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PHILIPPINES DEPLOYS MORE PATROL SHIPS AMID RIFT WITH CHINA

Philippines orders China to recall 183 boats at the boomerang-shaped reef around 320 km west of Palawan Island, describing their presence as an incursion of its sovereign territory.

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The Philippines has ordered the deployment of more navy ships to the South China Sea on Thursday amid a growing diplomatic row over a fleet of Chinese boats parked near a disputed reef.

China claims almost the entirety of the resource-rich sea, and was accused by the United States this week of efforts to “intimidate and provoke others” by parking its vessels near Whitsun Reef.

Philippines has ordered China to recall 183 boats at the boomerang-shaped reef around 320 km west of Palawan Island, describing their presence as an incursion of its sovereign territory. Around 220 boats were detected by the Philippine coast guard on March 7 but only made public last weekend.

A military aerial patrol over the reef on Monday found 183 were still there.

A spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the additional navy ships would carry out “sovereignty patrols” in the waterway. He did not say if the ships would go near the reef or what type of vessels would be used.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has asked about 200 Chinese vessels he described as militia boats to immediately leave Whitsun Reef, a shallow coral region about 175 nautical miles (324 km) west of Bataraza town in the western Philippine province of Palawan.

China ignored the call, insisting it owns the offshore territory and that the vessels were sheltering from rough seas.

Military chief Gen Cirilito Sobejana ordered the deployment of additional navy ships to beef up the country’s “maritime sovereignty patrols” in the disputed waters, the military said Thursday.

“By the increased naval presence in the area, we seek to reassure our people of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ strong and unwavering commitment to protect and defend them from harassment and ensure that they can enjoy their rights over the country’s rich fishing ground,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest but China insisted it owns the reef, which it calls Niue Jiao, and said the Chinese vessels converged in the area to avoid rough waters. The US, however, said, “Chinese boats have been mooring in this area for many months in ever increasing numbers, regardless of the weather.”

Beijing denied the vessels were maritime militias. “Any speculation in such helps nothing but causes unnecessary irritation,” the Chinese Embassy said Monday.

The Philippine government says the reef is well within the country’s internationally recognised exclusive economic zone over which it “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources”.

Philippines has ordered China to recall 183 boats at the boomerang-shaped reef around 320 km west of Palawan Island, describing their presence as an incursion of its sovereign territory. Around 220 boats were detected by the Philippine coast guard on March 7 but only made public last weekend. A military aerial patrol over the reef on Monday found 183 were still there.

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Understanding the act of giving and receiving care

Poonam Chawla

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One seldom rises at the hour of prayer, thinking, let me be neglectful to the elderly parent, relative or in-law living under my roof, today. But somewhere between shrugging into a starched shirt and biting into your morning toast, the brain goes into overdrive; it separates into neat little boxes, what must be done now, what must be done next week and what must be delegated.

Most likely, the elderly are tucked away in the last box, to be opened at a later date with reluctant fingers.

THE CAREGIVER

When I grow up I want to fold myself into a comma awaiting forever, the end of my sentence. Says no one ever but, if you are forced into caregiving or even if you make the choice to be a caregiver, there are many days you feel that way, like life in suspension, unsaved by poetic flourishes.

Your duties like the ticking clock are circular, unchanging. Yet, the attendant responsibilities and psychological ramifications of care make you want to curl up in a ball and whimper. You need help:

REMIND YOURSELF

Is this the rest of my life? When the thought makes you want to breathe into a paper bag – remind yourself that it is not. This phase will play itself out. For now, your job is to put one foot in front of another and not let your mind leap into a past romanticised with memory or a future tricky and fog-shaped. Dispense that medicine. Change that diaper. Feed that mouth and wipe those lips. That is what matters now, and it matters immensely. It allows a person to live out this last stage of their life with a few breaths of grace.

SELF-CARE IS NOT BEING SELFISH

The elderly are fragile. They break easily. You cannot handle them with a shaky hand or a disturbed mind. So, don’t minimise your problems and do take care of your health.

