The/Nudge Forum launched a 2-crore grand CISCO Agri Challenge on 18 December and kick-started mindful conversations on innovations for Indian farmers with discussions on how we can provide our farmers with their fair share through innovative technologies and collaborative solution-centric approach. The launch had prominent speakers namely Prof K. VijayRaghavan- Principal Scientific Advisor, Dr. Kalpana Shastry, G R Chintala-Chairman, NABARD, Alka Upadhyaya- Additional Secretary, MoRD, K. P. Krishnan- Chair Professor, NCAER, Charanjit Singh- Joint Secretary, NRLM, Ritu Verma- Co-founder, Ankur Capital Fund, Nipun Mehrotra- Founder, The Agri Collaboratory, Anil Kumar SG- Founder and CEO, Samunnati.
In an attempt to build a better future for our farmers, Cisco Agri-Challenge by The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation in partnership with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Govt. of India aimed for a nation-wide, highly inspiring contest for AGRI-TECH start-ups. Sameer Garde, President of Cisco India addressed the launch and said “ The time to act on this vision has never been better and I believe startups, with technology serving as an ally and as an enabler, are best positioned to affect change where it is needed the most. And one such area is agriculture and India grapples with the twin challenges of low productivity and rapidly falling profitability. We’ve had probably one of the lowest farmer incomes in the world at around $1700 per farmer. And the stress on the farmers is rising due to declining favorable inputs. So the challenges in agriculture are, in my opinion, far too complex and picked from one person or one organization to solve. There is a lack of understanding. There are smallholdings, multiple stakeholders, infrastructure, connectivity, communication, diversity, type of land, the markets, etc where much can be done in this space and needs help.”
Stressing on the need to accelerate digital transformation in the agriculture sector, Garde continued “This actually needs the ecosystem approach whether it is startups, government technology companies, research institutes, industry bodies, individuals and cooperative society. There is a need to work together to harness the full potential of digitalization and AI and all of the new technology. We at Cisco focused on bringing the ecosystem together to make an impact where it matters the most. Given that talent is probably India’s biggest strength, we are committed to working with leaders and entrepreneurs to bring the benefits of digitization to all. We have various initiatives and platforms to do this.”
Atul Satija, Founder & CEO of The/Nudge Foundation gave an overview of the Agri-challenge and started off by giving a background of the organization which started in 2015 as a non-profit poverty alleviation organization. During its inception five years ago, The/Nudge started working with underprivileged groups in skill development who migrated to cities from rural areas and the organization gave them skills and employability and put them in jobs. “While we are doing our own grassroots work in rural communities, the challenge is that Mahatma Gandhi’s quote ‘India lived in villages’ is true even today. The reality is that 86% of India’s farmers hold land less than 2 hectares. It is very difficult to make farming viable where their input cost is very high. The agriculture sector has grown but the income of the small farmers has not moved at par,” said Satija.
Prof K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to Govt of India delivered the keynote address and launched the 2Cr Agri-Challenge. Prof VijayRaghavan spoke extensively on how farming looks in India in terms of both crops and livestock and how Agri-Challenge plans to work along the lines of this challenge and issues of seed, water, soil, market, and livelihood. “We are caught up in a 20th century model in many aspects and need to go to a 21st-century model and how this challenge helps. First of all, we came here from the relentless use of humans in general. And while that has been extraordinary in terms of the growth of humanity and industry and farming we need to be differently innovative at this time. The reason we came here is that agriculture, the domestication of plants, the domestication of livestock allowed the growth of human societies but it became limiting because you could not cultivate more on the land because soil depleted.”
“The invention of the Haber-Bosch process allows the extraction of nitrogen from the atmosphere converting it to ammonia and this completely changed agricultural fertilizers, the relentless growth of agriculture, and also other technology. Technology completely transformed agriculture, in the early 20th century. The use of unlimited water allowed the growth of agriculture, into a major global industry. And this has absolutely transformed the world, but the minus side of this is that small farming, the diversity of food we eat, all of that started going down, globally. Farming of small landholding hasn’t gone down in India, but there are substantial land holdings in India. While we constantly find out correctly that our holdings are small, increasing the size of our holdings along with the old 20th-century model. Whether holdings grow bigger or smaller, that’s economic aspects but we must be prepared for sustainable agriculture in terms of the land and environment. We have no alternative but to look at sustainable development through technology,” said the Professor.
