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September 24 2014

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February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

India's Solar Vision Promises Clean Energy And Happy Farmers

Solar array pattern captured at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY

Array of solar panels at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY-NC-SA

Around 628 million people around the world do not have access to electricity and 290 million of them are from rural India. Many Indian farmers have to rely on archaic power grids and fossil fuels to run water pumps for their irrigation.

The Indian government is aiming to replace 26 million diesel-powered groundwater pumps with more efficient solar-powered irrigation models. This will save about six billion US dollars a year in electricity and diesel subsidies for the country. This will also help tackle the rising demand for coal as two-thirds of the country's electricity is generated by coal. Additionally crowd-sourcing of unused solar power will also add a lot of energy to the national grid.

India nearly doubled its solar capacity in 2013 to a cumulative 2.18 gigawatts of power. The country plans to install 10 GW of solar plants by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022, according to the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), India’s flagship solar policy. India is also considering to apply to the World Bank for a 500-million-US-dollar solar loan to build the world's largest solar power plant (4GW) in Sambhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Yadav K writes in Indian Public Sector blog details about the 4GW power plant in Sambhar:

The project will spread across 19,000 acres at Sambhar in Rajasthan and will entail an investment of Rs 7,500 crore in the first phase. [..] The solar PV (photo-voltaic) power plant will use PV modules based on crystalline silicon technology and with an estimated life of 25 years, the solar plant can supply 6,400 million units of energy per year. It eco-friendly project will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tonnes per year.

Katie Fehrenbacher writes in technology blog Gigaom:

As more devices become connected to networks and the Internet — here comes the Internet of Things — more and more of them will seek to have their own power source, and currently solar power is one of the cheapest and most mobile forms of distributed energy available. [..]

If India does reach these numbers of solar-powered water pumps, it would be the largest deployment of this technology in a single country. Reducing the grid electricity usage, and the use of expensive diesel, will not only lower carbon emissions, but it could also help the power grid operators better run their networks and reduce the power costs for the farmers.

Here are more reactions on Twitter:

However, the rapid development requires industrial production of Solar plants which may create new bio-hazard:

Blogger & Solar Energy expert Ritesh Pothan thinks that there are a number of issues that must be resolved if 2014 is to see India make any progress towards its solar ambitions.

More info on India's solar developments can be found in Renewable Energy India and Solar Power India Facebook pages.

February 08 2014

A Video That Made 50 Schools Safe

Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Amit Topno from Torpa Block, Jharkhand talks about making a video that brought about a positive change that had potentially saved the lives of 5000 people across 35 villages in his state. When his video explaining the problem of lightning strikes and the inaction of the authorities was screened to villagers, journalists and local government officials, the rest was easy. They pressurized to secure permissions to install lightning conductors in 50 schools across Torpa Block.

January 31 2014

Birds Avoiding Bhopal

Bhopal, the capital of the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, lies in the North-South corridor of the migratory path of birds coming from Northern Asia, Russia, Afghanistan, China, Mongolia etc. Blogger Proloy Bagchi reports that several species of migratory birds which used to congregate in and around the Bhojtal (former Upper Lake) in Bhopal in large numbers, apparently, have avoided this city this winter. Two reasons cited by bird-watchers for the absence of the birds are: 1) human disturbance and 2) pollution in the Lake waters.

January 26 2014

Outdoor Air pollution in Bhopal

Proloy Bagchi reports that outdoor air pollution in Bhopal, the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has risen to an alarming proportion mainly from the emission of the transports. The blogger slams at the inaction of the state government and stresses the importance of reducing this pollution. According to WHO outdoor pollution causes cancer, more so than passive smoking.

The Other Side of Social Media

That’s Twitter – it makes a joke out of serious issues and takes jokes seriously.

- comments blogger Purba Ray while discussing Sunanda Pushkar’s sudden death who underwent a Twitter spat with a Pakistani journalist. The unusual death of the wife of Indian minister Shashi Tharoor has created a lot of controversy pointing fingers at Twitter.

January 25 2014

Protest Against Rape : WordToon by Subhendu Sarkar

In India women often fall prey to sex crimes where police fail to take proper action. Subhendu Sarkar, an artist from Kolkata created cartoons from words (see Youtube video) in an workshop called “wordtoon” urging everybody to protest against rape.

The Biggest Indian Blogging Conference In February 2014

The WIN – Blogadda conference will take place in Mumbai on February 9, 2014. This conference is claimed to be the the biggest offline Indian blogger conference where a mix of Bloggers, Industry Specialists & Influencers will talk about how blogging today has grown to be an optimum platform for expression.

January 20 2014

Despite Controversial Past, Indian PM Candidate Narendra Modi's Star on the Rise

BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressing the crowd during 'Lalkar rally' in Jammu, India. Image by Amarjeet Singh. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2013)

BJP candidate for prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the crowd during the ‘Lalkar rally’ in Jammu, India. Image by Amarjeet Singh. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2013)

General elections are scheduled to take place in April 2014 in India, and many of the same old players are expected to appear on the ballot. But over the last few years, corruption scandals, rape and several cases of maladministration have led many Indians to lose hope in the existing political parties.

The centrist Indian National Congress party has formed the Indian government since 2006. Although this has given the country a measure of stability, the party's ministers have also been involved in several cases of corruption involving the Commonwealth games, coal mining and 3G licensing to mobile service providers. Additionally, the increasing number of cases of violence against women has made it clear that the common man is now done with bad governance.

