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Old April 10th, 2012, 07:55 PM   #1
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Arrow India: Rural development and challenges.

Updates from the Bharat side of the story

Now, chamber of commerce for rural women entrepreneurs
New York-based Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) partners with MCCRW

After successfully running a bank and a business school for rural women entrepreneurs, Mann Deshi Bank is now all set to form its own chamber of commerce at Mhaswad in Satara district, 180 km away from Pune. It is formed coordination with Mann Deshi Foundation has formed the first Mann Deshi Chamber of Commerce for Rural Women in India (MCCRW) in partnership with 'President Clinton Foundations’ initiative - Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) based in New York, USA.

MCCRW is first of its kind for rural women who have been created to provide women entrepreneurs in rural areas with mentorship, knowledge, and support through policy advocacy. The chamber of commerce will organize monthly workshops for members, and eventually provide targeted support to address each member’s specific needs. The announcement was made on Tuesday by Chetana Sinha, founder chairman, Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and CEO Rekha Kulkarni in Pune.

Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) helps its members articulate and develop commitments that fit their goals. CGI will help develop business plans. CGI supports the development of commitments by forging partnerships, facilitating cross-sector discussions, providing members with networking opportunities, and recognizing and showcasing members' work. However, CGI neither gives nor receives funds associated with member commitments and does not engage in their implementation.
Commenting on this, Sinha said, "This chamber of commerce will help to provide rural, female micro-entrepreneurs with mentorship services, access to markets, a network of like-minded peers, advocacy tools and increased access to capital. Majority of these women are from marginalised community. Mahila Bank with its innovating product has been able to provide financial services i.e. savings, loans, pension & insurance to street vendors. The capital provided by the bank has to go hand-in-hand with the women’s' business goals.

Mann Deshi was the first institution to set up a rural bank in India in 1997. Mann Deshi Foundation and the Bank are operating in Maharashtra and Karnataka. In 2006 Mann Deshi started the business school program for rural women with the founding sponsor of HSBC.

The women entrepreneurs graduating from the Business School will benefit from the services of the Chamber of Commerce to conduct their business. The bank has listed more than 155,000 women as clients and the Business School enabled more than 46,000 women to benefit from the graduation program.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 07:58 PM   #2
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More autonomy for rural development


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In a paradigm shift from its earlier approach towards rural development, the government of India has come up with the plan of introducing flexibility in implementation of its flagship rural development programmes across the country.

While addressing a function at Mumbai University on Sunday, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh announced that 'by the end of 12th five-year plan in 2017, we will be allocating 50 percent of rural development funds directly to the states', in a phased manner.

In other word, under this proposal, the centre would be transferring 50 percent of the funds earmarked for rural development programmes directly to the state governments concerned and allow them to utilize the funds to implement schemes as per their requirements, subject to broad guidelines.

The rest of the funds, however, would have to be spent as per National guidelines prescribed for each such programmes. With an annual budget of nearly Rs 99,000 cores, which is second highest only to the country's Defence spending, the Ministry of Rural Development is responsible for monitoring some of the UPA government's key flagship programmes related to rural developments such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY),Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), Rural Housing, Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), etc.

It is true that not all the National guidelines laid down for any developmental programmes perfectly fit into the specifics of the state context and absence of room for variation or flexibility in implementation of these programmes results in setback rather than doing any good to the people.

Success and sustainability of any developmental programme depends on fulfillment of certain basic requirements that need to be set in order first, which the prescribed guidelines of a nationally conceived programme may fall short of.

The existing Rural Development Schemes of the Ministry are no exception to these limitations and conflicts at the time of implementation them.

So, the latest move of giving more autonomy to the state governments, and hence, a greater say in the implementation of rural development programmes and schemes is appreciable, more so for an underdeveloped and predominantly rural Manipur.

With 18,99,624 people out of the total population of 27.21 lakh (as per Census Report-2011) in Manipur living under harsh conditions in rural area with no access to proper road, housing, sanitation and other civic amenities, effective implementation of centrally sponsored programmes and schemes is one of the means that could narrow down the existing developmental gap between the urban and the rural area as well as the hills and the valley districts.

This could be, no doubt, possible only when the state government is given more autonomy in execution of its developmental programmes.

However, considering the track record of lackadaisical approach of the state government and its officials towards implementation of any developmental works in Manipur, we could only keep our fingers crossed that 'more autonomy' is not confused with 'unrestrained freedom' to divert the sanctioned developmental funds.
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Old April 11th, 2012, 04:39 PM   #3
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Digitization of land, still a dream!


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Centre’s plan to digitize all land records across states by the end of 12th Plan appears to have run into trouble.

In a startling revelation by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), only eight per cent of the funds allotted for ‘National Land Records Modernization Programme (NLRMP)’ by the Centre were utilized by states by the end of last year.

According to the financial progress report of the NLRMP scheme tabled in Parliament during the Budget Session (through a report of the Standing Committee on Rural Development), about 20 states didn’t use a single penny of their allotted funds by 31st December, 2011 as per an analysis of data beginning 2008.


These states include Rajasthan, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, J&K and Uttarakhand. To get an overview of the usage of funds released, Zee Research Group (ZRG) analyzed last four years’ data, starting 2008.

The main aim of the NLRMP scheme launched four years ago was to develop a modern, comprehensive and transparent land records management system and to implement a conclusive land-titling system with clear title guarantee.

Considering slow usage of funds by the state governments as a “bit of a surprise under current circumstances”, member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and social activist Aruna Roy said, “It is ironical that government offices, which continually bemoan shortage of funds and lack of resources, should not use them when they (funds) are available. It certainly reveals a lack of commitment and interest among states but also is a poor reflection on the Centre.”

The analysis revealed that among big states Bihar ranked the best though it too only utilized just about half of the allocated funds. Bihar reported 54 per cent utilization followed by Haryana with 27 per cent under NLRMP. Gujarat and Chhattisgarh reported 16.90 per cent and 16.22 per cent utilization respectively.