Prof Raghavan stressed the kind of technologies and how this challenge can revolutionize the agriculture sector. “There are shades of technologies which measure the quality of their seed, soil and look at the context of the livelihood. The market is a big determinant which we can see the ongoing dilemmas which are happening in the news today, but the market is the major factor. If the farmer is able to access markets, with all these decision-making and aggregation technologies available, then the farmer can make a profit. We’ve seen over the last few years, the dramatic growth of the startup industry. On the positive side size, they have grown on the periphery of our technology institutions and their scale to national and global acclaim. But we have not sufficiently opened the routes to the other areas which are socially and economically important. In other words, e-commerce is an area for their relatively easier growth, drones and AI are becoming more available in the urban sector for areas of growth. We should therefore change our structures and our relationships with academia, industry, and startup, to allow us to farm sectors become a big sector. This is what the challenge is doing.”
This Agri-challenge is envisioned as a prestigious inducement platform where the time for catalytic innovation is now which puts the needs of the farmer at the centre and grows momentum in the Agri-tech arena. “There are more than 25,000 farmer suicides happening in India every year even today. We cannot have a thriving agriculture sector with poor farmers and farmer suicides. The good news, however, is that we are at a stage in our country’s journey that this is very much possible. We have a large number of technologists, engineers, innovators and in the last 10 years, we have seen an insanely large amount of activity in our ecosystem. India’s Agri tech sector is already the second-largest in the world. There are opportunities and investments happening where there is a huge opportunity to record farm inputs whether it is on weather, soil, crop and there are organizations working in that area,” added Satija.
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Asha Parekh to become 52nd recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award
The 68th national film awards will be presented on September 30 in accordance with the more than 60-year-old tradition by President Droupadi Murmu and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, two years after the Covid-19 outbreak put the coveted event on hold.
As the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2020, veteran actress Asha Parekh becomes the 52nd recipient of the honour. The previous Dadasaheb Phalke award was given to the star of southern cinema Rajinikanth.
“Honoured to announce that the Dadasaheb Phalke selection jury has decided to recognise and award Asha Parekh ji for her exemplary lifetime contribution to Indian cinema,” Thakur said.
Industry icons Asha Bhosle, Hema Malini, Udit Narayan, Poonam Dhillon, and TS Nagabharana are members of the Dadasaheb Phalke committee.
She worked in more than 95 films and was the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification from 1998-2001,” Thakur added. Parekh was also conferred with Padma Shri in 1992.
The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which was founded in 1954, is now in charge of organising the awards, which fall under the purview of the I&B ministry, for the first time.
The government consolidated four film organisations in March of this year, giving the NFDC full authority over all matters relating to the production of documentaries and short films, the management of film festivals, and the preservation of films.
In keeping with tradition, Hon’ble President Draupadi Murmu will be conferring the National Film awards this year,” NFDC MD Ravinder Bhakar said. “It is an honour for the winners and I congratulate them.”
Eminent leaders and figures from the film industry make up the national awards jury, which is chaired by Vipul Shah and includes Dharam Gulati, Sreelekha Mukherjee, GS Bhaskar, S Thangadurai, Sanjeev Rattan, Karthik Raja, VN Aditya, Viji Thampi, Thangadura, and Nishigandha as members.
The ceremony is taking place four years after President Ram Nath Kovind only delivered 11 of the 137 awards, breaking with convention, which saw more than 50 award recipients skip the 65th National Film Awards ceremony in protest.
The remaining prizes were given out by former information and communication minister Smriti Irani and minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore.
In 2018, 70 award recipients had expressed their intention to boycott the event in an open letter to protest the cancellation of the award presentation. However, a number of the letter’s signatories, including the singer KJ Yesudas and the filmmaker Prasad Oak, later turned up. The honorees clarified in their letter that their action was not a “boycott,” but rather a demonstration of their displeasure with the President’s choice.
Supreme Court live-streaming hearings for first time today
The Supreme Court went live for the first time on Tuesday when the cases’ hearings, which were planned to be livestreamed during the day, could be viewed online. One of the three cases slated for live streaming was from Maharashtra and pitted Team Uddhav Thackeray against Team Eknath Shinde over a dispute over the Shiv Sena’s symbol, with the Election Commission already involved. This was the second live hearing where the attorney, Kapil Sibal, could be seen arguing.
