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First modelling agency for transgenders in India

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By Nivedita

New Delhi: The LGBT Indian community, which is fighting a legal battle asking to revoke Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on the grounds of violation of human rights, is set to launch the first of its kind modelling agency for transgenders.

The idea, according to Delhi-based transgender activist Rudrani Chettri, evolved out of a “feeling of frustration seeing many young beautiful transgenders who are made to feel ugly” from a young age.

“I was one of them and there was no such option open to me when I was young. It’s also a desperate desire amongst us to be seen and to be accepted into the mainstream society and to get jobs like everyone else. I hope this creates a spark in young transgenders to follow their dreams,” Chettri, founder of Mitr Trust, a city-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) charity said.

Chettri feels that time and again, the community has been a victim of prejudice in society, in the workplace and among their families and local communities, which ultimately leads them to begging or sex work to make a living. She hopes the platform helps in an image overhaul.

“This is an effort by the transgender community to improve our social and personal image, and to raise awareness about the serious funding crisis affecting us. We are not men, we are not women. We are transgenders and are proud of it,” Chettri said.

As part of its activities, the agency aims is to identify five top models and help them launch into mainstream fashion media. They have also kept a pan-India audition and teamed up with fashion stylist and photographer Rishi Raj, who will work towards getting them a spread in a leading fashion magazine.

A walk-in model audition is scheduled for Sunday and the chosen models will go through a photo shoot.

“I want this photo shoot to enhance and highlight the natural androgynous beauty of the transgender/hijra community,” Raj said.

He felt the concept of a modelling agency for transgenders may do well given how the “world is opening up” to them.

“The greatest example in the recent past being Caitlyn Jenner (international celebrity Bruce Jenner, who underwent sex transition). Fashion takes great pride in breaking boundaries and creating new trends so in a Utopian scenario, the modelling agency should do well. This activity will create awareness about the Indian transgender community,” he added.

In addition, the Mitr Trust has been working with an Indian-British team of filmmakers for the last one year to closely document the lives and struggles of transgenders. The organisation however currently lacks money to support the dream.

A crowdfunding campaign has been started on the BitGiving online platform to finance the endeavour.

“We want to raise awareness for the funding. This will allow us to carry on working with the community as we have not been able to pay our workers for eight months now, nor have we been able to provide condoms to high-risk sex workers,” said Chettri.

On Tuesday, the LGBT community rejoiced at the Supreme Court’s decision to refer to a constitution bench a batch of curative petitions seeking a relook at its earlier verdict upholding the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality.(IANS)(image: storypick.com)

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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)