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On Education: What needs to be incorporated?

In #India, we are still following the British system of generating clerks and paper-pushers. Paper is gone; but Excel has stayed – yet we keep doing the same thing. And by the way, I didn’t forget the Engineers – though their shine is getting lower day by day.

In an inclusive society, everyone has a role to play. And the education system has to reflect that. Thanks to the multiple streams, these days, the young generation has the option to pick a profession of their choice. But yet, there’s still a lot of components that need to reach out to a whole lot of students.

Life skills, is for one. Understanding the world around us and how to interact and manage it, is an art and a science, as well. Arts & Crafts, usage of tools, carpentry, importance of water, masonry, environmental education, are all required.  So, it’s not just about preparing a list of 143 careers and ask the student to pick a couple for their higher education. It’s about the wholesome, all-round education, so that the students are confident on doing anything, and grow the passion of learning what is required.

The other thing that needs to change – and this is important and very difficult though – is setting the tone of the class based on the caliber and the type of students that are present. I am not kidding. The students should drive the classes and the subjects. Pipe dream, you may say, but if you don’t cater for who are there in the class, what’s the point of your class or your school? We should start some experiments around this.

So, those are the highlights. I am not going into the arguments of urban-vs-rural, home-based vs. school-based, private vs. public schools, etc. These are long-drawn discussions and have wasted so much of our time, but never led us anywhere. At the end of the day, people do what they want to do, after all the Facebook roars and Twitter rants.

Thanks for reading!

 


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The Water Problem (Episode 2)

Recently I wrote about the looming water problem in India. At that time, all I had was questions on the enormity of the issue, and how we can tackle this. I made a bucket list of all the stuff that I can do, and I quickly followed up with a few people I knew on social media and otherwise, and the results were a bit comforting, although the efforts are long-drawn projects that need constant follow-ups.

I was deeply heartened to see that many people are actually working on the water already at various levels – creating awareness, conducting sessions, executing implementations to effectively use groundwater and rainwater, and coming up with innovations that can made radical improvements to the abilities to store water.

Two of such groups that I came across were The Rainwater Club and Bhungroo. Both of them are well-known in the water circles for their work. The Rainwater Club is doing their work mostly in Karnataka and Tamilnadu, while Bhungroo has projects all over the world, but head-quartered in Gujarat.

The Rainwater Club has modules to conduct trainings and sessions in the schools, so that awareness can be created among the children. It would be great to partner with them to conduct sessions at your schools, especially if you are a group of institutions or a chain of schools.

Bhungroo is all about implementation, you can reach out to them to implement their solution in the usually drought-hit areas of your state, to see if their solution would help the situation.

These two were great starts for me to do something about the areas that I know of, while I am talking to someone in Kerala to see if there’s a potential solution for their unique issue of land level being the same as sea level along the coast, and hence water cannot be stored underground!  I am also planning to be in touch with a unique project in south India, to partner with them for projects and training on water for school children.

I will keep you posted!


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The Water Problem!

I was terribly shocked when on a fine morning this week, I saw the report from NITI Aayog about the impending water problem across India. In summary, it said that many states will run out of ground water by 2030.

This is very serious, and even more serious is the fact that around 30 cities in India will run out of water by 2020 (yes, you read that right; 2 years from now!).

It’s not like ‘Should I care? What can I do?’  It is more like ‘I got to do a thousand things that I can.’

Are you listening?

Alright, so here’s what I did. I picked up a sheet of paper and wrote down all the stuff that I can do. I am giving this here to be a starter or an inspiration for you to think of things that would work and make a difference:

1. Contact Indian organisations that are working in the field of primary and secondary education, as well as Indian organisations that work on public education, and make them create modules and syllabus that can be delivered to students and general public so that they are aware of how important water is and create awareness about the following topics:

  • Ground water restoration
  • Irrigation management
  • On-farm water use
  • Drinking water supply
  • Devising water policies

2. Strengthening the ways of predicting rains, such that general public can make arrangements to tap rain-water in whatever infrastructure they have wherever they live.

