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Goan Architect Turns ‘Waste’ Into Beauty Through his Breathtaking Buildings

NOG Team
Goa-based architect Gerard Da Cunha has been celebrated over the years for his unique and unusual architectural style that revolves around nature.“I always come up with my designs on site. If I sit at my office, I won’t know the energy of the space I’m designing, I won’t know how the wind flows nor will I know if there are any trees that I’ll have to design around,” the 65-year-old architect says.Using waste and locally-sourced materials like timber and stone, Gerard has built several architectural structures which include universities, libraries, museum, resorts and even townships all across India.‘The Better Home’ We created ‘The Better Home’ because you shouldn’t have to choose between non-toxic ingredients and effective cleaning. Our cleaners are safe for babies, pets, skin and our oceans. Explore our range of powerful, earth-friendly cleaners here.Gerard is the principal architect of his architectural firm, Architect Autonomous and in his career of four decades in the field of sustainable architecture, his work has gained popularity for his unique designs and his out-of-the-box thinking.Imbibing A Sustainable StyleWhen he was a third-year student of Architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, Gerard took a one year break to travel to Kerala and assist the famous architect, Laurie Baker the renowned ‘Gandhi of Architecture’. “I was really inspired by his simple and efficient techniques and it was through him that I was able to imbibe my own style. As a result, none of the work that I have done so far is standardised. Every structure has been built with respect to the local materials available and the nature of the land,” Gerard explains.One of the most popular works of Gerard is the three-storied House of Goa Museum, known for its unique ship-like structure. Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan, also located in Goa, stand testimony to the architect’s unique style which includes the use of several discarded materials. And one of his more elaborate projects, the JSW Township has also received a lot of recognition for its incorporation of locally-sourced materials and limited budget.All of these have been built with minimal resources and have explored different levels of spatial experience.House Of Goa MuseumGerard’s ‘Houses of Goa’ Museum in Torda, Goa, is an architectural wonder that one cannot miss. The three-storied museum built with laterite stone is shaped like a curious triangle. Also known as Gerard’s ‘traffic island’, the museum has its walls panning out, like a ship. “With just 40 sqm on each floor, one can easily get a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage and history of Goa starting from 1300 BC with photographs, maps, models of ancient houses, collection of designed pillars, windows designs, carved furniture, false ceilings, tiles and literature of houses and the people of Goa even before the Portuguese invasion,” says architect Yash Shah, who had visited the museum in 2018.He goes on to explain how Gerard converted the ground floor café into a semi-museum by displaying photos of kitchens and bathrooms of different Goanese houses, all at a total cost of Rs 20 Lakh. “The design of each structure differs depending on the energy of the space, local resources, the budget, land availability, and traditional aspects that are relevant to that particular area,” Gerard explains.Because of his architectural style that is closely associated with keeping traditions alive, government authorities commissioned Gerard to restore the oldest fort of Goa — Reis Magos Fort which had been lying in ruins for a long time. After restoration, the fort is a popular tourist destination showcasing the history of Goa.Gerard has also designed the Goa State Central Library located at Panaji, which is home to more than 1,80,000 books.Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha NiketanThe unique designs of two schools in Goa, Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan have also received a lot of recognition.Set on a slope, these two schools have been uniquely designed for two sets of different age groups. The playschool, for ages 4-6 and the preschool is for classes 1-4. Breaking away from the usual staircases and classrooms seen in Indian schools, Gerard decided to create a fantasy land for the children incorporating outdoor classrooms, a slide that goes through the entire building and an amphitheatre with walls made of glass bottles.Ruhma Ukaye, Architect and Photographer based in Mumbai tells TBI, “The amount of thought put into the little details of how a child would use the school just blew my mind, it’s a whole different perspective of the world I got to experience. The use of materials such as bricks, mud, mosaic tiles, and even glass bottles for construction does portray a very direct, yet ingenious approach to sustainable and vernacular architecture.”At a cost of Rs 150 crore, Gerard took on the task of building a township for the JSW Steel Plant in Vidyanagar, about 30 km from Hampi, Karnataka. Spread across 300 acres, the project was planned to house 10,000 people. From sewerage lines, transformers, treatment plants to telephone systems, Gerard and his team put together everything.“I didn’t find it very difficult when it came to sourcing materials because I used granite for the most part of the project and utilised prefabricated systems and Cuddappah stone, which was famous in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. I just had to think in clusters and find out what were some of the things that were unique to that particular area,” Gerard explains.For the project, the architect won the prestigious Prime Minister’s National Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design in 1998–99. He has also won the ‘Commendation Award-1990’ for rural architecture for his project ‘Nrityagram’ at Bengaluru, Karnataka.“My architecture is completely based on creating a structure that belongs to that area. Our country has such unique traditions and cultures, yet when it comes to architecture we’re now opting for more standardised structures and use materials that are not unique to the region. This is something that can be changed in the coming years,” Gerard concludes.The story has been extracted from
