Jul 062012
 

My feature in today’s Lokmat

Maharashtra is reeling under its worst power shortage ever. It is estimated that the State faces a shortage of between 1500 – 2000 MW.  For a state that has is to being the number one inIndiain industrial production, that kind of a shortage is a huge blow. Industry, small business and households are reeling under acute power cuts. Factories are relocating, industries are shutting down, unemployment is rising, and there seems to be no end in sight to the power crisis.  In regions such as Marathwada 12-13 hours of electricity cuts, on a daily basis are no longer the exception, but the norm.

 

Maharashtra has some big power projects coming up. There is the world’s largest consolidated Solar energy plant being set up in Dhule. There are large thermal plants being set up and the one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants is slated to come up in Jaitapur. But, these take time. Also, there are fears of environmental pollution, safety concerns and the like. The fact remains with large power projects, you need vast tracts of land that have to be acquired from various stake holders, get environmental clearances, run the gamut of PIL’s and hopefully when all that is done the power plant will be operational. While all this is happening households, industries and businesses are without power.

 

The solution may lie in looking at micro-grids rather than centralised grids. Micro grids are bonsai versions of the large centralised electricity production and distribution systems, and they work purely at the local level.  They are aimed at achieving local level electrification within certain parameters of environmental & cost efficiency, and if needed they can tie into the larger electricity grid. Private enterprise and NGO’s such as Greenpeace are working at the grassroots level to help bring electricity, off the main grids, purely at the local level. Micro hydro electric power plants, solar power, power generated through bio mass are all being used, in various locations, in various states

 

One of the companies involved in purely local level power generation is the Husk Power Systems, that is bringing electricity to parts ofBihar.  is estimated that over 80% ofBiharhave never received electricity. They have been using kerosene lamps for lighting purposes. Kerosene is expensive. A litre costs around Rs.40. An average family requires around 13-14 litres a month for just basic lighting purposes. Rice Husk, on the other hand, is abundantly available. It is a waste product that costs very little, yields high levels of energy. HPS has bootstrapped a solution to provide electricity generated from rice husk to the community. Each power plant supplies power to a community of 300-400 households. There are around 60 plants in operation inBihar– mostly in North Western parts, and has a customer base of 25,000 households (roughly 1.2 lakh people).

 

In a little village called Pratap Patti, villagers are enjoying 6 hours of uninterrupted power supply for the very first time in history. Rather than install expensive power meters, the company charges per appliance per month. On an average, a family pays around Rs.120 per month for 15watts of power, much cheaper than kerosene. Also, safer, cleaner and brighter.

 

(rise husk power lighting up the village of Pratap Patti – the blue hues are from light supplied by it. the yellow light is the headlights of a car ,and the left hand side of the road has no light)

Also, the company believes in involving the local community in the process. It trains locals, especially women to take care of the plants. The feeling of community ownership is huge. The plant manager of a Husk Power plant said that they don’t even have barbed wire protecting the plant. No one will steal anything because of the utility it gives the village at large.

Cheap, efficient, and effective – maybeMaharashtraneeds to look at its own variants of the micro grid to address the energy requirements of its people.

 

On Rice Husk power generation

  • Rice husk is purchased & dried
  • It is poured into the funnel of a biomass gasification plant.
  • The furnace is maintained at a temperature of 400-500 degrees C
  • The rice husk burns, and this generates the energy required to light up homes.
  • ON an average it costs about Rs.50 to generate 1 watt of power
  • About 2 kgs of rice husk yield 1 kW of power.

 

 

Jun 212012
 

image courtesy NYtimes on twitter

A huge fire broke out at Mantralaya – the administrative office of the Government of Maharashtra this afternoon. They are still putting out the fire

This image was tweeted by NYTimes – India.

who are these people saving the flag of India ? were they ordered to ? what made them risk their lives or lungs ? Struck me that painting the tri colour on your face or wearing it on your shirt is easy – this kind of ‘love’ is quieter. I wonder how many people i know would have even thought of this, let alone go up on the roof of a burning building to take the flag to safety !

May 102012
 

My column in today’s Lokmat

The biggest open secret inIndia was her disappearing daughters. As prosperity has increased, family size has reduced, and advances in medical techniques have led to families choosing only to have a boy, by terminating pregnancy when a girl child is conceived. The Government has banned sex selection tests through the PNDT Act, but as a people Indians  know how to get around or even break most laws. The very well to do take flights outside India to avail of end to end services that help them break the law, while the not so well to do go to shady fly by night operators and pay a premium to get the same done.   The end result is the same. Selection of boys over girls. Aamir Khan’s show “Satyameva Jayate” did something exceptional for a television show.  It got people across the nation to talk about the issue of female foeticide. The issue for the first time moved away from AC studios and news anchors to home and the neighbourhood.

