Tag Archives: India

Reinventing the sanitation projects in India

One of the deterrents that could prolong or possibly halt our dream of becoming a “developed” nation in the coming years is the lack of health and hygiene and the absence of widespread ground-level actions. It is this lacking that is also responsible for widening and retaining the gap between the wealthy in a clean surrounding and the poor in a city slum, the urban formal settlements and the urban informal settlements, in our country. Proper sanitation has a crucial role to play in bridging this gap as it is directly linked to the physical health and subsequent well-being of the people living in that area. In India the practice of open defecation is still prevalent both in urban settlements and rural areas. India has the world’s largest number of people defecating in the open (around 600 million in 2012) which includes approximately 70% of its rural population. This figure is particularly alarming because open defecation has a much more adverse effect on a densely populated country such as ours. It causes and spreads diseases like diarrhea, typhoid and intestinal infections, etc., and is responsible for increasing child mortality. Other far-reaching effects include fatality, undernutrition and stunted growth in children, loss of dignity for women and increased rates of crime against women as they are forced to go out in the open in secluded areas, river pollution and soil pollution.

Government initiatives such as Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CSRP) and Total Sanitation Campaign (Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan) have achieved limited success in their terms. Even though government surpassed its own target of building 6 million toilets by constructing 8 million toilets in 2015-2016, sanitation largely still remains a widespread problem in India. This calls for participation of more private companies as well as common people to end this problem. Two of the major reasons for people still practicing open defecation are non-availability of toilets because of poverty and “behavioral mindset” of the people who still do not realize the importance and interlink between water, sanitation and hygiene.  While the former can be tackled by providing more and more infrastructure for toilets, the latter requires creating awareness among the people about this evil practice and change in their mindset, who are still traditionally bound to defecate in the open air.

The Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was renamed Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan by Manmohan Singh, and later restructured as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by Narendra Modi in September 2014. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was officially launched on 2 October 2014.

Sanitation projects in a populated country like India require participation of people to be popular and successful. Integrating the two approaches of simultaneously building infrastructure and creating awareness among people can help in making Indian villages and slums “open defecation free”. Providing sustainable sanitation facilities by incorporating affordable toilets which are easy to use and clean, strong and all-weather resistant, building toilets inside or in very close vicinity of households can help eradicate open defecation. Building easy-to-use toilets integrated with a composter will prevent spread of diseases, water and soil pollution. Designing mobile toilets, toilets with an in-built alarm system for women, toilets with provision for urine diversion and providing recyclable toilet bags for people in remote areas can also be effective in reinventing the sanitation project in our country.  Another aspect of the sanitation project is to teach people about the importance and necessity of maintaining hygiene in their surrounding through audiovisual presentations, as spread of diseases is more prominent in a densely populated area lacking awareness. Encouraging people, providing more incentives and awarding households for installing toilets, even if on a time-bound basis, will increase the participation of people as well as popularity of these projects. Educating women and school going children in rural areas about the benefits of cleanliness and its healthy impact on mental and physical well-being will cause awareness among the rural masses.

The objective of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) to make India open-defecation free by 2019 can be achieved if we are willing to engage ourselves to contribute our part to tackle the sanitation problem. With all these efforts it will be a matter of time when every Indian truly experiences that “Cleanliness is Godliness”.


Will it now be Jio vs Non-Jio?

This blog was originally written for Awesummly. Awesummly is an android which provides you with real-time summarised news. To download the app, click here.

At a time when Indian telecommunication companies are blamed for charging much more than they ought to, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani seems to have brought a revolution in this sector with the commercial launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) on September 1, 2016, at the Reliance Annual General Meeting. From providing highly attractive introductory offers in voice calling and 4G services to its ambitious plan of capturing up to 10 per cent of over 1 billion-strong customer base, Jio has caught the attention of both mobile subscribers as well as mobile service providers. It aims to serve 100 million subscribers by the end of this year, with an addition of 1 million subscribers per day. Following this, Reliance plans to make revenue in the range of ₹36,000 crores to ₹50,000 crores in FY17.

In an impactful speech, which cost Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular approximately ₹12,000 crores in losses in under 45 minutes, Mukesh Ambani announced a series of measures which is set to directly affect mobile users’ behaviour, waging a “tariff war” with incumbent players in the telecom sector. From issuing free SIM cards and providing lifetime free voice calls (local plus national roaming) to providing free mobile data till December 31, and lowest data rates per megabit consumption (4G data rates will see a decrease from ₹250/GB which is charged by the incumbent players to ₹50/GB), advent of Jio is sure to have sent jitters down the telecom sphere. It is said that competition leads to better performance, but in all this brouhaha, future seems bleak for the likes of Aircel and Telenor. How Bharti Airtel, Vodafone or Idea Cellular effectively react to this is yet to be seen. A battle for providing the lowest tariff will not be a surprise.

