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Eat beans, pulse and legumes: Year 2016 is International Year of Pulses

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Puy Lentils, Apricots and Walnuts. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman
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The year 2016 is being observed as “Year of Pulses” by the United Nation.

NewsGram view: Pulses, legumes and cereals are a great source of protein. In India, they form part of the staple diet. However, in the rapid rush of urban life and attraction towards non-vegetarianism, let us recapitulate the benefits of pulses and legumes.

Pulse: Called daal in Hindi. 

Legumes: examples include- peas, soy, peanut.

By Clarissa Hyman (Zester Daily) –

The great food writer Waverley Root condemned “pulse” as a “picturesque little word” used to describe the diet of ancient hermits — all gas and gruel, one imagines.

Yet, as he pointed out, it simply refers to beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and the like. Or, to be strictly correct, the edible seeds of legumes, which have been a major staple food since earliest times.

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. I don’t know who thinks up such things, but it’s a splendid promotion of these great little ingredients full of protein, fiber, and micronutrients. Although their fresh season is short, drying is a simple way to preserve them so they retain all their goodness and flavor.

Buttery Saffron Beans with chopped parsley. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman
Buttery Saffron Beans with chopped parsley. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

Legumes pack nutritional punch

As well as their nutritional importance in potentially tackling chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, legumes also play a major role in agriculture through their nitrogen-fixing capability and water efficiency — improving soil quality and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has created a short video highlighting the way pulses can contribute to the future of food and reduce the environmental footprint of food production.

Pulses are usually stored and cooked in the whole form, although some are ground into flour. Their diversity comes from the variety that exists, sold both whole and split. The taste and texture of pulses vary enormously as well, from creamy to mealy, nutty to meaty, subtle to sweet, smooth to earthy. The assortment of shapes and colors — shiny black, tobacco brown, ecru, sage green and orange-yellow — offer a multitude of options in the kitchen. They can be served as simply as you like or as part of a complex, slow-cooked casserole, gently simmered, baked with a crisp topping or mashed to a velvet puree.

And, if all else fails, I can recommend eating ready-baked beans straight from the can. I think you know what I mean.

For ideas on how to celebrate the International Year of Pulses, visit Food Tank online.

Puy Lentils, Apricots, and Walnuts

Prep time: 15 minutes (not including soaking time)

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 side servings

Ingredients

2/3 cup dried apricots (soak for 15 minutes if not ready to eat)

Half a stick unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful chopped walnuts

2 cups cooked Puy lentils

Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Diced feta for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Cut the apricots in half and gently fry in the butter with the onions until both are softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the mixture of apricots and onions plus the walnuts to the cooked lentils and heat very gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the lentils do not dry out.

3. Add chunks of feta if you wish and serve at room temperature sprinkled with chopped coriander.

Buttery Saffron Beans

Prep time: 10 minutes (not including soaking time)

Cook time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 side servings

Ingredients

1 cup dried beans, soaked and drained

1 large onion, finely chopped

Large pinch of saffron strands

Half a stick unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

1. Place the beans in a pan with the onions, saffron, and butter.

2. Cover with water, brings to the boil and simmer, covered, for about two hours. Check the sauce level: If it’s too thick, add a little more water; if it’s too liquidy, remove the lid until it reduces.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot sprinkled with parsley.

Kashmiri Rice and Chickpeas

Prep time: 10 minutes, not including soaking time

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 cups Basmati rice

2 onions, finely sliced

4 tablespoons oil or ghee

1 cup flaked almonds

2 tablespoons currants or raisins

2 whole cloves

2 green cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

6 whole black peppercorns

1-inch cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt to taste

5 cups water

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked and boiled until soft

Directions

1. Wash and soak the rice for about 30 minutes. Drain.

2. Fry the onion in the oil until it starts to turn golden. Add the almonds and currants or raisins and fry, stirring frequently, until the onions and nuts are crisp and dark gold. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and add all the cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon stick. Fry for a few minutes then add the rice, chili powder, salt, and water. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Mix in the chickpeas, preferably with a wooden fork. Cover with a clean cloth and lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

5. Serve garnished with the fried onions, nuts and currants or raisins.

Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

Also Read: Quoting WhatsApp message renders ‘delete’ feature ineffective

First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

Also Read: Facebook to ‘Signal’ news gathering for journos

An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)