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On the occasion of National Maritime Day on 5 April, this article looks into the role the sea has played in diffusing Indian fashion, food and religion since the early historical period.

Dennard H D’Souza



The sea is the life source of our planet. Life thrives because it is sustained by the benevolent water cycle that year after year replenishes the aquifers. Thus, leaving flora and fauna to grow to their potential. Not only has the ocean sustained our biodiversity but it has also played a major role in charting the planet’s economic, political and cultural history. On this world maritime day, I would like to narrate a few events in history where the sea played an important role in shaping the world as it is today.

Figure 1: Fustat print of Indian origin. Source WikicommonsFigure 2: Theri Sanghamitta with the Bodhi tree sapling. Source: Dhamma Wiki

Around 80 million years ago the loose landmass, an Island in the vast ocean moved towards the Eurasian continent. It clashed with the latter to form the most distinctive geographies in the history of the earth. To the north the impregnable Himalayas to the south the deep blue Indian Ocean. This was India, the land we call home. Even though its distinctive geography made India secluded from the rest of the world; it did not preclude interaction with other cultures of the globe. With this historical collision, India performed its first maritime journey a few million years ago. The Lofty Mountains of the Himalayas obstructed the moist monsoon winds from the south and freezing blizzards from the north. Thus creating an ideal situation for perennially flowing rivers and streams, which make this subcontinent rich in biodiversity. Alongside these rivers humans made their settlements and agriculture boomed in the early chalcolithic period.

Similarly, with the agricultural boom coupled with urbanization, Trade started flourishing and the goods produced in the subcontinent found markets in faraway places. Indian cloth, livestock and jewelry were in great demand in chalcolithic Mesopotamia. Fleets of ships laden with such merchandise set sail for the urban centers of Sumeria and Babylon from nascent ports of the Harappans. Possessing commodities of Indian origin became a status symbol for the elite of Mesopotamian society and with this India impacted the elite culture of another urban center for the first time through the medium of the sea. Vanity ware from India was constantly in demand in markets of Egypt and Rome. As recently archaeologists have discovered cloth of Indian vintage in the ancient city of Fustat, Egypt. The fabrics found were printed in vibrant colours and embellished with floral and geometric motifs. These pieces of fabric are dated to the 13th century with Gujarat believed to be the place of its production. Indian cloth continued to be in demand until the colonial era when looms were laid waste due to the reckless policies of the colonial state.

Millennia later after the demise of the Harappan Culture, the sea again became a catalyst. This time it impacted the culinary culture of another civilization – it was the mighty Roman Empire. Long before pepper was available to the west the Romans subsisted on bland and frugal foods with not many tongue titillating flavours. Titus Maccius Plautus, in one of his plays, depicts the Romans as bland pottage eaters as compared to their cultured European counterparts- Greeks, who were idolized by the Romans for their refined taste and demeanor.

At the same time, Roman food got a new lease of life when pepper was introduced into the diet of the patrician Roman classes. Foods in the kitchen, of those who were wealthy would hereafter not suffer an unpalatable meal for the want of seasonings. And with a dab of pepper, food could taste better and would preserve well all throughout the year even in times of the frigid winters. Soon Rome started importing piles of pepper corn from the sole pepper producing region of Malabar on the western coast of India. The craze for pepper reached such feverish heights that gold was exchanged in lieu for pepper, so much so that Pliny the younger lamented this trade imbalance which cost Rome 100 million sesterces annually. To add to this tizzy a direct route to India was also discovered, so that there was no delay in supply of spices et al from the markets in India to the tables of the Romans. And the craze of pepper did not stop just there; it became a valid currency in Rome with Caesar storing vast amounts of Pepper unused in the Roman treasury. On the day Alaric the Hun invaded Rome, he was assuaged by the Romans who paid him Three thousand pounds of pepper in ransom. Just when seas catalyzed change in the material needs of mankind, it also played a dynamic role in elevating their spiritual consciousness.

