed by reports of farm suicides and acute distress in Vidarbha decided to visit the region.
Bhambraja, touted as a model for Mahyco-Monsanto's miracle Bt, was an obvious destination for the committee. Another was Maregaon-Soneburdi.

Bt cotton completed 10 years in India in 2012.
The issues, and claims made by TOI in its stories, have come alive yet again with the debate sparked off by the completion of 10 years of Bt cotton in India in 2012.

The 2008 coverage was a result of the media visit with transport arranged by the company. The 2008 full-page news report appeared in the Nagpur edition.
The second time in 2011, it was an unedited reprint of the 2008 coverage as a advertisement. This did not appear in Nagpur, where it would surely have caused astonishment.
The first time done by the staff reporter and photographer of a newspaper. The second time exhumed by the advertising department.
The first time as a story trip ‘arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto.' The second time as an advertisement arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto.

Some of the photographs were not taken in Bhambraja or Antargaon, villagers allege.

The Times of India story had a champion educated farmer in Nandu Raut who is also an LIC agent. His earnings shot up with the Bt miracle. “I made about Rs.2 lakhs the previous year,”. Nandu Raut told me last September. “About Rs.1.6 lakh came from the LIC policies I sold.”. He has seven and a half acres and a four-member family.

TOI story said that he earned Rs.20,000 more per acre due to savings in pesticide. For four acres, he saved Rs. 80,000 on pesticide.
Many in Bhambraja say angrily: “Show us one farmer here earning Rs.20,000 per acre at all, let alone that much more per acre.

Union Agriculture Minister's figures:
“Vidarbha produces about 1.2 quintals [cotton lint] per hectare on average,” Sharad Pawar told Parliament on December 19, 2011.
That is a shockingly low figure. Twice that figure would still be low.
The farmer sells his crop as raw cotton. 100 kg of raw cotton gives 35 kg of lint and 65 kg of cotton seed (of which up to two kg is lost in ginning). And Mr. Pawar's figure translates to just 3.5 quintals of raw cotton per hectare. Or merely 1.4 quintals per acre.
Mr. Pawar also assumed farmers were getting Rs.4,200 per quintal. That was close to the cost of cultivation. And that is why such a serious situation is developing there.
If Mr. Pawar's figure was right, it means Nandu Raut's gross income could not have exceeded Rs.5,900 per acre.
Deduct his input costs — of which 1.5 packets of seed alone accounts for around Rs.1,400. TOI has him earning Rs.20,000 more per acre.

The ad also has Nandu Raut reaping yields of “about 20 quintals per acre with Bollgard II”, 14 times the average of 1.4 quintals per acre.

Almost all farmers with bank accounts are in critical default and 60 per cent of farmers are also in debt to private moneylenders.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Rethinking Institution Building in 21st Century India - C Shambu Prasad XIMB

Talk for seminar on “Challenges of Leadership in 21st Century India”
Organised by Sarvodaya Mandal, January 30, 2013 Bhubaneswar
C Shambu Prasad. Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar

Lesser known aspect of Gandhi’s work - institution building
Gandhi gives us more insights on how contemporary institutions can be shape

General decay in our institutions that needs greater and closer attention - people not helping each other...
Why is it that we are not able to build institutions that remain:
  •     truthful to their original intent,
  •     institutions that continue to learn and improve,
  •     that respond to different stakeholders requirements that can be sensitive even as they are purposeful

Umair Haque HBR blog on the Builder’s manifesto - financial crisis of 2008 - absence of leadership or statesmanship when there is a wave of crises sweeping the globe.

The crisis of leadership is evident to most Indians.
The alternative is not an autocratic leader but one who could empower people by building newer institutions.

Haque says - Leadership was built for 20th century economics
The textbook skills of the "leader" — persuasion, delegation, coalition — aren't universally applicable.
Rather, they fit a very specific context best the giant, evil, industrial-era organization.