Live broadcasting was recommended by the Supreme Court around four years ago.
The former chief justice of India, Dipak Misra, had passed the landmark ruling on September 27 on the live telecast of important proceedings, saying “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
Following discussion on the issue by the whole top court on September 20, it was decided to begin live-streaming constitutional bench hearings this week. Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit presided over the whole court meeting, and all the judges agreed that constitutional matters should be the first to be streamed live on a regular basis.
A bold plan to integrate the use of information and technology with India’s judiciary, the e-courts project’s third phase included the proposal to have an exclusive platform for live-streaming Supreme Court sessions.
The high courts in Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Patna, and Madhya Pradesh are some of the high courts that broadcast hearings live as well.
Some Royal staff used to call Meghan Markle ‘narcissistic sociopath’
Author Valentine Low has written a book about the staff who work for the royal families called ‘Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown’. In the book, she quoted many staff who worked for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry during their term as senior royals in the UK.
According to the New York Post, the book details the alleged bad behaviour by Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, towards their staff. In the book, the author even quoted a royal staffer calling Meghan, a “narcissistic sociopath”
Staff members coined the epithet for the Duchess of Sussex, according to a report in The Sun citing excerpts from the explosive tome, according to the New York Post.
According to Page Six, “There were a lot of broken people,” an insider claimed to author Valentine Low.
“Young women were broken by their behaviour,” the palace source added.
Valentine Low cites one alleged occasion in her book in which Markle scolded a young female coworker in front of other co-workers.
“Don’t worry. If there was literally anyone else I could ask to do this, I would be asking them instead of you,” Markle allegedly told the staffer, with whom she had been working to execute a plan of sorts.
Celebration of 75 years of Independence with commemorative coins in Kolkata
As the most awaited festival of Durga Puja is around the corner, preparations for the festival are in full swing in Kolkata, which is known for the yearly event. The Durga Puja of Kolkata is world famous and it was also included in UNESCO’s representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2021.
Every year, Kolkata brings a new theme to Durga Puja pandals, which are unique and innovative in their own way. From pandals to the Durga idol, devotees get to see various themed Durga puja in Kolkata.
In keeping with the celebrations of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Babubagan Sarbojanin Durgotsav Puja pandal at the Dhakuria in South Kolkata has come up with a unique pandal, which is made of thousands of commemorative coins issued since independence.
The Babubagan Sarbajanin Durgotsav Samiti Durga Puja Pandal, made of thousands of commemorative coins issued since independence. The theme of this year’s Durga Puja pandal is “Maa Tujhe Salaam”. This time, Babubagan Sarbajanin Durga Puja is being celebrated for the 61st year.
Realising the artistic vision of Sujata Gupta and welcoming Maa Durga in an atmosphere of remembrance of 75 years of the country’s independence, tributes have been paid to the great freedom fighters of the country.
The theme of this puja pandal depicts the freedom fighters and great personalities through Maa Tujhe Salaam.
Upon entering, one can feel the presence of prominent figures of India, who were directly involved in India’s freedom struggle and who shaped our modern India and various Indian independence movements.
The park will also have landmarks of various pillars of our country that have helped them stand on their feet.
Prof Sujata Gupta, Concept Maker and Puja Committee Treasurer, said, “Maa Tujhe Salaam is the theme of the pandal. Maa means ‘Durga Maa’ and it also means ‘Bharat Mata’. We are celebrating 75 years of India’s independence. The pandal is made of thousands of commemorative coins issued since independence. From 1947 till date, a number of commemorative coins have been released on important occasions. We have collected such coins and adorned the pandal with them. While some of the coins are original, the rest are replicas. “ The idol will be placed in a coin museum.
“There will be a coin museum. The idols of Durga Maa are replicated on the coins. Also, we have placed replicas of freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda, and others on coins,” said Gupta.
She further said that around 150 coins have been used in the pandal.
“It is my hobby to collect coins and this is my concept. My husband also used to collect coins. We had all these old coins that are not in use today. So we thought of giving a message to the next generation with this pandal. Senior citizens will feel nostalgic as they are not able to see old coins. This will work as a feel-good factor,” she said.