Annika, in my book The Slow Disappearing, admits:

“There are times when I have a headache or it burns when I pee or I have a cold I cannot shake, and I’m fully aware how petty that is, for what is a cold when one is losing words or losing one’s foothold on one’s surroundings? And that is when I detest the sound of her phlegmy cough, the overdrawn drama, the canned revelry of game shows on television, and her passive-aggressive silences.”

Seek advice from your doctor if you are unwell, allow your kindly neighbour to pamper you, look into community resources available for the elderly – a day trip to the temple with their peers, arranged by a Senior Citizen Welfare group can be wonderful for their spirits and yours. Take that time to slip away to the mountains, if not physically – by way of a song, a walk in the park, a steamy read.

FORGET SOCIAL MEDIA

Forget social media or at least look at the kaleidoscopic shapes of social media objectively. Facebook is a moment shaken out of time. It’s a touch of instant glamour, like that new shade of burgundy lipstick you bought for special occasions. Don’t let it fill you with envy or resentment.

Life is messy. Other people are not floating in a rosy parallel, above-the-grime world unexposed to disinfectants and deranged rants. Every image you see is someone auditioning for an imagined life.

SEE AND TOUCH

In this day of over-verbalisation, platitudes are worn thin with overuse. We love you, we care about you, we hope you are well… is all very well. But know that if you wash and brush the hair of the ones under your care; if you clip their toe-nails; if you really look into their storied eyes, and see them for who they are – the murtis of hope, compassion, forgiveness, and despair and countless other stories – you will become their Tulsidas and their Tagore. Your touch will heal.

And when you realise that the opaque membrane between youth and ageing is thinning daily, you will know empathy – that care-shaped emoji at the end of the sentence.

GIVE AND TAKE

As a child, you might have read the story of The Giving Tree. How it shelters and nurtures a boy, with every portion of its being – The trunk, the branches, the fruit, the leaves –  à votre service, up until the end, when it shrivels to a stump. The tree gives. The child takes.

I like to akin the elderly to the forest trees: sheltering, nurturing until they shrivel to unrecognisable stumps. Perhaps we can change the ending to that story: The tree gives. The child gives back.

Poonam Chawla is the author of The Slow Disappearing. 

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PM MODI’S INITIATIVES THAT PAVED A WAY FOR TRANSFORMED INDIA

In the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country has made several giant leaps that have brought a complete transformation in almost all the areas of governance and public policy.

Ashish Sood

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Change seems a smaller word when we compare today’s India with that of 2014. In the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country has made several giant leaps that have brought a complete transformation in almost all the areas of governance and public policy from women empowerment to infrastructure to defence to health and sanitation to agriculture to the economy to foreign policy and promotion of indigenous culture among others. Central Vista Project is all set to transform the national capital city by 2024. 

In his able leadership, India has achieved several firsts at the national level as well as at the global level. The word impossible is not in his dictionary. But driven with this spirit, he has made so many achievements in such a short period and still adding to the list year by year that it has become impossible to include them in a single article. When we count on merit, several achievements come at number one which is again an impossible task. But for the sake of presentation, we need to start from a point. 

MANAGING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Though the Covid-19 has been the most devastating pandemic ever for mankind, there had been pandemics earlier as well. But in those pandemics, the role of India was limited to just a receiver of funds, medicines, doctors etc. from WHO and other friendly countries. In this pandemic, India emerged as a donor. While the top leaders of the developed countries had abandoned the idea of global culture, which they along with their intellectuals used to claim as their own, and declared several preferential policies for their citizens aka voters including a ban on exports; India made a world record of providing vaccines to several poor countries in Africa and also exported vaccines to Arab nations. During the Covid-19 crisis with over 45 lakh evacuations, India ranked first in the world. This number is about three times of total evacuations made by the next four countries put together. 

Nobody can forget the words of appreciation by the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres on 21 February 2021, who extended his ‘personal gratitude’ to India for offering 2 lakh doses of vaccine for UN peacekeepers and helping 150 countries with medical equipment. The onset of the second wave again compelled India to focus at home. Here too the country has set many records under the world’s biggest free vaccine drive including a record 2.5 crore Covid-19 jabs on the 71st birthday of Modiji on 17 September 2021. This transformation is waiting for another milestone during PM’s visit to the US to participate in Quad Leaders’ Summit in which the US President Joe Biden will reportedly request for vaccines. 