What leaders "lead" are yesterday's organizations. But yesterday's organizations, he suggests, are broken.
The biggest human challenge isn't leading broken organizations. It's building better organizations.
It isn't about leadership: it's about "buildership", or what I often refer to as Constructivism.

Gandhi’s constructive agenda, alternative models of economics, and suitable societal institutions

Haque compares Obama with Gandhi.
Obama's problem - is that he is too much of a leader — and not enough a Builder.
He has mastered the principles of leadership that has resulted in politics as usual, instead of political reform.

Gandhi, in contrast, was no mere leader, but the most awesome kind of Builder.
He built one of the most significant institutions in history: nonviolent resistance.
Obama's challenge isn't just "leading" by horse-trading better — it's reforming them

Today's builders are igniting institutional revolution for a post-industrial world.
They are forging the new building blocks —
  • ethical investment, 
  • deep journalism, 
  • socially useful finance, 
  • universally accessible communication
 — that a rusting economy, society, and polity so urgently demand.

The 21st century doesn't need more leaders - nor more leadership.
Only Builders can kick start the chain reaction of a better, more authentic kind of prosperity.

Gujarat Vidyapeeth - community spinning yarn - what is the right thing to do, what money can’t buy

The blind faith that many of us have on technology can come in the way of building institutions.
How did Gandhi connect without all these ICT innovations?
What was the nature of the connection that he had with people?
Why our current leaders are not able to reach common people with technology today?
Why is it that the ruling class is so disconnected with common people today?

Rebuilding Institutions: Gandhi Style
One agenda for change for Congress at his speech at the Benares Hindu University in 1916.
Gandhi was critical of the Congress’s composition which was highly tilted towards the rich and elite.

The fearlessness to speak truth to power was part of Gandhi’s agenda of creative dissent. 
This was however not for media bytes, but for a larger programme of reconstruction and institution building.

Gandhi’s rebuilding agenda was not reforming old institutions but critique of institutions and their roles.
Importantly his critique was an internal one to bringing back their creative power and impulse.
Empowering fellow countrymen and enhancing their capacities was an important role of his institutions.

Institutions to Gandhi were not static in terms of design and agenda for action.
Among his institutions that he built was the Ashram. - he visualised the Ashrams as a place for ‘scientific and prayerful experiments’. Several examples across the country where people built their own institutions based on Gandhi’s constructive work agenda. There were thousands of these across the nook and corner of the country. Many have survived decades of decadence in their microenvironment, some continue to inspire.

Little is known about them today as Indians we celebrate the person and ignore the ecosystem that a person’s work created and we often do little area studies about these micro-histories of regions.

The Gandhian `ashram' was envisioned to be the prototype of the society.
“The ashram was primarily a training institute which provided a common discipline and purpose, and a toughening of the body as well as the spirit. If it is not considered blasphemous to say so, the ashram may be likened to an army training camp in which while the armaments and the drill were wholly different, the purpose as well as the daily routine was very similar. The ashrams and the ever increasing fallout from them were meant to forge India into togetherness, and to create an army, which not only proved as tough as the forces of the adversary but under the general ship of Gandhiji was two or three paces ahead of British strategy and forces.”

Ashram also became a centre and promoter of constructive activity - as the need arose gave birth to organizations which were concerned with one or the other single item of the constructive programme.
Examples - Charkha Sangh, the Go- Seva Sangh, the Harijan Sevak Sangh, the Gramodyog Sangh, the Hindustani Prachar Sabha, and the Talimi Sangh.

How then can we rethink our institutions today?
Leadership challenge lies in strengthening our institutions, recovering the liberal space that enables dialogues, the ability and respect to listen to each other.
If we need to build a better society on peace, non-violence and justice, we need to do this in our institutions and make this an everyday activity and perhaps take this slogan of the
Ashoka Foundation - everyone a changemaker - to ‘everyone an institution builder’
  • Philosophies of open source
  • Transparency in functioning
  • Accountability etc in the way we work
  • Flattening organisational hierarchies
  • Reducing knowledge hierarchies

Innovation has not yet occurred in most of our institutions and that we need management innovation.

