Campaigns

Pink Revolution in India – A perspective on economy, climate change and cattle wealth

In our cattle wealthy nation, the concept of Pink Revolution was introduced by then government in 1996. Here’s some fact check on policy and politics.

7 days ago No Comments Views

Veganism Ousting Desi Cows?

Vegan, veganism and everything around that. Because at the end of the day, what you chose on your plate and in your glass will decide the fate of the world.

1 week ago No Comments Views

Sugar, spice and everything nice – Panchgavya to cure disease, help with organic farming

Panchgavya is believed to prolong one’s lifespan, act as an energizer and also provide physical strength. It is of vital importance in organic farming too.

1 week ago No Comments Views

What India should know about Desi Cows, whatever be the political/food preference

There is a reason why we are bringing this now. Now, when cows have been reduced to nothing but a political bait. This and 9 more posts is an effort to bring back attention to where it must – the benefits and importance of cows in India’s ecosystem.

1 week ago No Comments Views

Meet Vishwanath – A man on a mission to solve India’s drought problem

This post is a part of Neer, a collaborative project by DCB Bank and Chaaipani to bring out stories of individuals and initiatives that are working hard and smart to save water.

We all remember the recent drought that hit 90 Lakh farmers in Maharashtra. Now that monsoon is here, it will provide some relief to the farmers. But the state has been in distress for a long time now. According to a report by Bloomberg, The El Niño affected India with driest monsoon in 2015. 91 major reservoirs in India are reduced to one-third their capacity. Although, we as a society are helpless when confronting nature, there are things that can be done to ready ourselves against floods or drought.

The day when I had a conversation with Vishwanath Srikantaiah, I realized how even facilitating and showing the right direction can help solve problems. There are thousands of people doing a million things to help themselves but we don’t know about them. I know how difficult it is for so many, to have the right options to choose from at the right time, that can help them achieve greatness, but, I digress.

This story is about a man who helps relieving people of their misery by informing and readying them against such adversities. Vishwanath Srikantaiah, 53, is a water activist and has been working in the space for over 27 years. Mr. Vishwanath is also a columnist for The Hindu, who writes weekly columns about water preservation. A Civil Engineer, and Urban & Regional Planner by profession, he has worked with HUDCO(Housing and Urban Development Corporation) for 14 years.

Vishwanath or popularly known as @zenrainman, started a club while he was in HUDCO.

“We started a small group called the rainwater club in 1994. We used to collect documents and information about rainwater harvesting and put it up on public domain.”

During his time at HUDCO, he travelled to many rural areas in South India.

“I’ve seen almost every alternate village in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. I could see that water was a crises even then in 1980. The government’s response was limited. I thought most of the answers lay with the villages, community and people.”

The villages that he visited that were built by the government, and financed by HUDCO, had no electricity supply, roads, sanitation facility or any water resources.

“How were people supposed to live in such structures with no resources? We used to write to the government about the lack of these basic needs and in response, the timeline for the infrastructure to catch up with housing used to be 3-5 years, and by that time these structures degraded to an uninhabitable state.”

He met his wife, Mrs. Chitra Vishwanath at CEPT Ahmedabad, where she was pursuing architecture and he was studying urban planning. He left his job at HUDCO in 2000 to work towards solving the water crises. She started her own architecture firm, Biome solutions in Bangalore. They make houses and structures using mud blocks as opposed to bricks. Mr Viswanath, is a director of the trust at Biome Solutions.  

 

He tells me how people need to be motivated and pushed to do something about such a crises by their own self, as people are much too dependent on government’s actions, in the face of adversity.

“When I visited some of these villages, residents used to tell us they hadn’t taken a bath since 2-3 years! The little water they got was from an agricultural borewell far away from the village. They got as little as 20 litres a day, which included drinking and washing activities. On top of that, it was at their landlord’s discretion whether he was kind enough to give them this water.”

In the year 2000, he decided to leave HUDCO and work full time with the rainwater club. Leaving a secure government job is a tough decision in itself, and so I asked him how he sustained himself after taking the plunge.

“In 1984, I had made a pact with my wife Chitra that I will continue my government job until she establishes her firm which will help us sustain, after which I will pursue this challenge. These decisions aren’t easy, but what you must realize is that you need very little to survive. What happens with a permanent job is that you get too attached to comforts, but when you see that it’s not challenging enough, those comforts have no meaning.”

In 2003 when Karnataka was hit by drought, they persuaded the government to build 20,000 rainwater harvesting structures.

“A thousand villages were chosen where the government built, rainwater harvesting structures in 20 houses in each of these villages. We advised the government how they could build, design and help them identify people who would build it for them.”

He recounts an incident of a village where he had advised villagers to revive their open wells, but they didn’t take the heed to his advice and three years later, when the borewells dried up, residents of the village approached him once again, this time, more hasty.

“They asked me, if they could clean the open well and restore it. Mene unko bola, mujhse kya puch rahe ho, aap behtar jaante ho, aapke paas jo kua hai wo 100 saal purana hai.” (Why are you asking me, the wells you have are 100 years old, you’d know more about the wells than I would.)

