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Smartphone Recycle Scheme

Kashyapi Awasthi
Let's ReflectHow many of us have changed our mobile handsets in last five years? I don't think i even need to count; almost all of us would have switched a better gadget with every new launch. But the second and most important question; how many of us have bothered about its recycling? Where are those old gadgets? Are they unusable or we simply discarded them because we got a better one? The Digital DivideWe have all heard of the news of a poor couple in district Kangra of Himachal Pradesh, selling their only source of income their cattle, a young girl in Kerala committing suicide because she couldn't join the online classes and many other unknown stories that portrayed the digital divide and have just not made to headlines but haunt every child, every parent, every teacher and every aware and sensitive individual. In the times of pandemic; while systems, institutions and teachers are gearing themselves and engaging with more and more digital learning; this is one of the most disturbing issues.The InitiativeWell with all these thoughts in mind; Dr. Kalpana Sharma, Principal Swami Vivekanand State Model School, Baneda, Bhilwada, Rajasthan thought of a unique and innovative scheme; "Smartphone Recycle" scheme. While visiting children and households for enrolment, for awarness rallies, and for active participation in online classes;Mrs. Sharma was faced with this challenge of lack of resources and the inability of the parents to afford the same. While at home; she saw one of her old gadgets which was still in working conditions, just that it could not manage my excessive data load. It started by that one step in donating the old handset to one of the needy child on the 74th Independence day and inviting others to do so. This noble cause was noted by many enthusiasts and donors and became the news in Rajasthan and thus the chain began. There are independent donors who contact schools and donate their old gadgets which has also become one of the ways of recycling e-waste.   
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GovTech In Insurance Delivery Ring-fences Poor From Health Risks

Vimala Devi of Lakadhar village in Shimla district never imagined her stomach ache could amplify into a critical health crisis. After bearing the pain for a month, Devi was admitted to Kamla Nehru Hospital, Shimla. To her family’s dismay, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. A surgery was the only remedy to treat this malignancy.Devi’s family lacked the financial wherewithal to meet the steep expenses of cancer treatment. All hopes would have been dashed but for a cashless card that lit up hope. The health card provided by Himachal Health Care Scheme or Himcare offered surgery and other treatment for free. Myriad families like Devi’s are benefiting from the flagship scheme Himcare run by the department of health & family welfare, Himachal Pradesh. The state has been running this scheme since January 1, 2019 to offer cashless treatment to families left out of the ambit of Ayushman Bharat - Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. The scheme offers a family floater cover of Rs 5,00,000 per year. Himcare scheme is designed to inch closer to ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) which identifies universal health coverage with financial risk protection as one of the critical targets. Almost 90 million people across the world are impoverished by mounting health expenses every year. In India, the scenario is unsettling as on an average, each person spends $109 per year from his own pocket to access health services. Today, around 60 per cent of the insurance market in India is government led. And, this builds the case for an efficient delivery of insurance solutions. This is where Himcare stands out. An engagement with Odisha-based GovTech major CSM Technologies, paved the path for Himachal Pradesh Government to put in place an automated monitoring and evaluation system, thus creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders.Before CSM rolled out this solution, the Department of Health & Family Welfare, HP confronted many hurdles in scheme implementation. First - the lack of centralised information made the process tough for authentication and verification of beneficiaries.  Multiple back and forth performed manually for empanelment of hospitals and verification of beneficiary’s credentials had turned irksome. The whole process devoured time, lacked transparency and raised risks of frauds and duplication of records. Himcare Scheme Monitoring System smoothened the jagged edges with an automated ICT platform wherein layers of data pertaining to beneficiaries, hospitals, medical records, treatment packages and claims are authenticated and validated through data mining and warehousing.  Both government and private hospitals can be empanelled under the scheme. The automated system generates health card and offers a DigiLocker for saving it. Settlement of claims is governed by a four-stage verification process. Moreover, the system provides for a Grievance Management System and offers an ‘Audit and Support Service’ where empanelled hospitals are audited by the Third Party Administrator (TPA) to appraise their services.The end-to-end automation solution has delivered and the metrics below speak volubly of its success during 2019 and 2020.Applications Received: 469567Health Cards Issued:  423960Cards Renewed:  97129Active Families/Cards:  307723Empanelled Hospitals: 269Cases Discharged:  102978Claims Raised by Hospital:  90597Claims Initiated for Payment: 67098Claims Settled/Payment Successful: 64789Amount Paid (To Hospitals) for Settled Cases:  Rs 50.53 croreSchemes like Himcare are kindling hope for the poor and disenfranchised- people who have dreaded exorbitant healthcare costs. And when such cashless schemes get a generous sprinkling of the right ‘GovTech’ solution, it changes the way the government connects and delivers to the bottom of the pyramid.CSM Technologies has devised and implemented similar solutions for State Governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
