PEOPLE CHOSE HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES IN 2020: N. BALASUBRAMANIAN - The Daily Guardian
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PEOPLE CHOSE HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES IN 2020: N. BALASUBRAMANIAN

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In an exclusive conversation, as a part of a special series NewsX India A-List on NewsX, N. Balasubramanian, CEO, 24 Mantra Organic, spoke about his organic food brand and witnessing a shift in people consuming organic and healthy food.

Speaking about what led to the start of Shrestha and the launch of the organic food brand, Balasubramanian said, “A lot of people believe that organic is elitist and so in 2004 when the founder of the company Raj Seelam was thinking about launching an organic food brand, I was working for Mars, not many people gave him a chance of building an organic food business in India. Seelam had seen a lot of farmer distress because of multiple factors we are aware of. More importantly, he saw a huge amount of use of fertilisers and pesticides in all the crops he was handling because he was working for a fertiliser company. Seelam thought that there has to be a better way to do farming and that eventually led to setting up of this organisation with a primary focus on helping the farmers earn a better livelihood. Today, we have other issues going on with farmers but our primary objective in 2004 was to set this business up and help small farmers earn a better livelihood with a better impact on the environment and eventually giving better food to consumers. We knew it was a long haul but we decided to do the right things.”

Talking about the hardships faced in the beginning, he said, “Firstly, identifying the kind of farmers we wanted to work with because it’s not easy and the stories about Indian farmers being risk-averse as the returns are low. Some of the difficulties were convincing farmers to do the right thing and wait for the returns, the organic conversion certificate takes three to four years depending on the program, the condition of the soil and so on. The farmer needs to work on his land for years to get certified and to convince and select the right type of farmers who understand this was a big challenge. Secondly, the other extreme was to convince the consumers to believe. When we initially started selling our products, people were aware of the pesticides, pollution, and other harmful things but they didn’t believe that there is an alternative they can trust.”

Speaking about how the brand is able to keep up with the changing trends since Covid-19 pandemic, Balasubramanian said, “It’s been a continuous journey and we’ve worked for the last 15 years to build the consumer confidence and trust in this whole organic food movement. Before 2020, we had started seeing signs of consumer acceptability for organic and slightly healthier products. 2020 triggered a much better response and people chose healthier alternatives. We’ve reached over a million households in India so far. We intend to build on that because clearly this need to consume better food has changed for the better. I think consumers realise that the money they spend on basic food is not so high. It’s wise to eat good food and spend the money where it really helps with your health.”

Talking about their expansion plans, he pointed out, “Most of the health and wellness products in this country are consumed by around 20 million families out of the whole population. So, we want over two to three million in the next couple of years to start consuming organic food from one million. Similarly, outside India, within the US and the Middle East, we are building the business reasonably well. The idea is to grow within India, the US and the Middle East as well as Malaysia, Australia and other such countries at a good pace. And, keep adding countries as we go along and within India, we are focusing a lot more on tier 2, and tier 3 cities as post-2020 there has been a higher demand.”

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Man arrested for sexual assault of actress in Mumbai

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Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], March 1 (ANI): One person arrested for allegedly saxually harassing an actress in Maharashtra’s Mumbai, police said on Sunday.
According to the police, “A person has been arrested on allegations of sexual exploitation with the actress. A case has registered under relevant Sections of Indian Panel Court at the Goregaon police station.”
Further investigation is underway.
Earlier on February 27, three persons have been arrested on the basis of a complaint by a few girls who had approached police alleging that the accused touched them inappropriately at public places while shooting videos.
The girls said the accused pranked them to shoot the videos, which they later uploaded on Facebook and YouTube.
“Mumbai police arrested the three after cyber cell received a complaint that they made videos of girls while touching them inappropriately at public places and uploaded them on social media. Indecent language has been used in the videos. They earned around Rs 2 crore from these videos,” Mumbai Police said earlier. (ANI)

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Minister Arjun Munda felicitates Indian para archery team for performing at Fazza tournament in Dubai

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New Delhi [India], March 1 (ANI): Union Minister and President of Archery Association of India, Arjun Munda on Sunday felicitated the Indian Para archery team for their performance at the seventh Fazza World Ranking Tournament which was held in Dubai.
“I am glad to see the performance of our archers in Dubai. They have inspired us with their performance in Olympics and showed their will-power,” said the Union Minister while talking to ANI.
Munda further said: “When a player achieves something it is a matter of pride for the nation. Their achievement will motivate other players to take part in games.”

