Going the organic way

Posted In: . By Journalism student

Story By 
Salma Rehman

“I had a huge space on the terrace of my flat and I was clueless how to use it but now I am happy after I see it flourish before my eyes. The greenery is really soothing,” says Charul Chaudhary, an urban gardener from Gurgaon.

After all the hue and cry raised on the use of pesticides and fertilizers in farming, ‘Urban Gardening’ could be a safer and  more convenient option to ensure that whatever one eats is at least healthier and free of toxins.

Urban gardens have started blooming in the cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai and the concept has recently picked up pace in Delhi where a lot of people out of awareness are practising Urban gardening.

“The concept in itself is not very nascent but the focus of the cultivation has shifted more towards organic farming as people are becoming more and more aware about the presence of harmful toxins in the food that ultimately results from the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers,” says Ritu Malhotra, head, Upvaan; a group of urban gardeners in Delhi who work for promoting urban organic farming.

“People have started with small cultivations in their gardens, backyards, balconies and terraces and such practices have been extended to ‘community gardens’ where people from various localities have started maintaining such organic gardens on a larger scale,” says Ritu. One such garden is in Bengaluru where a section from the park for senior citizen has been converted into an Urban garden by the local residents.

“Pestcides- free cultivation is a significant aspect which is associated with Urban gardening and we are trying to promote it as it is ecologically very important for cities,” says Kavitha Kunnayati, convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). Recently ASHA organised organic food melas in Delhi and Bengaluru where the major focus was on bringing people’s attention towards safer farming techniques.“We placed demonstrations for promoting urban farming where we had demos of cultivation techniques and organic manure usage,” says Kavitha.“Interested people got themselves registered with us and were provided with seeds and manure samples.”

Kiran from Lajpatnagar has been an urban gardener for the past five years and she explains how difficult was it in the beginning.“When I planned to go the organic way, the availability of vermin-compost was a major problem. The local agricultural outlets generally sold the chemical farming products but now organic manure is available at such outlets,” says Kiran. She also says that one needs to be really patient when starting up with an Urban garden as the results are not visible in the beginning. It takes a long time to obtain adequate yield but then it’s worth waiting as the food is free of harmful elements, she says.

Following the increasing trend of Urban gardening many initiatives have been launched by Non-government organisations(NGO’s) across the cities in the past few years which  have been promoting the idea of urban gardening by providing adequate knowledge and inputs to the people. One such intiative was launched by Vividhara, a Delhi-based NGO for promoting urban gardening in the winters of 2011. The derive called “Winter spring”, encouraged people to grow winter vegetables in the available spaces at their homes.

“We provided carefully chosen range of winter vegetable, crops, herbs and condiments seeds are mostly from the Himalayas and some from the flood banks of the Ganga near Allahabad. They are high in natural nutrients and many have medicinal attributes as well,” says Ajay Mahajan, head, Vividhara.

Ajay says that through their blogs and frequent exhibitions they have been trying to highlight the need for organic food cultivation under which a lot of people have shown keen interest in Urban gardening specially in Delhi.“Around 1000 people including schools and educational institutions have registered themselves under the ‘winter spring’ initiative till now and after looking at the overwhelming response we plan to organise more exhibitions across Delhi in the coming
months,” informs Ajay.

After all the reports on the use of hazardous fertilizers and pesticides which are there in the public domain, ‘Urban gardening’ seems like a relief for the people in urban areas where they can ensure that whatever they are growing is free of toxins. Also with the concept strengthening its roots in metros there is a great possibility that it can produce a significant effect on the ecological balance and safer food intake.

For want of bookshops…

Posted In: . By Journalism student

Story By
Akhlas Ahmad

Even though Jamia Millia Islamia attracts a large number of students every year, they usually complain of absence of basic facilities. Lack of bookshops remains one of the major concerns among students. On the contrary, other central University students at Jawaharlal Nehru University and DU have easy accessibility of books. JNU students go to Munirka while  students of Delhi University visit Kamla Nagar and Patel Chest to buy the books.

Kamran Ansari, a student of MA Conflict Analysis and Peace Building at JMI, says “Books recommended in our syllabus are not available at book shops in Jamia Nagar. so we have to go to Jama Masjid or ITO where  it is easier to get books at a reasonable cost”.