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Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan: Revolutionising public schooling in India

Launched in 2015 by the Shri Naveen Patnaik led government of the eastern seaboard state of Odisha with the objective of bridging the rural-urban educational divide through the provision of high-quality education to the masses, the Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan (OAVS) is a first-of-its-kind publicly funded initiative in the country that sets a precedent for other states to follow. Managed by an apex body (general body) headed by minister, school & mass education, Odisha as president, the OAVS — comprising 214 presently operational CBSE affiliated Adarsha Vidyalayas and 100 more in the making — provides 58,712 underprivileged children from class VI through XII, including 33,049 girls and 33,895 children from SC/ST communities free English-medium education. As a ‘model school’ sited in each of the 314 block headquarters of Odisha, the Adarsha Vidyalaya envisions to promote academic excellence in other government schools in region.“We launched an unprecedented initiative to provide free quality education to underprivileged children through CBSE affiliated English-medium schools so that no deserving child of Odisha is deprived of his/her right to learn. The Adarsha Vidyalayas have been playing a key role in making progressive education accessible to children in far flung regions of the state while integrating the students of small towns and villages into mainstream education. I strongly believe OAV will create leaders who are capable of scripting Odisha’s growth and transformation story,” says Shri Naveen Patnaik, incumbent chief minister of Odisha whose commitment to upgrade and transform the public education system in the state is evident  in the steadily increasing budgetary allocation for the sector over the past few years. Distinguishing features of OAVS OAV offers classes from VI to XII with two sections in each class and an intake capacity of 40 students in each class.Admission is based on performance in an entrance test and students are admitted only in class VI.The test is largely non-verbal and objective in nature and is designed to prevent any disadvantage to children from rural areas.Teacher-pupil ratio of 1:25.50 percent reservation for girls in each category.The reservation of seats in SC/ST category is at par with the percentage of SC/ST population in the respective blocks.Bridge course materials are developed to enable smooth transition from Odia medium to English medium.English is the primary mode of instruction and Odia is offered as second language.Uniformity in logo, school uniform, badge to instill respect, pride and community spirit among the students.Moreover, ever since Dr Bijaya Kumar Sahoo, founder-mentor of the Bhubaneswar (Odisha) based SAI International Education Group, took charge as OAV’s first advisor-cum-working president in June 2019, he has been introducing a slew of measures to contemporise education at the Vidyalayas and develop them into ‘centres of excellence’ in public education. Among them:Implementation of the principles of 5T (Teamwork, Technology, Transparency, Time bringing in Transformation), in true spirit.Launch of the innovative website for OAV head office as well as for each school, which provides comprehensive information for students.Implementation of a robust ERP system that helps in tracking the academic and non-academic progress of each child, monitoring performance of each school and leveraging larger technology-based analytics for better evaluation.Creation of academic development school calendar, annual planner, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and academic calendar for students.Establishment of processes through drafting and implemention of policies and procedures.Capacity building for teachers through continuous teacher education programmes.Redesigned the curriculum through an optimal blend of academics, co-curricular activities and sports for the holistic development of students.Introduction of professional career counselling and coaching facilities for children.“Blending technology with academics, improving the school’s infrastructure, creating road maps, for academic as well as non-academic pursuits and bringing more accountability into the system, have accelerated the transformation of the public schooling system within the OAVs. The outcomes were visible within a short span of six months since my association with OAV. The website, ERP system, close monitoring and my weekly review of all the Vidyalayas has helped bring back the focus of all the stakeholders into the seriousness of our work and made them realise the magnanimity of the vision behind this initiative. We are fortunate to have very young teachers, full of passion and enthusiasm. Healthy competition among the OAVs has led to better outcomes. Moreover, our regular teacher training programme has helped enhance the competency of teachers and enabled them to upskill,” says Dr. Sahoo.Ensuring learning continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemicPerceiving the Covid-19 induced disruption as an opportunity rather than a challenge, the OAV management responded promptly to the announcement of the nationwide mass closure of educational institutions in March 2020 with a multi-pronged interim strategy that includes:Motivating the school staff: Dr. Sahoo reached out to the principals and teachers of the 214 operational schools, motivating them to do their best in these troubled times.Leveraging technology for online learning: To ensure learning continuity of students, the OAV management introduced innovative virtual teaching-learning solutions by leveraging digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, among others. Teachers also provide guidance over phone to students with limited or no access to the Internet.Creating