Over the decades the sex ratio has been falling drastically. In the 1991 census there were 945 girls per 1000 boy in the 0-6 age group. A decade later in 2001, this figure dropped to 927 per 1000 boys. And in 2011, in a more prosperous, more educatedIndiathat figure has fallen even further – there are 914 girls per 1000 boys. What is even more appalling is that in cities likeDelhiand Mumbai the child sex ratio is worse. InDelhiit is 866 girls, Mumbai City 874 girls and Mumbai suburbs 910 girls to a 1000 boys. The rapidly dropping sex ratio on a decadal basis reflects one very stark truth about Indian Society. The girl child is unwanted. And, this holds true across the board, across communities and across socio economic groups. Maharashtrais no different. From an average of 913 girls per 1000 boys in 2001, the child sex ratio inMaharashtrahas dipped to 883. Thirty girls per every 1000 boys are missing.

When the census figure came out last year, the first reaction was disbelief. This cannot be happening inMaharashtra, there must have been a mistake, were the murmurs amongst ordinary citizens. The second reaction was denial – the drop in child sex ratio cannot be done by us, it must be ‘outsiders’. But, the truth is quite different. While cities like Mumbai and Pune that attract immigrants have seen a decline in Child sex ratio, the story is worse in smaller districts across the state. The worst impacted are districts like Beed (a drop from 894 to 801, 91 missing girls), Buldana (a drop from 908 to 842 – 66 missing girls), Washim ( from 918 to 859, 59 missing girls), Hingoli ( 927 to 868, a gap of 59). Everyone of the 35 districts in Maharashtra, barring Chandrapur, Satara, Sangli andKolhapur, saw a decline from the 2001 figures. But all these remained statistics until one event. Last year saw the discovery of female foetuses dumped in drain. That became the tipping point for multi pronged action against those who are adding to the problem of female foeticide.

 

In its attempt to redress the balance and save the girl child the Maharashtra Government has used a plethora of tools – from the legal to the technological, from the social to the financial. At the first level, the Government has strengthened legal and penal action against sonography clinics across the state. Most of us have been seeing and reading about increased action against these clinics, that help detect the sex of the foetus. The State has also gone after mobile sonography units that are mostly used for carrying out sex determination tests that precede female foeticide. The Aamchi Mulgi (our daughter) scheme launched by the CM Prithviraj Chavan set up a special help toll free help line to complain against such actions and offered a financial reward if information can prevent females being killed in the womb.

Also used to curb female foeticide is technology. The silent observer is a tracking device on ultra sound machines that logs activity. The idea behind this is to deter the medical practise from breaking the law and indulging in selective sex abortions. The technology allows recording of every activity done on a sonography machine and be used as evidence if needed. While it is possible to tamper with any technology – the fact remains that  has just become that much more difficult. There will always be people who break the law. There will be always be people who try and get around the system. But, it is important for law abiding citizens to know that the law exists and the State and the system is trying its best to do something about a very serious social issue.

 

The second is unprecedented cross party agreement and cooperation on ending this practise and redressing the gender ratio. We normally focus on isses where politicians are at each others throats to prove a point, but seldom do we see and hear those issues in which they work together for a greater good. Politicians like Sharad .Pawar who has one daughter in an era when large families were the norm, have led the way in showing that families with traditional values need not discriminate against the girl child. The state has brought in celebrities  like Ajay Devgn and Kajol, Sachin & Supriya Pilgaonkar who parents of daughters, to spread the message against female foeticide. Also the State has introduced a number of financial initiatives. But, most of these are for extremely poor families. The issue is not just about poor families, but families across social classes.

The State of Maharashtra, like all other states inIndia, is trying its utmost to save the girl child. But, it is not just about the State. When a person or people decide to break the law, there is very little the State can do, apart from catch them. But, that is too late to save the girl child. For every girl child that is killed there are atleast a dozen or more people involved. The family, doctors, technicians, nurses, support staff. How many people will you put in prison? The change has to come at the individual level. The State can at best be an enabler, but for true gender equality family and society has to try that bit harder.

 

Feb 172011
 

I don’t normally post forwarded mails on this blog, possibly because the moment i see a multiple forward sign or lots of e-mail ids i tend to delete the message. But, this one is from an old, old friend. And it had neither multiple forwards nor multiple e-mail id’s attached to it. I don’t know if this is really a retired colnel. I don’t even know if it is a real name – yet there is something about this letter that rings true.  Maybe it is the loss of illusions and idealism ….