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Homemakers Turn Organic Roses From Their Farm into Natural Products, Earn in Lakhs

Homemakers Radhika Tapadia and Sangeeta Baldwa first met about 15 years ago. The two women from Sedam, Karnataka happened to visit a song and dance rehearsal for a festival organised by the Marwari community (that both belong to).“Our children needed to be trained for the performances and for 20 days, Radhika and I met often during the rehearsals and that is how we became friends,” recalls 56-year-old Sangeeta.Many tete-a-tetes led to the friends thinking of ways to make better use of their time. They had been wanting to try their hand at gardening and realised that Radhika had some ancestral land in Sedam that they could put to use.Radhika (left) and Sangeeta (in yellow) are homemakers and entrepreneurs“In 2008, we also began getting concerned about the food that was available in the market. We wanted fresh fruits and vegetables for our family and hence started growing them ourselves on that piece of land. The two of us were also really fond of roses and planted a few saplings,” recalls Sangeeta.Those few rose saplings they planted bloomed over the years just like their friendship. Seeing the organic roses flowering abundantly, the homemakers-turned-business partners decided to make value-added products like gulkand, rose water, and rose-preserves free from chemicals and preservatives.With the growing popularity of the products that they made in their own kitchens, they decided to start their small enterprise in 2012 and later branded the products under the name Gulaboo.Now, the friends and entrepreneurs sell over 11,000 units of their products in a year and earn anywhere between Rs 10 to 12 lakh annually for their business operations under Gulaboo. They also have a network of over 20 homemakers/franchisers in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana who buy their products and locally sell them.Their star product–the gulkandMoreover, the homemakers also get orders from countries like Australia and Canada where their gulkand, dried rose petals, and rosebuds are popular. In conversation with The Better India (TBI), the homemakers share their enterprising entrepreneurial journey.Farming Organic Roses to Starting a Business Sangeeta was born and raised in Hyderabad and completed her BA degree from Kasturba Gandhi College. She moved to Sedam when she got married at the age of 21. Radhika completed her education in BA from Mahatma Gandhi College in Ahmedpur, Maharashtra and moved to Sedam after her marriage.They were both busy homemakers taking care of the household and as their children began growing up, they got more involved and participated in the community organised events where they ultimately met.The duo feels that Gulaboo is a result of their decision to cultivate Radhika’s ancestral land. They started out by growing vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, lady finger, bitter gourd while also planting fruit trees like sapota, mangoes, Indian blackberry, and custard apple among others.“But when it came to roses, we planted a few saplings and with cuttings, we would keep propagating the beautiful flower. We often used the rose petals at home for pujas but after a point, there were so many roses that we didn’t know what to do with them,” says Sangeeta.The duo then decided to use the roses to make gulkand, a sweet preserve which is prepared using pink rose petals. This sweet delicacy is made in parts of India and Pakistan and is best consumed with a glass of milk. Additionally, it can also be used in rose-based desserts and is known to promote gut health.The gulkand found many fans in family and friends. This is what urged them to set up Gulaboo. Over time, the production of fresh fruits and vegetables increased as well. They now sell freshly harvested veggies to homes in their locality through WhatsApp but not on a very large scale, informs Sangeeta.The gulkand is handmade by the homemakers in their own kitchens“We also sell about 2,000 kg of organic sapota in a year. We are just happy that we are providing safe and chemical-free food for people to eat,” smiles Sangeeta.Making Use of the Organic RosesAfter the phenomenal response for the gulkand, the duo decided to start making rose syrup and rose water. The duo grows roses on a three-acre farm and tends to them on a daily basis. “Although temperatures are really high in Sedam, these roses survive and grow well here. This is because we have chosen a variety grown in Rajasthan and naturally, they can sustain in hot temperatures too,” informs Sangeeta.Every day, Radhika and Sangeeta collect these roses and get them home. The gulkand is made at home after the roses are properly cleaned. Then the rose petals are gently rubbed with sugar and sold in jars. They also employ two people full time who look after the farm and oversee the production of rose water in a small unit on the farmland.“The gulkand becomes like this natural jam which looks pink when it is freshly made. Over time, the colour darkens but that is a natural process and it does not affect the taste or quality. In season time, we make almost 50 to 60 kg in a day and there is also good demand for it,” informs Sangeeta.People from places far away from Sedam order Gulaboo’s products. Jaipur-based homemaker Nidhi Sodhani first tasted Gulaboo’s famous gulkand at her family home in Hyderabad three years back. Her mother had bought this from the duo in Sedam and after loving the taste, Nidhi has been frequently buying it too.