Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Friday, February 13, 2009

A million dollar opportunity for an innovative social project

If you have an idea for an innovative social project that can create significant social value, here's your chance to win S$1 million. The Lien i3 Challenge hopes to catalyse social innovations by providing both funding as well as advice, to ensure good projects get launched and are sustainable. The challenge is open internationally but preference would be given to projects that benefit communities in Asia. Also, for a chance to win, the project must demonstrate innovation, impact and implementability - the i3. The challenge has been established by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University (Lien Centre at SMU).

The challenge is a three-stage process, which culminates with the implementation of the winning projects within a year. In the first stage, participants must submit their ideas in a two-page proposal by March 31, 2009. Participants will then be shortlisted to proceed to the second stage, where they will each be given S$1,000, mentorship and support by the panel of judges to further develop their ideas. The participants will have to submit 'refined' entries by August 31, after which the judges will select the final participants to award the S$1 million grant money to implement their ideas in the third and final stage. The winners will be announced in October.

Sharifah Maisharah Binte Mohamed, project manager, Lien i3 Challenge, elaborates, "The challenge was conceptualised in 2008 as part of the centre's efforts to enhance and grow the non-profit sector through social innovation. As a competition, Lien Centre at SMU also hopes the challenge will bring to light highly original, impactful ideas or effective solutions which are currently lacking in the social sector, and which will be deserving of the prize money and mentorship opportunity."

At present, other than funding, there is little support for the launch or implementation of social projects. "We see many good ideas in the Asian social space having to overcome so many resource constraints and barriers just to see the light in society. Good social initiatives should not have to travel so far. So, we conceptualised the challenge to complement the passion of the social sector with the right connections and resources," says Sharifah. The grant money is funded by the Lien Foundation in Singapore.

Sharifah adds, "The Lien Centre at SMU would like to see the full amount distributed to implement the winning entries. The amount each winning entry will enjoy out of the S$1 million will be decided at the discretion of the judging panel." The centre will also act as a facilitator for selected participants to obtain advice and tap into the expertise of the panel of judges. For example, in the second stage participants can also discuss with judges how best to use the S$1,000 development grant to test their ideas further.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

India Inc. debates climate hurdles, solutions

India's government needs to give financial support and incentives for technological research to help industry go green, but firms must also take initiatives in battling climate change, a new industry white paper said.

Most firms in India, one of the world's worst polluters, are yet to plan for the impact of climate change on their businesses and do not measure emissions or have deadlines to curb them, according to various studies.

India's top firms also face little stakeholder pressure to combat climate change with only about 40 percent of the companies setting voluntary carbon emissions reduction goals, according to a survey by KPMG consultants of CEOs last year.

"This Corporate White Paper ... presents the expectations of the corporate sector from the government in terms of enabling policies and incentives that would help in achieving the roadmap for the industry," the document said.

"Through this initiative, we have identified several paths forward for our industry to reduce its ecological footprint, manage its impact better (and) become more eco-efficient," the white paper, ratified by 84 Indian firms and released this month, said.

Experts say Indian firms' response to climate issues is driven largely by the need to comply with expected regulations, while leaving the leadership role in tackling global warming to the government.

"Various programmes which government has enunciated will fall flat unless industry takes it upon themselves to realise that it is business opportunity they have to do," J.J Irani, director of the Tata Group, wrote in the white paper. The white paper called for vigorous private-public partnership in key areas such as technological research.

"R&D is critical to the topic of climate change. Don't leave R&D only to the governmental sector. Public-private partnerships in R&D are the need of the hour," said Prasad Chandran, chairman and managing director of BASF India Ltd.

India's new national climate change plan focuses on renewable energy, but doesn't commit to any emission caps. It says it must use more energy to lift its population from poverty and that its per-capita emissions are a fraction of those in rich nations.

India, whose economy has grown by 8-9 percent annually in recent years, contributes around 4 percent of mankind's global greenhouse gas emissions, but says its levels will never go beyond those of developed countries.

The government is setting up energy benchmarks for each industry sector and allowing trade in energy-efficiency certificates.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CEO required by Leading Indian NGO





Praja is a non-partisan organization, started in Mumbai in 1997 by a group of eight individuals whose vision was to re-establish accountability and transparency in governance. These individuals were also concerned about a general lack of interest among the Citizens' in the local government. At the same time, there was barely any interaction between the Citizens' and the local government.

Praja’s initial efforts were concentrated on improving the capacity of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to deliver better services and to be responsive to the people. They felt that this would activate Citizens' interest in the affairs of the local government. The conceptualization and implementation of the idea of the Citizens Charter in 1999 was the beginning of their work with the municipality and later Online Complaint Management System. Over time, Praja became a pressure group that persistently influenced the city government into establishing a pro-citizen work ethic.

Praja has prominent Board members and several goodwill partners; they bring in their professional skills and network, to help the organization realise its goals. Among them are pre-eminent names such as B.G. Deshmukh and Ajay Hattangadi.

Sumangali Gada and Nitai Mehta are amongst Praja’s founder members. The funding partners of the organisation are Fur Die Freiheit and Madhu Mehta Foundation.

Their goal is to work in collaboration with the elected representatives who represent them in the local, state and national legislatures, first, by increasing people's interaction with them and eventually, by fostering a democratic culture of questioning, debate and dialogue. Praja in its next phase of expansion will focus on facilitating participation and active dialogue between citizens and their elected representatives.


Praja is looking to hire their CEO who will be responsible for Praja’s expansion into new ventures and initiatives. S/he will act as a catalyst between the municipal corporation, civil society bodies and the individuals residing in the respective wards.

The key responsibilities in this role will be as follows:
• The incumbent would play a leadership role and would need to enable a stimulating environment in shaping the thinking, approach and strategies relating to all programmatic aspects of Praja’s work.
• S/he must be a self starter and highly self motivated in the design and delivery of programme objectives.
• S/he should be passionate about the cause and Praja’s projects.
• The incumbent should be able to influence policies and processes, and improve performance with a view to creating transparency and accountability.
• S/he should be able to execute the tasks at hand within the specified timelines of the project.
• S/he would be responsible to raise funds along with the founders who are active members of the organization.
• S/he should have the ability to manage all operational issues within the framework of necessary laws and guidelines, including hiring and evaluating staff, office and program functions, developing and implementing budgets, fiscal oversight, and strategic planning, grant procurement and oversight.
• S/he would work as a catalyst between the Municipal Corporation and the ward members, and take advantage of its partnership with other organizations to help implement the projects of Praja.
• S/he would be required to have entrepreneurial skills and should be capable of defining and incorporating measurable performance indicators in the projects.
• S/he should have skills in networking and building sustainable working relationships with all relevant stakeholder groups, including government, NGO’s, private partners, and funding partners.
• S/he should be able to develop strategic relationships with a range of agencies and organizations on issues of public interest and governance.

Must Haves:

• The incumbent should be within an age group of 35 to 45 years.
• S/he should be capable of setting/ defining/ rolling out measurable performance/ success indicators for each project.
• S/he should have good communication skills, with English being compulsory. Fluency in Hindi and Marathi would be a bonus, coupled with the ability to interact with and speak in Public.
• S/he should have good Project Management skills and a proven track record in management of projects, including financial management and the delivery of business plans.
• The incumbent could be a program manager in a civil society organization as well.
• The incumbent must be able to commit to a minimum of 3 year full time stint.

COMPENSATION DETAILS: A competitive and comprehensive compensation package, commensurate with experience, will be offered to the selected candidates.