The Jio rates

The erstwhile Infotel Broadband Services Limited was rechristened as Reliance Jio Infocomm in 2015. Jio was previously launched as a beta service to its employees and partners in December 2015. As far as the initial investment in this project is concerned, Jio is supposedly world’s biggest venture with ₹150,000 crore investment. With a very strong backing by RIL, it is all prepared to take initial blows in terms of direct losses till 31 December. It will only start making revenue from January 2017 when it begins to charge for its data usage (from ₹149 to ₹4999 on a monthly basis). Apart from data services, it aims to leverage revenue from various digital services like video streaming (with a feature similar to Netflix) and other sources, not to forget the already profit-making RIL.

All this is indeed a welcome step towards digital literacy, especially as it is brought about by a private entity. This will motivate other players to step in –  a step they must take in order to survive in the competition. According to media reports, Vodafone and Airtel have called Jio’s offer a “gimmick” while the state-owned BSNL has pledged to match Jio “tariff-by-tariff”. At the current stage, Reliance Jio has everything to experiment with, owing to its strong financial support. What is left for other big players is to prevent an exodus of their top customers to Jio, for 30 per cent of the customers contribute to 70 per cent of their revenue. The launch of Jio seems to have been played out positively on consumer sentiment. Whatever level of competition and commotion this leads to, the end beneficiary is going to be the customers. And this is what really matters to us.

This blog was originally written for Awesummly. Awesummly is an android which provides you with real-time summarised news. To download the app, click here.

Nationalism and Patriotism

It is the critical difference between nationalism and patriotism and misunderstanding of the definitions that still confuses many people as to whether to call themselves nationalists or patriots or both of them. The idea of “nation” or “nation-building” or “nation state” was a concept alien to the world until the struggles of people across European territories began to inspire others within and without the continent. It was during this time that the masses began to draw collective feeling of nationhood – that they belonged to an area with defined boundaries encompassing a population, majority of whom shared similar ideas and thoughts – and the ideas of equality, liberty, etc., began to take a comprehensible form. The idea of patriotism – the love for one’s own land and collective pride in its traditional and cultural values, was not foreign for the Indian subcontinent. Centuries of evolution of culture, language, art, religion, dance and architecture automatically, and passively, imbibed a sense of patriotism in the people of Indian subcontinent. This was further fueled by the dynastic rule in the subcontinent followed by the “pre-colonial” Mughal invasions, under which art and literature reached newer heights.

Protest against the JNU incident in New Delhi.

It was during the colonial rule in which the British directly interfered with the core economics and functionary of India, trying multiple routes to exploit India and its people of its riches, a strategy unlikely of the pre-colonial rule. The collective struggle against a common “enemy” lead to the rise of nationalist sentiments in India. The British brought the Western Education to India to serve the intended purpose of building local managers to serve the British administration, people aware of its know-how – this turned out to be a paradox! Access to western education brought with it the ideas of liberty, fraternity and equality – ideas which once formed the core of the French Revolution. These ideas helped create the necessary paradigm shift in the minds of people to realize the strength of unity and a common objective. Although, the admixture of past experiences of shared cultural and traditional values of the Indian subcontinent and the western notion of nationalism lead to a rise of nationalism radically different from the European type. This one was based on the belief of inclusion and accommodation of various sections of people- a trait which was absent in European-aggrandizing Nationalism. The testimony of this interim development can be the Karachi Congress Resolution of 1931 which included numerous resolutions still much relevant in the present times.

Perhaps our Constitution makers realized the situations existing then and could foresee the problems of the present times. Through a number of meetings of the Constituent Assembly and carrying out extensive and exhaustive discussions over a period of years, they framed a Constitution which could stand strong with its core values as enshrined in the Preamble, still subject to amendments in keeping with the changing times. In view of the recent turmoil on the nature and form of nationalism and patriotism to be practiced arising because of incidents like suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. scholar and a dalit student unable to receive studentship and an event in JNU commemorating execution of Afzal Guru, 2001 Parliament terrorist attack convict which was accompanied by alleged anti-India sloganeering by the university campus students, the whole nation seems to be caught in a web of ideological battles among various factions – the opposition accusing the government at the centre of imposing its Hindutva ideology and branding the defaulters as anti-national; institutions questioning the role of television and print media in shaping popular public opinion, etc. In my opinion, the only solution to end this problem is through more and more debates and discussions, for these, as is evident from the past, form the essence of a time-tested process known as democracy.