However, states like West Bengal and Maharashtra respectively, could only use 5.82 per cent and 3.63 per cent of the allocated funds. Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh stood poorly with 1.40 per cent and 0.55 per cent fund utilization level.

Amar Jyoti Nayak, food and livelihood rights leader at Action Aid India, argued, “The delay in the utilization of funds would adversely impact small land holders who would find the present system of manual land records disadvantageous as it strengthens the nexus between corrupt bureaucrats and land mafias.”

Apart from poor fund utilization in almost all states across India, the land digitization project of the UPA government came in for criticism for its “failure to induct credibility in the realty sector.” Argued activist Roy, “Land reform is a political question, and the politics of land use is still much skewed against the poor, the farmer, and the rural Indian citizen.”
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Old April 11th, 2012, 04:46 PM   #4
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Women, Poverty And Food Security In India

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Introduction

Poverty has traditionally been defined in income or expenditure terms and can be viewed in relative or absolute terms. Poverty and food security are complex and multidimensional in nature. Poverty leads to under nutrition and food insecurity by limiting poor people's access to food. About three-fourth of India's population living in the rural sector is reeling under abject poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, unemployment, low quality of life and so on. Food insecurity causes poverty, vulnerability and livelihood insecurity, but is at the same time also a result of these conditions. It is widely accepted that poverty is currently the principal root cause of food insecurity at the level of households. It is also clear that in several societies, households are not homogenous entities, since within a household, women and girl children often tend to be relatively more undernourished. Gender constitutes the most profound differentiating division. A gendered analysis of poverty reveals not simply its unequal incidence but also that both cause and effect are deeply gendered. Women face a greater risk of poverty than men. The gender disparity is most visible among female- headed households, notably lone mothers and single pensioners. Food security at the level of each individual is hence important. Millennium Development Goals (MDG) recognizes that hunger and food insecurity are the core afflictions of poor people, and specifically sets out to halve the proportion of extremely poor and hungry people in the world. Amartya Sen added a new dimension to food security and emphasised the “access” to food through what he called ‘entitlements' – a combination of what one can produce, exchange in the market along with state or other socially provided supplies. The 1995 World Food Summit declared, “Food security at the individual, household, regional, national and global levels exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The declaration further recognizes that “poverty eradication is essential to improve access to food”. Food security, as internationally understood, involves physical, economic and social access to a balanced diet, safe drinking water, environmental hygiene and primary health care. Such a definition will involve concurrent attention to the availability of food in the market, the ability to buy needed food and the capability to absorb and utilise the food in the body. Thus, food and non-food factors that is, drinking water, environmental hygiene and primary health care are involved in food security. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)'s 2008 Global Hunger Index says that with over 200 million people insecure about their daily bread, Indian scenario is ‘alarming' in terms of hunger and malnutrition. The first ever Indian Hunger Index, released along with the Global Hunger Index, found that not a single state in India fell in the ‘low hunger' or ‘moderate hunger' categories . Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in the country, followed by Jharkhand and Bihar. Punjab and Kerala scored the best on the Index. India ranks 66 among 88 countries in the hunger index.

Profiles of the Poor

The composition of the poor has been changing and rural poverty is getting concentrated in the agricultural labour and artisan households and urban poverty in the casual labour households. The share of agricultural labour households, which accounted for 41% of rural poor in 1993-94 increased to 47% in 1999-00. In contrast, the share of self-employed in agriculture among the rural poor dropped from 33% to 28%. Casual labour households accounted for 32% of the urban population living in poverty in 1999-00, increasing from 25% in 1993-94. The increase in its share was due to both the increased dependence of urban households on urban casual labour market as well as higher incidence of poverty among urban casual labour households. It needs to be recognized that increased dependence of rural and urban households on causal labour market exposes the poor to market risks and tends to increase transient poverty, whereby households move in and out of poverty due to fluctuations in the labour market.

Women versus Hunger

In recent years there has been an increasing trend to incorporate the gender dimension in analysis of poverty. The feminization of poverty is a term used to describe the overwhelming representation of women among the poor. “Women tend to be disproportionately represented among the poor… the poorer the family the more likely it is to be headed by a women”. Poverty studies from both developed and developing countries show that woman more than men are subjected to relative as well as absolute poverty. The argument is that poverty and gender at times can be interrelated. The incidence of poverty among females tended to be marginally higher in both rural and urban areas in India. The lower percentage of female persons among the poor despite higher female poverty ratio was due to adverse sex ratio. It should be noted that the above measure of gender poverty ignores intra-household inequalities in consumption. There are other dimensions of poverty such as food insecurity, malnutrition and health associated more with female members. The role of women as producers and providers of food is often overshadowed by their primary role as care-givers. However, in most of the developing countries, including India, large number of women is engaged in agriculture, primarily the production and processing of food. With male-selective migration from rural areas on the increase, women are often left behind to take care of both family and farm on their own. With women-headed households being more prone to poverty, wages being unfavourable to women in general and access to financial, technical and other support services being denied to them, the poor nutritional status of the rural population is common. It is therefore, obvious that women play a vital role in food production and agricultural activities. As Diana Pearce coined the term ‘feminization of poverty' which implies a new phenomenon, “women have always experienced more poverty than men”. The conceptualization of poverty in this way is also helpful from the perspective of understanding and combating women's poverty. Following Atkinson, Stephen Jenkins suggests that a feminist concept of poverty can be described in terms of an 'individual right to a minimum degree of potential economic independence'. Naila Kabeer (2003) argues that household poverty is determined by poor women's highly unequal role in the labour market. Female labour force participation is highest among the poorest households in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where social norms mainly constrain women to very insecure and poorly paid work in the informal sector. India suffers severe deprivations in education and health - especially in the Northern states, where caste, class, and gender inequities are particularly strong. Human development cannot be achieved without taking the role of women into account. Poverty often hits women and women-headed households the hardest, and women have fewer economic and political opportunities to improve their well-being and that of their families.