Recent state-level elections in New Delhi saw the new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), an offshoot of the anti-corruption campaign launched by social activist Anna Hazare a couple of years ago, emerged in second behind the country's other main party, the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party is barely a year old and is already posing a threat to stalwarts like the Congress.

Amid the fray is one candidate for prime minister, the chief minister of India's western state Gujarat Narendra Modi from BJP, who seems to be using the people's dissatisfaction to his advantage. A polemic figure for his hotly debated role in the deadly 2002 riots in the state between Hindus and Muslims, he's popular in the business world, and seems to be the only option for voters who neither want to depend only a new political party like AAP nor want to vote for the Congress.

In fact, even AAP members like former police officer Kiran Bedi seem to be rooting for him:

“Indian bosses have become so fed up with the status quo that they are prepared to overlook Modi's past,” writes blogger Schumpeter for the Economist. This is also true for Indian businessmen, regardless of Modi's confusing role during the Godhra riots.

Modi is also said to have a huge support base among the young Indian IT generation, several of whom actively assist him with his online campaign, especially:

Secular India on the line?

But some believe that Modi may pose a threat to India's secular heritage.

In 2002, riots broke out in Gujarat's Godhra after a train carrying Hindus was burnt down as it was coming from the holy city of Ayodhya in North India. What followed was the worse example of Hindi-Muslim violence in India's recent history. Between 900 and 2,000 people were killed, more than whom were Muslim, including Muslim politicians and businessmen.

Modi, who was chief minister of the state at the time, was cleared of any wrongdoing in the handling of the violence by authorities, but still some accused him of involvement in a conspiracy or not taking enough action. Several commissions have been set up with the intention of bringing the guilty to justice. As of April 2013, 249 convictions had been secured, 184 Hindus and 65 Muslims, while some victims still await justice

Although, what Modi achieved in his last re-election as the chief minister of Gujarat deserves a mention. A documentary by noted Indian television journalist Barkha Dutt revealed that Modi's government managed to garner support from Muslim businessmen who were able to revitalize their businesses after the Godhra carnage. The Open magazine also reports how Modi has managed to reach out to Muslims “like never before“.

But what future does a prime minister like Modi hold for India? In a column in the Financial Express, Mahesh Vyas of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy claims that investments in Gujarat post-2002 have only reached around 13 percent of the total investments in India, as compared to 21 percent before the Godhra riots. Additionally, the economic boom has not been equal in all regions of the state.

Others remain wary because of his leadership during the riots and his membership with BJP, a right-wing Hindu party.

The people of India have a tough choice to make ahead of them. 

January 19 2014

January 16 2014

Urging Indians to ‘Take the Poo to the Loo’

A village school in Moradabad district, Uttar Pradesh, India with toilet facilities for both boys and girls. Image by author.

A village school in Uttar Pradesh, India with toilet facilities for boys and girls. Children are also encouraged (through visuals and written instructions) to wash hands with soap before meals and after using the toilet. Image by author.

Using innovative outreach programmes, UNICEF India's ‘Take the Poo to the Loo’ campaign has been trying to raise awareness and calling upon Indians to end both open defecation and the use of make-shift (dry) toilets which are cleaned by manual scavengers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates [pdf], about 620million people in India still practice open defecation – which is over 50 percent of the population. Even the latest government of India (GOI) Census data puts the figure around 50 percent. While the GOI has had a continuous slew of sanitation related schemes, the latest Census data has revealed that more Indian households have telephones/ mobiles than toilet facilities.

It's more than just the absence of toilets

Government officials handling sanitation projects understand that in order to end the age-old practice of open defecation, people must first of all feel the need to have and use a hygienic toilet – an uphill task especially in rural communities where traditionally, there was not much social shame associated with going to fields, woods etc., to answer nature's call and/or defecate. It was simply something that ‘everyone did'. In fact, people shrank away from having a toilet within their home premises on both religious and ‘hygienic’ grounds, their argument being that a toilet, being something ‘unclean', could not co-exist within the same premises that held the kitchen as well as space for worship.

Screenshot from the

Screenshot from the “Take the poo to the Loo” campaign website

Malathy M, a young professional working with Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission, reflected on the issue after seeing people using the sides of a highway as an open toilet. She tweeted:

But children bear the severest brunt of this practice

Children are the most vulnerable when it comes to health hazards resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene associated with open defecation. According to a report [pdf] published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,

Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunting and death.

In India, that problem can be acute, because,

Realizing the gravity of the situation, , the government of India has sought out UNICEF India as a key partner in it's fight against the practice of open defecation. While UNICEF has been partnering the initiative at various levels, the current #poo2loo campaign aims to engage even the urban populace and raise awareness about open defecation, not only in rural areas but in urban areas (including slums) as well.

UNICEF India is using innovative methods to engage citizens and raise awareness about open defecation.

 In the next two posts of this series, we will look at a) how dry toilets and the associated evil of manual scavenging continues to persist stubbornly in some corners of India and b) how some brave ‘Toilet Warriors’ are ushering in change within their communities and creating demand for hygienic toilets and better sanitation facilities – creating hope that open defecation and manual scavenging will slowly but surely be a thing of the past.

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