Try and root some of these ideas in our institutions.
Some of the commandments of Umair Haque on leadership as he contrasts leadership with buildership.
1. Boss drives group members; Leader coaches them. Builder learns from them.
2. Boss depends upon authority; Leader on good will. Builder depends on good.
3. Boss inspires fear; Leader inspires enthusiasm. Builder is inspired — by changing the world.
4. Boss says "I"; the leader says "we". Builder says "all" — people, communities, and society.
5. Boss assigns the task, Leader sets the pace. Builder sees the outcome.
6. Boss says "Get there on time", Leader gets there ahead of time. Builder makes sure "getting there" matters
7. Boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; Leader fixes the breakdown. Builder prevents the breakdown.
8. Boss knows how; Leader shows how. Builder shows why.
9. Boss makes work a drudgery; Leader makes work a game. Builder organizes love, not work.
10. Boss says, "Go;" Leader says, "Let's go." Builder says: "come."

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Trusteeship: A futuristic concept

There is global discussion on creating new metrics of ‘valuation’ to make markets respond to burgeoning crises such as the widening income gap, ecological imbalance and social instability. 
Can Gandhi’s concept of Trusteeship enable the creation of a broader, more wholesome definition of value?
Azim Premji recently signed the Giving Pledge (an initiative by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). 
The reasoning behind Premji’s decision – Trusteeship.
“Wealth to be used for the betterment of society and not as if one owned it,” Premji said 
Premji has committed large volume of his assets, estimated at about $16 billion, in charitable trusts

There is a crucial difference between philanthropy and trusteeship.
Philanthropy - giving away surplus wealth without questioning economic system which allows such concentration of wealth.  
Trusteeship is a futuristic concept which radically challenges the very concept of ownership.

  • Has been promoted on both moral and strategic grounds. 
  • Privileged are deemed to have a moral responsibility to those less better off. 
  • Viewed as a safety valve to defray discontent about vast disparities in assets and income
By contrast, Gandhi’s concept of Trusteeship 
  • you are never really the ‘owner’ of wealth but rather its temporary holder or caretaker.
Wealth-creation requires special abilities - need to be honored but not to put money-power in hands of few.

George Soros argued that since all wealth is generated in a social and cultural context, it is never private.
Soros has acted upon this belief in two ways
  • As ideas, he campaigned against ‘market fundamentalism’ – cold logic of supply and demand. 
  • In material, his Open Society Foundation has annual budget of $850 million.
At the same time the concept of social and environmental ‘returns’ on investment has gathered momentum. United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing at the New York Stock Exchange, in 2006, was a significant watershed event.

Widening income disparity is the top-most concern in World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Risks Report. 
Ecological imbalance is accepted as key risk – threatening both economic and social stability across world. 
There are efforts to create new metrics of ‘valuation’ that will make markets respond to these crises.
- many of these emerging responses tend to offer piece-meal managerial solutions.

‘Conscious capitalism’ and ‘Caring capitalism’ are making their presence felt on the global stage. 
Management guru Michael Porter is making waves with the concept of ‘shared value.’

Gandhi’s advocacy of Trusteeship is hardly ever mentioned on the global stage. 
Most people associate Gandhi with asceticism, overly idealistic and unviable.

Trusteeship is beyond two dominant trends of the 20th century - feral capitalism and stifling communism. 
This is based on the conviction that individuals and society can, and do, evolve to higher states of being.

Gandhi was confident that it will survive all other theories, no other theory is compatible with non-violence.

Can Trusteeship be a value and a policy framework to shape more just patterns of accumulation? 
Can it give rise to a new definition of ownership itself?
Can the concept of Trusteeship enable to create a broader, more wholesome definition of value?

Firstly we need to understand the experiences of who lived by the principle of Trusteeship.

What has been the tension between pure accumulation and a philosophy of trusteeship?
How Indians grapple with contemporary forms of accumulation and ownership, giving and sharing, could be a crucial component of how these issues are tackled across the world.