“I usually mix it with water or milk and drink it. It really cools your body during summers and is also good for the digestive system. I buy their products in bulk every four months. In fact, my young son loves their rose syrup too, and often drinks it with milk. The taste is so distinct for him that he can tell if I am using any other rose syrup,” explains the 32-year-old mom.There are several other homemakers-cum-small time entrepreneurs across the country who resell Gulaboo’s products. Megha Rathi from Sholapur is one such example. The 32-year-old discovered Gulaboo about two years ago when the duo from Sedam had visited the town for an event and had set up a stall.A hamper containing all their rose based products like teh gulkand, rose water, rose syrup among othersAfter tasting Gulaboo’s products, Megha herself asked the Sedam-based duo if she could buy the products in wholesale from them and resell them. And the duo agreed.“The rose syrup and even the rose water does really well among the customers. The gulkand is a crowd favourite and every time there is any demand, I order from the Gulaboo and sell it here. I don’t even have to advertise anywhere. People themselves come and buy these products,” she informs.Challenges and Future PlansHaving set up a venture in a small town without any business knowledge is not a piece of cake and the duo has had their own share of challenges.“Initially when we started, a lot of people would judge and mock us as we live in a small town. They would assume that our business eventually would never take off. But, with hard work, we have established ourselves and this business. Now, people know us as the ‘Gulaboo ladies’. I feel good that people appreciate our work,” she says.Additionally, having a small team and doing everything on their own can be really exhausting for the duo. “But, the sleep after a long tiring day is absolute bliss. In fact, it feels a little odd and we get restless when there is very little work to do,” says Sangeeta.From her own learning curve, she has a few words of encouragement for other budding entrepreneurs and especially homemakers.“I would tell other homemakers that you can do anything that you set your mind to. We went from two plants to 10,000 plants. And we never really started out thinking we would set up a business. So, if one really wishes to start a business, I think one can even do better (than we did). Remember that you can achieve anything,” she says.Sangeeta shares that they plan on increasing their rose products. They have already experimented with rose ice creams, cookies, chocolates and even soaps which have done well. In fact, they get bulk orders from clients who especially order their rose soaps and chocolates to be presented in hampers at occasions like weddings. Sangeeta says that they plan on manufacturing this at a larger scale in the future.“We started out with farming. Gulaboo happened because of our interest and the need to make good use of our time. This wasn’t for any fame or money but to find a purpose. In the future, we want to continue doing what we do and make natural products available for everyone,” she says signing off.The story has been extracted from
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How One Article’s Ripple Effect Helped This Project Impact 50 Lakh Students

Eckovation is a social learning platform started by IIT Delhi graduates Ritesh Singh and Akshat Goel. Started with the aim of taking quality education to children from underprivileged and/or rural background, Eckovation bridges the gap between home and school and also brings students in touch with teachers, irrespective of their financial background. It encourages active student and teacher participation, while building conceptual understanding through animated and interactive video lectures.An article about Eckovation, it led to a ripple effect and has today resulted in the launch of an education program that is impacting hundreds.“The Better India had covered three stories about Eckovation. One of them was about an Eckovation teacher, Sweta Singh, who was responsible for teaching 800 children in her village Chapra, through our app. This article was read by many and soon we had 30-40 teachers on board. This was very helpful because we were still in our start-up phase,” says Ritesh.“Gradually we saw the massive impact that these articles were creating. Mr. Kundan Kumar, the District Magistrate of Banka district in Bihar read the article and called me to inquire about the programme. With him, we started the Unnayan Banka Project because Banka was a district with a very low school pass percentage. Post the implementation, we saw a considerable improvement in the learning outcomes of children”.Currently, the Unnayan project has been implemented in 8 states namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Rajasthan. They are now covering about 10,000 government schools and 50 lakh children. The project is known by the name Unnayan in Odisha, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh, Gyanodaya in Jharkhand and Abhiyodaya in Assam.The Unnayan project aims to deliver quality education through the integration of technology with a focus on ensuring continuous monitoring and accountability in the public education system. From Monday to Saturday, across 143 senior secondary government schools in the district, students of Class 10, watch videos and slides cast on a television screen, for various subjects like science, maths and social studies up to 90 or 120 minutes.The videos are kept very interactive, which ensures a good degree of attentiveness from