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What Jharkhand’s Dolly Kumari learnt -– and how it could change India’s Textiles Industry

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India's textiles industry, Wikimedia

Apr 18, 2017: In 2014, Dolly Kumari, an outspoken 12th class passout, left her home in Jharkhand, journeying about 2,000 km south to a new job as a tailor at a garment factory in Bengaluru. Like most workers in this sector, when she first came, she did not think of staying beyond a few months. Today, over two years later, at 21, Kumari is one of two assistant line supervisors on the factory floor of Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd., overseeing the work of 119 tailors. Her salary has risen 66 per cent, from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,300 per month. She talks easily of time management and effective communication, and hopes one day to become a floor-in-charge.

Much of her success, she says, can be attributed to a life-skills training programme called Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement, or PACE, designed by Gap Inc., a clothing multinational. Through two-hour sessions every week for 11 months, conducted by qualified PACE trainers, the programme taught Kumari how to, among other things, manage her time productively and communicate effectively.

In 2011, three US-based economists — Achyuta Adhvaryu, Namrata Kala, and Anant Nyshadham — conducted a randomised controlled trial (RCT) at a few Shahi factories in Bengaluru to ascertain the impact of PACE. The research found that nine months after programme completion, the net rate of return to her company’s investment in her job and life skills was more than 250 per cent.

Cited by former US President Bill Clinton as an idea that is changing the world, in a 2012 TIME magazine article, the programme has trained 45,000 garment workers worldwide (including 26,600 in India, where it first began in 2007).

It contributes uniquely to the Indian government’s Skill India initiative and indicates how workers can achieve new skills and companies can increase profits in a sector that can be critical to India’s economic growth. In recent times, this sector, as IndiaSpend reported on July 30, 2016, has been witnessing plateauing job growth and wilting export volumes. However, with rising labour costs in China ($3.52 per hour in manufacturing compared to India’s $0.92 per hour in 2014), as Bloomberg reported in November 2014, India stands to gain from this competitive advantage. In this context, the PACE programme has the potential to change how the garment industry recruits, skills and retains female workers.

Garments generate 13 times more jobs than IT sector

India’s textiles and apparel sector is the country’s second-largest employment provider, after agriculture. In 2015-16, textiles and apparel directly employed 105 million people — 13 times more than the information technology sector or equivalent to the population of South Korea — and constituted 15 per cent of India’s export earnings.

Every investment of $0.15 million in the apparel sector generates between 56 and 84 jobs, compared with an average of six jobs across all industrial sectors, according to government statistics.

Textile and apparel factories also play a crucial role in skilling and employing women: While female labour-force participation in India has fallen over the decade ending 2015, as IndiaSpend reported on March 8, 2016, this sector has consistently generated more jobs for women than any other sector.

The organised apparel segment is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 13 per cent over the next 10 years, according to a 2016 report from the India Brand Equity Foundation, a government-run trust.

In view of these statistics, and the potential for the garments sector to absorb even larger numbers of female workers, the researchers asked: How can garment firms be better incentivised to promote the wellbeing of their workers?

How Shahi Exports and its workers benefitted from life-skills training

PACE was piloted in 2007 in Shahi factories, which now cumulatively employ more than 110,000 people. In 2012, Adhvaryu, Kala and Nyshadham evaluated the impact of the programme at five Shahi factories in the Bengaluru area.

The RCT covered 2,703 workers who had expressed interest in the programme, of which about 1,000 were randomly chosen to participate and the remainder allocated to a control group, which did not receive the training.

Through weekly two-hour sessions, PACE covered essential life skills such as communication, time management, financial literacy, problem solving and decision-making.

The cumulative costs of the programme to the company plateaued at $90,285 (Rs 61.45 lakh) at the end of 11 months since it started, while the gains continued to increase even after this period, standing at $321,145 (Rs 2.18 crore) at the end of 20 months. The low cost of administering the programme combined with the gains in productivity and person-days (a measure of factor manpower) explain its potential.

Workers who received such attention were more likely to enrol in skill-development training at the company, to save for their children’s education and to utilise state-sponsored pension and health care schemes. They also had higher self-esteem and displayed more sociability.

For female workers, lasting life changes and increased wages

The experiment is unique in that it demonstrated that skill-development programmes delivered through companies have the potential to be profit-generating engines that also promote worker wellbeing,

Providing training in life skills to women does not just make them more productive employees; it also creates lasting changes in women’s domestic lives and increases their effective wage, because skilling is an in-kind transfer from the firm to the worker.

Propelled by the positive results of this and other similar studies in the past five years, two of the researchers — Adhvaryu and Nyshadham — along with the head of organisational development at Shahi, Anant Ahuja, founded The Good Business Lab in March 2017. Funded through corporate social responsibility and research funds, the aim of the lab is to incubate, evaluate and disseminate PACE and other research findings that benefit workers and generate profits.

PACE study has had a cascading effect

The results of this study have helped to inform Gap Inc.’s latest global expansion of the PACE programme, as well as contributed to Gap Inc.’s licensing of select firms such as Shahi, to expand PACE in their factories or outside factories in community settings.

To date, Gap Inc. has spread the programme across its vendor base in 12 countries, and more than 40,000 female garment workers have graduated from PACE.

Back in Bengaluru, Shahi assistant supervisor Kumari, who at 21 has already progressed to a senior level in her factory, said: “PACE improved my time-management skills, taught me not to discriminate on the basis of caste and made the overall work environment in the factory better.”

In an industry known for low skills and transience of jobs, Kumari does not want to join any other firm — even if it has a factory closer to home — that does not have a life-skills training programme. She wants to stay at Shahi, move further up the professional ladder, and in the process, motivate other women she lives with to be hard-working and ambitious. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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