The method of Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scamsters of Mumbai was disarmingly simple. They simply co-opted in their scam whoever looked like standing in the way. If we judge the strategy by its results, it was spectacularly successful. It indeed disarmed everybody. From just 30 odd members, the eventual group grew to more than a hundred. Each new entrant
not only removed a roadblock on the way but also increased the size of the cake.
Thus, someone got the land title, someone the extra FSI. Someone got clearances, someone else made the Army and the Navy objections softer. They all became members.
The scary bit about the scam is not that it happened. It is that in the entire chain, there was not one man (or woman) who refused to compromise himself (or herself). There was not one person whose integrity stood its ground in face of temptation. Right from the lowly collector, to the officials in urban development department and the MMRDA, to the ministers and chief minister, everybody proved over-eager to do his bit. About the bureaucrats and the ministers, we always knew. The really sickening part is that it went on all the way to at least three service chiefs.
They all sold their souls. No whistle-blower in the entire system. Nobody thought something very gross was under way and he/she should put his/her foot down.
And for what? A sea-facing apartment in Mumbai, worth perhaps Rs 8 crore. So there, folks, you have the price of this country. For a combined booty of no more than Rs 800 crore, you could buy the entire system. Our enemies reading about this can now rest their weapons. The message they get is that if they face the mighty Indian Army they only need to wave the allotment letters of a plush apartment.
And lo! The battle is won. If the chiefs go for 1000 sq ft of Mumbai real estate, how much should the poor battlefield commander go for? A Shanghai penthouse, or a cottage in Murree?
I would hate to be a soldier in our armed forces at this moment. The fellow has just seen Lt Generals being prosecuted for land scam. Now, an admiral and two generals are part of a housing scam. He is expected to die on their orders.
If, after this, a soldier winces at such an order, can he be faulted? The former chiefs have now graciously offered to return the flats, professing ignorance about the fact that the land was meant for martyrs’ families. As if that is the only thing wrong about the deal. It was stinking from start to finish and if the chiefs could not smell any of it, the forces have a lot to answer for the kind of persons they select for their top most posts.
No, gentlemen, you have let down the proud institutions you headed. You have let down your colleagues who must suffer the suspicions you have aroused. You have let down your country that decorated you so much. Worst of all, you have let down that soldier who saluted you day in and day out. You owe him an apology, not just a glib explanation. About others, the less said the better. They occupy some of the most plum posts and yet possess all the integrity of a pickpocket.
It is no wonder India has climbed further in corruption ladder. Merely dispossessing these scamsters of their ill-gotten apartment would be no punishment. They need to be dismissed from service and prosecuted for being unworthy custodians of our trust…… a firing squad perhaps?

With Warm Regards,

Col AK Ghosh,
Pune

This morning in his Press Conference, the Prime Minister Promised, on the Corrupt:

“you have my assurance that the wrong doers won’t escape punishment . (pause) this time “

I hope he delivers

Sep 212010
 

The NCPA – National Council for Performing Arts – has been running a Marathi Film Festival called Nave valan or new wave – since last year. The idea is to

to showcase what has perhaps gone unnoticed – that Marathi cinema, given a chance, can have mainstream appeal …..

The festival opens, in October,  with this years National Award winner for Best Marathi film Natarang, and closes with Cogito Entertainment’s Maharashtra State Award Winner – Jhing Chik Jhing – the film that my company produced:)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogKVAEL0J0c&w=640&h=385]

All films exhibited will be run with sub-titles. Do go and see – and drop me a line on how you found the film/films.

The entire schedule from Saturday, 9th of October to Wednesday 13th October

NCPA Nave Valan

(New Turn)

Marathi Film Festival

Dance Theatre Godrej &

Experimental Theatre

Saturday, 9th to Wednesday, 13th

An NCPA Presentation

In collaboration with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra

Natarang

(127 mins – with English subtitles)

Saturday, 9th – 6.30 pm

Directed by Ravi Jadhav

Cast: Atul Kulkarni, Sonalee,

Kishor Choughule and others

Produced by Zee Talkies

Jeta (Warrior)

(125 mins – with English subtitles)

Sunday, 10th – 3.00 pm

Directed by Ajinkya Deo and

Amol Shetge

Cast: Ramesh Deo, Seema Deo, Ajinkya

Deo, Manava Naik and others

Produced by Ramesh Deo Production (P)

Ltd. & Lokmat Entertainment

Lalbaug Parel

(124 mins – with English subtitles)

Sunday, 10th – 6.30 pm

Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar

Cast: Sachin Khedekar, Seema Biswas,

Satish Kaushik, Veena Jamkar, Sameer

Dharmadhikari and others.

Produced by Arun Rangachari

Ringa Ringa

(107 mins – with English subtitles)

Monday, 11th – 6.30 pm

Directed by Sanjay Jadhav

Cast: Sonali Kulkarni, Ajinkya Deo, Bharat

Jadhav and others

Produced by Kanchan Satpute

Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai

(103 mins)

Tuesday, 12th – 6.30 pm

Directed by Satish Rajwade

Cast: Swapnil Joshi and Mukta Barve

Produced by

Mirah Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.

Jhing Chik Jhing

(116 mins – with English subtitles)

Wednesday, 13th – 6.30 pm

Directed by Nitin Nandan

Cast: Bharat Jadhav, Dilip Prabhavalkar,

Madhavi Juvekar, Chinmay Kambli and

Sanjay Mone

Produced by Cogito Entertainment

(India) Pvt. Ltd.

For admission enquiries,

call NCPA Box Office on 66223724/66223754