the students. After the end of these video interactive sessions, students are given OMR sheets to fill up with five questions like a pop quiz. Instead of correcting it all by themselves, the teachers give students each other’s answer sheets and ask them to evaluate them. The results are then uploaded to the Eckovation app. In addition to these daily tests, and depending on the subject, teachers conduct a 30-mark baseline test every Monday to assess what a child knows or can do at a certain point in time. The third part of the model is Doubt Discussions. If the students face any doubt at any point of preparation, she can discuss her doubts with a team of experts on Eckovation Platform.This Teacher’s Day, they launched the Unnayan Bihar project, inaugurated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The Better India article was shown to the Chief Minister as well as all the guests who had come in for the inauguration ceremony.The story has been extracted from
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Bridging the gap in Banking : Bank Sakhis and BC Sakhis as Doorstep Bankers

Banking has always been a challenging task for many of us. We are often caught signing on the cross mark made by banking officials in a hurry to get our loans or credit cards. Most people are eager to sign on the dotted line to ensure that their dream purchases of a home, car, other luxuries or education materialise. In contrast are our rural brethren who need money for their day to day needs and livelihoods but are largely unaware of banking systems and procedures. Distance from bank branches in the rural areas makes quality and timely access of financial Services difficult. Added to it are issues like overcrowding at branches, understaffed banks which hinders the small loans of SHGs. Therefore getting finance easily is a big challenge for self help groups. DAY NRLM came up with a unique plan for appointment of Bank Sakhis at Bank branches to facilitate banking for members of the self help groups. The Bank Sakhis provide much needed relief to the bank branches and function as a bridge between banks and the community. However they cannot undertake banking transactions. A Bank Sakhi” is someone who is a member of the self-help group and is involved in conducting banking and book-keeping activities of the group. On behalf of the bank she provides a range of financial services to the community except conducting transactions. The concept and role of Business Correspondents(BC) is different from that of the Bank Sakhis and was propagated by nationalised banks with gusto in the last decade. BCs are retail agents engaged by banks for providing banking services at locations other than a bank branch or ATM. BCs enable a bank to provide its limited range of banking services at low cost in remote areas. They are a great support for financial inclusion which is one of the pillars of DAY NRLM. Based on RBI guidelines BCs have to do a variety of functions like identification of borrowers, collection of small deposits, disbursal of small credit, recovery of principal / collection of interest, sale of micro insurance/ mutual fund products/ pension products/ other third party products, receipt and delivery of small value remittances/ other payment instruments and also create awareness about savings and other products. They are also responsible for education and advice on managing money and debt counseling etc.Today MSRLM has more than 2000 Bank Sakhis and 2000 Financial Literacy Community Resource Persons (FLCRPs ) to initiate financial inclusion. However the number of BC Sakhis is limited to 390 BC Sakhis and 503 Digipay Sakhis. DAY NRLM has been propagating the concept of 'One Gram Panchayat, One BC Sakhi. Efforts are being made to ensure the concept gains momentum. With the onset of Covid 19 the need for BC Sakhis has multiplied specially since the Union Government announced release of Rs.500/- per month for 3 months into PMJDY Jan Dhan accounts of women. SRLMs were given the responsibility to transfer the fund with support of the Department of Financial Services and Banks.Government of India also released other DBT funds like Rs.2000/- to PM Kisan Yojana accounts. MGNREGA wages payments had also to be made to address the financial stress being faced by the community.Due to release of these funds through DBT a rush was expected at the Bank premises for withdrawal of these amounts. Therefore after great planning, instructions regarding withdrawal were given in advance by many Banks as to how and who can come to the Bank for withdrawal as per last digit of account numbers. It was at this juncture that the services of BC Sakhis (SHG women working as Business Corresspondents for banks) came to the rescue of banks as their services were utilized for making payments to the rural households in the villages. This prevented crowding in bank branches and also proved to be a boon to senior citizens and differently abled citizens. The BC Sakhis played a vital role amidst lockdown by disbursing financial relief packages provided by Government of India efficiently. The rural community facing socio-economic distress felt fortunate to have access to banking services at their door step in the unbanked areas through the BC Sakhis to meet their daily requirements during the lockdown period. It's a matter of great pride for MSRLM to acknowledge the fact that the BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have been able to handle over 2 lakh transactions worth Rs. 65 crores.Banks have also understood the importance of BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis and have issued special ID cards to them for Covid-19 as also Lockdown Pass as Essential Service Duty. Some banks have also issued letters and stickers to them for ease in conducting business. MSRLM is exploring partnership with Banks & Corporate BCs in their respective locations for effective implementation of this initiative. It has already signed MoUs with IFDC First Bank, Magnot Services and CSC E-governance Services India Ltd.  