Viruses may have ‘eyes and ears’ on us
New research suggests that viruses are using information from their environment to ‘decide’ when to sit tight inside their hosts and when to multiply and burst out, killing the host cell. Right now, viruses are exploiting the ability to monitor their environment to their benefit. But in the future, “we could exploit it to their detriment,” said one of the authors.
A virus’s ability to sense its environment, including elements produced by its host, adds “another layer of complexity to the viral-host interaction,” says Ivan Erill, professor of biological sciences and senior author of the new paper.
Right now, viruses are exploiting that ability to their benefit. But in the future, he says, “we could exploit it to their detriment.”
The new study focused on bacteriophages—viruses that infect bacteria, often referred to simply as “phages.”
The phages in the study can only infect their hosts when the bacterial cells have special appendages, called pili and flagella, that help the bacteria move and mate.
The bacteria produce a protein called CtrA that controls when they generate these appendages.
The new paper shows that many appendage-dependent phages have patterns in their DNA where the CtrA protein can attach, called binding sites.
Erill says that a phage having a binding site for a protein produced by its host is unusual.
Even more surprising, Erill and the paper’s first author, Elia Mascolo, a Ph.D. student in Erill’s lab, found through detailed genomic analysis that these binding sites were not unique to a single phage, or even a single group of phages.
Many different types of phages had CtrA binding sites, but they all required their hosts to have pili and/or flagella to infect them. It couldn’t be a coincidence, they decided.
NAVRATRI 2022: All about the 9-day Auspicious festival
The 9-day-long festival of Shardiya Navratri, dedicated to Maa Durga and her nine avatars, began on Monday, marking the first day of the festivity (Kalash or Ghatsthapna). The festival is celebrated with great fervour all across the country by Hindus.
It is intended for the worship of Maa Durga and her nine avatars, known as Navdurga. Navratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit. Hindus observe a total of four Navratris throughout the year. Only two of them, Chaitra Navaratri and Shardiya Navaratri, saw widespread celebrations, as they coincided with the beginnings of the seasons.
From Ashwin Shukla Paksha’s Navami until the Pratipada, Shardiya Navratri is observed. While the holiday is celebrated with great fanfare across the nation, distinct traditions are more commonly practised in different states.
This year, Navratri will last nine days, starting on 26 September and concluding on 5 October.
The festival of Navratri honours the defeat of the demonic Mahishasura and the triumph of good over evil. Because of Mahishasura’s unwavering devotion to him, Lord Brahma bestows the gift of immortality upon him at the beginning of the narrative.
The blessing did, however, come with one stipulation: only a woman would be able to overcome him. The demon began terrorising people on Earth because he didn’t think any woman would be strong enough to overcome him. The gods were unable to halt him.
Since Mahishasura was to be demolished, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva pooled their efforts to create the goddess Durga. They gave her a number of weapons. Ten days passed during Maa Durga and Mahishasura’s conflict. However, Maa Durga was able to overcome him when he at last transformed into a buffalo.
During the nine-day Navratri festival, devotees worship Maa Durga’s nine incarnations in order to obtain her blessings. There is a goddess manifestation linked with each day of Navratri. During these nine days, people maintain ritualistic fasts, recite shlokas dedicated to each goddess, wear new clothing, offer bhog, and clean their homes. In their prayers, they ask the goddess for her favour in order to have prosperous, joyous, and fulfilled lives.
Ramlila is organised extensively during Navratri in North India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. During the Ramlila, the tale of Lord Ram’s triumph over Ravana is acted out. The effigies of King Ravana are burned on Dussehra to commemorate the triumph of good over evil.
In fact, on the tenth day of Navratri, also known as Vijayadashami, a large procession is organised during which clay figurines of Maa Durga are ceremoniously submerged in a river, sea, or ocean. Popular places to do this practice include West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Bihar. The most significant day for Maa Durga’s worship is thought to be the day of Durga Visarjan.
Numerous dances, including Garba and Dandiya Raas, are performed during the nine-day festival. While Dandiya Raas involves dancing with dandiya sticks to the beat of the music, Garba is a traditional dance in which participants clap their hands and move in a circle while making rhythmic gestures.
In India, Navratri is celebrated in a wide range of ways. Ramlila, a celebration in which scenes from the Ramayana are performed, is organised in North India, mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh. The burning of King Ravana’s effigies marks the conclusion of the story on Vijaya dashami.
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