A Way to Harness Electricity from the Night Sky has been Discovered

Author: Aditi Chandrasekar

For the 1.7-odd billion people worldwide who still don’t have a reliable electricity connection, solar power is proving to be a potential saviour in terms of clean and sufficiently effective power, at least when the sun is shining. Of course, the technology to store excess solar power during the dark hours is improving. However, if there is an opportunity to harness electricity from the night sky, it could be a major breakthrough in the world of clean energy. Good news is, researchers at Stanford and UCLA have done just that. It is not ready to be deployed and used everywhere just yet, but this stunning development could play an important role in the energy demands of the future. The technology employed by itself is not novel or new; the principles behind it were discovered almost 200 years ago. The way it works is simple-the device, a thermoelectric generator, uses temperature differences between two metal plates to generate electricity through the ‘Seebeck effect’. Basically, the greater the temperature difference, the greater the power generated. This technology is already in use to convert waste heat from sources such as industrial machinery and car engines and this new research simply applies the same technique to capture the temperature difference between the outside air and a surface facing the sky. The top plate of the device faces the cold air of the open night sky, while the bottom plate faces the ground and is kept enclosed in warmer air. So, the two plates sit on top of each other. We know that heat in general always radiates to cooler environments. The cooler the surroundings, the faster the heat is radiated. Following this principle, the open night sky is cooler than the enclosed air surrounding the bottom plate, so the top plate loses heat faster than the bottom plate. This generates a temperature difference between the two plates. In the study conducted by the researches, this temperature turned out to be around 4 to 5 degrees celsius.

At different temperatures, heat will also start to travel from the hotter bottom plate to the cooler top plate and the device harnesses this flow of heat to generate electricity. But the glaring flaw in this is that at such a small temperature difference, the power generated is very limited-The researchers’ device produced 25 milliwatts per meter square-just enough to power a small LED reading light whereas a solar panel of the same size would be enough to sustain three 32″ LED TVs. Another possible flaw is its performance being affected by the climate-The device will perform better in dry climates than it does in wet climates because in wetter climates, any moisture in the air condenses on the downward-facing bottom plate, cooling it and reducing the temperature difference between the plates. Still, these don’t take away from the fact that this is a breakthrough technology. With enough research and development, it could be a massive boon to the energy crisis.

Too many mouths

Author – Vignesh

‘So, while I’m here being confessional, I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public. So, a declaration that I’m really nervous about…..Loud and proud, right? So, I’m going to need your support on this….’ It was 2013 Golden Globes awards. A famous Hollywood actor standing on the stage along with fellow actor Robert Downey Jr. as a hall full of famous figures sit and watch her fidgeting ‘I..am…’ she holds the mike as well as her breathing, as the crowd leans to the edge of their seats expectantly. ‘single’ she says and the hall erupts in laughter. This was Jodie Foster trying to explain that she indeed was homosexual, yet shying away from even uttering the word ‘gay’. Today we know that the USA and the rest of the world which includes India has come so far.

TEDx Talks releases a video on Youtube on November 16, 2016, named Homosexuality: It’s about survival-not sex. The speaker: Dr James O’Keefe MD tries to justify that same-sex marriage and being gay was only nature’s response to the overpopulation of humans. He says ‘You all have gay genes in you!’ as the crowd gets really uncomfortable. He goes on to say that homosexuality is not against nature but rather a part of natural selection. A loving couple that doesn’t reproduce but takes care of its herd is exactly what an overpopulated planet like ours needs and that nature knows it.

On 15th March 2019, Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian who the media describes as a white supremacist walks into a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and guns down 51 Muslims. Minutes before his attack, he posted a 74-page declaration text that serves as a “justification” for his act whose details were disturbing and bizarre. He details that all the environmental problems that we face including global warming were a consequence of overpopulation and the world is in a desperate need of population control. The reason why chose a mosque was because, in his own belief, Muslims were the ‘highly fertile’ group. So why is a well thought out and a profound doctor and a terrorist worry about the same thing? Overpopulation is a recent concern that is brought up by endless pop culture releases in different media, from the books like Dan Brown’s The inferno to the movies like Kingsman and of course, Avengers: Infinity war but is it really a problem?

population bomb.jpg

The whole argument that too many mouths to feed equals a problem hinges on the fact that we have limited food. Any resource is professed to be a zero-sum which is the concept that anything that is gained on the consumer’s side is lost by the other side: the source, that is the planet that provides us with the resources. It’s not wrong to think that way. After all, with the water crisis that our country is facing right now and we are told that there is only a constant volume of water existing on our planet and we are running out of it.