However,Saghar Hussain, who sits at the bookshop situated next to the Maktaba Jamia Limited, says “We easily meet the demands of all except some professional courses and Civil Services aspirants”.When contacted, Simi Malhotra, Media Coordinator, JMI said, “We have not received any complaint so far about the lack of books in the bookstore here.We will immediately act in case students register a complaint”.

Though there are some bookshops around Jamia Nagar,  they hardly offer anything beyond school books. Bookstores like Shamsi Book Depot, Chaudhry Book Depot, Al Kitaab International in Batla House are some of the very few shops in Jamia Nagar that people go to buy books. Munazir Arshad, a Civil Services aspirant says, “Bookshops beyond  Jamia Nagar, offer at least some amount of discount on books. Bookshops in this area  do not offer any discount on the books.”

Kafeel Ahmad, a former student of JMI, points out that though many Biryani shops and eateries have opened in the area, nobody thinks of opening a book shop.

Drinking water costs Jamia Nagar dearly

Posted In: . By Journalism student

Story By
M Basit 
“Look at all this dirty water surrounding the hand pump, it percolates and contaminates the ground water below. It is the only hand pump for people living in this area, we are left with no choice but to buy water for cooking and drinking”, says Ganesh a labourer living near Bees Footta road in Jamia Nagar, Delhi.

Prime Minister of India urged the Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation to ensure provision of basic services to the urban poor in his speech while launching Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005.
However  access to safe drinking water still eludes many urban localities and  urban poor are the worst affected. Jamia Nagar is one such area where for many reasons basic amenities are still not reaching the people from low income groups.

Comparing the public facilities of the area with other parts of the Delhi , Rukhsana a maid servant living in Jamia Nagar says, “The low income households surrounding the ‘kothis’ (bungalows) of Hazrat Nizamuddin area, where I work, have easily accessible water taps which people there use for cooking and drinking.”

Provision of Basic Services to Urban Poor, a mandatory urban poverty reform for all local bodies supported under JNNURM mandates all local bodies to provide basic services (including water supply and sanitation) to all poor but the public water works department have little to contribute in the issue. “We have a few tube wells operating in the area, we are not supplying water tankers in the Jamia Nagar because it is a congested area,” said Delhi Jal Board official who does not wished to be named

In the absence of public drinking water facilities a number of water treatment plants have come up in the locality. They work on the principle of economy of scale and draws large volume of water from bore wells. Water is then sanitized in treatment plant and packed in plastic cans. The vendors supply these cans on cycle carts to the various users in the locality at varying rate of Rupees 10 to 15 per can.

There are allegations about bribes and complicity of officials. Ameeqe Jamaei joint secretary of All India Youth Federation Delhi state council alleges, “The elected representatives have let down the very people who got them elected. There are nearly 150 water treatment plant operators in Shaheen Bagh area alone. Each plant operator is paying nearly 10,000 rupees in bribes to MCD officials, police and councillors in the Jamia Nagar area to keep their business running”.

The spending on the most basic facility like drinking water affects the financial health of the low income group families and individuals. Abdul Rehman, a rickshaw puller earns 200 Rupees and 25 Rupees equals to 5 to 10 percent of his household income and other people like him. Residents in the locality find other options like portable water cleaners and packaged drinking water expensive and they rely on water supplied by the operators. “The water from the bore wells in many areas is not fit for human consumption and we are left with no option but to use can water as we cannot afford expensive measures like Reverse Osmosis (RO) Filters and branded bottled water”, says Sultan Khan a resident of Johri Farm area in Jamia Nagar. In the 65th year of  Indian independence, Jamia Nagar still waits for the fulfilment of promises made to them.