Third Sector Partners, a leading CxO and board search firm in the Not for Profit sector has been retained by Praja for this search. Interested candidates can send in their CVs along with three references and a cover note to, or Contact us at: +91 22 6660 3558/6660 3559. Only short listed candidates would be contacted.

Last date for receiving applications is 15th February 2009

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

UK government aids struggling charities, as donations fall

The British government has pledged $42.5 million ($63.6 million) to help charities ride out a squeeze on their finances amid an economic downturn that is boosting demand for their services.

Charities of all shapes and sizes have started to see donations fall as the credit crunch sends the British economy into recession. Many are considering cutting jobs and scaling back programmes.

Some have experienced a disappointing response to appeals for funds for humanitarian emergencies from hunger in East Africa to cholera in Zimbabwe.

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), which helps charities raise and manage money, said those that rely heavily on donations from the public are feeling the pinch most.

"But they're not seeing a collapse. It is either flat or the beginning of decline, and it just feels for everybody like the phoney war. We know it's coming," he told AlertNet.

In a survey of 322 charities carried out by CAF in January, 41 percent said they had received less funding than budgeted for in the past three months, with their income falling by 22 percent.

Almost half - 49 percent - reported no significant change in income. But half said they expect their total income to decline over the coming 12 months.

Meanwhile, 51 percent of those offering services to help people cope in tough economic times
- from financial advice to help with housing, jobs and managing stress - have seen demand increase in the past three months.

The government's aid package is targeted at groups that provide employment advice, mental health and family support services in the poorest parts of Britain.

It includes £16.5 million to help at least 3,000 organisations "modernise" by facilitating mergers, partnerships and sharing administrative functions, £15.5 million in grants for smaller charities working in the most deprived communities, and £10 million for a scheme to create volunteering opportunities for the unemployed.

"The best of the British spirit is the way we pull together when times are tough. And it's Britain's charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises that so often make that happen," Liam Byrne, minister for the Cabinet Office, said in a statement.


Charity leaders welcomed the plan, but said it was less than they had hoped for and more would be needed.

"It targets real need and provides capacity-building support, but more will undoubtedly be needed as the recession unfolds," Stephen Bubb, head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, told Third Sector magazine.

The new fund is just a fraction of the £500 million sought by charities at crisis talks three months ago, and less than half of a more recent request for £100 million to keep essential services afloat, according to the Guardian newspaper. It also says one in three charities is expected to lay off staff in the coming months.

Besides declining donations, British charities are suffering from a slump in the value of their assets, and some have had to cancel projects after losing deposits in failed Icelandic banks.

CAF's Low said aid agencies operating overseas have also been hit hard by the devaluation of the pound, which they had not planned for, leaving them with little choice but to raise more money to fund planned programmes or cut back their activities.

CAF has launched a confidential financial crisis helpline that will offer guidance to worried charity leaders about how to get through the economic downturn by cutting costs and rebalancing their books.

Large international agencies may be better equipped than small domestic charities to withstand a squeeze on their finances in Britain thanks to more diversified income sources and stronger capacity to manage their money, Low said.

But the need for aid in poorer countries is also likely to increase as economic growth and remittances are hit by the global financial crisis, poverty rises and struggling governments cut humanitarian and social spending.

"The problems in Darfur haven't changed one iota because of Western bank failures," said Low. "If anything, it's just gone off the agenda. These are becoming hidden problems."


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Families pay the price of caring for children with HIV

The world's response to HIV/AIDS has failed millions of poor children and their families in the worst-hit countries, says a report from an international network of researchers and practitioners.

The Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS (JLICA) says flawed policies and programmes by governments and their partners have led to misconceptions about what works.

The United Nations estimates that, in 2007, 2.1 million children under the age of 15 were living with HIV and 15 million children had lost one or both parents to the virus. While access to antiretroviral drugs is improving dramatically, children in sub-Saharan Africa are about one third as likely to receive them as adults, according to the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

"JLICA found that there is a lack of good data on children and HIV/AIDS and the information that is available is often not used," said the network's co-chair, Agnes Binagwaho, who is permanent secretary at Rwanda's ministry of health. "As a result, many well-intentioned efforts do not take account of key realities that must help shape an effective response to the impact of HIV children and their families."

The upshot is that families and communities in the worst-hit regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, are left to bear around 90 percent of the financial cost of caring for children with almost no help from outside agencies, the report says. At the same time, their capacity to cope is being reduced by poverty and food insecurity, it warns.

"The global economic crisis aggravates the hardships experienced by those affected by HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty, and makes action to expand and sharpen our responses all the more imperative," said Alex de Waal of the New York-based Social Science Research Council, who leads JLICA's policy group.

The report - the fruit of two years of research and analysis - says financial resources for services to support children and families affected by HIV/AIDS "remain far below what is required" on a national scale. And the way programmes are designed and put into practice often prevents money reaching local communities.

On Tuesday, UNAIDS called for fresh funding to fill a gap of $11.3 billion from a total of $25 billion needed to meet goals for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.


According to the JLICA report, one common failing of approaches targeting children is that they tend to focus almost exclusively on AIDS "orphans", defined as having lost one or both parents to the disease. In fact, JLICA found that 88 percent of "orphans" do have a surviving parent, even though they and extended family members often lack resources to care for the children.

The report warns against targeting support services too narrowly because in poor communities hard-hit by HIV all children - not just "orphans" - face deprivation. By singling out those directly affected by HIV, there may be stigmatisation and abuse of the children, and wider needs go unmet.

The report recommends that policies and programmes should be sensitive to AIDS but not focus entirely on the disease, and they should be driven by children's needs instead of their orphan or HIV status. A distinction should be made between children who have lost a parent to AIDS and those who have no home or family to take care of them.

The report also urges organisations working on HIV/AIDS to provide support to children to and through their families so that they build on their existing resources rather then creating new structures to replace them.

"Families are at the heart of the AIDS response," said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. "Policies, programmes and funding must focus on providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for the family as a unit to ensure that both children and the adults who care for them get the essential services they need."


Governments can do their bit by providing income transfers to poor families affected by HIV, allowing them to spend the money on what they need most - whether it be food or transport to health facilities.

The report cites the example of a successful cash transfer programme in Zambia, which provided $15 per month to the poorest 10 percent of households. Rolling out a similar initiative across low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa would cost just 3 percent of the aid promised to Africa by world leaders at the 2005 Gleneagles summit, it notes.

JLICA also criticises the ABC (Abstain, Be faithful or use a Condom) approach to HIV prevention, saying it does not address powerlessness among women and teenage girls in situations where they risk infection.

It proposes other measures including better physical safety for girls at school, on public transport and in places of recreation; tackling behaviour and attitudes that promote sexual abuse; and improving young women's economic independence.

The report says one way to learn from the mistakes of the past is to give poor people living with HIV/AIDS a bigger say in how resources are spent.

"Increased involvement of local communities in the development, implementation and assessment of programmes will help to ensure that they are both relevant to local needs and achieve better results," said Geoff Foster, founder of Zimbabwe's Family AIDS Caring Trust and leader of JLICA's group on community action.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dying for a living

Every morning in newspapers all across the country, a small news item routinely appears: ‘Sweeper dies in manhole’, or ‘Sewerage worker drowns in septic tank’. The story is given a different headline every day, as the journalists play with words. Most readers do not bother to read the item, which is often just an official report stating the bald facts. I too was guilty of skimming over the items for many years of my life.