It still begs the question: have we really understood the problem though?  Yes, there’s no denying that an increase in demand at a short period of time calls for attention but is population control really the solution? Well, no.

There is another resource that we are running out of. Fossil fuel. We have fuel rates increasing and the government to put the blame on. After all the cold wars and the fight against terrorism paraded by the USA in order to obtain control over oil for years. Now, all that has settled down a bit and now the talk is shifted towards making Electric Vehicles and how to pioneer a way to be oil – independent. Statements that water will be the resource that the countries would be fighting each other for in World War 3, not oil have gained attraction. It is intriguing to think that both oil and water are limited. Yet, the fight for oil has settled down a bit. How did that happen? That is because, while in a technical sense resources are limited, they are really not.

We used lamp oils derived from seeds of canola, sunflower and in extreme cases, by killing whales from the oceans to light our homes. We had our existing populations do the heavy lifting such as moving wheels and machinery, that mined coal which in turn powers up printing machines that would imprint news texts on papers made out of uprooted trees to pass information. Did that lead to an inevitable doom? Did the trees and whales go extinct as the population exploded? The truth is, what we call resources is only limited by our very own imagination. Anything has value only we value them. If we just start to think differently, we may never run out of resources.

In the year 1879, Thomas A. Edison takes credit for inventing the bulb which turns electric energy into that of light. Transistors are invented by American physicists Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley right after World War 2. Now, we have the unlimited source of electromagnetic waves that power up industries and offices letting people work 24/7 through electricity and the transistors revolutionising the same industry with computer electronics and automated machines as well as of course, the smartphones we use to share information. We didn’t stick to the papers or the oil lamps. We innovated. We developed. More population doesn’t mean just more mouths to feed, it also means more minds to think and more hands to work. The real solution to the problem of overpopulation is not genocide or homosexuality, it is, after all, education. Enabling the existing population to think or work is enough to find new resources as we go.

Have you ever heard of the meme that everything in the world is invented by Indians? The invention of diodes followed by that of transistors was by Jagadeesh Chandra Bose. The invention of ‘zero’ of course is credited to Aryabhata. Endless new areas on mathematics unexplored to this day were claimed by Srinivasa Ramanujan. Even the advances in optical fibre technology, on which the today’s internet run on owes the fundamental optics starting scattering effect of light, a phenomenon that was first discovered by Sir C V Raman. Why is it that all the groundbreaking ideas originate from the land that is the second most populated? Countries around the world are making new efforts to eradicate carbon-emitting businesses. India is pushing its automobile industries to make electric vehicles as it is seen to be the future. A future that is independent of oil. Engineers are looking for new ways to produce fresh water every day in labs through researches. The future is not dark. Apocalypse is not nigh as long as there are researches, universities, labs and funds. It’s us, the students who think, create new ideas and innovate!

अनिष्ट(disagreeable, undesirable)

India is changing in a thousand ways. Not all of them are good, not all of them are bad. What we have seen in the past two or three years is a wave of saffron spreading over our country. The Bhartiya Janata Party, founded as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, an organisation committed to turning India to a Hindu nation concluded a resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh, the evidence of the ascendance of its single-track politics aimed at benefiting orthodox Hindus and marginalising everyone else. For the first time in its electoral history, UP did not send a single Muslim MP to the Lok Sabha in 2014. Paradoxically, this was when the legislative assembly had the highest Muslim representation — 63 were elected in 2012.


“Those claiming to be secular and progressive do not have an identity of their parents and their blood. One will get self-respect through such identity, I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular.”                                                                                                                   Anant Kumar Hegde, Union Minister of State for Employment and Skill Development


Not doing anything in the face of religious tension or intolerance is almost a trademark of our government. The whole government is probably not to be blamed, a leadership wherein the PM himself is responsible for the deaths of hundreds in communal riots in Gujarat is not a leadership at all. Our chief ministers are Hindu priests and brahmacharis, why do we expect the Muslims to not be marginalised anyway? Our habit of judging the character of all Muslims by keeping some random terrorist as an example of the otherwise peace-loving group of people does not help us much either.


“Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won’t happen in ‘Bharat’ or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes.”                                                                                                                                          Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, mentor to the BJP


I’m really sorry to say this sir, but rapes, as big a bane they are on the beautiful populace of our country, do happen everywhere. Day in day out we read reports of young girls being raped mercilessly in some or the other dark corner of our country, and yet we do not see any concrete action being taken by the esteemed leadership of our glorious country. According to estimates by The Quint, India witnesses about a staggering 106 rapes a day, and that is when about six out of ten rapes go unreported. In the face of such a tragedy we face every day, the mentor to our PM decides to blame it on urban values and not on the ineffectiveness of the law and order situation in our country. How inane is that?