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT 

Most recently, the government has announced a permanent commission for women in the Armed Forces. This is not a standalone decision taken under pressure of any intellectual campaign or advocacy but a product of sustained efforts since 2014. Who can forget the first all-women contingent march on Rajpath during the 66th Republic Day parade in 2015, Tania Shergil as the first woman parade adjutant for Republic Day Parade in 2020, an all-women crew of Mt Swarna Krishan in March 2021 and many more? Not only in the Armed Forces, schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), the law on Triple Talaq, implementing 33% reservation for women in police, etc. will always be remembered as landmarks in the history of women empowerment. The Ujjawala Yojana has not only saved women from smokes thereby improving their health but also saved their time which they invest in productive works to increase their income. These schemes have transformed the lives of women from bottom to top. 

SANITATION AND DRINKING WATER 

India was infamous for open defecation on railway lines. Besides, railway stations were also filthy and dirty. Nobody has imagined improving this situation and we all had accepted it as part of their bad luck. Under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the government ensured the construction of over 100 million toilets in rural India and over 7 million in urban areas. So far, 711 districts, 6,971 blocks, 2.6 lakh Gram Panchayats, and over 6 lakh villages have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). 

Furthermore, new targets have been set to make all urban local bodies across the country ODF+ and ODF++ certified by 2024. Besides the numbers, the importance of SBM in transforming India could be assessed with the fact that women and girls in villages have named these toilets ‘izzatghar’. Of course, these services require regular maintenance but this scheme has transformed thinking from ‘nothing can be done’ to ‘nothing is impossible’. 

DEFENCE 

From fighting terrorism within the boundaries, India’s defence has been transformed to fighting terrorism wherever they hide including across the border. The Surgical Strike, Air Strike in Pakistan aka Terroristan has forced Pakistan to shift its terror camps to its bordering areas along with Afghanistan. 

Transparency in defence procurement and ensuring world-class defence equipment, gadgets, and fighters for Armed Forces such as Rafale and Apache Helicopters, have boosted the morale of our forces. This was due to this increased morale, even China was forced to withdraw from our borders after the Galwan valley clash. The new National War Memorial will continue to remind us of our brave soldiers. Revocation of Article 370 from Kashmir has facilitated security management in J&K. For retired defence personnel, the Modi government have implemented ‘one rank one pension’ scheme which was pending for decades. Besides, scientists have also made several advancements in missiles and other equipment. The contribution of space science to the defence needs of the country has also been remarkable. 

AGRICULTURE 

Indian has joined the group of a few countries which have crop insurance policies. Several previous problems that had been the cause of violent agitations throughout the country like the purchase of Urea and other fertilisers, irrigation, low rates for land acquisition have become a matter of history. The government is now giving four times of circle rates as compensation for the acquired land. As early as 2009, several farmers were killed in Greater Noida, Pune, and other parts of India demanding adequate compensation for their acquired land. The recent three farm laws have enabled the farmers to sell their crops directly to consumers, that is, people living in societies and colonies of the cities. Selling vegetables, grains, fruits etc. by farmers in colonies and societies is illegal as per existing rules and if they do it, they do it by paying bribes or commission to police and food inspectors. Presently, farmers are bound to sell their farm products in Mandis to wholesalers who then sell them to retailers. The diversification and innovations in crop patterns is another dimension of transformation in the country. Besides, Kisan Express trains have ensured access of farmers in Mandis across the country. According to recent data, around 2,110 tonnes of onions have been transported by Kisan trains in this season. 

FOREIGN POLICY 

Before 2014, India was considered parallel to and just an adversary of Pakistan. Today, we have left this rouge neighbour far away in global diplomacy. The opinion of India matters on almost all the international and global issues of strategic, economical, and environmental issues. The UN chief had formally recognised India as a ‘global leader’ in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a time when India used to look at Pakistan for dialogues but the situation has reversed. We have progressed without SAARC. Besides establishing International Solar Alliance, forums like BIMSTEC and QUAD are being revived and strengthened. 