Long time ago when religious missions were not a common spectacle Ashoka the Emperor of India sent a mission of Buddhist monks by Ship to Sri Lanka for the spread of Buddhism. The mission was headed by his daughter Theri Sanghamitta. The convoy of monks also carried a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree which would two thousand years later be the parent tree from which a branch was cultivated and sent to Bodh Gaya. Besides Buddhism the sea has also helped in transporting Shaivism to the islands of Southeast Asia. As per the history of the people of Cambodia and Vietnam their cultural history starts from the union of an Indian merchant named Kaundinya and a local princess named Soma. The Duo is said to have fostered the Cultural and Ethnic identity of the region. Kaundinya is said to have adhered to the tenets of Shaivism. For a very long period, Southeast Asia was predominantly Shaiva before Buddhism began to replace it during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

The history of the world as we know it today was greatly shaped by the seas. How we eat, how we dress and how we pray has all been facilitated by the vast blue water. On this National Maritime Day, let us bear gratitude to the oceans that are the center of the global economy, culture and politics and how the sea helped India to be transported through its Fashion, Food and Religions.

The Author is Senior Research Associate, Maritime History Society.

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Workforce diversity: A key to improve productivity

A diverse workforce helps an organization bring more creativity and innovations. Diversity practice is not only a leveller. It is also an immense possibility for an organization’s growth



“Diversity” is about embracing the full range of differences that make each unique. Much of the discussion in the public sphere often revolves around gender diversity but as you can see from the graphic below, it is about so much more than that. Beyond the physical, it is also about embracing cognitive, occupational, values, relational and societal aspects of humans as individual beings. It’s pointless to have a diverse workforce without fully including and maximising such diversity. Here are some ways diversity will make your business a better one. 


Teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, and work styles are more representative of the customers that companies serve. They offer a variety of viewpoints, they have a wider range of experiences and they produce more innovation. Simply put: A diverse workplace can capture a greater share of the consumer market.


In an increasingly global economy, where the best companies hire only the best people, it makes logical business sense to hire from the widest pool of talent. Access to the largest and most diverse set of candidates eventually makes for a truly qualified workforce — talent is borderless, color, and gender-blind!


Be aware that your customers are watching and acting with their wallets. With social media and an active citizenry, businesses are being held accountable for their every action. To be a responsible business, actions speak far louder than words. 


Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key talent attraction and retention strategy. In today’s intense battle for talent, having a strong employer branding proposition is key to business success. Not only does it make your company more attractive to work for, but a diverse and inclusive workforce can also help reduce costly employee turnovers. 

At the basic level, build awareness and consciousness about how everyone is different and celebrate that individuality. Diversity education and bias training could be part of onboarding. The next step up would be to have action and alignment around diversity and inclusion policies. Implement formal processes, systems, and policies around diversity and inclusion and keep everyone (all ranks and levels) accountable. Simple examples include allowing flexible schedules for parents.

The author Senior Managing Director, Michael Page India & Thailand

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Battery swapping replaces depleted batteries with freshly charged ones at swap stations

Dr Irfan Khan



Electric vehicles are becoming more prominent in today’s time, especially with the increasing use case in commercial vehicle space, Many Industry manufacturers and solution providers are working on the measures to make electric vehicles more affordable, easy to charge, and economical to operate. One such technology that gives all these benefits to fleet operators is battery swapping. A battery swapping technology, as the name suggests, is a method where a user can swap a battery to keep the vehicle running. 

A swapping station that is being installed at any particular location comprises multiple batteries getting charged constantly. An EV user can locate a swapping station, replace the depleting battery with a charged one, put the empty battery on charge, and can go to work. Battery Swapping technology has opened wide opportunities for fleet owners who want to keep their vehicles running without worrying about charging time.

Under battery swapping, EV users replace the discharged batteries with charged ones at the swap stations. It helps to solve the problem of setting up charging stations and also reduces the range anxiety of drivers. Apart from this, battery leasing can help EV consumers to save on the cost of purchasing a battery. It consumes minimum time and requires minimum infrastructure to charge at a battery station which could take hours. 

According to the research by 2030, more than 12 million tonnes of lithium-ion batteries are likely to retire. It needs raw materials such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt that have an environmental and human impact. At the end of their lives, batteries also create a lot of electronic waste. Many industry players are working on how to discard dead batteries and extract valuable metals at scale to keep materials in circulation and reduce reliance on mining. We should work on a better solution to keep the battery in use for longer in alternative sectors.

Battery cost currently constitutes about 40-70 percent of the upfront cost for an electric vehicle. If these batteries are decoupled and sold separately, it can help to shift the upfront cost to the energy operator’s network that is shifting the cost of ownership to operations. Battery swapping and interoperability can play a vital role in this as it helps to build the network of the supply chain to boost EV adoption, which in turn will impact faster transition.

Modern mobility solutions have two agendas such as technology transition and mobility as a function. We need an aggressive target with a proper roadmap for battery swapping that will help to change this ecosystem.