“Those opposing Narendra Modi are looking at Pakistan, and such people will have place in Pakistan and not in India.”                                                                                                          Giriraj Mishra, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises


My grandfather was born in Pakistan and he migrated to India during the partition. As one of the pioneers responsible for bringing electricity to the state of Madhya Pradesh, I can proudly say that my grandfather did his bit for the country. His political leanings are inconsequential to the fact that he did everything in his power to help the country in spite of the fact that he is Pakistani by birth. Our mentality has been modelled in such a way that we inadvertently vote for the party that appeals to us not from the perspective of the work they have done for the nation, but from the perspective of religion. If the leadership of the party respects your religious faiths and beliefs, that party automatically becomes your first choice. The whole task of deciding upon the government trickling down to the ambit of religious and geographical differences is wrong.


“As a memorial to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the statue will not only remind every individual of our great nation’s freedom struggle but will also inspire the people of our country to inculcate Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s visionary ideologies of unity, patriotism, inclusive growth and good governance… a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will spur all round socio-economic development.”                                                                           Official website of the Statue of Unity, Government of India


Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stood for the downtrodden and poor. He always ensured that the poorest sections of the society had access to all the freedoms that the British enjoyed in the country. Spending almost 3000 crores on his statue is simply defiling every ideology he stood for. These funds have reduced his legacy to nothing a cheap stunt for political gains. What these funds could have done for the poor people of our country would have immortalised the legacy of the Iron Man of India. Consider the fact that the bronze panels used in the statue were not manufactured in India as no Indian firm had the capability to do it, and hence the foundation of the statue was inherently Made in China.


“The countries in the world are unsure about how to tackle terrorism. The UN is also not in a position to guide them. It is heartening that Prime Minister of Bangladesh despite the fact that she is a woman is openly saying that she has zero tolerance for terrorism.”                 Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India


I feel appalled at the fact that we always are puzzled when it comes to empowering the women in our country. When you sit down and realise that our honourable Prime Minister feels that ‘despite’ being a woman, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina having zero tolerance for terrorism is a unique thing to be noted is an instance that explains his true stance towards women. When the leader of the country believes that a female prime minister fighting terrorism in her country is a happening out of the ordinary, I sincerely see no serious women empowerment happening in our country. No matter how much we try to sugar-coat things, all of us know that Modi was responsible for thousands of deaths during the Godhra riots, and is unfit to rule a country as diverse as ours.


In the end, it all comes down us. What we think and what we do determines where our country heads . Leaving the decisions to leaders like the ones we have as of now is the worst mistake we could make.


आलोचना और स्वतंत्र विचार ये क्रांतिकारी सोच के अहम बिंदु है I (Bhagat Singh, 1930)


Paradise on Earth?

The question one asks is, why is there no peace in Kashmir?

Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India, thought that he was leaving a new world in August 1947. The British empire had decided to leave the Indian subcontinent once and for all, and Mountbatten was given the task of leaving it in the best conditions possible. It is true that as Indians, we have a lot to thank for to the British, especially Mountbatten. They introduced the telegram, the railways and the first ever manufacturing unit based on the assembly line model. Many historians even argue that Mountbatten was probably the best ever viceroy India had the chance to be under, from an economic point of view.

The state of British India, nothing less than the best of the colonies of the Commonwealth, had to be split into two sovereign states, India and Pakistan. While traveling from Delhi to Karachi to mediate the discussions among the future leaders of these states, it would have occurred to Mountbatten as to how little the things had really changed on the ground. British India had seen countless waves of nationalist struggle among the people, the two World Wars, a violent transfer of power from the Mughals to the British and millions of deaths. The recent wave of Hindu-Muslim struggles across the country had led to the killing of many more; and even then, there were a lot of unanswered questions between the leaders of these supposed ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ states. The whole nationalist struggle, where people stood united against the British Raj, seemed to slowly turn into a farce now, when people were ready to kill on the basis of religion first, and nationality later.