online learning resources: Teachers prepared learning content for students and uploaded them on the school website for students to access. Video lessons were shared through the YouTube platform.Dr. Bijaya Sahoo with OAVS studentsDespite the challenges of Internet connectivity and limited access to smartphones for a large majority of students from rural areas, OAVS has been able to reach out to almost 70 percent of its students and continues to provide them virtual learning. Door step delivery of books: The school management arranged for the text books to be delivered to the students right at their doorsteps with the help of its committed teaching staff.Teachers as COVID warriors: Assuming the role of COVID warriors during the ongoing crisis, several Adarsha Vidyalaya teachers have been efficiently managing the TMC’s (Temporary Medical Centre’s) as well as the QC’s (Quarantine Centers).Uninterrupted mid-day meal supply: With the Covid-19 induced shutdown of schools making it impossible for the mid-day meals to be served at school, the teachers also distributed food ration in lieu of mid-day meals to the children.Strategy for board exams: The Vidyalayas’ strategy for this year’s CBSE board exams included provision of one-on-one mentoring to students. Extra classes and remedial sessions were conducted after school hours by the dedicated teachers which helped students achieve the recording-breaking results in board exams.“Keeping with the vision and mission of our hon’ble chief minister Shri Naveen Patnaik, we in Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya are committed to make it a role model public educational institution in the country. We strongly believe we can build a better Odisha through the Adarsha Vidyalayas,” says Dr. Sahoo.The story has been extracted from 
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Lockdown and Teacher Training: Impressions from DIETs

On March 24, as she heard the news of the world’s biggest lockdown being announced in India, Shreya Singhal, a primary school teacher in Gorakhpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh was deliberating immediate measures she will need to take to ensure that her students’ education does not suffer.“It was clear that the classes will have to move online. Smartphones with an internet connection and video conferencing apps will be needed. Motivating introverted students online will be a challenge,” she says, recalling the thoughts running through her head at the time.“But my training at the DIET had actually prepared me quite well for what is now quickly turning into a norm,” she says.Shreya received her pre-service teacher training at the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), the district-level teacher training institutes established across the country by the Government of India. As a young and motivated private school teacher who is well familiar with digital tools, Shreya has ensured that her students continue to learn under her guidance during the lockdown. This, however, is not a norm across the country.According to the data released recently at the UNESCO Teachers of the World Unite virtual summit, nearly 2.7 million teachers in India who have been impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns are untrained in remote teaching methods.Blended Learning ModelAmong the school-related factors, teachers play a critical role in building competencies of children and enhancing their learning levels. Hence, as classes increasingly move to the online environment, the urgency to train teachers in the effective use of ICT in teaching is becoming clearly evident.“It is expected that when the schools reopen, they will have to operate with curtailed strength to ensure that proper physical distancing is maintained. This means education through digital means will have to fill the gaps due to staggered or reduced classroom hours,” says Dr. Rohen Meetei, Associate Professor at Government of Haryana’s Prarambh School for Teacher Education, Jhajjar.“This blended learning model of education can be seen as the new normal in school education,” he says.The lockdown experience has already set in motion educational reform frameworks that emphasise such blended learning models more than the hitherto conventional in-school education model. In the area of teacher training, the NISHTHA programme launched by the Department of School Education and Literacy and Ministry of Human Resource Development’s ‘experiential learning’ initiative recently launched on the DIKSHA portal, are welcome moves that aim to improve the quality of school education through integrated teacher training, incorporating abundant resources for conducting remote classes.These frameworks and platforms, however, while significant policy-level initiatives, need to be complemented with hands-on technical guidance and pedagogical innovations to translate to any meaningful action on the ground.Experiences from Government teacher training institutes during the lockdown can be a good indicator of what works and what does not in this regard.The DIET Experience“Initially, our approach was kept simple to ensure that students and faculty members adapt to the digital environment with relative ease,” says Prasoon Kumar Akela, senior faculty at DIET Noorsarai in Bihar.To transition from the classroom environment to digital, the starting point was to use the technology and platform everyone is familiar with.“Two separate study groups were made on WhatsApp for each batch of pre-service student-teachers. Digital study content in the form of scanned copies and videos was shared in these groups along with a list of related questions that the students had to answer,” he says.“While the process did help students and the faculty orient towards the digital medium, in a few weeks there was a clear need felt for live and synchronous learning both by the faculty and the students. Hence, the classes were shifted to the Google Classroom and Google Meet platforms.”While the use of ICT has been integral to government teacher training institutes for several years now, it has almost always been rudimentary.