The villagers cleaned the 30-40ft debris of the wells. Each of the wells filled up with 6,000 and 10,000 litres of water. But it was heavy water, still they used it for washing purposes. He advised them to build a percolation pond to recharge the wells. When the rains arrived in the month of November, the percolation pond and both the wells filled up with water to their capacity within 3 days! The elders of the village said they hadn’t seen the wells full, since 5-6 decades. The water they now had, with their current usage rate was good enough to survive for the next 3 years!

When other villages learn about these incidents, they take ownership of preparing themselves instead of depending on external factors.

 

Let alone rural areas, urban areas in states like Rajasthan and Karnataka are rife with water crises. Popular by the name Zenrainman, Mr. Viswanath is on the board of Arghyam as an advisor. Arghyam facilitates groundwater and sanitation projects, based in Karnataka.

Bangalore, a city which is 920 metres above sea level has no river passing through and draws major portion of its water through Cauvery river which is a 100 kms outside the city.

He got an opportunity to be on the committee which was working on the river harvesting policy for Bangalore. They mandated the construction of recharge wells in the policy.

“I remembered a man named Muniappa, from the Mannuvaddar community which used to make open wells, who had approached me and asked me if I wanted a well. I found the question ludicrous, someone coming up to ask if I wanted a well. The Open well culture had gone out of existence after the ’80s, and this man was looking for work. When I got a chance to be on a committee that was working on a river harvesting policy for Bangalore, we made the construction of rechargeable wells mandatory. ”

Post this policy, Mannuvaddar community got employment and livelihood by making rechargable wells in the city. These wells accumulated potable water from rains. As you read this, this community is creating thousands of wells, even moving outside Bangalore, to Hyderabad and other villages reviving the rechargeable well culture.

“Among new developments, communities and groups of people are gathering around to protect lakes. We’re helping through a group called Friends of Lakes, who get together on weekends to clean the waste around lakes. We advice people as to what are their rights and how can they clean, protect, and treat sewage water to revive these lakes.”

He believes local sources can be utilized to reduce dependence on rivers in several states. Even facilitating can help a long way in averting water crisis.

Urban drinking and sanitation policy are the only way towards finding a permanent solution to these problems, be it drought or floods. Even smallest of do-it-yourself household solutions can help save water and money for a better future.

You can reach Mr. Vishwanath via twitter, youtube or facebook handle @Zenrainman.

If you know of individuals or organisations who are doing their bit to make every drop matter, and who you think have a story that should be told to the world, do write to us on contact(at)chaaipani(dot)com.

12 months ago 3 Comments Views

Read how this entrepreneur is doing her bit to set an example for others to be environmentally responsible!

This post is a part of Neer, a collaborative project by DCB Bank and Chaaipani to bring out stories of individuals and initiatives that are working hard and smart to save water.

I could not remember the last time I did something for the first time. So when I got to know I would be doing my first ever interview, I was ecstatic as a bibliophile smelling the pages of a new book. To get more charged up, I made myself some Chaai, and with a flurry of emotions I spoke to Swaathi Kakarla.

Swaathi, is like any of us, in the sense that she is trying to make a few dents in this world in her own little way. But before we jump to that, we need to see what makes Swaathi the frugal genius that she is.

In 10th class, she was faced with the burdensome option of deciding which stream to choose, and like most of us are, she followed her friends and took biology. Little did she know that wasn’t where her heart wanted to be.

Things took a turn when during her summer holidays, her laptop broke.

“My father said that he would not take it for repair and that I had to fix it myself. she recounts.

Adamant as I was, I spent all my time trying to repair it. Opened it, looked for problems here and there. Put it back together, installed Linux and Windows and viola! At the end of the day, I took care of the problem myself.”

It was at that moment, it dawned upon her that she had a knack for this, that she loved coding. She was finally able to see enough to go through the tunnel on her own two feet.

Trying to find her own way, she went to various meet-ups and gatherings during her college days where she met like-minded people who did what she desired to do. And along with the awareness came the harsh reality; that there were not many female computer programmers in the country. Be it due to a lack of role models, negative stereotyping, or social pressures. Swaathi wanted to change that, she wanted to make dent now.

“I know how it feels like to be alone in a room. To be different.”

Swaathi is the co-founder of a company called Skcript. A very successful CTO (Chief Technology Officer), she works with a group of 6 people. They are a core engineering team who build compression servers that compress data, along with a host of other things.

“My passion lies here. Anyone who works with me has passion for what I do.”

In the middle of the interview, I realized I had taken my last sip of Chaai. Feeling dejected, I was about to get up to make another one. But then, when I asked her more about what the office culture at Skcript is like, and her voice turned a completely different inflection. I did not need my cup of tea anymore; the way her voice became bubbly and full of life was enough to charge me up.

“I have always liked energy wherever I work. Lots of it. In the office, our blinds are always drawn, windows open and lots of light and greenery can be seen. Can be felt. Everyone works happily.”

And then she is, as I personally made the name myself, the Water-Whisperer.