The British Raj had to adopt a very unorganised approach to governing the Indian subcontinent. In some areas, they had to give zamindars a huge chunk of power to get the most from a measly peasant. In the areas where the British had set up manufacturing units, they had to give due attention to the conditions of the workers and the well-being of the people. While they left some cities to die of plague, such as Surat, they had to leave no stone unturned in cities such as Lutyens’ Delhi (Edwin Lutyens was the principal architect hired by the British Raj to redesign some parts of Delhi) where the majority of the British people, and their Indian servants, lived. The ruling power had allowed for hundreds of princely states with varying degrees of autonomy to exist across the subcontinent and a fuzzy India-Afghanistan border. Such a loose policy could not be inherited by the two new states, who were intent upon a very rigid border with clear rulings on who was allowed to live on either side of it. To absorb more and more of land into their nation before the border was finalised in Karachi, the two states relied upon a spectrum of policies which included getting letters of accession from local chieftains, establishing their rule over unruled territories and the all-time favourite, sending troops to root out opposition of their land. This led to a supposed peaceful separation of India and Pakistan to turn to a violent one, and the conditions have remained unchanged to this day.

As citizens of India, we only see Kashmir in two ways. Either the military, as the right arm of the government is right, or the people, who supposedly suffer ill treatment at the hands of the military, are right. The truth is, Kashmir is in a state of grey as opposed to the black and white we see on the TV while sitting comfortably at home. There have been many issues which are stopping the complete integration of Kashmir into India. The government has focussed primarily on strengthening control over the area, while using the articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution to great effect. The myth that most of us believe is that article 370 aims to undermine the individual sovereignty of a resident of Kashmir. Article 370 only talks about the ‘special’ status given to Kashmir, and how the state of Kashmir does not have to concur with the Indian government on matters such as marriage and land ownership. Activists all over India are hell bent on getting article 370, and subsequently article 35A removed from the Constitution.

So, does article 370 promote the separatist movements that have ravaged the state for many years now? The article only aims to give more strength to the Kashmiri citizen who feels deeply about the vulnerability of his identity and assets in the state of Kashmir. The article also allows for the President to rule in times of tension, ensuring that this independence does not lead to a misuse of power by the legislators in Kashmir who follow a separate Constitution altogether. Separatist movements only flourish when the people feel disconnected from a source of legislative power. People argue that they are left at the mercy of the separatists based on the fact that the Indian government has declared a ‘ceasefire’ in the valley, which is completely wrong. The whole idea of a ‘ceasefire’ is born from the pens of a few deranged sources of news in the valley who only aim to sensationalise their news at the cost of genuineness. What the government has ordered is a ‘launch of operations’. This means only one thing. The military will not take action if they see a separatist minding his own work, but if he resorts to any violent action, be it shooting anything from stones to rockets, he will be beaten down. Through the policy, the government aims to give these separatists a chance at redemption, a chance to mend their ways. The whole idea of a ceasefire is aimed at showing the government weak against the separatists, and this is the same reason why the government would never call for a ‘ceasefire’, it would amount to a political suicide.

The real reason as to why Pakistan needs Kashmir is simple. It needs to validate and act upon its two-nation theory based on religion. That is a principle reason as to why India has always taken, and will always take a strong stand in the Kashmir issue. From the time when Maharaja Hari Singh requested the assistance of the Indian Armed Forces to fend off the threat against Pakistan, India has been committed to integrating Pakistan as one of its own. Till 1971, the Pakistanis believed that they could annex Kashmir through a land assault on Indian soil, however, the Kargil War made it absolutely certain that Pakistan could never defeat the Indian Army in combat. Since then, Pakistan has followed a diverse approach with three aspects to it. Firstly, the premier intelligence agency, ISI, funds and gathers intelligence from local separatist groups operating in the valley, secondly, to counter India’s military prowess, Pakistan has indulged in trade deals with its neighbours, the latest one being the China-Pakistan trade route, to gain money and weapons, and lastly, by spreading its propaganda through mass media and the numerous madrasas which are integral to the Muslim way of life. Pakistan had to nullify India’s nuclear weapons advantage, and it knew the only one willing to help was China. The Pakistan China Trade Corridor is just another means of exchange of illegal goods among the two countries, as many UN reports have noted.

The boundary between the countries is a matter of international debate (thanks to another British masterpiece by Sir Cyril Radcliffe). The globally recognised boundary has been the one demarcated by the 1949 UN Ceasefire Agreement. However, the de facto border has been the Line of Control (LoC) since 1972. The boundary passes through a spectrum of mountain passes, making it easy to cross over. Even after an increased amount of patrolling along the borders, there is no dearth of militants in the valley who have come from Pakistan. Added to the militants, religious fanatics roam the valley, plastering walls with Islamic texts ordering people to follow the Muslim dress code, and encouraging the youth to pelt stones at encounter sites to impugn the authority of the armed forces of India. All this is done in the name of ‘religious freedom’, wherein the fanatics portray the government as the one oppressing the Muslims. Religion has been used to incite fear in the valley, which has led to the closure of cinemas and bars among other places where the youth may meet. Slogans such as “Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jehad hamara Rasta hai” (Islam is our objective, Q’uran is our constitution, Jehad is our way of our life) and “Dil mein rakho Allah ka khauf; Hath mein rakho Kalashnikov” (With fear of Allah ruling your hearts, wield a Kalashnikov) have ensured that the peace seeking population of the state has left their homes for a better place.