“Previously, the use of ICT in training by the faculty members at the DIET was mainly limited to the use of a computer and a projector to make digital presentations. It was broadly accepted to be a non-critical skill as we could always fall back on the traditional methods of training,” says Prasoon.“But today, that is just not an option.”For the tech-friendly students, while the transition has been much smoother, the lockdown has revealed the limitations of their training and they will quickly need to adapt to the changing realities of education transaction. “Practical components of e-pedagogies and remote teaching need to be added to the DIET curriculum in order to make it more relevant to the new requirements,” says Sushmita Patrichi, a second-year student-teacher at DIET Ranchi.“Disaster Management and internet safety are other elements that teachers will need to be proficient in as classes move the online mode,” she says.Pedagogical innovationsRemote learning requires teachers to possess distinct skill sets that go beyond successfully navigating the digital environment. Use of digital systems to effectively conduct classes that result in enhanced learning levels among the students requires a dextrous mix of subject knowledge, relevant pedagogy, engaging content and digital know-how. Pedagogical innovations reflective of local realities play a pertinent role in this regard.“Following the pattern of training received at the DIET, I have divided the entire curriculum of the grades I teach into 50:25:25 ratio of Self-study, Courses and Experiences or Activities, respectively,” says Shreya.“While this teaching methodology is highly effective in encouraging my students to drive their own learning process, it also reduces the amount of digital study material I need to share with them online. This is particularly helpful for students living in areas with low internet connectivity or who lack access to requisite digital hardware,” she says.Similarly, classroom management skills as part of teacher training need a relook under the new normal of school education. Peer learning is a proven method of effective, accelerated learning among students. A noteworthy experience from some of the DIETs has been that in the institutes where a batch of students has been sub-divided into smaller peer groups, the transition to online training during the lockdown for students has been seamless and more effective.The path aheadThe core of teacher training in the new blended learning environment needs to transcend enhancement of ICT skills to include efficient use of e-pedagogies in order to engage students and actually help them drive their own learning process effectively.Fundamental issues of access to digital infrastructure and internet connectivity, particularly in rural India, continue to beset most foreseeable gains from the policy-level changes being introduced by the Government. It is imperative that the digital divide is bridged concurrently – and urgently – with these changes.The COVID-19 pandemic has made it amply clear that the future of education lies in technology-driven reforms at all levels. In case of school education, these reforms are centrally pegged to the crucial pivot of the teacher and optimum, and early investments in their training will decide the curve of learning levels among the children in the coming months. A curve we cannot afford to see flattening.
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Parents as Co-Educators in the journey of strengthening the Foundational Numeracy and Literacy of children

Parents as Co-educators in the journey of strengthening the Foundational Numeracy and Literacy of ChildrenThe Akanksha Foundation has always held a strong value system with regards to holistic development of children. We believe that the learning of a child goes beyond the walls of a classroom and our efforts are focused on helping them to maximise their potential. Our school model also includes parents as our partners wherein we engage with them through volunteerism and community wide efforts which ensure both, the development of their child as well as their own well being. The current pandemic situation has given rise to extreme turns in the education system and forced children out of schools. However, our existing mechanisms worked to our advantage and allowed us to propose a course of action, which is, collaborating with parents to ensure the education of our children continues. Setting the foundation No sooner than the national lockdown was declared, our teams promptly set to putting together an action plan. All of Akanksha plunged into action to ensure the learning of our students continues even at home.The central teams at our organisation have formulated a blueprint to conduct learning processes efficiently at home during the lockdown. Our structure involves passionate mentors who are in charge of assembling a monthly schedule of learning experiences which is immediately passed on to the teachers. The teachers then drive this entire operation by communicating various activities to parents every week. In a nutshell, our teachers act as planners and parents are now responsible executors of education, taking ownership of children's education.Our approach emphasizes on "learning through play" which enables us to facilitate teaching processes through creative learning experiences by simply teaming up with parents. Not only have we redesigned our curriculum for numeracy and literacy but also created a setting which incorporates a holistic learning experience with resources that are available in households. Activities for K-2 grades include  tasks like role playing with parents, creative storytelling, learning through art, etc This not only drives the gross motor skills, listening, observation, memory and speaking skills in kids but also strengthens the parent-child bond and imbibes value education.We are making education meaningful by weaving socio emotional and ethical learning and inculcating values through