INDIC CULTURE 

Various aspects of Indic cultures were being ignored since independence. Besides starting the International Day of Yoga in 2015, PM Modi has been hosting foreign guests in different cities of the countries such as Varanasi, Chennai, and Ahmedabad to showcase the plurality of Indian culture. Furthermore, National Education Policy has been framed to transform education and also to inculcate pride among Indians in the achievements of their ancestors. Several historic places and archaeological sites have been revived. The construction of the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple have started in Ayodhya. 

CONCERNS AND WAY AHEAD 

What was considered next to impossible seven years back is now a reality. Of course, this has increased the expectations of various civil society organisations, voluntary associations, interest groups, and also the people at large, which is quite reasonable. This is because expectations are reposed in from performers and achievers but never from laggards. But the most appalling fact is that some wolf minded politicians are playing with these new expectations of people. Some of them have been full-time politicians, public representatives and contested elections. They seem to have been sent on deputation to fuel the agitation of farmers and other protestors, wherever possible, in the interest of their political masters. Some of them have been exposed while others are still hiding under the wolf coat and misusing the democratic rights of citizens as bunkers. Now it’s our responsibility to ignite critical thinking among people so that they could expose these wolves on their own. 

Having said this, under the leadership of our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the most popular and most efficient, we all are committed to re-establishing India as Vishwa Guru.

Before 2014, India was considered just an adversary of Pakistan. Today, we have left this rouge neighbour far away in global diplomacy. The opinion of India matters on almost all the international and global issues of strategic, economical, and environmental issues.

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We have a state-of-the-art facility at Jindal Bricks: Lakshay Jindal

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Lakshay Jindal, Director & CMO, Jindal Mechno Bricks recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Lakshay spoke about his company Jindal Mechno Bricks in great detail. Read excerpts:

Speaking about his company Jindal Mechno Bricks, especially his role in it, Lakshay said, “I oversee marketing and awareness campaigns run by the company. I also help setup distributions across the country. Jindal Mechno Bricks, or more popularly, Jindal Bricks is a machine-made brick and tile manufacturing company. We started in 1972 with hand-made brick manufacturing and in 1996 we shifted to machine-made brick manufacturing. We have a plant, highly advanced plant, in Delhi NCR. We are currently one of the largest manufacturers of machine-made brick and tile with production capacity of over 200 tons per day.”

When asked about the strength of his company, Lakshay shared, “We have a state of the art facility at Jindal Bricks with machines imported from various parts of Europe Italy, Spain and Germany. What is does is, we are able run production 365 days of a year unlike our counterparts. Another very important thing that we boost at Jindal Bricks, is our ability to innovate throughout past few decades. We have been launching new product categories at Jindal Bricks. We have increased the variety product one offer, each category and improve the product itself. We don’t stop there. We welcome customized requests from manufactures of other material need, designers, architects and real estate developers. All in all, we are trying to adapt new trends and advance our self technologically.”

 Talking about cost-selling aspects of the bricks used in related products, Lakshay said, “It is not an ordinary brick by any means or standard. In fact, it is the ultra-light brick with doubled the compressive strength than an ordinary brick. Buyers gets 10% saving in steel and concrete. On top of that, these are face bricks. These are not suppose to be painted or plastered. This means you save both- your time and money, by not using the materials and again and the recurring costs that comes along. One of the main features of our production, in fact, all product category is that we have brick and loop tile. We offer multiple colours in it and all natural-no chemicals or pigments added, so the products are completely eco-friendly. In fact these colours are achieved by mixing various clays procure from different parts of the country and exposing them to the right temperature. Another thing is the thermal and sound-insulation that it has, so our products are engineered to have excellent thermal and sound-insulation, which means lower air-conditioning business somewhere and lower heating in winters. All in all, i mean at Jindal Bricks, we are able to deliver highly durable product with zero maintenance, that is saving you money until the rebuilding task.

Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:  

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‘It is an homage to frontline workers’: Konkana Sen Sharma on Mumbai Diaries 26/11

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Actor Konkana Sen Sharma recently joined NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List. In the conversation, the actor opened up about her latest project Mumbai Diaries 26/11. Read excerpts:

Talking about her role in the series and what attracted her to the project, the actor said, “My role here is that i am playing Chitra Das. She is the Social Services Director of this Government Hospital in Mumbai. She is not a doctor but she’s from a medical background. The show is in an unusual setting. I would say it’s a medical drama rather a medical thriller because this set is this government hospital, Bombay general hospital with the backdrop of 26/11, which has been fictionalised. For the first time, we’re seeing it from the point of view of the doctors, so it’s really the personal lives of the doctors, the challenges of working in a government hospitals set against the unprecedented events of 26/11, where nobody is really prepared or nobody is ever trained to deal with this kind of circumstance. For me, when i read the script, i found it every unusual. I have never played a doctor. I have not really seen even a medical drama like this and i think today, after Covid, we all have a newfound appreciation for our frontline workers and the difficulties that they go through, so for us it’s an homage to the frontline workers.

 When asked how important is to tell this story through their point of view and the message that the series sends out, Konkana expressed, “Yes, of course, i do think it’s very important. Despite the fact that it may be entertaining or you know, binge worthy or i mean hopefully, you know the fact that it is a thriller. I think it’s an unusual kind of a setting and yes it is very important to remember this. Particularly i think, in a post Covid or at least, you know, now that we have all been through the pandemic and we have even seen how doctors have suffered. There have been attacks on doctors. They often have to deal with a lot of very difficult circumstances, whether they are shortages of PPE kits or working in the government hospitals, where the situation is not always ideal and we have a storage of beds or equipment supplies, etc. We sometimes forget that the doctors are not gods and for them to perform, they need the infrastructure. They need the support also. They have their own personal issues that they are dealing with, plus they have to deal with these kind of things, so i think that this is very relevant, particularly today.

Speaking of 26/11 and where she was she during those days, Konkana shared, “As you know, i was actually not in Mumbai. We had driven outside of Mumbai. The news was trickling in. It was very shocking. I think what happened is, initially we also didn’t have a handle on exactly what was going on because there were events in multiple locations. It went on over three days, we also didn’t know, what and how it’s going to unfold. It was not a contained one-off incident. It was a very insecure and frightening time. It was very confusing. Is it safe for us in our group or we should drive back to Mumbai? What we should do?! That took us sometime, then when we came back, it was a time of shock. We were all in shock and disbelief and everybody, whether somebody on the street or a neighbour, it was very shocking. I think that there was a sense of this very uneasy kind of stillness that was over the whole city. A very heavy silence that something like this could have happened in Mumbai. We never know when something would happen again, that was the fear.

 Check out the entire interview on NewsX: 

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‘I just knew that I had to do it’: Sahher Bambba on ‘The Empire’

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Actor Sahher Bambba, who recently appeared on Disney + Hotstar’s new series The Empire, joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation for its special series NewsX India A-List. As part of the conversation, the actor opened up about the response to the series, her first response when the show was offered to her, her experience of working with Kunal Kapoor and much more. Read excerpts:

Speaking about the response to the series ‘The Empire’ on Disney + Hotstar, her role and performance, Sahher said, “It has been overwhelming waking up to amazing messages, people appreciating my performance, people loving the show. It is a very good feeling because the shooting process took a little longer than the usual due to the pandemic. All of us were really waiting for the release to happen. There was a lot of buzz around the show and people are loving it. They are liking me in the show. I am just grateful to everyone who is liking the show.”

Sharing insights into how the show came your way and what was her first response when she was offered the character of Maham, aka, Mallika-E-Hindustan, she said, “Actually, I was the last person to be casted on the show. The makers wanted to start shooting ASAP. The casting director called me one evening and he said, ‘You have to go and meet Nikhil sir tomorrow because he is doing this show . Go test for it and see if you like it.’ I went and met Nikhil sir. When he started talking about my character and the show in general, I just knew that I had to do it and there were no two ways about it. I was very excited as these opportunities are very rare, where you get to play such a character on-screen. It was definitely on my bucket list to do something in the periodic zone and that happened with The Empire and Maham’s character. I love the character and I was very excited to be a part of the show. I remember the first time I walked on the set, I was gobsmacked just looking at the detailing and the costumes. It was just surreal.”