The question one asks is, will there ever be peace in Kashmir?

I do not know the answer. All I have tried to do is elucidate the reasons as to why we are wrong when we blame our government for encouraging instability in the Kashmir valley. I believe that we are moving forward towards peace, and if we can eliminate the religious cynicism that exists in the valley, we might even reach a peaceful juncture one day.


Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.

(If there is a paradise on earth,

It is this, it is this, it is this)

Playing hard or Paying hard?

As I pen down this article, the greatest sporting spectacle on earth is underway.

32 nations from 6 continents are fighting tooth and nail for the Jules Rimet trophy. The FIFA World Cup.

But isn’t it just another quadrennial sporting event?

What makes it different from the others?

To truly understand the magnitude of the event, some statistics might help.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was aired to an estimated 3.2 billion people, which is 46% of the human population.

Yes, almost half of the whole world tuned in to watch football during this phase !

The cup has witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity since its humble beginnings.

The first world cup in 1930 could only gather 13 nations, most of them being European. This is quite in contrast to the upcoming 2022 Qatar WC, slated to host 48 nations from over 6 continents.

The 211 countries part of FIFA further cement the dominance of the sport over any other. That’s 18 more than the number of United Nations members.

Just let that sink in.

So after all the praise I’ve heaped on the sport to prove its dominance, a pertinent question may arise in the reader’s mind – “Why the hell am I questioning the World Cup’s benefits at all?”

After all, shouldn’t the countries continue fighting over hosting rights for such a lucrative tournament?

However, hosting a world cup isn’t just another hunky-dory affair. FIFA’s extremely high standards lead to a battle before the actual war in getting the infrastructure ready.

It especially hurts those nations which need football the most.

South Africa stands as a prime example. In a country and continent as culturally and ethnically diverse as it is, football acts as a binding agent.

So nothing short of a renaissance was expected when South Africa won the hosting rights of the 2010 tournament. The fact that $3 billion of tax money was spent only raised expectations.

Naturally, the key word of 2010 for the Africa masses was Hope.

Only to turn to despair.

Though the tournament is remembered as a success, it hasn’t really helped the nation.

The FIFA anthem of South Africa 2010 – “Waka Waka” is remembered endearingly.

The same cannot be said for the country’s football players.

They have continuously underperformed at the international level. So it was no surprise when they failed to even qualify for the 2014 or 2018 cups.

The stadiums have been severely under-utilised, as the weak local league hasn’t been able to maintain them. Most have been dismantled.

Brazil 2014 went several steps ahead and the government spent $ 11.6 billion, almost 4 times the previous WC’s spending.

Hope was in the air, again.

Only to be crushed, again.

Instead of improving even slightly from its predecessor, this WC was embroiled in even more controversy.

A politically charged Brazil with nearing elections pumped up the detractors of the spending. The mysterious deaths of construction workers did no better to help its case.

The final nail in the coffin was the constant decline of the already struggling Brazilian economy.

Qatar 2022 has a budget of $220 billion, more than 60 times that of the 2010 WC.

To put things into perspective; that’s approximately equal to the net worth of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates combined.

That’s a bizarre sum of money, even if it’s being invested in an uncharted territory.

And still, this cup hasn’t gained the confidence of the masses. The corruption charges against FIFA top brass such as Sepp Blatter have severely tainted its image.

There are a few positives, yes. Germany recorded a significant spurt in child births 9 months after the 2006 World Cup, which was quite unusual for a country with declining population. Also, tourism during the world cup does see a sharp spike.

But do they outweigh the negatives?

Hell no.

Tourism spikes are very transient. With the upcoming unfavorable locations (Qatar), tourism is even less likely to be a valid argument.

Contrary to the way it was marketed, the 2010 World Cup did not create solidarity amongst the nations, in sporting terms or otherwise. Most of the African footballers still find no opportunities at the base level, and the talented ones still move to greener European pastures.

Qatar’s astronomical budget can very well be employed in other suitable avenues, such as helping curb conflicts in the volatile Arab region, rather than being used to build state-of-the-art structures destined to be miniature ghost towns.