Use standard battery technology: Standard battery design, such as pack size, cavity, electric power control unit, and output performance per unit, will make battery switching easier. These innovations serve as catalysts for achieving economies of scale more quickly.

Recycling of EV Batteries: Battery recycling is a huge opportunity for India. Batteries that are being swapped can be built with a recycling-friendly design to enable ease of repurposing. The manufacturing and then recycling of the batteries of these EVs with recycled materials will eliminate sourcing that will positively impact the unit cost of vehicles.

 Battery-as-a-service (BaaS): Battery needs to be treated as a service segment like liquefied petroleum gas, or other functional batteries. It is necessary to extend the Incentives to battery-unit to subsidise per-kilometre operations rather than the purchase cost. The gross-cost financing models, along with the standard operating procedure for energy operators can help to explore the financially viable solutions.

The subscription model of Battery Swapping: BaaS can be available to users at a subscription model to gain the trust of the users and to boost confidence in availability.  

Building co-reliance: It is important to identify the value-chain propositionsfor users, drivers, energy operators, urban local bodies, and financing institutions in the swapping of EV batteries. Many start-ups and big EV manufacturers should also work on the inventory of previous existing modes, the infrastructure of land, Space for parking, spaces for charging infrastructure, and EO network in cities.

To deploy the intelligent transport systems technology: Using and promoting the use of digital applications that use databases to aid in the human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interface, which helps to increase EV and battery swapping station usage, traction, and ensure efficient operations, safety detection, seamless delivery, and improved convenience in the EV ecosystem.

Usage and adoption of electric vehicles have been growing at a rapid pace globally. According to the industry standards, an EV is costlier than its ICE counterpart and at least half the cost is from the battery pack. Many manufacturers are offering batteries separately from a vehicle, reducing the cost. In that case, a fleet owner can buy vehicles without batteries and utilize battery swapping to power their vehicles, reducing the initial cost.

One of the major reasons that create a hindrance to buying EVs is the range anxiety and the fear of the battery getting empty without finding a charging station. Compared to petrol or diesel vehicles, EV charging facilities are hard to come by, which raises range anxiety even more, especially when travelling long distances. One or two charging stations are available; the charging process is similar to charging mobile batteries. The best and fastest charger will replenish 80 percent of the battery in almost an hour, that’s quite long considering fuel pumps can fill up a tank in 5 min. In the case of a swapping station, one can simply locate a station and go and replace the empty battery with a new one.

Our government is also attempting to address this issue by finalising the incentives under the battery switching program. The policy mainly targets the battery swap services for three-wheeled auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers such as electric scooters and motorcycles. Under the policy, EV consumers will get incentives of up to 20 percent on the subscription or lease cost of the battery. Technologies that are being used for battery swapping have not yet been popular in India and charging is preferred. Swapping of batteries is a very good alternative to fuelling automobiles in the post-transition phase. 

Swappable batteries can not only be compact but eliminate anxiety about range and availability. But it will also mirror the existing network of fuelling stations to facilitate seamless operations. The investment from many private sectors can be leveraged for operations of the supply chain networks and sustenance of energy operators. The battery swapping and network of energy operators becomes a service segment. The availability and connectivity to this energy infrastructure are critical to the operation of these exchanging stations. So, it is most important to establish sustainable business models that can be leveraged to shift this upfront cost to the cost of operating an EV.

The author is Founder & CEO of eBikeGo, India’s largest smart electric two-wheeler mobility platform.

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Murtaza Ali Khan



Chef Ajay Chopra is the face of European Union’s ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India. The ‘More Than Food’ campaign is aimed at increasing awareness in India about the food and beverages from the 27 EU Member States through a series of social media, B2B activities, and promotions by highlighting their safety, quality, authenticity, sustainability, and diversity.

In this interview he talks about the vision behind the ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India, authenticity and safety of European Union food ingredients, and the need to take European food to the common Indian household, among other things.

Chef Ajay Chopra


Q. What’s the vision behind the ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India? Also tell us about your association with the European Union as well as the campaign.

A. I am extremely honoured and delighted to be a part of European Union’s More Than Food campaign in India, as their campaign ambassador. Through this campaign, the European Union and I want to help the Indian audience explore the diverse and rich nature of ingredients and agricultural products from its 27 Member States. It aims to create a range of culinary experiences, bringing alive applications of European food and beverages in Indian cuisine. Every product reflects the commitment of European agricultural producers to offer authentic, safe, quality and sustainable products, from farm to fork. All of this is done in accordance with the EU’s high standards of production, processing, and packaging, following robust regulations with utmost transparency, ensuring that each agricultural product is fully traceable, and its origin can be identified at any stage of production or distribution.