such creative teaching techniques.Enabling Parents to be co-educatorsWe believe that free and crystal clear communication is an essential part of every step that we take during our schooling procedures. In order to support our parents consistently as co-educators, our teachers conduct parent meetings online on a regular basis. Weekly discussions allow for an exchange of information and also serve as a space for parents to give feedback about day to day activities that are given as children’s assignments. Teachers communicate clear cut instructions of the assignments in like marathi, hindi so that parents can understand the tasks properly.To add to this, our teachers are available 24/7 to offer aid to parents, answering their queries and solving all their doubts. This has also given rise to a personal bond between the two parties and teachers are making sure to not only follow up but also check in on the well being of student's families. Moreover, we have a weekly appraisal story which features parents who have performed extraordinarily as co educators, paving their way to become a "Supermom" or "Superdad." This is our little way of appreciating the immense efforts of parents who have enthusiastically taken up ownership for their child's future. Stepping up for many rolesParents as collaborators : The idea here is to empower parents and lead them on a path which grants them to form a close knit community. Along with the guidance from teachers, our parents are teaching aids for children. As collaborators, they have the power to move collectively in a direction which provides them with an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with their child and simultaneously attain the goal of teaching and learning without any interruptions. Our parents and children bond over activities like Rakhi making, making cards together, etc.Parents as teachers : The pandemic has posed challenges for everybody and one such challenge has been for parents who are now playing the role of teachers. It is their job to prepare worksheets for their children as well as systematically submit assignments after completion. Not only are they acting as teachers but are making active efforts to understand multiple technological processes. Many of our parents attend classes with our children and ensure they understand the tasks and take onus of completing them with the children.Parents as investors: As a result of our partnership with parents over the years and our existing family like relations with them, our mission of educating every single child studying at Akanksha has continued even amidst a pandemic. This very act of uninterrupted teaching and learning has been possible mainly because of parents who are highly invested in securing a bright future for their children. As individuals, they have managed to become multitaskers and are currently juggling multiple positions at once, first, their own profession, second being that of handling an entire household and third of transforming into a coeducator to guide children with a purpose. Our efforts are to strengthen the connections we’ve made with our parents and ensure that our children stay on the path of education.Afreen Shaikh, a parent of our senior kg student shares, “I am grateful to Akanksha for recognising the importance of education since no other school has been as observant as Akanksha during these tough times. Akanksha’s support has motivated me to take my child’s education into my own hands and I do not want them to lose touch with the idea of studying especially in these early years of their learning journey.” 
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Bijuli Didis of Odisha : Story of Power and The Power-ful Women of Rural Odisha

Back in 2013, when Odisha Government launched “Bijuli Didi” campaign to sensitize people on judicious use of power, check power theft and reduce commercial loss of electricity in the State, little did they know that it will turn out to be a huge success with active engagement of women members.As part of the campaign, information was circulated in the media to create awareness on various aspects of electricity. The power distribution companies of Odisha — Central Electricity Supply Utility, North Eastern Electricity Supply Company, Southern Electricity Supply Company, Western Electricity Supply Company and all their franchisees had come together to sponsor the campaign with the punch line ‘My Electricity, My Future, My Responsibility’.As per reports, over 120 women are currently playing an instrumental role in ensuring hassle-free electricity services to people across the State. They have not only reduced losses but also helped gaining a revenue of ₹7 crore for the state-owned power distribution companies (DISCOMS). Odisha Government has undertaken many campaigns since then, like Bijuli Didi, which makes them independent through livelihood opportunities. The Government has also made arrangements to train more such women members to prepare them before being inducted into the project.Around 70 more women are undergoing training to extend electricity services across 53 Gram Panchayats in Odisha. The primary work of Bijuli Didi is to collect bill payments and take charge of customer care at public gathering spots such as gram panchayat office, mandis, village chowk and local temples. It is estimated that each Bijuli Didi provides service to around 600 to 800 customers for nearly five hours every day. As a result of their effort, nearly 5,000 more customers are receiving monthly bills regularly and an additional 8,000 customers have started paying their bills before deadline. Amid restrictions on movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bijuli Didis are educating and sensitizing customers about necessary precautions to be taken to prevent coronavirus infection.
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Goan Architect Turns ‘Waste’ Into Beauty Through his Breathtaking Buildings

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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