Harvinder Singh, a para archer hailing from Haryana said: “It was a very challenging experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic because we were not able to practice in that period. Fazza tournament was our first championship after the pandemic. Earlier in October 2019, We played the Asian championship in Thailand.”
While Rakesh Kumar another para archer who met with an accident in 2009 and became wheelchair-ridden won a gold medal in the individual category in the tournament said: “I met with an accident in 2009 and from there, my life changed. It was very tough for me to live a normal life. I was on bed for at least six months but after three or four years, when I recovered I realised that now I can’t move on my legs. So, I had to do something and my family’s financial condition was also not good,” Rakesh said. (ANI)

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India has multiple cultures, language; PM must respect all: Rahul Gandhi

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Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) [India], March 1 (ANI): Refuting Prime Minister Narendra Mondi’s claim that India has one culture, history and language, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said the country has multiple cultures, history, and languages and urged Prime Minister to respect all of it.
“Prime Minister says India has one culture, one history and one language. Is Tamil history not Indian history or Tamil culture not Indian culture? India has multiple cultures, history and languages. Prime Minister must respect every language and culture,” Rahul said while addressing a rally in Tirunelveli.
Gandhi is touring poll-bound Tamil Nadu for the second day as part of his campaign for the April 6 assembly elections.
He also took to Twitter to slam the Central government. “GOI has turned noble professions like farming, education and healthcare into financial commodities for the benefit of a few cronies. We are fighting this without any anger, hatred or violence. And non-violence always wins,” he tweeted.
This comes ahead of the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will take place on May 2.
The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is contesting the polls in a pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). MK Stalin’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has joined hands with the Congress party.
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan’s party Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) is also in the fray this time. (ANI

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Darjeeling MP asks justice for West Bengal BJP worker’s mother

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Darjeeling (West Bengal) [India], March 1 (ANI): Raju Bista, Member of Parliament from Darjeeling wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requesting her for immediate intervention to ensure justice for BJP worker Gopal Majumdar’s mother.
“Those who have perpetrated such barbarity need to be dealt with in the most strictest of terms,” he wrote.
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker in the state has alleged that workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) attacked his mother in North 24 Paraganas on February 27, in what appears to be another case of political violence in the poll-bound state.
BJP worker Gopal Majumdar said that three TMC workers entered his house and attacked his mother in Nimta.
Talking about the assault, Majumdar’s mother said: “They hit me on my head and neck and punched me. They hit me on my face too. I am scared, they asked me not to tell anyone about it. My whole body is in pain.”
An FIR has been registered in the case.
Political violence has been regularly making headlines in poll-bound West Bengal. The elections for the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal will begin on March 27. The state is going to witness eight-phase Assembly polls this year. (ANI)

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Kerala Finance Minister criticises Nirmala Sitharaman over her state Budget, KIIFB remarks

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Kochi (Kerala) [India], March 1 (ANI): Reacting to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s comment over Kerala Budget and Kerala infrastructure investment fund board (KIIFB), state Finance Minister TM Thomas Issac on Sunday said she should have realized that the dignity of the position eroded when she delivers such speech without understanding.
Thomas Issac wrote a Facebook post after Sitharaman in Kochi alleged the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government in Kerala of giving all the budget money to KIIFB.
“Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman should have realized that the dignity of the position she holds is being eroded when she automatically reads (without understanding) what someone has written. She was talking nonsense about KIIFB and the state budget. Not only did she not do her homework at all, but her remarks proved that she had no idea what was being said. The Union Minister should not regret for which I am saying openly that Shame on You,” Issac wrote on Facebook.
State Finance Minister also described KIIFB and said it is a system set up to mobilize resources outside the budget.
“KIIFB is a system set up to mobilize resources outside the budget. The CAG’s criticism was that KIIFB revenue and expenditure were not part of the budget. When the criticism reached Nirmala Sitharaman, that came to the fore. All I can say is that no matter who wrote this speech, the Union Finance Minister should not have been fooled like this. A quality and serious approach is expected from that position,” he said.
Union Finance Minister yesterday lashed out at Kerala government over the state budget and accused it for giving all the budget money to KIIFB.
“Kerala budget was presented and all the money is given to KIIFB. I do not know what budget they are making if all the money is given to one organisation,” the Finance Minister said during ‘Vijaya Yathra’ in Kochi. (ANI)

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Amid surge in Covid-19 cases, Tamil Nadu extends lockdown till March 31

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Chennai (Tamil Nadu) [India], March 1 (ANI): As Tamil Nadu witnessing a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases across the state, the authorities on Sunday extended the lockdown till March 31.
District administrations have been asked to take all necessary measures to promote coronavirus appropriate behaviour and ensure wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.
Tamil Nadu registered 486 new coronavirus cases and five deaths over the past 24 hours, the Health Department said yesterday.
According to the Health Ministry, India is all set to start the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination on Monday (March 1), 2021, for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
To ramp up the COVID-19 vaccination capacity, around 10,000 private hospitals under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY and more than 600 private hospitals under the Central Government Health Scheme will be utilised.
Other private hospitals empanelled under State Govts Health Insurance Scheme can also participate as COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs). (ANI)

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