To encourage SHGs and it's members for increasing digital banking transactions MSRLM has taken the responsibility of training SHG members and providing them with support to get IIBF certification. MoRD has initiated a concept of ONE GP ONE BC. CSC E-governance is playing an important role in this by deploying SHG women as DIGIPAY Sakhis. MSRLM is planning to place about 2000 BC Sakhis in 2020-21 It has identified SHG women for the same. On 13th July as a part of the CSC Mahila Diwas celebrations, all districts in Maharashtra celebrated the day and distributed digipay devices. Bhandara,Wardha,Akola,Nashik Districts celebrated the day by distributing Digipay Devices to active SHG members who have been selected as BC Sakhi.The Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad Bhandara, Ms. Bhuvaneswari celebrated the event by distributing 50 Digipay devices. The BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have made doorstep delivery of banking services a reality in rural Maharashtra. They are emerging as an alternate model in rural banking. A salute to their spirit. P.S.- 16th July was celebrated as CSC Diwas
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Collaborative approach of Farmers’ Collectives and the Government to ensure economic gains during the pandemic and beyond

A famous Korean proverb says, “At the end of hardship comes happiness”. While this is true, the story of hardship is much more complicated. The world has been shaken to its core due to the COVID-19 virus, a global pandemic that has had disastrous effects on not only the nation’s economy but also has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups such as small farmers. Vrutti has been working since 2016 in Pudukottai district, Tamil Nadu, covering the blocks of Thiruvarangulam and Karambakudi through a Business Acceleration Unit (BAU) as a part of its 3Fold Model ( This initiative, supported by EdelGive Foundation (, promoted 3 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) that delivers multiple services to 2,850 farmers members in building their wealth and resilience.Over the past few months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these locations have been facing the same devastating fate. There are two sides to this story. On the side of the consumers, people have encountered various challenges, including procuring essential commodities, especially vegetables. There has been inadequate supply which has not only created panic among the people but has made them set out more frequently to source these commodities, thus defeating the rationale behind social distancing. Further, people with some vested interests, who were trying to make quick money by fixing exorbitant prices, forced helpless people to pay extremely high prices for their daily needs. At the same time, the story on the side of our shareholder, producers of 3 FPOs depicts a very different picture. Due to lack of transportation facilities from the location, limited scale and lack of cash, they were unable to sell their fresh vegetables. The COVID-19 situation called for the help of the BAU, which facilitated a collaboration between the Government and the FPOs. This led the FPOs to procure vegetables from its shareholders and sell them to consumers in Alangudi town and other nearby locations. To execute this, the team followed the steps highlighted below –Firstly, the team took permission from the District Administration which was mandatory for the movements of goods vehicles and staff members for market operations. The Deputy Director (Marketing) issued volunteer cards for staff and vehicle passes. Secondly, FPOs tied up with the local town panchayat for help in marketing at the town level, ensuring all precautions needed. Lastly, the field staff of the BAU ventured with commitment and dedication to match both supply and demand of the vegetables providing relief to the hardships of the small farmer as well as the common man. The procurement of vegetables was started on 30th of March 2020 from the shareholders in the nearby villages to cater to the local consumers in all 3 FPO clusters. This prompted the FPOs to fix a reasonable price for the vegetables. The FPOs then started reaching out to the farmers in remote villages for procuring their vegetables and arranging the necessary transport. As days passed, the operational cost for the FPOs was soaring high, but a decision was made to move forward for the benefit of the farmers. Vrutti helped the FPO to raise some philanthropic funding through Friends of World Women Banking to support some logistics costs during the initial period. Overall, a total quantity of about 12,000 kilograms of vegetables worth Rs. 1.90 lakhs were procured from 113 farmers. The procured vegetables were sold to a total of 707 households with gross revenue of Rs. 2.21 lakhs during the first two phases of the lockdown period. Encouraged by this experience and the need, the District Administration invited Vrutti and FPOs to sell its products through a ‘buyer-seller’ meet at the district level. These engagements have now triggered interest among the Government and FPOs to continue this as a normal system to provide benefits to both consumers and farmers. Working with the Government departments and FPOs, Vrutti helped 2,155 member farmers to avail cash benefits under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi to address their cash needs. Working with local panchayats, the agricultural engineering department and leveraging MGNREGA support, FPOs took up pond renovations. This not only provided immediate cash support through employment but created key assets for water conservation. 