Talking about her experience on sets and working with an ensemble cast, including Kunal Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Dino Morea, Rahul Dev, she expressed, “It was amazing. Also, the fact that everybody was so focused, everybody just wanted to get their Urdu right, their scenes right. There was a lot of focus and discipline in that sense. We helped each other to perform better. Kunal and I shared a great working rapport. Mitakshara and Nikhil sir are absolute geniuses, when it comes to directing and their briefs are so amazing. It just makes our work a lot easier.”

When asked if she found any difference in working for films and digital and would she be open to doing both in the future, she responded, “It is pretty much the same. This was a little different because it is from a different era altogether but I think the process and the filmmaking aspect of it is the same.”

She added, “Not a preference as such but I would want to do more films also. Having said that, I am never going to say no to a good project just because it is going to be an OTT release. The pandemic has changed so many things and the lines are pretty blur. Definitely, I would love to maintain a balance between OTT and films. “

Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:

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People are more aware of the quality of products after Covid: Ashish Khandelwal

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, Managing Director of BL Agro Industries Limited Ashish Khandelwal spoke about new initiatives undertaken by his company.

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Ashish Khandelwal joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation for its special segment NewsX India A-List. Speaking about the company, Ashish spoke about how it was formed in 1999 and was made by his forefathers. Having been in the business for the past 75 years, BL Agro Industries Limited has created a niche for itself.

When asked about the reason behind the entry into kitchen ready products, Ashish said, “Basically for diversification, we started it. We are doing distribution and all the customers and retailers ask for quality products. So we decided why not move forward with diversification and move into food products.”

Talking about the response gained for the product, he said, “Just after the launch, Covid-19 pandemic started. It started in January 2020. The journey has not been very long. We faced lockdown. Moving forward, we will hit our targets.” After Covid-19 pandemic hit, kitchen ready products became one of the most searched products and most of the people started exploring various options. Talking about this, Ashish said, “We got a good push in delivery because of this. Otherwise, a new product introduction during lockdown would have been tough.”

When asked about the existing market and new markets in India, he replied, “Right now, we are in northern parts like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Bihar, etc. and we are permanent here. In a couple of months, we are moving to the South.” Stressing on the company’s new marketing strategy, Ashish informed, “We are always after distribution. We try to maintain relations with distributors. So, companies provide sales staff and everything. The sales staff gathers all the market reports and demands and then we work on it. The more prominent and convenient strategy is retailing nowadays because nobody is moving out much and going to market often. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic is causing problems for retailers to move out. So we are trying to maintain our market. We recently started our online portal. Soon it will be fully functional.”

Most people are used to bigger platforms like Amazon but small companies have also curated their apps that shows whatever product is available. BL Agro Industries Limited has the same plan. He said, “We are launching an app. We will be available side-by-side on the websites. We are trying to fulfil the desire of the customers.”

“We are thinking about expansion, typically in pulses, and other grocery products. In India, it has not been innovated. There are not many innovations. So we have tried to introduce some machines. Right now, we are grinding it with the stone mill which is modernised and is from Austria. We have started vacuum packaging of pulses and food items. Nobody in India does vacuum packs for pulses. Similarly, we try to procure more specific machines and try to give more flavours and more specific aromas and the best quality we can provide,” added Ashish.

He expressed, “After the Covid-19 pandemic, people are more aware of the quality of products. They are more concerned about the quality. So we are trying to produce good and better quality products today. We are focusing on Indian pulses.”

When asked about organic chains, Ashish said, “Right now, we are not planning for organic because organic has lost its quality as every brand is producing organic products. Specifically, we don’t have any tests for organic. That is the problem when we say organic, it needs a specific amount of time. It takes seven years for an organic crop to come and is financially not feasible.”

After the Covid-19 pandemic, people are more aware of the quality of products. They are more concerned about the quality. So we are trying to produce good and better quality products today. We are focusing on Indian pulses.

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