Q. As the ambassador for ‘More Than Food› campaign in India, how do you look at the prospects of bringing the culinary experiences to India with this campaign?

A. The idea of this campaign is to create a range of culinary experiences and bring alive applications of European food and beverages in Indian cuisine. The Indian palette is used to a myriad of tastes and with this campaign, we want to bring to the audience a collection of flavours, full of character and history and will give the audience a chance to explore these rich ingredients.

Q. In a country as diverse as India the Food habits vary greatly from place to place. How authentic, safe, and sustainable European Union food ingredients are for Indian consumption?

A. Agricultural products from the European Union are a lot more than just food and drinks. They are a collection of flavours that are bursting with characters, tracing back to its origin. Each ingredient has a unique story to share, which is a heritage that has been passed down through generations. The products are built around quality and tradition, with an emphasis on genuine and unique ingredients that are subject to rigorous regulations at every stage of their production, processing and packaging.

Each EU country or region has employed ancient techniques to produce food and drinks that reflect local weather, cultures, and values. The food and drinks of the EU are produced, processed, and marketed in adherence to comprehensive standards for plant health, animal welfare and environment protection, which are among the strictest in the world.

The EU´s Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Sustainably produced EU products are the output of sustainable farming practices and leading innovations in agriculture and food science, and they help preserve the ecosystems and thus are a step forward to ensuring the planet’s health for us all.

Personally, I feel that the ingredients are a treat to work with. To share a personal experience with you, I used Blue Cheese from Denmark and created this beautiful concoction with fried garlic and stuffed them in a naan (Indian bread) and created these gorgeous naan pockets with creamy blue cheese coupled with the sharp flavour and crunch of the garlic. This was just one of the most beautiful dishes I have created.

Q. How keen are you in taking European food to the common Indian household?

A. The entire idea of the More Than Food campaign is to take European food into the Indian kitchen. As the ambassador of the campaign, I am really looking forward to educating the Indian audience of the authenticity, quality and safety of European ingredients. The options of what you can make using these ingredients are endless and over the next few months of my association with the European Union, I will keep my audience engaged and take them through a journey where they understand the different nuances of European food.

Q. What would be your recommended delicacies/preparations to someone uninitiated to European cuisine?

A. I think the best way to start and get acquainted is to prepare a cheese and charcuterie board. It’s the easiest way to get familiar with a host of products and create one platter which will have a variety of flavours. You can use different kinds of cheese, fruits and vegetables, meat and pair it up with wine or even some beer.

Q. You had hosted a Virtual Tasting Event a few months back. What was it all about?

A. The Virtual Tasting Event was hosted basically to kick-start European Union’s ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India. The idea was to get importers, distributors and members of the HORECA sector in India acquainted with the ingredients and flavours from the EU. During the session, the audience got an opportunity to understand the heritage behind each ingredient, as I took them through some interesting stories about European Food. While they loved the anecdotes, they also got a chance to try these products as we curated and sent them amazing hampers with EU products. We wanted them to understand how such high quality and flavorful products come from EU’s member states and we did just that alongside offering some tips and tricks to create a perfect cheese and charcuterie board. It has been a great experience as the Ambassador of the More Than Food campaign so far, and I am sure the journey is just going to get more and more interesting.

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The Supreme Court in the case Gurmel Singh vs Branch Manager, National Insurance Co. Ltd observed that due to circumstances which is beyond the insured control and which the insured is not in a position to produce while settling the claims, the insurance company need not be too technical and ask for documents.

While settling the claim, it is found that the insurance companies are refusing the claim on flimsy grounds and/ or technical grounds further which the insured is not in a position to produce due to circumstances beyond his control, While settling the claims, the insurance company should not be too technical and ask for the document As the insurance company ought not to have become too technical and ought not to have refused to settle the claim on non­ submission of the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration as due to the circumstances beyond his control, the appellant could not produce on payment of huge sum by way of premium and the Truck was stolen, once there was a valid insurance. As the appellant was asked to produce the documents which are beyond the control of the appellant to produce and furnish those documents.