Policies and Programmes related to Food Security

Food and nutrition security depends upon a complex interplay of macro policy, agricultural policy, food and nutrition policy, access to education, health, potable drinking water, and sanitation, income and employment security, and social security. Food and nutrition security through government interventions in food-based programmes include the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the School's Mid-day Meal Scheme, Food-for-Work (FFW) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) etc. The proposed National Food Security Act, 2009 assures that every BPL family in the country shall be entitled to 25 kg of wheat or rice per month at the rate of Rs.3/- per kg. The law is also proposed to be used to bring about systemic reforms in the Public Distribution System (PDS). Apart from the PDS, the two major programmes such as ICDS and Mid-day Meal Scheme aimed at providing nutritional security to pregnant women and lactating mothers, and young pre-school goers and school-goers, respectively. Both programmes are currently being closely monitored by the Supreme Court, which has given specific directions for strengthening them.

Conclusion

The gender aspects of social security assume significance as it is widely recognised that, the position of women is particularly vulnerable to continued poverty and destitution when they attain old age and/or are widowed or divorced. The first group i.e., widows mainly constitute the female-headed households (FHHs). This provides sufficient evidence to indicate that the role of women in ensuring food security at macro level as well as at the level of the household and the individual is a manifold one. It is also apparent that in India, poverty is deeply embedded in social constructs that impact adversely on woman's economic status to society as well as her nutrition and health status, and food security caused from unequal distribution of food at home. Consequently discrimination pattern of food consumption at home is the one cause of malnutrition among women. While much progress has been made on the food production and availability front, adequate nutrition outcomes cannot be assured without unravelling the complexities of the gender food security link. Ensuring equity in women's rights to land, property, capital assets, wages and livelihood opportunities would undoubtedly impact positively on the issue, but underlying the deep inequity in woman's access to nutrition is her own unquestioning acceptance of her status as an unequal member of the family and society. Eventually, gender empowerment alone is likely to be the key to the resolution of the hunger challenge in the country.

Kiran Sharma is a Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for the Study of Social Systems (CSSS), New Delhi.
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Old April 11th, 2012, 05:00 PM   #5
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Cisco launches pilot remote healthcare program in Chitradurga district


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Telecom Lead Asia: Cisco has launched its Cisco healthcare solution pilot program to enable remote healthcare for one primary healthcare center and one community healthcare center from the district hospital in Chitradurga District of Karnataka.

Cisco introduced its healthcare solution in its corporate social responsibility project -- Samudaya -- to enable access to remote healthcare to flood-affected people of Raichur on a proof-of-concept basis.

In the Chitradurga pilot, the healthcare solution will link Chitradurga District Hospital to one community healthcare centre at Bharamasagara in Chitradurga Taluk and one primary healthcare centre (PHC) at Mathode in Hosadurga Taluk.

Using Cisco technology and medical services provided by RxDx's multi-specialty hospital in Bangalore, remote consultation for over 1700 patients has been rendered.

"Healthcare in India is a major concern for those who cannot afford or access it. While this amenity is available easily to urban population at very affordable rates, it is not ubiquitous in rural areas. Governments across all states of India recognize this gap," said Aravind Sitaraman, president, Inclusive Growth, Cisco.

Last year, Cisco launched the initiative so that rural communities can get access to essential urban services like healthcare, education, a marketplace and access to public services through technology and bring them into the mainstream economy.

Using the network as a platform, these services can bring about transformational change and greatly reduce the urban-rural divide.

Cisco's healthcare solution creates an environment where patients and doctors can meet each other virtually through video without having to commute long distances.

Recently, Cisco announced an investment in Aavishkaar, a venture fund founded to promote development in rural and semi-urban India.
Cisco will invest in Aavishkaar India II and will collaborate with other investors to drive sustainable business models with social impact that utilize the power of the network.
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Old April 12th, 2012, 04:01 AM   #6
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Aavishkaar raises two funds from international markets

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Aavishkaar Venture Management Services, one of the largest for-profit social venture capital funds operating in India, is raising two new funds from the international markets, which it hopes will help take its total assets under management close to $200 million (Rs 1,043 crore). The funds will invest in enterprises focused on non-urban markets and bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers.

“We have had a good track record in our two earlier funds with an internal rate of return of 18-20 per cent per annum despite writing off a total of nine investments which didn’t work out. The new funds are being raised from overseas investors primarily development financial institutions such as International Finance Corporation Washington, FMO Netherlands, KfW Germany, etc,” Vineet Rai, founder and chairman at Aavishkaar Venture told Financial Chronicle.

The two new funds, which will have a 10-year term, will have a different fee structure from the existing funds – Aavishkaar Goodwell and Aavishkaar India Micro Venture, which carried a 3.5 percentage fee basic fee and a 15 per cent profit share.

“The new funds will have the standard private equity industry structure of a two per cent base fee and a 20 per cent profit share once returns cross an eight per cent dollar denominated hurdle rate-,” he said.

The social venture capitalist has raised $70 million in its Aavishkaar India fund II, which will invest in non-micro finance related areas such as education, health, agriculture, energy and technology. The Aavishkaar Goodwell India microfinance fund has completed its first closing at $10 million and expects another closing of $20 million this month.

“We hope to conclude another $20 million round under the Aavishkaar Goodwell II fund later this year,” said Rai. The first $18.3 million Aavishkaar Goodwell India Microfinance fund raised between 2007-09 will have to write off investments in two microfinance companies due to the change in laws in the state of Andhra Pradesh. But this has not deterred renowned PE investors such as CDC one of the largest limited partners active in India, from investing in the new microfinance oriented fund while Cisco has invested in Aavishkaar India fund II.

The biggest advantage of raising these large sized funds is that we will be able to support our investee companies through later rounds of funding as well instead of simply funding them at a the seed stage or angel stage and then allowing other larger conventional funds to invest and reap all the returns as the firms scale up. We will now adopt a strategy of sow, tend and reap,” said Rai.