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COVID-19 Response by Samaritan Help Mission: By the Community, For the Community

It was the 21st of March 2020 when a sudden nationwide lockdown put the brakes on to save the country from the spread of COVID-19. This led to a series of complex questions we had never encountered. Almost all economic activities came to an abrupt halt. Educational institutions and offices were to close until further notice. What followed was catastrophic, that changed the course of many lives. The domino effect saw a disruption of the food supply chain, loss of income generation machinery for the daily wage earners and migrant labourers of the community. It fuelled a large-scale migration from cities to villages, with many stranded at bus and train stations with their families.Fear spread like wildfire in the slums of Tikiapara and Bankra in Howrah. Access to food supply and essential medicines became a big question for the residents of the slums. Mamoon Akhtar, founder of Samaritan Help Mission, sensed the anxiety among his fellow community members and resolved to try his best to provide some relief. He reached out to the youth from these slums and asked them to take a simple pledge.  The Pledge: By the community, for the communityThe focus group included neighbours, daily wage earners, senior citizens, single or abandoned woman and the goal was simple, not to let them sleep without food and medicines. Each of the volunteers had to ensure that a month's supply of ration in addition to financial support was available for those in need.[SK-E1]This informal arrangement of volunteers solidified into a Youth Pressure Group. They were entrusted with the task of ensuring that the administrative bodies are informed about the proper functioning of the ration shops around the slum areas. The team also assisted in opening 2651+ new bank accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) to ensure that slum dwellers get easy access to cash in their accounts, to buy food and other essentials.Soon, the SHM team reached out to Howrah City Police and District Administration to extend their support. The Police department helped in disseminating the contact of volunteers across the city so that anybody in need of food and medicines could directly reach out to them. Meanwhile, the team, in collaboration with City Police started a community kitchen for the migrants stuck outside Howrah Railway Station. At Howrah, the medical infrastructure collapsed with almost no availability of doctors. This proved to be a setback for people suffering from different ailments. To ensure that no lives were lost due to lack of immediate medical help, SHM set up their medical unit to keep basic healthcare services continuously running across the communities. Today, it is also serving as a dispensary for patients.In this challenging environment wherein people have lost their jobs and career opportunities are minimal, SHM explored Vocational Training for creating livelihood opportunities for the youth with a futuristic approach. The SHM team has also initiated short-term vocational training on 19 trades for youth, to create livelihood opportunities. Cyclone AmphanSuper cyclone Amphan wrecked the state of West Bengal, which was already battling COVID-19 pandemic. 700 families of Tikiapara in the Howrah district of West Bengal were severely affected with infrastructural, crop and livestock losses. All the resources mobilised by the SHM team perished during the night of the storm. With no electricity or drinking water supply, the situation took an ugly turn for most residents. A rapid response team of 100 volunteers was able to evacuate approximately 400 families and shift them inside a safe government school building. The team constantly worked to stabilize the situation, arrange dry food items, and facemasks for those affected.To keep a check on the steadily rising number of cases, SHM wrote to the Chief Minister's office and offered their Rebecca Day Care Hospital for setting up of the Quarantine Unit and Rapid Antibody Test Centre in the hotspot zone of Howrah.SHM youth leaders and the community together, have displayed the strength in the indomitable nature of human spirit. The enthusiasm and hard work of the volunteers has made their venture in the uncharted territory of crisis and disaster management successful. About Samaritan Help MissionSHM, a secular non-profit organization, is working in the slums of Tikiapara and Bankra under Howrah Municipal Corporation since 2001 against all the negative social aspects with the objective to build awareness and empower the underprivileged, especially children, girls and women, while generating employment opportunities through quality formal education, skill development trainings and proper healthcare services. To know more about SHM, visit: https://samaritanhelpmission.orgAbout EdelGive FoundationEdelGive Foundation has been supporting Samaritan Help Mission for its educational initiative for underprivileged children since 2013. EdelGive Foundation is a grant-making organisation, helping build and expand philanthropy in India by funding and supporting the growth of high-calibre small to mid-sized NGOs. EdelGive makes, receives, and manages grants, to empower vulnerable children, women, and communities via a zero-cost platform.To know more about EdelGive Foundation, visit:
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Gamified Learning Reaches Remotest Children In India With STEPapp

Being a career educator with 22+ years of experience teaching and mentoring the brightest minds in the country through their journey to cracking IIT JEE, NEET, and other prestigious national and international competitive exams, I have witnessed the inconsistencies in the opportunity provided to different students originating from different backgrounds.For many children in this country, reaching the starting line is as difficult as finishing the race is for other children, academically speaking. As a son of a farmer myself, and having been raised in a socio-economically challenged family as a child, I have always felt that one of the primary goals of Indian education system must be to create a level playing field in education.The rich and the affluent are not at fault for leveraging their wealth to provide their children with the best teachers, the best coaching institutes, and the best supplemental study programs to ensure their success. Every parent wants what is best for their child. But we fail as a society if we can’t ensure the right to quality education for every child. It is with this thought in mind that my team of 400+ IITians and Doctors and I built STEPapp: a gamified learning app that provides