An amount of Rs. 12 lakhs along with interest @ 7 per cent from the date of submitting the claim, the appellant is entitled to the insurance and to pay the litigation cost of Rs. 25,000 to the appellant, the court held while allowing the appeal.

the insurance company has become too technical while settling the claim and the insurance company has acted arbitrarily, observed by the court in this case.

As when an appellant produced the registration particulars which has been provided by the RTO and further the appellant had produced the photocopy of certificate of registration and was just being solely on the ground that the original certificate of registration i.e., which has been stolen is not produced and the non-settlement of claim can be said to be deficiency in service. Therefore, the Insurance companies are refusing the claim on flimsy grounds and/or technical grounds, the facts and circumstances of the case. Furthermore, the appellant had tried his best to get the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration of the Truck. the insurance company must have received the copy of the certificate of registration, even at the time of taking the insurance policy and getting the insurance.

the appellant has not produced either the original certificate of registration or even the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration issued by the RTO, mainly on the ground the insurance company has not been settled in an appeal before the Apex Court. The bench further noted that the photocopy 5 of certificate of registration and other registration particulars as provided by the RTO, was being produced by the appellant.

The bench comprising of Justice MR Shah and the justice BV Nagarathna observed and contended that, in many cases, it is found that the insurance companies are refusing the claim on flimsy grounds and/or technical grounds.

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Bengal cannot be won with good speeches: Arjun Singh



Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Arjun Singh left the TMC and joined the BJP. This time, as soon as the assembly elections were over, the leader from Barrackpore left the BJP and returned to TMC. After entering the old party in a new way, he became vocal against BJP. The rebel leader shared his views with The Daily Guardian Review.

BJP Lok Sabha MP Arjun Singh joins TMC in Kolkata on Sunday.

Q: You returned to TMC after three years. Why this return?

A: This decision has been made for many reasons. The biggest reason is that the Bengal BJP has not taken any decision for me in three years. It was not possible for activists like us who work at ground zero to perform. All the factories in my centre are closed. The BJP should have taken the responsibility because it is under the central government. Instead, I had to fight this battle alone. I thought I would get support from the BJP in Bengal but in vain. Second, I had to face obstacles in my work in the organization. I had told this to the central leadership many times. But there was no solution. So, I was forced to leave the party and join the TMC to bring peace to my area, to save my activists, and to continue the fight.

Q: BJP is saying that your absence will not have any effect on the party. Your comment.

A: If there is no influence in Bengal or elsewhere then it is good for a political party. However, the BJP does not know what the impact is, what the election is or what the booth is. The leaders of the party gave good speeches. However, elections in Bengal cannot be win with good speeches in politics. The BJP leader who gave the speech said that it was not a matter of winning or losing. But winning in Bengal is the main thing. I think it would be better if the BJP says that my departure will not have any effect. 

Q:  Political experts are of the opinion that you joined BJP for power. What do you have to say?

A: Lots of people before me joined BJP. Did TMC recognise anyone? The way TMC fought against me, did it against anyone? TMC recognised me. They felt that the BJP needed to lose this candidate. They used all their power against me. Why would TMC take so much power against someone like that? This proves that there is no logic in what the BJP is saying. I didn’t use BJP for power. 

Q: What’s your next plan? 

A: I will relax a little. There are seven MLAs who will work. Then I will fulfill the responsibility given to me by the TMC. I have been working alone for so long, now it is my turn to relax a little.

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The Supreme Court on May 18 ordered the release of AG Perarivalan, the convict serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, while invoking its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution. Perarivalan had sought a premature release from jail based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018. In an interaction with The Daily Guardian Review, Perarivalan shared his journey after his release.

Q: How was the 30 years legal battle?

A: The journey was painful.

Q: How did you feel getting out from four corners after 31 years?

A: I never thought I would get stuck in the case, the journey was very long in jail. My mother had supported me all times. That’s how I overcame.

Q: Did you ever feel that you’ll gain a victory in this case?

A: I never lost hope, I have seen this as a setback, I have worked hard for it.

Q: In the past 30 years, who have helped you and supported you?

A: My mother has always taken my side. A huge team both legally and politically have fought for me in this case.

Q: How do you see the world now? What’s your future plan?

A: The world has completely changed. I’m getting adopted for it and learning it, the future plans haven’t been discussed yet. I will be consulting with the family on the future plans.

Q: Why do you think your release was celebrated across TN and by several political parties in the state?

A: Several parties including AIADMK and DMK have understood my innocence in this case and they have supported me always understanding my situation.

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