Then, in 1998, whilst writing the book Endless Filth, on manual scavenging, the news items came to life when I visited the home of one such casualty, a young Gujarati boy called Hasmukhbhai, in Wadhwan, Gujarat. Barely 19 years of age, Hasmukh died in a manhole. He had recently celebrated the fact that he’d bagged his first contract -- to clean a septic tank for the princely sum of Rs 300. He bought breakfast for friends who were helping him, for Rs 50. He would have to pay them Rs 50 each for the work he’d done. That left Rs 100 for him. He hoped to wheedle an extra Rs 100 from the owner, if the job went smoothly.

The day started well. At 19, Hasmukh was the oldest and in charge. His 16-year-old helpers stood aside as he opened up the manhole cover and waited for the gas to escape. Then the bucket slipped out of his hand and disappeared into the hole. Cursing, Hasmukh bent down, groping about for the bucket. The gas rushed up and he fell inside, unconscious. He never even knew what hit him. It was half-an-hour before he was hauled out with a rope. It was too late. Hasmukh was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. His family will never know if he died choking on the gas, or drowned in liquid shit.

Hasmukh’s story made me think about the issue seriously, for the first time. Drowning in liquid shit is what happens to at least 22,327 sanitation workers every year. All belong to the balmiki community.

Human beings shrink from any contact with faecal matter. We are paranoid about stepping on shit even accidentally, with our shoes on. If it does happen, we rush to wash the offending substance off the soles of our shoes. Can we even begin to comprehend the experience that thousands of balmiki men go through every day of their lives?

According to a 2002 report prepared by the International Dalit Solidarity Network -- which includes Human Rights Watch (United States), Navsarjan Trust (Ahmedabad, Gujarat), and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, the government estimates that there are 1 million dalit manual scavengers in India.

I was sensitised to a degree, and began seeing sanitation workers more clearly, observing them closely and talking to them. Yet, even after interviewing Hasmukh’s family, the full impact of the daily grind of the sanitation worker -- the full horror of his existence -- did not strike me. It took a gut-wrenching interview by S Anand in the magazine Tehelka to graphically bring home the reality. Anand explains: “Entering the narrow, dark drain, the worker pushes his only weapon, the khapchi -- a spliced bamboo stick -- to dislodge the block. This exercise could take hours. ‘Holding our breath, closing our eyes, we plunge headlong. We feel our way, poking with the khapchi,’ says Sateesh. It is then that a sudden blast of putrid sludge -- besides methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide -- assaults the person. ‘Even if we manage not to swallow the toxic muck, it manages to enter our bodies.’ Odourless and colourless, the carbon gases can cause suffocation. The scene is documented in the Drishti film Lesser Humans. The film makes the viewer recoil in horror and was considered too horrible for American audiences to watch.”

If the worker survives the initial ordeal, he crouches inside and loads the sludge into a leaky metal bucket or wicker basket for his team to haul out. Depending on the clog, the entire operation could take up to 48 hours. “We often work after midnight. When people sleep, the flow in the sewers is less, and our work does not disturb road-users,” says Sateesh.

Among sewer workers, there’s a category called ‘divers’, whose brief is to ‘swim’ through the large pipelines, find the blocks, and clear them.

Ashish Mittal, an occupational health physician who co-authored ‘Hole to Hell’, a 2005 study of sewer workers by the Centre for Education and Communication (CEC), New Delhi, says: “A manhole is a confined, oxygen-deficient space where the presence of noxious gases can cause syncope -- a sudden and transient loss of consciousness owing to brief cessation of cerebral blood flow. The brain cannot tolerate even a brief deprivation of oxygen. The long-term neurological effects of syncope can be debilitating.”

In most developed countries, manhole workers are protected by bunny suits to avoid contact with the contaminated water. They also sport respiratory apparatus. The sewers are well lit, mechanically aerated with huge fans and therefore not so oxygen-deficient. In Hong Kong, a sewer worker, after adequate training, needs to have at least 15 licences and permits in order to enter a manhole. In India, our sanitation workers go in almost naked, wearing just a lungot (loincloth) or briefs. In Delhi, in accordance with the directives of the National Human Rights Commission in October 2002, most permanent workers of the DJB wear a ‘safety belt’. This belt that connects workers in the manhole, via thick ropes, to men standing outside offers no protection against the gases and sharp objects that assault them. It’s a cruel joke; at best it helps haul them out should they lose consciousness or die inside the hole. The CEC study of 200 DJB manhole workers found that 92.5% of workers wore the safety belt. But this did not prevent 91.5% of them suffering injuries, and 80% suffering eye infections.

Manual scavengers are exposed to the most virulent forms of viral and bacterial infections that affect the skin, eyes, limbs, respiratory and gastro-intestinal systems. Reports show that tuberculosis is rife among the community.

The CEC survey found that diseases like leptospirosis, viral hepatitis and typhoid are common. “During the course of our six-month study, three of the 200 workers died,” recalls Mittal.

Alcoholism takes its toll on more than just the health of the sanitation worker. Apart from bringing on an early death, it wreaks havoc on his family. Every balmiki basti witnesses the inevitable spiral of alcohol-related violence and poverty as a sizeable part of the men’s income disappears into the liquor shops.

Sanitation workers are at the very bottom of the social pyramid; even other dalits consider them untouchable. The only people on whom they can vent their frustration and generations of pent-up anger are women and children.

Most men in the community die young; indeed, the average lifespan of a sanitation worker is 45 years. The civic body does not offer any monetary compensation to these workers for illness or death due to occupational risks, unless the worker actually dies inside a manhole, In Delhi, permanent workers get a monthly ‘risk allowance’ of Rs 50. In some states, the figure rises to Rs 200.

In a tragic farce, sanitation workers often unionise to fight for the right to keep their jobs. With privatisation, they could lose the little security that government employment offers. So they fight for the right to die in their manholes, for this privilege to be theirs alone. They demand reservation for their sub-caste to keep these jobs. It would be interesting to find out if the men who drive the little floor-cleaning vehicles at the Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore airports are from the balmiki community. I doubt it: once jobs are upgraded they are passed on to people from the dominant castes.

In every balmiki basti, there is a recurring story. The story of the man who dies on duty, drowned in liquid shit or asphyxiated as he opens up a manhole cover. The family is desolate. The municipal corporation or civic body responsible for employing the dead sanitation worker offers, by way of solace and in a gesture of enormous magnanimity, the ultimate consolation prize -- the dead man’s job. A few days after the funeral, the son proceeds to take his father’s place. He knows that the smallest slip could land him in the same hellhole that swallowed up his father. But it’s all part of the life of the sanitation worker.

It’s heartening to see that persistence pays. The change may be slow and incremental, but when it comes it will make a huge difference to the lives of these people.

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Going Green

After the success of the Green Revolution and its accompanying lessons, the Punjab farmer is waking up to the benefits of organic farming.

In Punjab, the ‘food bowl’ of India, where a high yield has always been the main pursuit of farmers, organic farming has never been a preferred option because of low output. But things have changed over the last few years, due to increasing awareness as well as preference for organically grown food, not only in many major cities, but also in small towns. Even farmers know that these organically grown crops are not a health hazard.

The organic movement in Punjab has many home-grown components as many social activists as well as NGOs are working for a change in their homeland. Though many activists from other states, too, are flocking in, appalled at the high suicide rates and health problems being faced by the farmers of India’s food bowl.

A serious debate is presently on, following the publication of a paper "Organic farming and its necessity – how far it can go" by the Punjab State Farmers Commission in December last year. However, the farmers of Punjab are yet to give their verdict on the issue. Although the yield-loving farmers are still sticking to intensive farming or ‘chemical farming’ as organic adherents call it, but many ‘chemical farmers’ are now also experimenting with organic crops.