conceptual clarity to students in Math and Science.The idea behind STEPapp was simple. What if educational content created by my team of India’s best teachers, who are IITians and Doctors themselves, was accessible to every child in India? And going a step further, what if the children could learn in a fun and engaging way through that content being provided in a gamified format? With this thought in mind, we roped in some of the best technology experts and built STEPapp. We caught the attention of many thought leaders in education, and several popular private schools like GD Somani Memorial School, Mumbai, invited us to have students play STEPapp and get feedback from the end-user directly. Shri Amitabh Bachchan joined STEPapp as the brand ambassador and has been a monumental support to us throughout our journey.STEPapp launched with a great public reception, racing to the top trending spots on Play Store and App Store within one week of launch, and amassed 4 milion+ downloads and counting. It became quite clear to us that STEPapp solves some very real problems in education:Concepts are available to students in the smallest conceptual quanta, promoting bite-sized learning.Content is mapped to school syllabus of all major boards, ensuring test-readiness for all students.The app tests learning outcomes in real-time and students can relearn concepts as many times as they need, making learning self-paced.All stakeholders in education – students, teachers, parents, and policymakers – get the report on learning outcomes, bringing everyone on the same page.With STEPapp reaching students across the country at highly affordable prices, our work still felt half done. The vision of a level playing field in education could only be accomplished when we could provide high-quality gamified learning to the remotest child. And for that, we needed the support of the various state governments and the central government of India.Our first breakthrough towards that end came in the form of Eklavya Model Residential Schools. The Tribal Development Department of Maharashtra adopted STEPapp in 14 EMRS Schools. The learning outcomes of the students were unprecedented, and 15 EMRS students got through the first round of NTSE for the first time ever. There was a marked improvement in conceptual clarity and STEPapp received tremendous feedback from EMRS teachers, principals, and students alike. Following that, STEPapp was implemented in all 25 EMRS schools in Maharashtra.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs of India followed suit and mandated the implementation of STEPapp in all tribal schools across the country, and now STEPapp is available to students in all tribal schools in India.The government of Tamil Nadu signed an MoU with us, mandating the implementation of STEPapp in government schools across Tamil Nadu. This implementation brought STEPapp to 1 million students studying in Tamil Nadu government schools.600+ JNV Schools across the country have also had STEPapp implemented, and our mission to bring high-quality gamified learning to every child in India is going strong.To learn more about STEPapp, visit STEPapp is available for download on the Play Store and the App Store.
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MP Farmer Builds Irrigation System Using Waste Glucose Bottles; Now Earns in Lakhs

For many years, and several monsoons, the farmers of Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh looked to the skies for showers. As they witnessed their crops die, lands go dry and families starve to near-death, many abandoned their villages to migrate for daily wage jobs in urban areas. Ramesh Bariya was one such farmer.A native of Rotla village in the same district which is characterized by undulating topography, rainfed farming, shallow and eroded soils, low and stagnant soil productivity, fragmented and empty holdings and low income from ancestral farming, Ramesh was as frustrated as most of the farmers there.All his attempts at farming were being undone by the unpredictable weather and water shortage, forcing him to wander across Gujarat and Rajasthan as a daily wage labourer.“I had to feed my family somehow and the land was doing me no good. So I had to do whatever job I could manage to prevent my family from starving to death,” shares Ramesh, who had to return home after a few months due to the lack of livelihood opportunities.While this is an unfortunate story that has become all too common, what’s different is Ramesh’s solution to all his woes — a unique DIY drip irrigation technique that not only solves the problem of water shortage but also recycles waste. From almost nothing to earning Rs 25,000 in a single yield in the first year, he soon became an example of change for the entire district.And his journey began at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Jhabua.New Beginnings for a FarmerBack in 2009, an initiative called the National Agricultural Innovation Sub Project (NAIP) under KVK was introduced to help enhance income of the farmers in the area. The objective of their integrated farming system was to sustainably improve rural livelihood in undulating and rainfed areas of Jhabua and Dhar districts of MP.Ramesh was one of the beneficiary farmers who under the guidance of NAIP-KVK scientists began vegetable cultivation in a small area of 0.1 hectare. Encouraged by them, he prepared the land and in 2012, sowed seeds of bitter gourd and sponge gourd.But after an initial profit, the delayed monsoons and an acute shortage of water pushed his farm to the brink of crop failure. “Around the same time, we were made to visit Balaram Patidar’s farm. He is a well-known papaya farmer, and it was incredible to be surrounded by healthy trees. He even encouraged us to pluck some fruits and taste them. As the rest of the group of farmers proceeded to the next location with the KVK guide, I just stood there in awe. Then Balaramji approached me and asked me why I was so silent. I told him my dire situation and how shocked I was to see the absolute opposite in his farm. That’s when he showed me his drip irrigation technique using matka or earthen pots. Later the NAIP scientists also guided me to adopt this innovative technique using saline bottles,” says Ramesh.However, at the time, Ramesh could not even afford to buy so many earthen pots for his farm. They were breakable as well as expensive to buy in large quantities and so he adopted the DIY technique of reusing plastic glucose bottles instead.