Aavishkaar plans to focus its investments from both funds in not more than 30 companies to ensure it can fund the growing requirements of successful business without seeing its share of equity diluted in a big way in subsequent rounds of funding. It also plans to focus some of the corpus of the new funds on promoting entrepreneurship in low income states in India such as Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand,Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. “We are also planning to launch a $50 million Aavishkaar India Rural Opportunities fund to tap contribution from Indian investors who want their investments to earn not just returns but also have a positive social impact. We will approach both high net worth investors and banks in India for this fund”, said Rai.
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Old April 12th, 2012, 04:10 AM   #7
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Rural India would banish open defecation in 10 years: Jairam Ramesh

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MUMBAI: Union rural development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said that the rural areas of the country would be free of open defecation within a decade.

"All the 2,65,000 gram panchayats in the country will be open defecation-free in ten years," Ramesh said, speaking at a seminar here.

He agreed that Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan should be considered more than just a toilet-building programme. "It highlights the concerns about privacy, security and dignity of women," he said, and assured that the campaign would be revamped.

In the past, toilet-building programmes of governments were half-hearted endeavours, with the exception of Maharashtra where a third of the gram panchayats are "open defecation free", Ramesh said. But now even a state such as Haryana, considered to be having "a patriarchal" society, had taken up the challenge in a big way with the slogan "sauchalaya nahi to dulhan nahi" (no bride if there is no toilet), he said.

Quoting 2011 census data, the minister said 60 per cent of village households still do not have access to proper toilet facilities. He praised the success of Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh on this front, apart from that of Maharashtra.
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Old April 13th, 2012, 09:00 PM   #8
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Rural India to drive telecom growth in 2012: report


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NEW DELHI: Rural areas of the country will lead the growth in the telecom sector, while the growth of the supporting ecosystem in tier 2 cities will boost the IT sector in 2012, consultancy company Deloitte said today.

"The next wave of telecom growth will emerge from rural India and operators will increasingly use the voice platform as well as localised content to ensure relevance and widespread adoption in rural zones," Deloitte said in Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) predictions India 2012 report.

Deloitte forecasted that by end of this year, over 500 million smartphones with a price tag of USD 100 or less will be in use worldwide and a high proportion will come from India.

"Growing sales of $ 100 smartphones are likely to cause downward pressure on prices for the whole supply chain," the report said.

On the IT front, the Indian cloud computing services market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 76 per cent from 2010 to reach a potential market of $ 15-18 billion by 2020.

"Growth is expected to be primarily driven by enterprises migrating workloads to virtualised cloud models," it added.

The demand for tablets is forecasted to be strong and so is the competition in the low-cost tablet market.

"3G enabled tablets might see a greater adoption in urban and semi-urban areas," the report said.

The mobile banking services will gain momentum as a result of the increased transaction limits, rationalising of technology and security standards, it added.

Revenue from 3G services will grow due to availability of low-cost devices and reduction in per gigabyte prices for data usage.

"The business driver for operators is the increased revenue expected from 3G services due to growing middle and upper class wireless customers who are willing to pay more for the new mobile services," Deloitte said.

On media front, Deloitte predicts newspaper business will remain viable due to sustained readership. However, like the telecom and IT sector, regional areas will take the lead in media too.

More regional newspapers are forecast to be launched as compared to national newspapers, the report added.
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Old April 13th, 2012, 09:01 PM   #9
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World Bank to provide $352mn for dairy development in India

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NEW DELHI: The World Bank signed an agreement with India to provide $352 million for the National Dairy Support Project, a step that will benefit about 17 lakh rural milk producing households.

"Government of India and the World Bank today signed an agreement for an IDA credit of $352 million (about Rs 1,805 crore) for the National Dairy Support Project to increase productivity of milk animals and improve market access of milk producers in project areas," World Bank said in a statement.

The project will be financed by credit from the International Development Association (IDA), World Bank's concessionary lending arm, which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.

The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has prepared a National Dairy Plan (NDP) to improve animal productivity, strengthen infrastructure for milk procurement at the village level, and enhance milk processing capacity and marketing, backed by appropriate policy and regulatory measures, it said.

The World Bank supported National Dairy Support Project will support and operationalise the first phase of the NDP through investments.

"The project will cover some 40,000 villages across 14 major dairying states and is expected to directly benefit about 1.7 million rural milk producing households," Department of Economic Affairs Joint Secretary Venu Rajamony said.

The 14 states included in the Project account for more than 90 per cent of the national production and include states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, he added.

"The Project will provide an opportunity for the World Bank to re-engage at a national scale in further development of the Indian dairy sector with potentially significant benefits for large numbers of dairy producers," World Bank Country Director for India Roberto Zagha said.

According to NDP Mission Director Dilip Rath, the primary focus of the project is on increasing milk yields by genetic improvement of the dairy herd (cows and buffalos) and optimal use of feed and fodder.

The Project will support long-term investments in animal breeding, extensive training of dairy farmers and doorstep delivery of artificial insemination and ration balancing advisory services, he added.

As per NDDB, the growth rate of milk production has slowed in recent years, from an average of 4.3 per cent per annum in the 1990s to 3.8 per cent per annum in the 2000s. As the economy grows and incomes rise, demand for milk and milk products' is expected to rise even further.

More than 70 million of some 147 million rural households depend on dairy, in varying degrees, for their livelihood. The annual milk production in the country is about 112 million tonnes, most of which is consumed in the country.

According to government estimates, the demand for milk is projected to grow to at least 180 million tonnes by 2021-22 and for meeting this demand, production should grow at 5.5 per cent per annum over the next decade.

The agreements for the National Dairy Support Project were signed by Rajamony on behalf of the Government of India, Rath on behalf of the NDDB and Governance Adviser (World Bank India) Roland Lomme on behalf of the World Bank.
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Old April 15th, 2012, 08:21 AM   #10
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Mother India

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As always, the numbers are very impressive. Under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), 8,722 doctors, 2,914 specialists, 14,529 paramedics, 33, 413 staff nurses, 69,662 auxiliary nurse midwives, and 10,995 doctors and 3,894 paramedics practising traditional medicine have been hired to ensure


that everyone in rural India - irrespective of where they live and how much they earn - have access to basic healthcare.
Government data also shows that innovative approaches - such as decentralisation, flexible financing, improved management and incentives - have ensured more women were choosing hospitals over home to deliver their babies, bringing the maternal mortality rate (MMR) down from 254 per lakh live births in 2006 to 212 in 2009, and infant mortality rate (IMR) from 58 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 47 in 2010.