Striking notes on scrap

Posted In: . By Journalism student

Story By Janu Narayan 
Photo: Vinu Janardhanan

An electric ‘veena’ with a base made from an old jar of a mixer grinder, an electric guitar made from wooden waste, a ‘tampuru’ that has got an earthen pot as its lower base - the list is exhaustive. They are not just showpieces. They could be played just like the  original instruments. The creator behind these innovations is an 82 year old musician Gangadharan Nair, who resides in Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala.
Nair is a popular figure among the ‘Bhajan’circles and music teachers group in the city. He can be found at major temple festivals or Bhajan sessions, switching between vocal music and his dilapidated harmonium. The musician could not even remember when he took to creating musical instruments. He plays nearly seven instruments including harmonium, flute and percussion instruments like mridangam and gottu vadyam. Mr.Nair’s long association with music must have have evoked and inspired the creative genius in him.  He hires a carpenter and sits down with him to cut the materials into pieces and shape it up. The notes of all the instruments are made and fine tuned by him.
There are  many interesting pieces in his collection. A polished coconut shell attached to a piece of wood with a long nail makes a smaller percussion instrument. He has made a ‘sarod’ with fragments joined together which were once the damaged parts of some old home appliance. He even posses a self-made version of ‘Bulbul Thara’ (classical music instrument with both keys on a board and strings like a guitar). The musician says that the instruments made by him could be used in musical concerts, without any obstruction. But one has to use an amplifier here, connected to the instruments. This is because the sound is not that loud as produced by the original instruments.
The musical instruments he makes are from cheaper objects, in fact from discarded materials. This makes it light on the pocket. Thus, Gangadharan Nair’s passion has  a green side to it as well. Since the original instruments are made from wood and animal skin, such recycled replacements are worth considering. But the musician makes it clear that he does not want to commercialize his instrument making skills.
This music academy drop-out (Swathy Thirunal Music academy, Trivandrum) is interestingly the first Guru to many of the musical prodigies in the city. Gangadharan is always engaged in experimenting with something or the other in music and making new musical instruments. He still gives music lessons to the children nearby.
This man of few words  does not complain about or makes a self-introspection on why he failed to convert his talent into quick bucks. In the twilight years of his life, finally he received an honour. The Kerala State Sangeetha Nataka Academy honored him with the prestigious ‘Guruvandanam’ (tribute to Guru).

Story By
Devang Chaturvedi

Indian Railways is expected to get a huge increment of US$150 million from the Asian Development Bank to improve its Freight and Passenger route services. The assistance comes under the aegis of the Railway Sector Investment Program and the implementing agency is the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL).
The program is aimed at improving rail freight and passenger services along some of India’s busiest freight carriage routes which include the Golden Quadrilateral linking the four major metropolitan cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
Being at the core of the mass Indian freight and passenger transport network the Indian Railways would look at this development with eagerness. With an estimated total of 969.78 million tonnes of freight carriage in the Fiscal year 2011-2012, the Indian Railways has re-asserted its position as the country’s premier transport service provider in the commercial sector.
The program is intended to make optimum usage of the existing physical railway infrastructure in the country through electrification of 640 kilometres of rail tracks and doubling of 840 kilometres of them. Also with installation of modern signalling systems, the delay that the trains face would be reduced. This would propel timely deliverability of freight thus impacting the economic generation in the country in a huge manner.  With financial efficiency through accounting reforms also in the pipeline, railway freight services users can expect lower transport and logistics cost.The Railway Vision 2020 underlines the need to remove infrastructure glitches, design and deliver market driven services, reliable operations and build capacity.
Hiroaki Yamaguchi, ADB Principal Transport Specialist says, “This program has the capacity to deliver more energy efficient, safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly rail services along key high density routes,” He further adds, “This in turn will result in the creation of cost-effective opportunities for about 21 million people who will benefit from all aspects of the Railway Sector Investment Program.”
Jaskeerat Singh Arora, a Delhi based transporter sounds apprehensive about the shift of goods services from road to rail due to improved rail freight services. He agrees that unlike the railways, they do not carry a majority of the strategically important cargo like minerals and natural resources, but they do carry a minority of them.
Indian Railways which boasts of the fourth largest Railways network in the world is also in need of constant infrastructural development. D R Sharma, Accounts Manager, RVNL explains it further, “It is entirely the prerogative of the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited to decide whether or not the Indian Railways is in need of financial assistance for infrastructural reforms. Since we are a subsidiary company of the Railways our basic task is to widen infrastructure and once completed it becomes part of the railways.”
He further adds, “Loans like the one extended by the Asian Development Bank are purely for capacity building of the Indian Railways and are principal and interest free. If they involve any kind of repayments, they are taken care by the Indian Railways. Government of India also provides us funds and for this project it has extended us, US$ 644.6 million. Together with ADB’s assistance of US$ 500 million, the project cost is US$ 1,144.6 million.”
The expected completion date of the project is December 2018.