“Usually when we take a glass of water, we do not really know how much we are going to drink, right?  So I noticed that a lot of water sometimes is wasted because people do not drink all of it, and then that remaining water is thrown. I decided to do something about it. On every employer’s desk, we have a pot or a potted plant. Whenever at the end of the day, water is left in our glasses/bottles, we pour it in the pot. Thus, we save as much of water as we can.”

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Guess which customer is this plant for? 🙂

And that’s not all. At Skcript, for every new customer they plant a tree in their office, water it, take regular care and even send a picture of the plant which literally ‘belongs’ to that customer. How refreshing! 

This made me think that some way, in those two boring years where she studied biology, her love for nature crept into her technological aspirations. And it is indeed benefitting everyone around her.

We all agree that we must do a little something for the environment. Some are prodders; they encourage and move others to take some action. Some are the backseat generals; they only acknowledge the fact about bringing a change but do not take any action. And then there are game changers like Swaathi, who not only do what makes them happy, not only find people who like doing the same thing as them, but along with having a successful venture they  do a little bit for the environment and for themselves.  And that, my readers, is how you do something so little for the greater good.

If you know of individuals or organisations who are doing their bit to make every drop matter, and who you think have a story that should be told to the world, do write to us on contact(at)chaaipani(dot)com

To keep telling such awesome stories, we are doing a crowdfunding campaign. 
Your contribution can help us go a long way! Contribute here. 🙂
12 months ago 2 Comments Views

Story of a young Indian who wants to make Jashn-e-Kashmir an everyday reality

Beginning of 1989.

Sita, I’d show you a White Christmas and New Year. 

Naveen, a young, promising businessman committed to his to-be wife, who had never seen snowfall in her life.

1989 end.

Hum kya chahte, azadi azadi. 

While the roads of Kashmir echoed morchas hurled by men with blaring, red eyes, the Anand family, a well known Punjabi family in Kashmir, hurriedly packed up all that they could and fled away to Jammu. The white Christmas never came.

1991.

Krishan was born in the Anand family. Many feel that he was born with a sliver spoon in his mouth in a home in Jammu, while others that fled the valley were living in refugee camps.

We were few of the fortunate people, I’d say. We had another home after we ran away from our own home. Our parents ensured we get a normal life. 

Every holiday(independence day/republic day) when the entire nation would go out and watch a movie, we’d be tucked in our home. Safety. They were well connected, and I grew up seeing them contribute to the community in every way they could. I could never feel how gory it could be. Until..

2000s

Strikes in the valley became a usual. Krishan grew up in a Kashmir which bore huge losses every year because of curfews, every now and then.

2010

The young 16 year old Krishan took to newspapers.

I wanted people to know real Kashmir. I would write and write. I would study Business Management in the day and write at night. 

I was invited to town-hall session with Barack Obama who was on an visit to India.

To understand the working of the J&K government, be connected with the masses and be able to work at the grass root level, Krishan interned at the Chief Ministers secretariat and worked on issues related to peace, disaster management and promoting trade and investment in the state.

In 2012, I spoke at the European Parliament about the vision that the youth of the world has for the futureI was also a part of Milind Deora’s delegation that visited the parliament, the Vice president of India, Hamid Ansari and Delhi Chief Minister. The select delegation had to propose solutions to the problem Delhi was facing.  

2013 onwards

I left to pursue a Master’s program in Management from Warwick University in the U.K. My roommate, Ahmed Meehan became my best friend.  We’d share food, clothes and everything else. We’d watch matches together, cheering for our countries and celebrating whoever’s won. He was a Pakistani. 

2014

Krishan moved to India in September of 2014, when the Kashmir valley was struggling with devastating floods. Krishan couldn’t hold anymore.

I had to do something. I had to do anything that I could. 

Krishan took to pen. He wrote in news papers, debated in TV channels and encouraged every Kashmiri to build back Kashmir, brick by brick, home by home.

The sheer need of the time was sharing. We had to imbibe people with the feeling of sharing. If I’d drink a glass of water, I’d donate one.

Thought the government wasn’t very positive, Krishan and the team managed to bring solar energy experts, civil engineers, etc. They began this with the name of Foundation – Rebuilding Jammu & Kashmir. The team worked on mobilising water,repairing sanitation, providing warm clothes, health kits, etc. to the affected.

Lack of education facilities in Kashmir are gripping the very essence of Kashmir. Young kids are incited to participate in protests over anything and everything. So I decided to work on this age gap, which is going to decide the future of Jammu and Kashmir. I also wanted people to know Kashmir for its goodness, there is hardly anything discussed about business opportunities in Kashmir. Coming from a business family myself, I want to highlight this positive side of Jammu and Kashmir to attract more people.

Krishan recently organised Jashn-e-Kashmir in the valley to celebrate the spirit of Jammu and Kashmir. Krishan is also a business consultant at PwC, Strategy&.

The event not only gave a ray of hope to Kashmiris but was also a great business opportunity for local makers and providers. Right from the shawl makers to hoteliers, Jash-e-Kashmir proved to be a great event.

A story by Shruti Chaturvedi. If you are onboard the current Jagriti Yatra train, spot her down. We are all ears! 

1 year ago No Comments Views
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