Still, 12.5 lakh newborns and 63,000 women die each year cause of pregnancy-related causes, and Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad admitted as much in Parliament last month.

"Unfortunately, India's IMR and MMR is very bad. As bad that it cannot be compared with our neighbours Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Pakistan is the only country India can be compared with," he told the Rajya Sabha last month in response to a question on infant deaths in state-run hospitals in West Bengal.

Quality challenged

The devil is in the detail. An incredible 1.3 crore (11.3 million) women have benefited from the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), which offers pregnant women free and cashless deliveries, including free caesarean-sections, and a R1,400-incentive to deliver in a hospital. In most cases, having a baby in a hospital brings no benefits for new mothers other the R1,400. "There is low-birth preparedness that leads to delays in pregnant women reaching a hospital and getting treated for preventable complications. An analysis of maternal deaths, for example, showed that 13% deaths happened on the way to the hospital and 11% after the women return home, which shows poor management before and at the hospital," said Aparajita Gogoi, executive director, Centre for Development and Population Activities India, an international non-profit that works to improve adolescent and women's health.

What's clearly lacking is quality, said experts at the National Consultation on Safe Motherhood in Jaipur this week. "Quality is lost in the rush to meet targets, such as attaining 100% institutional deliveries. We have the standards, technical tools and the basic infrastructure needed, but still the quality of delivery depends on people, not on standard compliances. The system delivers what the top government asks for, so if quality targets are set for babus, they will be met," said Dr Monir Islam, director, Family Health and Research, WHO South-east Asia region.

Measures of quality include better patient outcomes (fewer deaths and complications), lower infection rates and overall patient satisfaction.

Who's to blame?

"I admit that quality is missing and we cannot continue to take pride in institutional deliveries if it's just taking deaths from home to hospitals. Most government institutions have a take it or leave it approach and don't care if the patients don't like what they offer. This attitude needs to change, which is tough because in this country, we are very tolerant of bad quality. No one ever asks a doctor why he is late or absent from the clinic frequently," said Anuradha Gupta, additional secretary and mission director, NRHM, Union ministry of health.

A major reason for the national apathy to incompetence is that action is rarely taken against erring government appointees, who focus more on hanging on to the job than doing it well.

What will improve quality is better tracking and monitoring to identify and eliminate avoidable cause of death and complications, help identify area-specific problems and ensure transparency. "But the review should not be done by the provider, as it usually happens in India. There is massive underreporting of deaths, with one state reporting only 20% maternal deaths, with the doctors listing the deaths under different pregnancy-related complications, such as septicaemia or organ failure," said Gogoi.

The buck stops here

Someone has to take responsibility for the shortfalls, just as many throng to take credit for the successes. "You need ownership. We have too much participation in India, even cows and dogs visit hospitals. Just as a pilot cannot ask all crew for participative flying of a plane, you cannot have everyone running the show," said Dr Dileep Mavalankar, dean, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
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Old April 15th, 2012, 08:22 AM   #11
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GE Foundation grants $1.6 mn for education of rural women

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GE Foundation, the charitable arm of the US conglomerate General Electric, has pledged USD 1.6 million funding to an NGO to provide quality education and vocational skills to unemployed rural women.

The grant would fund Pratham's innovative "Open School" initiative that allows young adults, especially women, complete their secondary education and improve their employment readiness through the schools run by the NGO, besides aiding the organisation's 'Read India' campaign in which these students would teach children aged 3 to 14 years.

Pratham is a non-government organisation (NGO) working to provide quality education to the underprivileged children in India. GE Foundation has been supporting Pratham since 2005.

"We are pleased to be working with Pratham on this two- pronged approach that enables young women to 'earn' their education and training as GE Fellows, and in turn enlists their support to advance primary grade students' learning," said Bob Corcoran, President GE Foundation.

"This is a new innovation in delivery of education for us and we are grateful to GE Foundation for continuing to support us strongly in our endeavours," said Madhav Chavan, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation.

In the last decade, Indian government has done a great deal of work to ensure that over 97 per cent children on the primary level are enrolled in schools.

However, poor quality of education largely attributed to sub-standard teaching remains a concern.

According to Pratham's Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), while the efforts of government have ensured 97 per cent enrollment at primary levels, the sub standard teaching has kept the drop-out rate high. The rate is even higher in secondary education, especially amongst women.
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Old April 15th, 2012, 08:48 AM   #12
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Great thread!!

Thanks purty!
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Old April 15th, 2012, 04:56 PM   #13
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Thank you murlee
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Old April 17th, 2012, 01:19 PM   #14
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Lessons from Melghat's health crisis

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At a time when India plans a multi-pronged attack on malnutrition in 200 high-burden districts, it will pay to examine the cracks in state institutions that have led to past failures and can still derail well-intentioned plans.

Melghat, a tribal corner in the northeastern fringes of India's richest state-Maharashtra-is an apt example of almost everything that has gone wrong in India's response to malnutrition and child deaths.

Every 14th child dies in Melghat before reaching the age of six, often owing to malnutrition-related causes. The statistic has remained largely unchanged over the past five years and puts Melghat almost at par with less-developed sub-Saharan nations such as Senegal and Tanzania.

The fate of tribal children in Melghat mirrors that of children in other parts of tribal India and reflects the yawning chasm between tribals and others. Nearly one in two tribal families are poor in rural India, according to the latest official estimates, a ratio that is 40% higher compared with the rural average.

Melghat also demonstrates the ineffectiveness of state-sponsored schemes such as the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in improving child health.

India's poor record in tackling malnutrition has come to the fore once again after the recently published results of a survey led by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Naandi Foundation found rates of stunting or chronic under-nourishment to be 59% across 100 districts, 11 percentage points higher than what the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) recorded across India in 2006.

Just like everything else in the nation, the spread of malnutrition is uneven. The inequality in malnutrition rates is higher in India than in most other nations, a February report by Save the Children said.