The world cup remains the biggest and most seen quadrennial sporting event. Its relevance or need remains unchallenged. However the way the countries are selected as hosts, or their spending definitely needs to be kept in check. A balance is needed so that the success of the sport is assured without misusing public wealth. If the current system prevails, a day shall come when the World Cup becomes yet another corporate gimmick masqueraded as a sporting event.

I can only hope that day never comes.


Cutting a Sorry Figure

Poverty is one of the most monumental yet overlooked issues of our country. Since money is the end and the means of our existence, it is not bad to have an urge to earn more money. The lesson of acquiring more and more resources is embedded in the most primal parts of our brain which means that we want more money than the person next to us, and the urge to earn is what drives any economy forward. There is no surprise that our economy is growing by leaps and bounds. The question that rises is why are the poor so poor in our country? In a country with a predicted GDP growth rate stands at a huge 7.3 percent, why haven’t the poor already become rich?

This sudden bolt of inspiration came into my mind when I was at a market near my place, and a balloon vendor, all dressed in scraps, came to me asking if I wanted a balloon. My stature does not serve justice to my age, but then the both of us knew that I wouldn’t have bought the balloon, I am too old for that. The desperation on the face of the man made me give him a 20 rupee note. We do know that desperation makes men scale the unscalable, and the will of the man who is ready to offer a balloon to every grown up at a market really shook the workings of my inner mind to the core. The face of that man has occupied my mind ever since, and this article is a result of the many hours I have put in to research what it is like being poor in the developing nation we call ours.

According to the Census of 2010, the number of people below the poverty line in India stands at 32.7 percent, or almost 43 crore Indians. The count stood at 49.4 percent in 1994, and on paper, it could be seen as a great achievement when you reduce the poverty rate of such a huge country by almost 17 percent over 16 years. Our regional rival, China has brought down the percentage of its poor from 60 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2010, just to keep things in perspective.

This achievement is quite hollow though. According to the latest report presented by the C Rangarajan (the ex RBI governor) expert panel, the minimum daily wage stood in urban areas for qualifying above the poverty line stood at 47 rupees, which was brought up from 33 rupees per day in 2011-12 as recommended by the Suresh Tendulkar expert panel. The World Bank has set the standard at US$ 1.9 per day. Adjusted for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity, or in simple terms, the amount a local currency can buy what US$ 1.9 could buy in the US), it amounts to about 54 rupees, a little more than what our seemingly efficient (pun intended) Finance Ministry thinks is okay. The simple conclusion is, the number of poor people in India is more what the reports show.

I am not an economist or a statistician, but as an engineer, I can crunch some numbers for you.

Two young economists, Abhijit V Banerjee and Esther Duflo, studied numbers from many cities throughout the globe, and Udaipur, a huge city in the Indian state of Rajasthan was one of them. I am using their data and observations to put my points forth to the reader. Udaipur has people from both ends of the economic rainbow living peacefully among its beautiful blue walls for many years now. It is an ideal place to do an economic study, because like all rainbows, the rich found the pot of gold first.

Consider this. 65 percent of the poor in Udaipur are underweight. In a country where obesity is looked on to as a sign of healthy well-being, this data is clear enough to show that the poor in India have troubles even while trying to procure food. 55 percent of the people have some form of anaemia (deficiency of red blood cells), and 46 percent of them have been seeing a doctor because of the issue. 45 percent of the adults reported they cut down the size of their meal quite often to have enough for their children. This actually hinders the healthy development of the brain, and coupled with anaemia, we are looking a way lesser number of IQ points available for poor children to use. The rich may not be born clever, but they certainly win over the poor during childhood.

So, what do the poor people eat?

In Udaipur, the cheapest cereal is millet. 68 percent said that they depended the most on millet, 20 percent said that they had rice (which costs twice as much per calorie), 10 percent depended on wheat (70 percent more expensive than millet per calorie) and the rest resorted to sugar (which is the most expensive per calorie and has no nutritional benefits). The poor are great at managing their food budgets though. A person in the middle-class income bracket will go through weeks without even touching millet, only complaining about how quickly the prices of other staples have increased. The poor learn to manage their money better than the rich, giving up on satisfaction and taste to save a little more money.

On studying their expenses, we find that only about 2 percent is spent on their children’s education, which is quite understandable as almost 72 percent of the children in the city attend schools run by the state government, which offer free education and mid-day meals. Poor children still continue to underperform at the higher education level, a proof of the fact that our public schooling system is functioning way below par.