3. Try working with aerial experts to see if any additional data can be gleaned for point no. 2.

4. Creating awareness in colleges, so that the outgoing students can create products and software surrounding the issue. Bonus point: it creates jobs

5. Influencing the governments for implementation policies.

6. Contact on-the-ground organisations in various states to work on implementations in their states.

7. Work with organisations that already have a lot of reachability in remote areas (for example, population control organisations), and convince them to create awareness and educate their audiences.

What ideas do you have?  Feel free to rack your brains – because it’s you and your children who are also going to affected by this. The usual Indian apathy won’t help!

Thanks for listening.

 

 


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#India’s 1/3rd is #youth. Is it time to rejoice?

While inaugurating the World Population Day 2014 with UNFPA, Honourable Home Minister of India has said that India’s 1/3rd is youth.  While this is good news that we have the resources at hands to build a vibrant nation, we are not prepared to tap the potential of this youth – due to many mismanagement issues. It’s not a time to rejoice, but to commit ourselves and work in the right direction to unleash the potential of this youth, otherwise, it’s going to be a disaster of uneducated, unemployed people constituting 1/3rd of the nation.

Ground reality is harsh.  A recent report shows that 1/3rd of the country is poor. Mr. Rajnath Singh is all for listening and addressing the concerns of the youth. This is good, and at the first place, quality education is unavailable in 70% of India, which are rural.  Several NGOs are pitching in and trying to change the rural education landscape by running quality schools, but there is grapevine that government is mulling imposing a law which prohibits NGOs which does not have a certain amount of funds to close their schools!  So, government schools don’t have the necessary quality and infrastructure; private schools will be closed if they don’t show sufficient money. Where will 1/3rd of India Population go for education?

If strong structural changes are not brought in, all these 1/3rd of the population will be capable of only manual labour.  And it shows today, where people from central and east central states are moving to other far-off states in search of labour jobs, leaving alone their homes, culture and lands.  This is clearly not an indication of a vibrant culture, but may be of a blind economy.

On top of all, the country will go crazy trying to educate with youth whose number keeps multiplying year after year.  Unless there’s a policy on population of India (to stop generation of more and more babies), India is going to multiply many fold and keep adding to the uneducated rural youth problem – which in turn will lead to inefficiency, crimes and hopelessness.

So, what’s India’s Population Policy?


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Being a nature’s friend…

What would be your take on being a Nature’s friend?

There are so many themes that are talked about today on Nature or the environment, but to me it’s about protecting and nurturing the wonderful planet that we have been given. It’s a privelege to be in this algae-bluish-green rock that’s 2 stones away from the sun, breathing the fresh air, thriving and frolicking in this awesome earth!

But, for our conveniences and comfort, we have almost destroyed this planet in the past 3 decades in so many ways. Especially, the last two decades has seen the individualism rise to its peak – with people looking for individual comfort, diverging from the landscape of the past of few well-to-do and many minions. Well, that’s fine, only if we didn’t have this many heads! Especially, in India, the 1.3 billion!

Once a person is here in this earth as a human being, you cannot ask them to limit their aspirations – be a miser on their wishes, earn less money and live within the means – all these advices are not going to bear fruit – in this age of technology enablement, democracy and freedom. The only other option is not to bring in more and more human beings to this planet. We all have that choice as individuals, and if we really care about the Nature, that’s the best way of being the Nature’s friend!

Let me explain in more detail with some statistics – with data – for the folks who are not convinced of this.

Out of the 7 billion population of the world, 1.3 billion are in India!  That’s 17% of world’s population living in 2% of the world’s land! You will very well agree that every human being need the basics of – air, water, food, space to live, education and job. Let me just take these basic 6 parameters without going into other extended parameters like energy, aspirations, travel and entertainment. Now, let’s look at where we stand in each of the 6 basic parameters:

Air

There’s oxygen depletion happening in earth, and they say that by 2025, we will have 40% less oxygen. Can you imagine breathing 7 times a minute instead of the regular 12 times a minute?

Water

Several business stalwarts are beating their chest that they have invested on water resources since the next world war is going to be on water! Fair enough if you want to be an autocrat who want to rule and control large masses of people, but if you want to be a sensible human being, you would rather contribute to creating awareness about containing the no. of people such that we all have water to drink. Water conservationists talk about conserving every drop of water from the tap, saving every water resource, etc. That’s all fine, but if the no. of human beings keep on increasing, how are they going to find land to live and water to use? They will encroach lakes, and thus bring down the amount of water available, in addition to consuming more & more water!