Novel concept

One such NGO is Kheti Virasat, which started the Nabha organic cluster in 2000. It is providing real time as well as extension service to farmers wishing to go organic. Meeting the organic farmers of Nabha is like meeting converts to a new religion. They have been armed with light traps (to trap flies), pheromone traps (to stop harmful insects from mating), trico-derma cards (to help friendly insects), vermin composts and mixtures of neem and dhatura to tackle pests. However, their mainstay is jeevamrit, a mixture made from the dung and urine of indigenous cows, jaggery and gram flour. These ingredients are mixed with water during irrigation of crops. This mixture is also sprayed on plants during the growing stage.

Seventynine-year-old Balwant Singh of Khanora village is one of the first farmers in Patiala district to opt for organic farming. "People try to discourage you but you have to override this negativity to start off on the road to self-discovery," he says, adding he grows organic produce on six acres. "It is booked in advance in the Gobindgarh market. I get 72 quintals of wheat from five acres. Although the yield is not much, but still it has been difficult to save enough even for my own consumption," he adds.

A Saholi village resident Inderjit Singh, who has been a successful intensive farmer, says he also started organic farming on five acres. Inderjit has two Sahiwal indigenous breed cows and gives away jeevamrit, free of cost, to neighbouring farmers. Inderjit says the possibility of yield reduction should not be made an issue while opting for organic farming. "In future people may start getting more from organic farming than they do from chemical farming. Yield in chemical farming is also decreasing despite an increase in the use of fertilisers and pesticides. So the farmer has to be presented with an alternative."

The organic cluster in Nabha is continuously adopting new practices. The cluster also believes in the science of ‘bio-dynamics’ with farmers planting crops according to the different phases of the moon. Ram Singh of Labana Tikku village claims that this sowing pattern gets him a better yield. Kheti Virasat director Surinder Singh says presently 246 farmers are cultivating more than 447 acres, which have been certified for organic farming. The Nabha foundation, headed by the late Maharaja’s grandson Uday Khemka, has borne the expenses for getting the certification.

Kheti Virasat is selling organic milk and vegetables to consumers in Nabha at only 25 per cent more price than that of conventional products. "We have contacted Vishal mega mart and Reliance for the purpose and also propose to start processing plants to add value to our organic produce," adds Surinder.

Social movement

Unlike in Nabha where the organic farming is aimed at the market, the organic movement, also known as ‘natural farming’, started as a social movement in the Bathinda belt. It was aimed at making farmers aware of the hazards of "chemical farming’ following news reports of farmers boarding trains to get treatment for cancer.

Umendra Dutt of the Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), which is spearheading this movement, is of the opinion that farmers alone can bring in the change in farming practices. The mission claims it has reached 400 villages with the farmer strength in each village ranging between two and 70.

Dutt says his organisation is against certified organic farming being thrust on the farmers by some other organic farmer organisations as well as the Punjab Farmers Commission. "For us, farming is an issue of livelihood, sustainability, ecology and agricultural sovereignty. I have to rid Punjab of this poison. Bhad me gayi market (the market can go to hell). It (market) will come afterwards," is how he puts it.

The KVM leader says he would not like to go in for certification, which has corporate control. Dutt advocates the participatory guarantee scheme method of certification. He says under this method it would be the responsibility of village-level committees to give certificates, which could be verified by district-level and state-level committees. "This system will have more checks and balances and will be stronger than any MNC certification," he says, adding, "The International Federation of Organic Farming (IFOM), too, has accepted this model." Dutt, who regularly conducts drives against the use of pesticides in the Malwa region, says in Indonesia 56 pesticides were banned in one day. He says even if this cannot be replicated in Punjab, the government should at least give a time-frame of two to three years for this to happen. He claims that Rs 12,000 crore is being given to Punjab farmers by the way of subsidies to purchase pesticides, which about one-third of the state’s total budget.

Kavita Kuruganti, a volunteer with the KVM, says it is unfortunate that business interests have crept up into organic farming (certified farming) which has made it expensive. Kuruganti says there is a need to make the farmer realise that if he himself brings down the input costs then only can his exploitation through a rigged market be brought down.

Litmus test

The two men behind the report of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, which advocates organic practices for vegetables and milk production but says these practices may be counter productive for wheat and rice due to their effect on yields, are sticking to their guns. They have decided to check the yield claims of organic growers for the coming rabi season besides analysing jeevamrit scientifically. Dr Karam Singh says the claimed efficacy of jeevamrit, as a source of nutrients, will be put to test by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. While admitting that jeevamrit is a rich source of microbes, he said he had doubts whether it could provide the needed nutrients. "A Punjabi farmer puts in 60 kg of nitrogen in his field. Whether jeevamrit can replace this has to be tested," he added. Dr Karam Singh claims a reasonable yield of rice is possible through organic farming but it is not possible for wheat and maize. "In winter, the availability of nitrogen decreases. Only if you put the recommended fertiliser, will you get the results or else the yield will decrease by 30 to 35 per cent." He said the decomposition of organic matter also slows down in winter.

There is scepticism about the claims of organic growers among agricultural scientists. "If organic farming can ensure the same yields as those achieved with intensive farming, and can improve the quality of the produce and reduce input costs, then why are Punjabi farmers not taking to organic farming en masse," asks Dr Karam Singh. He said marketing was another major issue and it was to be seen whether organic produce would continue to fetch the prices being demanded at present.

Dr J S Kolar, paper’s co-author, who visited organic fields in March last year, says the state of the crop did not look as if it would give the yield ,being projected by organic farmers. "The organic farming is okay for virgin land but not land under the wheat–rice cultivation. Also the call by organic proponents to use cow dung of only indigenous cows could also affect the milk productivity."

By Jangveer Singh


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Millions of children go without basic care: HAQ report

Thirty-two million children in India under the age of six do not have access to basic education and healthcare, says a recent report released by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

“The worst affected children in this age-group are those who belong to marginalised sections of society,” says Enakshi Ganguly, co-director of the child rights group.

The report, ‘Status of Children in India 2008’, reveals that a vast group of children living in difficult circumstances such as children of long-term patients, women prisoners and sex workers, children with special needs, riot-, militancy- and disaster-affected children, refugee and displaced children, and children in orphanages and homes do not receive early childhood education.

Only 13% of children from other backward classes (OBC), eligible to be covered by the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), are reported to be benefiting from it, the report adds. This figure is lower for scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) children -- 10% each.

India has 164 million children in this age-group, of whom 60 million are in the three to six age-group. Only 34 million children in this age-group are covered by pre-schooling schemes, either the ICDS or private initiatives. Nearly 26 million children have not received any form of intervention.

Children who are not covered are from both rural and urban areas; most belong to vulnerable and marginalised socio-economic groups.

In rural areas, the report says, children are located in isolated and remote villages, scheduled caste/tribe habitations, settlements of seasonal migrant roadside workers, construction and quarry workers, or in fishing hamlets. In urban areas, they are the children of construction workers, temporary/seasonal workers, rural migrants, etc, living on pavements, in unauthorised settlements or, at best, in small slums.

Ganguly explains: “Without a major policy shake-up and more efficient implementation of nutrition programmes, India is unlikely to reach the related millennium development goals by 2015.” Two of the eight goals set by the United Nations in 2000 relate to children -- achieving universal primary education and reducing child mortality. The deadline is 2015.