Almost 8 percent of their income is spent on alcohol or tobacco, and this is where the knowledge of keeping one’s body healthy comes in. A well to do, educated person has some degree of concern for his health, while a poor uneducated guy revels in the momentary pleasure his cigarette gives, not giving much thought to how great is the damage to his life expectancy. Life expectancy is a farce for a poor Indian though. Less than 5 percent of our poor have access to clean water and toilets, and you don’t expect people to live very long in those conditions anyway, which equals lesser time to earn money.

It is true that the poor are always at a disadvantage in the money game, they face a difficult childhood, coupled with mismanaged, and often missing government funds, thoughtless economic policies which have no real economic benefit to the poor. They do learn to save money, the do not take care of their health, or even if they do, their surroundings are way too unhygienic to prevent disease. At this juncture, it is quite easy to understand why only a small proportion of poor people do manage to rise up the economic ladder. The government might show that they are helping the needy, but then there is no such thing as free lunch, or a mid-day meal (pun intended).

The poor in our country are seen as scum, as people who do not belong to our country, the ones pushing our economy downwards. Yet, at the same time, they clean our houses daily, they stand in the heat to sell fruits and vegetables, they take us place to place in their rickshaws and contribute a significant 27 percent to our GDP (Gross Domestic Product, and I’m not explaining this) while doing so. It is high time that we start helping these people on our own, instead of blaming the two ineffective political parties who are always in power in our country.

We, as the people of this country can turn things around, and we should.

Though I still do wonder what would have happened if I had bought that balloon.


Mickey Mouse

Imagine showing your grandfather a picture of Mickey Mouse, or showing your elders a picture of Shakthi Maan. Chances are that they would very well recognise those characters and have a vivid memory of it sometime when they grew up. People nowadays are more familiar with Captain America and Wonder Woman. But why should we care? How can this have an effect on our lives other than leaving childhood memories and a nostalgia factor? Now imagine a father taking his six year old child to a bag store a few weeks before his first day of school to buy a school bag. There are ten colourful bags with a variety of designs and facilities and just one bag with a shiny Spider Man picture. Which bag would the child choose? Now imagine yourself going to purchase a bag. There’s an American Tourister bag and a bag with Captain America’s sweet clean shaven face on it. Which bag would you be more inclined to buy?

This is where sometimes a fictitious character may appear to overshadow the popularity of a well reputed brand itself. A geek symbol might just be as money creating as a brand itself. But it doesn’t stop there. A fictitious character has flexibility that no other brand can achieve. A brand can only stand for its own product while a cartoon character can stand for almost anything. BMW will always be a car brand. Maggi will always be a noodle brand. Good day will always be a biscuit brand.

Bal Hanuman on the other hand can be a key chain, a school bag or a lunch box. Think about it. They sell Tommy Hilfiger suits with James Bond, Lexus Car with Black Panther, and Turkish Airlines using Justice League. The number of necks it turns. The number of eyes it attracts. All these numbers will be multiplied by the money it makes. Like each products have its own “market giant”, a gold standard company that dominates other minor companies. In case of smartphones, Apple is the top company, like Pepsi in case refreshments, and Microsoft being the popular brand in case of OS.  Do you know who owns everything in geek world?

Marvel has made more than ten billion dollars so far.

The Star Wars: Force Awakens alone made two billion dollars in a span of few months!

The only 3D animated movies that we have heard or remember are Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and The Incredibles.

Do you know who owns Marvel Studios, Pixar and Star Wars? DISNEY. Yes, the company that once only had Mickey Mouse as its brand is now dominating the geek world. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The ten billion dollars that Marvel studios had made so far is nothing. Because Marvel and Star Wars Toys alone roughly make forty billion dollars every single year! These numbers do not include the keychains and bags that have Iron Man in it which you buy in railway stations and roadside shops as they are not legit but plagiarized. All those movies you watch are nothing but a two to three hours running commercial for the toys.

A fictitious character by this way is considered as a property. You can compare Superman to VIT. VIT attracts students from all over India and Vellore as a town is benefitting from the student population and has a commercial advantage compared to any other town. Superman as a character does the exact same thing by attracting people commercially. Building or constructing a college physically brick by brick is no different from creating a character on paper.  When it comes to the demography that actually goes to the theatre instead of its TV premiere during Diwali’s and New Year’s, it’s the college students who spend most money and time in theatre. But let us be honest. Compare the time you spend on binge watching a Netflix show alone in your room and the time you spend when you actually go watch a movie. You spend more time in front of your computer screen, not in front of the theatre screen and companies do know that. Imagine if someone makes a movie, not just any short film done by engineering students, but a legit movie done by a studio with top actors in Hollywood. The production company proceeds to release the trailer and then the whole movie online and then people would be watching it and reviewing it all within sixteen hours and not even one day. That DID happen on February 4 this year with a movie called Cloverfield Paradox which is the third movie to a franchise while the first two were released in theatres. The worst thing is people not only spend more time on online streaming but prefer online streaming services rather than actual theatres. So studios are now jumping into this online streaming service game that Netflix started. *Cough*Hotstar*Cough*