Tribals are the worst affected and are the only social group that saw a rise in the rates of stunting between 1992 and 2006, according to NFHS data. Yet, malnutrition rates in the country can improve only if tribal malnutrition rates drop. As a World Bank report pointed out in 2005, a quarter of Indian districts-many of them tribal-account for over half of India's malnourished children.

In Melghat, a shoddy health care system and ineffective ICDS workforce have contributed to the stasis in child mortality rates but the root of the problem lies in the apathy of the political and administrative class that has failed to address either poverty and livelihood issues or deliver basic public goods.

The villages of Melghat-with treacherous roads, closed schools and mostly without electricity or piped water-appear to be in a time warp, left behind by India's famed engine of economic growth. In several villages, child deaths are more frequent than the visits of public servants.

Other tribal areas of the state with the second-largest tribal population in the country tell a similar tale. Maharashtra is one of the better-performing states when it comes to tackling malnutrition, but its progress hides deep inequalities.

Five tribal districts out of a total of 35-Amravati, Gadchiroli, Nandurbar, Nashik and Thane-account for a third of severely malnourished children in the state. The number of child deaths in some of these districts has grown in recent years. According to official estimates obtained through Right to Information applications by a Melghat-based NGO, Khoj, the number of child deaths went up 17% in Gadchiroli and 10% in Nandurbar in the past three years.

Melghat, composed of two blocks in Amravati district-Dharni and Chikaldhara-is special though, as it has the longest recorded history of child deaths and has seen decades of well-meaning judicial interventions starting 1993.

Media-savvy NGOs have managed to keep the spotlight on malnutrition and several politicians have made flying visits but life in Melghat has not changed much. A child in Melghat is thrice as likely to be severely malnourished compared with an average child in Maharashtra, according to ICDS data.

To be sure, the number of health centres has gone up in the past five years: a new rural hospital and a primary health centre (PHC) have been built, thanks to NRHM funding. The number of vacancies among PHC doctors has dipped to nearly zero.

Yet, such statistics hide more than they reveal. A third of PHC doctors are temporary, fresh out of college, and working for the government to fulfil their course requirements. Many doctors have been trained in traditional medicine but prescribe allopathic medicines with impunity. Although there are a few committed doctors, and the health department is better run than most other state agencies in Melghat, the overall quality of healthcare is poor.

Often, incompetent doctors get away even after making grave mistakes. When one-month-old Sachin Bethekar of Hatru village had diarrhoea in June, his parents took him to Hatru's PHC, where he was put on a saline drip till his stomach bloated. Sachin's distressed parents took him to a traditional healer or bhumka, who failed to help and he died the next day.

Saline injections to malnourished infants are a major cause of death in public hospitals although World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines forbid such treatment, said Ashish Satav, a physician and president of Melghat-based NGO Mahan. Nevertheless, the devastating impact of the saline drip finds no mention in the child death register at Hatru's PHC. It instead identifies the bhumka as the cause of death!

Health workers are as aware as other public servants that the chances of getting caught are slimmer than the chances of finding a healthy child in Melghat. Not surprisingly, such tales repeat themselves across Melghat. The details vary: in some villages, one came across stories of inadequate rations in crèches run under ICDS, in others of absent doctors, or of insensitive staff and petty corruption.

Sachin's uncle Sakharam Bethekar points out that this is not the first such experience the family has had in a public hospital: Sakharam's wife died while giving birth to a boy four years ago. Such incidents lead to a loss of trust in the public health system, said Bandu Sane, an activist with Khoj.

Across tribal India, the picture is equally bleak. A tribal child is 40% more likely to die before the age of five compared with an average Indian child not because he falls sick more often owing to malnourishment, but because he is half as likely to receive proper care, analysis of NFHS data by World Bank economists show.

Throughout history, tribals had a survival advantage over their peers, wrote demographer Arup Maharatna in his oft-cited book on the subject, Demographic Perspectives on India's Tribes. Till the early 1980s, tribal children had lower chances of dying compared with their closest social group, the scheduled castes, but mortality rates reversed in the past three decades as tribals lagged behind others in access to healthcare and basic amenities.

This decline in health of the country's most deprived social group has occurred precisely when the economy has grown at its most rapid pace ever, clocking an average of around 6% over the past three decades.

The blatant violation of norms and the years of neglect in Melghat arise from wide-ranging state failures and the inability of a weak tribal leadership to demand change.

"Our leadership has failed us and anyone who takes up the cudgels on behalf of our community is either intimidated or bribed very easily," said Kalu Bethekar, a plain-speaking health counsellor at Hatru's PHC.

Funds for tribal development often lie unutilized or are diverted. In many tribal areas of the state, there is no officer to plan projects, since many consider appointments in such areas as a punishment posting.

Maharashtra is among the eight laggard states, which did not allocate funds in the tribal sub-plan-a part of the annual plan-in proportion to the tribal population of the state, despite repeated pleas from central government agencies, according to a 2011 tribal affairs ministry report.

Maharashtra has a 9% tribal population but allocated only 8.2% of its annual plan allocation to it. The actual expenses are invariably lower than what is planned. Maharashtra has spent less than 2% of its annual budget on the tribal plan on average in the past decade, according to a 2011 report by Thane-based NGO Samarthan, based on official statistics.

In 11 tribal dominated blocks of the state, an Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) officer looks into the implementation of all projects related to tribal welfare. Such posts often lie vacant, and even when appointments are made they are for a brief period, according to the Samarthan report.

Melghat did not have a full-time ITDP nodal officer for several years and it is only recently, after repeated strictures from the judiciary, that the government has finally appointed one.

Even when funds are allocated, there is little accountability on how they are used and Hatru's PHC is a prime example. The health centre lacks a toilet and does not have electricity owing to a defective solar plant.

While there was no effort to build a toilet or hire a mechanic to get the solar machine repaired, NRHM funds worth over `4 million were spent on a new PHC building at Hatru that has remained unused for close to two years since it was built, apparently because of a leaky roof.