“Instead of boning up on implementation and universal coverage of the ICDS, policymakers are currently engaged in a frivolous debate over serving biscuits to little children as midday meals, neglecting the nutrition aspect of hot cooked food,” Ganguly says.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.



Location: New Delhi

Reporting to: Director Marketing & Communication


Oxfam India is a result of the merger of the different Oxfam’s that have been operating in India for the last fifty years as separate entities: Oxfam Trust, Oxfam GB, Oxfam Novib, Oxfam Australia, Oxfam Hong Kong and Intermon Oxfam (Spain). It undertakes all the activities of an Oxfam affiliate: international and national rights-based programming, international and national advocacy and campaigning, humanitarian response and fundraising. As a national member of an international confederation, it plays a strategic role in campaigns and advocacy, both domestically and internationally. Oxfam India aims to be a role model for promoting gender equality and diversity.

Reason for Hire:

The organization seeks to hire Media & Communication Manager who will be responsible for conceptualizing & managing all internal and external communication activities; to support Oxfam’s fundraising, advocacy work & campaigns.

Key Roles and Responsibilities:

• Conceptualise, design and execute internal and external communication strategies for Oxfam India; to support advocacy, campaign & fundraising initiatives.
• Responsible for development and delivery of a national media & brand building strategy to effectively communicate Oxfam’s advocacy and campaign messages through mainstream print and electronic media.
• Manage media relations and ensure publicity/visibility of Oxfam campaigns in India and International media.
• Work with various Oxfam Programme Managers and Officers, to identify priority themes and develop advocacy messages, press briefings, news features, case studies and other communication material for dissemination through mass media.
• Developing all the media, publicity, marketing & fundraising messages and the communication material around them.
• To organize press conferences, media briefings, visit of press reporters to programme locations to highlight Oxfam’s programme priorities and campaign messages.
• Capacity building of Oxfam India staff in communication, media and campaigning work and of the fundraising team in the areas of communicating with donors.
• Support the Director Marketing on all communications & brand building mechanisms to support fundraising activities.
• Lead & manage the Communications Team.

• Masters Degree in Mass Communication Studies or any other discipline relevant to the position.
• Atleast 10 -15 years of overall experience with skills in designing & implementing communication and media strategies, preferably within the development sector.
• In -depth exposure of using various media platforms – like print, electronic & online; for dissemination of advocacy & campaign messages and support to fundraising initiatives.
• Strong networks within the media sector; with the ability to organize and deliver high profile media events
• Team management skills (Ability to manage & motivate a team of alteast 5 people).

Third Sector Partners, a leading CxO and board search firm in the Not for Profit sector has been retained by Oxfam India. Interested candidates can send in their CVs along with three references and a covernote to or Contact us at: +91 22 6660 3558/6660 3559. Only short listed candidates would be contacted.

Last date for receiving applications is 15th February 2009.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Security and democracy

There is a profound, complex and symbiotic relationship between security and democracy. Most typically, civil rights activists see security concerns as inimical to democracy, and security sector decisionmakers rue the constraints placed by democratic processes on their functioning. The terror attacks in Mumbai and their aftermath suggest it may be time for a more thoughtful reading.

Live reportage by 24-hour news channels brought the full horror of the attacks and the efforts of security officers into millions of homes around the world. Reporters stood just outside the line of fire, trying to get updates where they could, functioning as professionals but reacting like human beings to this completely new experience. News was leaked and interviews were given. Reporters probed survivors and stopped short of giving terrorists air-time. Those who were ‘handling’ the terrorists also watched television updates of security operations in real-time and communicated these to their operatives. Emotions ran high everywhere, onscreen and off, onsite and off.

These emotions have found outlets in the large attendance at police funerals; candlelight vigils; protest rallies and countless online initiatives from petitions to groups on social networks to acrimonious discussions on listserves. Television channels have vied with each other to pay tribute, with news channels inviting entertainers and entertainment channels incorporating courage, martyrdom and patriotism as themes in their programming.

“Something must be done; I must do something.” While this feeling has been expressed as outrage and solidarity by citizens across India, on television in particular, it has taken the form of an aggressive push for accountability and a steady pressure for firm, assertive and unforgiving action against the perpetrators and their backers, especially Pakistan. At first glance, with so many giving up their customary apathy, there seemed to be a democratic revolution brewing in middle class India. But at second glance, many complex issues are visible.

Should war and peace decisions be made emotionally? Where do we draw the line between expecting the government to be responsive to popular pressure and using its discretion? Similarly, how far should citizens trust the government to make good decisions based on intelligence when intelligence failures allowed the attack to happen?

There are four values that democracy imposes on all policy arenas, including security. These are transparency, accountability, responsiveness and rule of law. Traditional security thinking on the other hand depends on discretion (if not secrecy), room to manoeuvre, authority to act and impunity. In this article, we explore the various facets of the labyrinthine relationship between ‘security’ and ‘democracy,’ rubrics that we will treat as monolithic and axiomatic for now.

Security and democracy: Free-fall in tandem

The various conflicts subsumed under the shorthand ‘Kashmir’ clearly illustrate how State-formation related issues are key to security and democracy and how the two can interface to their mutual detriment.

When there is a dispute regarding the physical limits of the State, the State’s security is challenged. However, the process of staking and consolidating territorial claims comes with a cost to democracy. Stationing armies, cordoning off areas and limiting public access are starting points, often followed by press embargoes and therefore, limited public access to information. The outbreak of hostilities from time to time underscores to each side in the dispute the importance of militarising the disputed area. As anxiety about territorial security mounts, control over political processes begins to seem desirable. Merely stationing and equipping army units does not feel like an adequate measure.

In Kashmir, this meant interference in elections and state governments. Democracy was undermined, at least partly under the guise of security considerations. The consequence was that the Indian State’s legitimacy was eroded in the Valley. The insurgency followed, with the additional complications of cross-border training and infiltration and linkages to global jihadi trends. The Kashmiri dream of self-determination was once more articulated in the course of the insurgency. A third party was added to the contentious question of what territories (and peoples) make up India and Pakistan.

‘Kashmir’ illustrates how security and democracy decline together, each facilitating the other in free-fall. Border disputes lead to militarisation; militarisation leads to restrictions of movement and information flow; restrictions are reinforced by political manoeuvres; these erode the legitimacy of the State; challenges to a State increasingly perceived as illegitimate and the State’s defence are expressed through escalating levels of violence. This expands the referent of security from the State to its citizenry, caught in the crossfire, constraints placed on their freedoms.

The task of an analyst or news anchor is substantially easier than that of a government decisionmaker. The location of the decisionmaker within a labyrinth of favours and compromises and a legacy of precedents leaves her looking at options with a zero-sum lens. Given a contentious physical definition, should she move to resolve that issue in her favour or should she prioritise the ideational self-definition of her democratic State over its physical consolidation?

Security and democracy: The governance connection

If Kashmir illustrates security and democracy in mutually reinforced free-fall, is there a circumstance in which security and democracy reinforce each other in the other direction? Backsliding from previous articles in this series, so far, this article has taken a traditional view of security. What if we were to return to looking at security as referring to more than States and physical safety? Would this democracy-security relationship look less like a zero-sum game? Would these two values reinforce each other?

In the many conflicts in northeastern India, a common thread relates to governance failure. In Assam, for instance, the failure to take cognizance of the changes in the demographic as a result of migration and the carving out of smaller states, led to an anti-migrant agitation. In Tripura, furthermore, an overall breakdown of law and order plus a piecemeal attitude to reconciling the interests of various groups within the state has created an untenable situation which is neither secure nor conducive to public welfare.

