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Pick up plough, not guns-Why Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advice is not right

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By Ishan Kukreti

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his sound thinking and practicality, yesterday addressed a public gathering at Dantewada, hot bed of Naxalism in India. However the advise he gave to the tribals there was quite unreasonable, if not downright suicidal.

Making an emotional appeal to the tribals through their children, Modi said that shoulders of youth should bear ploughs, not gun.

A sound advice?

The intention of the honorable Prime Minister was to encourage tribals on the road to empowerment and development. Though, a question that invariably jumps to mind at this proposition is, why not a laptop, a pen or a book or anything that is at least viable to carry one’s life forward? Something that’d bring awareness and empowerment to the community which has remained on the fringes of the dialogue about development and growth in the nation.

Of agriculture, rebellion and suicides

Anybody who is a farmer or is aware of the current condition of India’s agrarian economy would have gawked at the advise. In the present times the gun and the plough have the same outcome, death, only difference being the nature of it.

In fact, data from National Crime Records Bureau and South Asia Terrorism Portal show that the death toll due to Naxal violence in India from 2008 to 2012 was 1419 while the number of farmer suicides during the same time was an incredulous 89,653.

Modi went as far as promising an investment of Rs. 24,000 crore in the region as a result of the MoUs signed in the Railways and steel sectors.

But…*Conditions applied

However, the PM failed to warn the tribals of Dantewada that this very investment and agriculture would mean nothing to the government if it decides to acquire the land to follow the same path of ‘development’, but for someone else. Tribals, though just 8% of the total population of India, account for more than 40% of the total development related displacement, according to a Planning Commission report.

The Land Acquisition ( Amendment) Bill, which the Modi government is so desperate to bring into action gives even more power to the state in pursuing its development agenda, disregarding any voice of dissent. Chhattisgarh being a mineral rich area has already seen development up close and personal not a happy, chirpy kind, but a displacing, uprooting kind.

Moreover, Modi didn’t tell the innocent tribals about the seasonal nature of agriculture, risks of unseasonal rains, crop failures and the reduction in subsidies including rural employment schemes like MGNREGA, by the government.

Narendra Modi, the powerhouse of economics

Narendra Modi’s sense of practicality and sound economic thinking has won him respect and honor in all the 16 countries he has visited in the last one year. Everyone has nothing but praises for the great Indian leader from Japan to the US.  Barack Obama has called him ‘ reformer-in-chief’ while the prestigious Time magazine has named Modi amongst top 100 influential leaders of the world.

Though, despite all these credentials, Modi’s suggestion of a road with an inevitable dead end in the name of ‘path to development’ says a lot about the lack or presence of genuine concern.

It is downright ironic that while the present state attitude towards agriculture is nothing but apathetic, the head of the state is egging people to take up a non-viable occupation.

 

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)