Food

No doubt India has done well on agriculture, but of late, we have lost our traditional grains and millets, and also looking for imports of wheat from foreign countries! This could be because of mismanagement, but the point is if we mismanaging with the existing levels of population itself, how will we able to manage more? We should be ashamed to that the sons and daughters of our agricultural workers do not even eat a single good meal everyday. As it stands, this scenario does not support ‘Nature’.

Space to live

Needless to say – the more no. of more human beings – more demand for living space – lakes, foothills, riversides enroached and houses built – and we cry foul and blame God when earthquakes, floods and natural disasters kill people – as happened in Uttaranchal recently. Well, is it the Nature’s fault ?

Education

70% of India lives in villages, and we all know the story of rural education. No intervention is helping because of the sheer no. of children that need be educated. Quality is already suffering, and in addition, if we have more and more babies, who is going to educate them? Let’s not forget that uneducated, unskilled people are a burden to the nation than being assets. If they are not educated, how will they be sensible enough to take care of ‘Nature’ ?

Job

Our workforce population between the age of 22 and 60 is going to increase from 575 million to 810 million in the span of next 15 years. This is without counting the babies that might come by in the next 2 decades. How are we going to give job opportunities to them, and what will happen to the ‘Nature’ while we build office and factory infrastructure for these people?

As it stands, we are looking at a very gloomy, bleak picture at Nature and its resources. We have leveraged to the maximum extent possible, wherein the demand can never be met with the supplies. It’s time that we need to reduce our demands by containing the no. of people – abstaining from having babies for the next two decades, and every one of us working in whatever ways possible to spread the message and making personal decisions in life – to be single, to marry but not to generate babies, but may be adopt, etc.

Government policies can be enforced to reward familes without children or families that totally adopt children, and not give the financial benefits for the families that generate babies. India, being a democratic country, will take many years for the people to accept any government initiated measures – and economic carrot being the prime motivator that could work in this market driven picture. We cannot enforce things on people, and we have known by experience that it does not work. Only way is to create awareness.

The urban people can adopt. The rural can stop generating babies for labour, while their economic wellbeing can be taken care by social enterpreneurship, NGOs and government measures.

If we all put our heart and soul on this, this can really work, and we will be doing a very big favour to the Nature by being a sensible race that nurture this planet and not destroy it for its selfish needs.

Otherwise, any amount of trees planted is not going to help. Any amount of water conservation is not going to help. And any amount of pollution control is not going to help. Because, we have exceeded the threshold of those measures being helpful and being scalable.

Please send your comments to populationvision2050@gmail.com

 

 

 


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#Gift an #Education, Make a #Life ! – #Isha Vidhya

5 months ago, #IshaVidhya applied for accreditation with #GlobalGiving, a respected online fundraising platform which partners with corporates, employees and individual donors around the world.

Isha Vidhya crossed the fundraising requirements of $5,000 from 40 donors in just 23 days to become a permanent online member partner of GlobalGiving, thanks to many general public, supporters & wellwishers worldwide. They recognize Isha Vidhya’s work in transforming the rural education landscape of #India, and especially in #Tamilnadu. With its high quality education through carefully crafted methodology to the most economically backward children, Isha Vidhya is making a signficant difference in the lives of many rural families – many of them are first generation school-goers.

The fundraising was started to fund the critical infrastructure needs of the rural school near #Dharmapuri in Tamilnadu, needs like academic material, furniture for classroom and staff, compound wall, water facilities, digital class room, etc.

IshaVidhya has obtained $10,175 in donations from 104 donors. It’s heartening to see that 13 of those donations are from #corporate employees through employee gift cards, whose companies are partners with GlobalGiving, and be able to donate to Isha Vidhya through the GlobalGiving portal.

There’s still a long way to go to reach the fundraising target of $97,750, so awareness about this good work need be made to spread the word far and wide so that many more can support this building of rural India through education.