In Sri Lanka, responding to majoritarian demands led to alienation of the minority. Pacts signed between the government and the Tamils were repeatedly repudiated. Repeated breach of trust culminated in the rise of militant groups. Violence escalated and governance failures snowballed. Sri Lanka’s early lead in development indicators and the efforts of a vibrant civil society have preserved the process and practice of democracy in circumstances least conducive to it.

In the Maldives, under the long Gayoom presidency, civil rights remained notional and while elections were held, the peculiar circumstances of Maldives’ geography and society meant they served as endorsements rather than elections. Arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture in what the opposition termed the ‘Dhoonidhoo Hilton’, the atoll-state’s most notorious island prison, were commonplace. Lack of democracy and the absence of security for individuals went hand-in-hand.

Equity and fairness, law and order and the rule of law are important elements of good governance. They are also critical to both security and democracy. Afghanistan illustrates how the absence of security endangers democracy even as the Maldives illustrated how the abandonment of democracy creates insecurity. Is good governance then the common ground between security and democracy? Quite possibly.

Democratic voices, security concerns

After the Mumbai attacks, when people on the street, commentators and television news channels argued with increasing vehemence for swift action, commandos moved cautiously and the government seemed almost reluctant to act. The commandos’ caution was explained in terms of the need to save lives and not indulge in indiscriminate firing. Going beyond accusations of incompetence, what slowed the Government of India’s response?

International relations theorists in the last decade or so have delighted in their discovery of a near-theory in a field that abounds in contradictions and intangibles. The ‘Democratic Peace’ theory holds that democratic States do not go to war with each other. One explanation for this is that the process of decisionmaking in democracies is slow. The movement of a plan of action from one arm of government to the other is determined by due process. This also allows civil society to weigh in on alternatives, and governments have necessarily to respond to the questions and demands of the public.

In the context of the Mumbai attacks, it seems as though two symbols of democratic decisionmaking were antagonistically juxtaposed. On the one hand, a loud and angry public called for anything from action to revenge. On the other hand, the government seemed to choose this very moment to react slowly and diplomatically, reflecting the cumbersome nature of decisionmaking in a democracy. What was the correct democratic option? What was the democratic option that furthered the State and the citizenry’s security?

The answer, in the case of security issues, we are led to believe, often lies with experts and practitioners. The role of secrecy in strategic thinking and security action comes to colour all security matters. Because secrecy is associated with security, only a few people are privy to information relating to security, and because information or intelligence is a critical component of decisionmaking, over time, the right to speak about and contribute to decisions in the area of security comes to be restricted to a small network of experts. In fact, scholars note that to label something ‘security’ is both to raise its priority level in the political arena as well as to throw a cordon of secrecy around it.

Read in Detail this article by Swarna Rajagopalan:

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Top Executive required in Indian NGO


LOCATION: New Delhi/Noida

REPORTING TO: The Board of Trustees, TLM India


The Leprosy Mission is an international Christian organization working towards the eradication of the causes and consequences of leprosy. TLM is a global network of organizations active in over 50 countries. They invest in vocational training, counselling and community based socio-economic rehabilitation activities. TLM serves a population of around 320 million people across 244 projects in 29 leprosy-affected countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. It has representative offices in over 35 countries. Their vision is a world without leprosy and their goal is to eradicate the causes and consequences of leprosy.

The Leprosy Mission Trust India was registered as a Society in 1972 in Delhi. It has the largest infrastructure facilities in the country to address the issue of leprosy. It is successfully running 18 hospitals and 6 vocational Training Centres across India, with 4 Regional Offices and 1 Research Laboratory as well. The TLM Trust India provides more than 22 Community Health Programmes, along with Economic Empowerment and Gainful Employment to people affected by leprosy.


The Leprosy Mission Trust India is looking to hire their Director - India. The key responsibilities in this role will be as follows:
• The incumbent should be proactive to develop vision and strategies that are feasible, appropriate to the needs of leprosy-affected people and people with disabilities, and their communities, consistent with good development practice and in keeping with the global framework and policies agreed by the Mission globally and by TLM Trust India Board.
• S/he would be responsible to continually review and develop appropriate capacity development plans in conjunction with interested funding partners.
• S/he would be required to lead and be responsible for the activities of the Mission in India, and should be able to inspire and guide a multi-location and a very passionate senior and junior management team in India to develop high quality programmes.
• S/he should be able to lead the mission of TLM through a significant period of change.
• With the help of his/her core team the incumbent will monitor all the programs across the various states in India and ensure that projects are aligned to the larger vision and mission of TLM.


• Ensure proper financial accountability for all income and expenditure in India in line with the Mission’s financial guidelines and statutory policies, directing, guiding and closely supporting the fundraising activities of the Mission.
• Understand the principles of fund raising and marketing of an organisation.
• Be prepared to travel extensively within India and when needed to other parts of the world, while taking steps through consultation and delegation to ensure the continued efficient operations of the Mission’s work in India.
• At least 5 years’ relevant experience in senior management in the health or social / community development sector, with a good understanding of community development principles.
• A Christian candidate, with atleast 15+ years of post qualification experience.
• Within the overall experience, minimum 8 years in a senior management role in strategic programme management & oversight on implementation.
• Exposure to managing large public health programmes with a good understanding of community development principles is preferred.
• Strong operations management skills; which will involve large scale human resources management, financial & budgetary management, and organizational development activities.
• Strong leadership skills and ability to manage and motivate high performing teams in multi-locations.
• Excellent skills in building & sustaining relationships with multiple stakeholders – government, international partners, national NGO’s, funding agencies and target communities.
• Strong communication & representational skills.
• Experience of being a Board Member of a reputed organization.

COMPENSATION DETAILS: A competitive and comprehensive compensation package, including perquisites & benefits, will be offered to the selected candidates.

Third Sector Partners, a leading CxO and board search firm in the Not for Profit sector has been retained by The Leprosy Mission Trust India for this search. Interested candidates can send in their CVs along with three references and a cover note to, or Contact us at: +91 22 6660 3558/6660 3559. Only short listed candidates would be contacted. A detailed document on the mandate will be available on request.

Last date for receiving applications is 10th February 2009.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

NGO Job in India


Location: New Delhi

Reporting to: Director Marketing & Communication


Oxfam India is a result of the merger of the different Oxfam’s that have been operating in India for the last fifty years as separate entities: Oxfam Trust, Oxfam GB, Oxfam Novib, Oxfam Australia, Oxfam Hong Kong and Intermon Oxfam (Spain). It undertakes all the activities of an Oxfam affiliate: international and national rights-based programming, international and national advocacy and campaigning, humanitarian response and fundraising. As a national member of an international confederation, it plays a strategic role in campaigns and advocacy, both domestically and internationally. Oxfam India aims to be a role model for promoting gender equality and diversity.

Reason for Hire

The organization seeks to hire a Fundraising Manager, to help Oxfam India increase the fundraising income to a minimum of USD 5millon by 2010 through Direct Marketing & Effective Retention Programmes.

Key Roles and Responsibilities

• Develop, manage and implement fundraising strategies for the organisation in conjunction with the Director – Marketing & Communication, with main focus on individuals and corporate sector.
• Analyse, implement and monitor new growth potentials by introducing new fundraising channels within an efficient cost/income ratio, up-scaling existing activities and introducing innovative activities for fundraising to new cities/ areas.
• Achieve agreed income goals to meet operational needs.
• Develop, implement and embed procedures and systems to ensure a cohesive and planned approach to fundraising activities.
• Undertake monitoring and evaluation of fundraising activities and achievements related to agreed targets and cost/income ratio.
• Manage, build and motivate the fundraising teams (different cities) and train them whenever needed.
• Research and implement successful fundraising methods from other Oxfam’s.
• Develop and protect Oxfam India’s brand status.