Unicef's framework on malnutrition identifies disease and inadequate dietary intake as the proximate causes of malnutrition while political and social systems that determine how resources are used and shared are identified as the underlying or structural causes.

In Melghat, all of these factors seem to have conspired together to deprive children of a chance at a healthy life.
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Old April 17th, 2012, 01:20 PM   #15
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Micro payment venture launched

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RANCHI: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and National Payment Corporation of India have joined hands to start micro ATM-based payments to beneficiaries and have launched a pilot programme in the state to identify the practical impediments and come up with solutions.

Executive director of Nabard, V Ramakrishna, led a study team to Porio village on Monday where Aadhaar-enabled micro payments for MGNREGA labourers have already begun.

Prior to the field visit, Ramakrishna said Aadhaar numbers - along with core banking solution and biometric identification of individuals - have redefined payment options for the beneficiaries of government schemes through micro ATMs. "We have decided to conduct a field study on how the entire programme runs so that the bottlenecks could be identified and removed when such payments are nationally linked to Aadhaar numbers," he said.

The results of the study will be shared with the chairmen of five regional rural banks from different parts of the country. Bank of India regional manager Tarlochan Singh coordinated the visit with Ramakrishna as the team leader. The UIDAI officials were present to see if the Aadhaar number was effective in practically verifying the identity of individuals through the biometric information provided. Singh, in his welcome speech, said the banks would make additional efforts to conduct the financial inclusion drive. UIDAI deputy director general Rajesh Bansal gave details of UID-enabled accounts and called upon other banks to utilize the CBS-enabled quick identification platform for instant payments.

The programme will be followed by a two-day conference on Aadhaar-enabled quick payment of government subsidy.
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Old April 17th, 2012, 01:24 PM   #16
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Tackling Naxal issue: Govt plans Rs. 1000-cr body with help of India Inc

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The Union rural development ministry is setting up a body called `Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation' (BRLF) with a Rs. 1,000-crore corpus with the help of India Inc, to promote economic and social empowerment in 170 districts, including those affected by Naxal violence. "I have already written to the Tatas, Reliance, Infosys, and Wipro, apart from the dairy cooperative NDDB, and Nabard, to be the founding members of BRLF. My ministry is giving initial corpus of Rs. 500 crore," Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said in Mumbai on Saturday.

"I want the rest to come from the corporates," Ramesh told reporters after a meeting with the NABARD brass in Mumbai.

We have called a meeting on April 27 in New Delhi of all the stakeholders, including corporates, civil society organisations and grass-root level activists."

This is the first time the government is formally reaching out to the private sector to tackle the Naxal problem. The foundation will work for improving livelihood and habitats of tribals in 170 districts, 78 of which are severely affected by the Maoist violence, Ramesh said.

NABARD and the government-run National Dairy Development Board too will be a part of the Foundation.

Ramesh added that foundation will not be a government body, but will run on professional lines, with a chairman and a full-time CEO. "In structure and composition, it will be similar to the Public Health Foundation of India chaired by the Infosys co-founder NR Narayan Murthy."

The foundation will support developmental activities in watershed management, dairy, fisheries, agriculture, etc.

On how the corporates can participate, he said, "Those who pay higher amount as donations, say Rs. 200 crore, can get a board position. But I am sure it will not be a government body and the government will not have any say in its day to day functioning."

BRLF funds will be disbursed to the civil society and NGOs on a need-based manner, he added.

"The move is part of the Budget proposals. The foundation will scale up civil society interventions and transform the lives and livelihoods of the adivasis in these 170 districts spanning Andra Pradesh, Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madya Pradesh,Odisha,Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh," the Minister said.

When asked whether donations to BRLF would be considered as part of CSR initiative, Ramesh answered in the affirmative.

Naxal violence has been on the rise in the recent years.
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Old April 17th, 2012, 01:31 PM   #17
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From Bleak Central India, a People’s Movement

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In Pati, an impoverished region in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, members of the Barela tribe often work as laborers for less than a dollar a day. Drought and logging have reduced what was once a lush forest to a mountainous desert, and many members of the community moved away to survive.

Fetching drinking water can involve a walk of several kilometers, health clinics are a day’s walk away, and jobs are scarce. Peanuts are one of the few crops that still grow in the region. Before the passage in 2005 of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which guarantees a minimum of 100 days of labor per household for the rural poor, some Barela worked just eight days a year.

Despite these hardships, when the photographer Sohrab Hura visited Pati, he found a ‘‘special place.’’ Unlike in many rural parts of India, residents are ‘‘extremely aware of their basic rights,’’ Mr. Hura said. They have formed a ‘‘people’s union,’’ known as the Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, to address issues of local importance.

When the state failed to distribute polio vaccines in the area, the union administered them with the help of medical volunteers from nongovernmental organizations. Women have been trained in first aid, to offset a lack of health care professionals. The union has started a school, replacing a government one that villagers considered inadequate.

While the guaranteed employment act has helped bring new life to Pati, by employing residents on public works projects like roads and stemming migration from the area, residents say the program is hampered by corruption.

At times when residents have not received the wages they are due under the act, the union’s members, sometimes led by women, have marched to the Pati district headquarters to demand them. After one such march, which Mr. Hura observed, ‘‘local administrators had no choice but to pay the wages the next day,’’ he said.
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Old April 19th, 2012, 03:47 AM   #18
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Maruti's mobile theatre ups sales for company in rural India

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One of the biggest hits in rural India that you've never seen has been created not by the Chopras, Johars or Ravi Kishans but by automaker Maruti Suzuki. With its film screen on wheels, Maruti takes an unconventional road to reach an immensely profitable destination

It's a balmy Friday, and a throng jostles for front row seats. Only a few make it to the matinee. After 13 quick minutes, there's thunderous applause. A jam-packed, shotgun show becomes a blockbuster! As they say, it happens only in India. Welcome to Amritsar Kalan, a nondescript village some 370 km northwest of Delhi, where scores of goggle-eyed villagers are huddled together to grab a glance of not their favourite star or starlet but the latest sets of wheels from India's No 1 carmaker, Maruti Suzuki. The venue is no swank multiplex but a souped-up Tata truck converted into an 18-seater mobile theatre. Flashing on the screen are not just models of cars but dreams that Maruti is selling to an aspiring Bharat.