And the good news for the existing donors is that your project Isha Vidhya is in a very good standing at GlobalGiving, in many categories including donations, no. of donors, number and quality of project reports, and frequency of donations. It is expected that IshaVidhya will soon be in the ‘Leader’ category at GlobalGiving, at which time it will be introduced to more corporates, employees, and offered more exposure opportunities.

On February 12th, 2014, between 9:00 AM USA Eastern Standard Time and 23:59 PM USA Eastern Standard Time (between Feb 12, 2014 19:30 PM Indian Standard Time and Feb 13 10:29 AM Indian Standard Time) (what would be the time at my place? : http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html), donations made to Isha Vidhya at the Global Giving portal will be matched 30% by Global Giving, upto a maximum of $1000 per donor, till the Global Giving matching funds of $75,000 run out.  This is a great opportunity for everyone to donate and show their support for Isha Vidhya’s work. The link is:

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ishavidhya

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India passport issuance renewal – a few thoughts

The passport application & renewal in India has become relatively hassle-free and straight-forward, thanks to the new online tracking system. I applied on 20th and got my passport on hand on 31st.  The process is transparent – and stage-by-stage, the progress is updated in the web-site at http://passport.gov.in . No stage takes more than a day or two. Police verification stage proceeds smoothly and fast if you go to the police station and give your details with the photocopies of I.D. proofs and the documents that they ask for.

I do have a lot of concerns in the forms and the physical logistics of the passport seva kendra. This is true for the passport seva kendra in Lalbagh, Bangalore, and passport office in Kormangala, wherever specified.

1) Annexure F asks for the applicant name followed by S/O information, using blanks. Nowhere it says in the application or the associated instructions that the applicant’s full name (First name followed by middle name followed by last name) should be entered in the applicant name. Most of us tend to enter just our first name, especially since the S/O is asked immediately after the first name. If we enter just the first name, it is not accepted by the officials.

2) Lalbagh PSV, Bangalore: The place where they issue the tokens and the enquiry area is pretty crowded. Officials don’t realise the fact that every applicant is carrying sensitive documents with them like I.D. proofs and the queue system does not work. Everyone tries to push and fall on each other. If anyone’s document is lost, it is a big problem for them.  On the other hand, there is plenty of space inside the seva kendra allocated for the first stage of application processing called the ‘A’ section in the right side of the office, which is not used at all. This space should be around 5000 sq.ft. Why not use this space for receiving the applicants in a well-managed fashion, in a queue or a token system, so that people don’t fall over each other?

3) The no. of people attending to the tokens in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections are just 4 people each on a typical day, wherease ‘A’ section has 20 people. This leads to ‘B’ and ‘C’ section applicants waiting for a long time to be served. On the day I went for the interview, 100 applicants were sitting for around 7 hours waiting to be served in ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections.  The tokens were being issued even after 4:30 PM, which lead to heavy crowd.  It was sad to see the Assistant Regional Passport Officer herself doing the ‘B’ and ‘C’ verifications on the day I went. Her role should be to monitor whether things are moving smoothly in the office and to take actions where required.  Token issuance should be stopped once the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section no. of applications become unmanageable. No. of officers processing the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section should be increased.

4) There is a wonderful token issuing software algorithm to manage the applicants category like women, children, senior citizens, tatkal and normal quota, but at the end of the day, we all feel the crunch as the algorithm’s speed does not match with the no. of officers serving the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section. Talk about smart machines managed by not-so-smart people!

5) In the Kormangala passport office, applicants are forced to stand outside without cover in the queue though some limited no. of shaded seats are available, but they are not sufficient.  The token issuance windows look like a foreign embassy where applicants are asked to stand outside their office for visa stamping ! (Everyone know the Chennai scene near Gemini flyover!). If India itself treats their citizens like this, how will other countries respect India’s citizens ?

5) Securities manning the exit gate at Lalbagh PSV are openly asking to write their name and mobile number in a form that solicits Tata AIG insurance. This clearly falls in the borderline of illegal marketing. I don’t know who pays the securities – the Ministry of External Affairs (or) Tata AIG. Action has to be taken on this front.

If space and the monitoring and servicing of crowd is done properly in passport seva kendra, things will move a lot faster and smoother. Will the Ministry of External Affairs look into these points and take action?