• Masters Degree in Social Science or Business Administration
• 10 years of overall experience, with substantial exposure in designing & implementing strategic fundraising plans in the development/NGO sector.
• In-depth exposure to using innovative direct marketing channels (like DRTV, Face to Face, Telemarketing, Direct Mails, Online) within an efficient cost/income ratio.
• Sound knowledge of donor retention, up-gradation & graduation programmes.
• Demonstrated leadership & team management skills (ability to manage a team of at-least 5-6 people).
• Excellent verbal & written communication skills (in English)
• High results orientation


• Strong networks within corporate sector.

Third Sector Partners, a leading CxO and board search firm in the Not for Profit sector has been retained by Oxfam India. Interested candidates can send in their CVs along with three references and a covernote to or Contact us at: +91 22 6660 3558/6660 3559. Only short listed candidates would be contacted.

Last date for receiving applications is 15th February 2009.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Save every drop or DROPDEAD


After DROPDEAD team has saved 3.84 lakhs liters of water last year, we cosmopolitans have pledged to save 5 lakhs liters of water this year, starting with an awareness campaign.

On Sunday, 08th Feb. 2008, Students and teachers of Cosmopolitan High School along with DROPDEAD and Robin Age - a weekly newspaper for children will participate in the rallies on 5 different routes covering Mira Road in an attempt to appeal to common public to save water.

We cordially invite all citizens on Sunday morning at Cosmopolitan High School by sharp 8 AM to support our children.

The message is loud and clear - Save every drop or DROP DEAD.

Cosmopolitan High School with DROPDEAD has decided to give free service on Sunday mornings to repair leaking taps and replace the old rubber gaskets or O-rings.
For further details contact
Aabid Surti: 09820184964; Chittaranjan: 09820475603
Cosmopolitan High school:022- 28100240

In collaboration with COSMOPOLITAN HICH SCHOOL, Mira Rd,Mumbai,India


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A day in the life of an e-waster recycler

14-year old Ram Kumar wakes up at 4 a.m. in the morning. He starts his search for broken mobile phones, keyboards and CPU cabinets. By 9 a.m., his brown gunny bag is brimming with electronic junk from the stream of sewage and garbage dumps lining a nallah in Patparganj, East Delhi.

Broken mobile phones, cathode ray tubes, radiators, mangled printed circuit boards and smashed refrigerator parts - the e-waste bulges out of the gunny bag. He offloads his electronic knick-knack daily at the nearest assemblers for Rs 100 a bag. On a lucky day, a PC motherboard fetches him Rs 30. As the sun settles, on the banks of the nallah, the assemblers ship all the e-junk to Seelampur, where the e-waste recyclers reside near the slums. Scores of concrete bath tubs, filled with lead acid, line up in the area. The recyclers dump all e-waste into the acid bath overnight.

As dawn breaks, on the banks of the Yamuna, metal scrap from the circuit boards, melts away and settle at the bottom of the acid bath. As the acid loses its corrosiveness after 4 to 5 uses, the bath tubs are drained into the Yamuna. From the river, poisonous metals and chemicals find their way into the ground water, from where it reaches your drinking water supply.

About 3.3 lakh tones of e-waste was generated in 2007, which was dumped into the rivers, nallahs, landfills and sewage drains of the country. An additional 50,000 metric tonnes was illegally imported into the country. While the chemicals seep into the ground water, the e-waste (like junk refrigerator bodies, compressors from air conditioners and waste plastic used to make phones) just keep on piling up. Around residential areas, just off city limits, these dumps are growing.

Out of the 3.3 lakh MT, only 19,000 MT of the annual e-waste is recycled, every year. This is due to high refurbishing and reuse of electronics products in the country and also due to poor recycling infrastructure.

“E-waste is going to be one the major problems facing the world after climate change and poverty,”
says Nokia India MD D Shivakumar. “At Nokia, we have realised this and have started a programme under which anybody can move into a Nokia priority care store and put any mobile phone in a box. We then collect all this e-waste and get it recycled via authorised recyclers,” he adds.

Globally, Nokia has collection points for recycling used mobile phones and accessories across 5000 Nokia care centres in 85 countries and engages in collection campaigns with retailers, operators, other manufacturers and local authorities around the world. Nokia’s proactive approach has made it the top electronics major in Greenpeace India’s

Annual Guide to Greener Electronics 2008. In India, Nokia has installed take-back bins in more than 600 care centres across India, with a free gift for people depositing their old mobile phones.

According to a MAIT report, e-waste from discarded computers, television sets and mobile phones is projected to grow to more than 800,000 MT by 2012 with a growth rate of 15% in the country.

Read More:

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Rays of hope for hawkers: Sunlight at night

As the sun sets, the street-side makeshift shops, stalls and pushcarts in South India’s small town of Hassan turn into a bustling marketplace illuminated by bright white lights. On approach the presence of Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) is immediately noticeable despite the power shut down that is a frequent feature in the area. Any enquiries of the hawkers elicits the invariable response of “Mr. Murugesh’s Solar lights”, before they turn back to serving their customers.

Needs of Street Vendors

Street hawkers or vendors in most Indian urban (Bangalore is estimated to have around 30,000 street vendors) and peri-urban areas retail a sizeable portion of perishable agro-produce such as fruits, vegetables and flowers. Many hawkers also vend cooked food, regional meals and snacks, and even household items such as footwear, watches, and belts to the poor, middle and even upper-classes. Most of these hawkers depend on these small businesses for their livelihoods and, though they have rather “impermanent” set-ups such as push-carts they conduct business in the same location for years and are open late into the evenings. Most of them are from the poorer sections of society dependent on their businesses that are “daily economies” (at times paying an exorbitant interest of 10% a day to buy goods that they resell). Owing to the impermanent nature of their set-ups, they all lack access to mainstream infrastructure services, like modern cost-effective and reliable lighting.

Adequate lighting for these hawkers during dusk and late evening business hours is imperative as evening is their peak business hour. Most hawkers use kerosene-based lanterns and LPG-based gas-lighting. This form of lighting has many disadvantages such as relatively high fuel and maintenance costs, inadequate lighting, disruptive heating of the business environment and noxious fumes, which are damaging to health and the goods being sold.

A Solution for lighting

S3IDF has a solution. S3IDF helps a local entrepreneur operate a battery charging station powered by solar photovoltaic panels (or through grid or a hybrid). The batteries get charged during the day time and are delivered to the hawkers in the evening on a pay-for-use basis.

Benefits of the ‘Solution’

The hawkers are charged a daily rental fee of Rs. 12 (increased in 2007 from the initial Rs. 10) [~USD 0.25] for a typical usage of 4 hours, after which time the batteries are collected and taken back to the charging station for recharging. This price is competitive with the running costs of existing kerosene/LPG lights (kerosene in the open market costs around Rs. 35/liter and the hawkers typically use ¾ liter a day) and the hawkers are quick to realize the other benefits that these lights bring such as easy usage (simply connecting the batteries to the lights), a lower heat output, brighter light and reliable lighting even during the frequent power outages endemic to small Indian towns.