“In hospitals a single bottle of glucose can help revive a dying patient, then why can’t the same bottle be used to revive my dying crops? This idea made total sense and so I started to ask around and bought 6 kgs of plastic glucose bottles (total of 350) for Rs 20 per kg,” he says.Dr IS Tomar, from Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) near Rajgarh Naka, Jhabua shared how this method by Ramesh was the first trial for a cheap and effective way of drip irrigation that could be replicated.“For farmers like Ramesh who could not afford to buy drip irrigation systems, this was an innovative alternative. The only challenge was the hard work that went into it and lots of patience,” he says.Installation and MaintenanceThe technique involved cutting the bottom portion of the bottle with a sharp knife and hanging it upside down from a wooden stake next to the saplings. The bottom flat part now positioned on top is the inlet through which water is poured into the system. A plastic tube with a nozzle is then made to touch the ground near the root system of the plant for a regulated discharge of water.Instead of directly having to pour the water on crops or channeling it through the field, this system allows the water to continuously drip making the surface moist at all times. Not only does this ensure that the roots have a continuous moisture but also reduces water wastage significantly.“Almost the entire family helped out in the installation and maintenance of this system. In the morning all the kids in the house would line up near the field and begin pouring water into the bottles from 2 drums that I had already filled up using the well-water or the hand-pump. We would repeat this again in the evening. So daily, each of my crops would get two litres of water,” he explains. His total expenditure including the cost of drums was around Rs 500, and in a matter of months with the crops he managed to earn a net profit of Rs 25,000.According to a report in Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), this method can help tribal farmers like Ramesh get about Rs 1.5 to 1.7 lakhs income per hectare in a single season of vegetable cultivation.A popular technique in several African countries, Dr Tomar encourages more farmers to learn from this. With his guidance and Ramesh’s success story, many farmers in the region are now replicating this technique.Ramesh’s efforts on the other hand, were recognised by the District Administration and Minister of Agriculture of the Madhya Pradesh government with an achievement award of Rs 10,000. In the next few years, KVK also helped him install a full-fledged drip irrigation system for free.“I was once a man who was neck-deep in debt, hardly earning Rs 5 a day. But now, I earn around 2 lakh a year only through farming. Today, I am a happy man as a father of 3 naughty boys and a beautiful daughter, because I know that with this I can hope to give them a better future,” he concludes.The story has been extracted from
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Gender Inequality in the modern world, but has to change

Times have changed, but there are some old social issues still prevailing in societies. Gender inequality has been existing all over the world for a long time back. It recognizes that men and women are not equal. Even though they do have biological differences, discrimination is done based on socially constructed divisions. Some of the common reasons that cause gender inequality are patriarchy, misogyny, religion, and self-interests. A gender discriminated victim goes through pressure, poor-treatment, stress, and disrespected other times.Women are the one that suffers a lot because of gender discrimination against men of society. It’s an old folk tale when we talk about how women have faced a lot of problems in different communities due to gender biases. Many times a woman is not given the same respect or inclusion in family-related decisions at home, or not equal pay or position as compared to men professionally, treated as subordinate and harassed, not given equal opportunities in education or another field. They are also prone to being a victim of a brutal rape, molestation & harassment. Even though the world is becoming modern & there’s progress, the minds of the people are still taking time to understand the importance and need to eradicate gender inequality for a better society. It’s not just women now, but the LGBTQ community as well. They are still judged based on their sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression by society in all areas of public and private life.The United Nations member states adopted Sustainable Development Goals, an urgent call for action by all countries to bring prosperity & peace. To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls is the 5th SDGs. It has also been able to achieve significant results in advancing gender equality. To look for infographics on where women stand against select SDG targets (click on the link). There have been laws by the government for equal rights to women. Also, a lot of NGOs/movements are working for protecting their rights & promoting awareness about it with people as well.To eradicate gender inequality from every society, changes from a community level should be the beginning. Evolve foundation is one such enterprise that tries to bring gender equality through their small acts. Founded by a woman, it aims to empower other women and girls from villages. The enterprise provides the village women job opportunity by asking them to make plantable products. Working for the business makes the woman self-reliant as well. It also promotes Rural Shiksha and provides workshops where they teach the kids about sustainable living and other topics. Libraries are set-up using the profit earned by the business. To become an Evolve member (click on the link).What can an individual do to reduce gender inequality?Each individual be it a girl or a boy or others should focus these key points to make sure there is gender equality.1- Listen & consider- Every woman or even any discriminated person should be vocal about their thoughts & others should listen to their opinions.2- Respect- Give equal respect to each other and always remember we are humans before our gender. Do not demean or bully anyone.3- Empower and encourage- woman & others at the workplace. Support mothers & parents as they teach the same to their kids as well.4- Help gain power- Be kind and help each other by working together.5- Watch for signs of any violence- Never allow, agree or let anything wrong happen due to gender discrimination & always stand against it if you’re in the situation. Violence against women needs to stop. They should not be objectified by anyone as well.6- Equal responsibilities at home- Help in household chorus & taking care of the child. Make sure there’s an equal division of labour at your home.
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