Going rural is not exactly a new mantra for India's marketers. Even within the auto industry, every manufacturer worth its horsepower has been traversing the highways and bylanes of the hinterland.


Non urban markets account for 32% of the sales for India's second largest automaker, Hyundai. "Nearly 70% of India resides in rural areas, which presents an enormous demand base and huge market potential," says Arvind Saxena, director (marketing and sales), Hyundai. And General Motors too sells 30% of its cars - mainly the Chevrolet Spark, Beat and Tavera - in rural India. "India is happening in the villages," says Mayank Pareek, managing executive officer (marketing & sales) at Maruti Suzuki India. A car is not a Tshirt that you sell to villagers and then forget about, he adds. "You have to invest in gaining their trust and never betray it."

What's remarkable about Maruti's push is the nifty way in which it has been able to reach out to potential buyers, from fruit growers in the north and turmeric growers in the south to fishermen in the east and Alphonso mango growers in the west. It has helped Maruti up the rural tempo from just 3.5% of total sales five years ago to 26% in fiscal 2012.
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Old April 19th, 2012, 03:51 AM   #19
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Major funds boost for India-UK project

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UK on Wednesday announced 10 million pounds funding for a joint research project with Indian institutes to boost India's internet capabilities with rural access to broadband and health monitoring systems among others.

The project aims to develop solutions that can scale to benefit the lives of millions of users as well as the digital economy in both countries.

The funding – considered one of the largest for any project between the two countries – was announced by universities and science minister David Willetts during a meeting with science and technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Wednesday.

The 10 million pounds investment will support the second phase of research into next generation telecommunications networks – the development of state-of-the-art platforms and applications that will carry voice, video and data in the future on the Internet.

The project involves the employment of 200 scientists.

The research is a key part of the work of the India-UK Advanced Technology Centre (IU-ATC), a collaborative programme funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), India's Department of Science and Technology (DST) and industrial partners in both countries.

The funding will allow the Centre to focus its efforts to develop low-cost solutions for rural access to broadband, improved use of available spectrum as well as applications for rural health monitoring, emergency and disaster communications, social TV-Virtual Classrooms and other services.

The ultimate aim of the IU-ATC is to develop solutions that can scale to benefit the lives of millions of users as well as the Digital Economy in both the UK and India, the Foreign Office said.

The principal investigators for the project are Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and Professor Gerard Parr of the University of Ulster.

Ulster is the lead UK institution in a consortium of nine research-leading UK universities including the University of Surrey, Lancaster University, Queen Mary, University of London, Southampton University, University of St Andrews, University College London, University of Bristol, and the University of Cambridge.

They are joined by seven IITs: IIT Madras (Lead), IIT Delhi, IIT Mumbai, IIT Mandi, IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad, and IISc Bangalore.

Announcing details of the funding boost, Willetts said: "This 10 million pounds investment will build on the UK's excellent record of research collaboration with India.

"It will bring together leading universities and institutes from both countries to develop technological solutions to a range of important issues, from rural health to disaster response."

Liam Blackwell, Head of EPSRC's ICT Theme said: "This next phase of the India-UK Advanced Technology Centre project is expected to contribute to leading edge international collaboration in ICT research which will benefit both countries and develop their capabilities."

The first phase of the joint research initiative started in June 2009 with 5 million pounds funding from EPSRC-DST and 4.2 pounds million co-funding from industry and academic partners in both countries.

The three high level research activity areas within the IU-ATC are: Applications and Services; Core Network Systems and Protocols; Heterogeneous Wireless Access Networks.
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Old April 19th, 2012, 03:52 AM   #20
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Villages go online!

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“India lives in its seven hundred thousand villages.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Most of us hail from places that's not Chennai; some visit their native once in a while, some once in a lifetime and some, maybe never.

Most of us will never know what life is like in villages, what life is like away from the chaos of the cities, what life is like to live among the grass fields and flowing rivers, among rich culture and heritage. Villages define the Indian society; the alluring temples, the folklore, the culture, the agriculture and much more. It's only a matter of time when all this information would no longer be available with most of the villagers opting to move out into the cities and towns for better prospects and livelihood.

Successful venture

Recognising this, IIT-Madras Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI) joined hands with The National International Exchange of India to bring about an ingenious idea. Their initiative was to create a global web identity for our Indian villages by empowering rural youth to create a website for their villages. What started out as an exploratory venture, led to an overwhelming response from students.

They started by approaching students of colleges from the Sivaganga district. Participants were enrolled into groups of three and were trained on website development via workshops and regular reviews. The competition had a preliminary round where 11 websites out of 50 were selected and the finalists were invited to IIT-Madras for the grand finale. The criteria of selection was not how the website looked or appealed but the content. Information such as panchayat decisions, tourist spots, and environmental issues became the highlight of many websites.

“RTBI is about leveraging Information communication and technology to the rural areas. We were looking to involve students studying in colleges in rural areas in our programmes and website was the first thing that came to our mind. The whole plan was decided at a meeting one afternoon and we had one year to execute it, from Nov 2010 to Nov 2011,” said Suma, Vice President of RTBI, when asked about how the idea was formulated. She also added, “From our end the commitment was impeccable, it was not something we wanted to just achieve on papers, and we really felt that this project was going to be useful for the students and the society and the students caught on to this self-belief. The students also knew that we were serious and there would be tangible outcomes for all their efforts”.

Winning moment

The winners were students from ACT College in Karaikudi. Madhumita was one of the winners and with excitement she said, “Pudhuvayal is a village close to Karaikudi and has more than 100 rice mills. We had to visit the village more than 10 times and we gained a lot of knowledge through this experience. The prize money was a huge surprise and we gave back part of the money to our village.”

The participants showed exceptional enthusiasm and fervour; they felt empowered and this project helped them to gain an identity. RTBI's initial effort is commendable and the outcome will help society in many ways.
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