Enabling Infrastructure for the poor

Mr. Murugesh started the micro-enterprise with just 50 lights in January 2005 with the help of S3IDF, which not only helped access the bank loan, but also convinced the technology supplier SELCO to provide a buy-back guarantee of the infrastructure, and provided proper business development support to the micro- enterprise. The business expanded to service 120 street vendors by mid-2006. For this, Murugesh was able to get additional financing from the local bank based on his credit history. Local employment has increased slightly thanks to the extra hands hired for the upkeep and transportation of the batteries.

Ratnamma, Manju and the rest still struggle for their daily livelihood, but at least they have one less problem to worry about now.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And there was light

Rural electrification is moving at snail’s pace in the state of Jharkhand, with nearly 50% of villages continuing to live in the ‘Dark Ages’. But communities that never knew a light bulb 60 years after India’s Independence, are today generating power themselves and lighting up their homes and villages. And guess from what? Wild putus (Lantana camera) bushes, forest waste and seeds of the karaunj (Pongamia pinnata) tree that is found in abundance in the region. Other unconventional techniques too are being employed to generate power, in collaboration with NGOs and people’s participation at the local level.

It’s the wild scraggly vegetation that is helping light up the remote tribal village of Kachchudag, in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district. Dominated by the Bedia community of snake-charmers, Kachchudag’s 46 households have pioneered their own way instead of waiting endlessly for the government to provide electricity.

Another village -- Gardih, in Nawadih block, Bokaro district -- has electrified all 100 homes, besides installing 20 streetlights. This is being done using a 5 KVA generator that runs on oil from the karaunj seed!

Then there are 25 tribal households in the remote forested village of Kekoria Tand in Keradari block, Hazaribagh district, that have progressed beyond lanterns thanks to the efforts of a local NGO and a 10 MW capacity micro-thermal plant that’s driven by superheated steam.

“Our generations-long wait for power was futile. The forest waste which was earlier left to decay has today become a very important product for us. Through this, the power-generation capacity in our village is 10 KW, through a biomass gassifier system,” says Jagannath Bedia, a resident of Kachchudag. The mud huts of this village are all aglow with CFL bulbs. And the roads too are lighted.
Child seen studying under CFL light in Kachchudag village

The alternative energy project has received support from the Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA). Explaining the process involved, Project Officer, JREDA, Prakash Kumar Das says: “The bio-waste products are burnt in closed containers that release producer gas. This gas is subjected to successive filtrations to remove impurities. It is then fed to the generator to produce power, which is distributed to homes via low-tension poles and wires.”

“Our lives have changed completely. Earlier, the arrival of dusk would almost put an end to our activities for the day. Today, our children can also study in the evenings,” says Lalki Bedia. What’s more, it’s completely pollution-free, says Das. The generator does not emit any toxic fumes as is the case with diesel-run generators. Further, the bio gassifier plant is simple and is run by members of the Van Suraksha Samiti made up of the villagers themselves.

The residents of Gardih are equally enthusiastic. Here, it’s karaunj oil that has changed their lives. The village has its own generator that runs on these bio-diesel seeds. The crushing unit installed in the village has a capacity of 50 kg/hour. Each household has been provided with two CFL bulbs of 11 W each. Twenty streetlights have also been put up across the village.

“We have constituted an Urja Samiti in the village,” says Kalicharan Ganju. The committee has 10 members who are responsible for running the project. For this a monthly contribution is taken from each household, he adds.

According to Das, karaunj seeds have tremendous potential for bio-diesel: barely two litres of the oil can light up 100 homes as well as 20 lamp-posts for three hours every evening.

The karaunj is a deciduous tree that grows up to about 15-25 metres. It sports a wide, thick canopy. Its leaves are soft, shiny and a rich shade of brown or burgundy during early summer that matures to a glossy deep green as the season progresses. Small clusters of white, purple and pink flowers blossom on the branches around the year. These eventually grow into brown seed pods.

The karaunj tree grows wild along the sides of streams and roads in Jharkhand’s forested regions. It adapts well to intense heat and sunlight and can survive drought. Karaunj oil is traditionally used in the state to light earthen lamps during Diwali.

The ease with which karaunj oil has substituted diesel or petrol in Gardih has opened up the possibility of electrifying villages at a fraction of the cost needed to extend transmission lines across remote and far-flung areas, says Dr Sudhanshu Kumar, a botany professor. “It is not easy to get the conventional mode of electrification to such remote villages,” agrees C D Kumar, engineer-in-chief, Jharkhand State Electricity Board, who is also in charge of rural electrification in the state. For one, acquiring forest clearance is a major obstacle, and, two, setting up the requisite transmission infrastructure through dense forests is a challenging job.

Meanwhile, for the villagers of Kekoriatand, Jharkhand’s eighth birth anniversary on November 15 was the happiest day of their lives.

Kekoriatand is remote and inaccessible, located in the forests of Hazaribagh. “No minister, politician or bureaucrat has ever visited us since Independence,” says Kari Munda. But members of the Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum (JADF), who work across the state setting up alternative models of development, did manage to make an entry here when they installed a micro-thermal project.

What better gift could the villagers have got on statehood day when the forum installed and operationalised its first 4 KW-capacity micro-thermal power plant in this remote village, says Prem Prakash, state convenor of the forum.

President of the JADF, Ram Dayal Munda, who is a well-known academician and recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy award, adds: “The illuminated bulbs in the homes barely matched the glow in the eyes of the villagers.”

The power-generation unit consists of three major components -- a boiler, a steam engine and an alternator. The boiler is internally lined with tubes that carry water that’s heated by burning coal. The water is then transformed into steam which is led through pipes to the inlet of the steam engine. The constant flow of steam drives the steam engine, like the erstwhile railway engine.

The drive from the steam engine is taken to the alternator, and as the steam engine reciprocates, the alternator is driven through a pulley system. The rotating alternator produces an alternating current which becomes the power source to light up the village.

According to Gagri Soren, who was instrumental in mobilising the village for permission to implement the project, the 4 KW unit produces enough power to light up to five CFL bulbs in each of the 40 houses in the village. “The total operating cost comes to Rs 10,000 per month which, when shared between the 40 houses, comes to Rs 250 per house per month. Every house in the village is willing to share the cost,” he says. The generator unit is owned, maintained and operated by the villagers.

Indeed, control of electricity generation and distribution is fully in the hands of the villagers without any governmental support or interference. This is the true spirit and essence of development and people’s empowerment, says Munda. Since the villagers are pooling in both their effort and their money, the project will be implemented through community ownership. Further, there is no big technology involved; local villagers can even be trained in the manufacturing part at a later stage, he adds. The total capital cost of the 4 KW plant is barely Rs 60,000.

The forum will be running the plant on a trial basis for the next two to three months to iron out any problems that may arise. “We are planning to increase the capacity to 10 MW -- that will light up at least 100 households,” Munda adds.

By Moushumi Basu ,a journalist based in Jharkhand.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

After currency, condoms on India-Nepal smugglers' list

After drugs and counterfeit Indian currency, smugglers operating in India and Nepal through the open border between the two countries have now added a new commodity to their list - condoms.

The new crime came to light after Indian police recently came across two suitcases stuffed with condoms at the railway station in border town Rupaidiya, Nepal's official media said Saturday.

Several health institutions and NGOs have been distributing condoms free of cost in Nepal in a bid to raise awareness about safe sex practices and arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

However, the distribution and vigilance parts of the operation being weak, the freebies are being collected by some people to be sold in Indian towns across the border.

Nepal's official news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti said Indian police have registered a case.

Condom smuggling is rampant in Banke district in south Nepal where besides all government health posts, over 50 NGOs working in the health sector distribute them free.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.