When a Studio decides to start such service, they make sure that they have enough content to keep the audience engaged.  Guess which studio has enough content in the world? The one that owns cheesy movies like High School Musical with Zac Effron, Another Cinderella story with Selena Gomez, or literally Princess movies like Beauty and the Beast, Jungle book, The Lion King, Aladdin (Both Animation and Live-Action), and then Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars.

Yes. All of the above mentioned properties are owned by Disney. Now imagine that you subscribe to one online streaming website and you get to watch all of them whenever you want! That is what Disney is planning. By the year 2020 they are planning to launch such streaming service on their own.

Surprisingly, Disney still thinks that they don’t have enough content. So, to have even more content they decided to do something that no one was ready for. Remember a movie called Avatar that came out in 2009 which made 2.7 billion in box office and still no movie could ever beat that? Remember when everyone was talking only about that movie when it came out? That movie was made by a production company named 20th Century Fox. 20th Century Fox made movies like Avatar, Planet of the Apes, X-Men, Kingsman: Secret Service.

Although no one knows another fact about Fox. Fox has a division in India called Fox India which owns a majority share of Star India that includes Star Plus, Star Utsav, Star Gold, Star Sports 1, 2 etcetera. Well, all those channels and all those movies have just been BOUGHT by Disney last year during Christmas.

Now Disney does not only have Marvel and Star Wars fans but also our mothers and aunties who watch Diya Aur Baati Hum, Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, etc.

This is another level of Monopoly that no one ever saw coming, something that everyone should know and notice.

All these serials and movies will only be a commercial to other endless chains of products that we use one day as discussed earlier. And they all started with a Mouse. Mickey Mouse.

-Vignesh A


The Need for Financial Inclusion

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.
                                                                                                                        -Nelson Mandela


A rather important concept, policymakers across the globe have grappled with the issue of reducing the scope of the informal sector since colonial times. To put things into perspective, an estimated 2 billion working-age adults have no access to formal banking services, which are regulated by financial institutions. The stark reality is that most of the working-age adults lack access to sustainable financial services, which excludes them from reaping the benefits of the economic growth of a country.

The process of economic growth, especially when it is on a high growth trajectory, must strive to ensure participation from all quarters of the society. Despite having higher economic growth than most developed countries in recent years, a vast majority of India’s population still remains unbanked. In order to achieve inclusive development and growth, financial inclusion is important as global trends have shown. In India, the term financial inclusion was first used in April 2005 in the Annual Policy Statement presented by the then Governor of Reserve Bank of India, Y. Venugopal Reddy.

Even though this new socio-economic concept, namely financial inclusion, has gained ground in India, we still lack on many fronts and haven’t been able to make the Indian economy a financial inclusive economy. Financial inclusion of the unbanked masses is a critical step that requires political will, bureaucratic support and dogged persuasion by the government and other financial institutions.

In simple words, financial inclusion can be thought of as the delivery of banking administrations at a reasonable cost to the immense segments of burdened and low-income population of a country. With a majority part of the population of the country, being bereft of any financial security, financial inclusion helps in encouraging savings and securing the future of the citizens of all sections. Unrestrained access to public goods and services is the sine qua non of an open and efficient society.

This rather-new concept, being introduced at the rural level as well as the financially backward pockets of cities, presents a win-win situation for everyone involved – the banks/NBFC’s intermediaries, and the left-out rural/urban population. Financial inclusion extends the resource base of the financial system by developing a culture of savings among a large segment of the rural population and plays its own role in the process of economic development. Furthermore, by bringing the left-out population within the vicinity of the financial sector, financial inclusion helps in the protection of wealth and other resources in exigent circumstances.

The perceived advantages of financial inclusion, both at the macro and the micro levels, can be listed as:

(1) Macro-level advantages

  1. Higher and better productivity.
  2. Faster growth in the economy.
  3. Increase in employment and income opportunities.
  4. Helpful in plugging the leakage through distribution channels.
  5. Possible reduction in poverty.

(2) Micro-level advantages

  1. Buffer against avoidable expenditure.
  2. Rational utilization of saving.
  3. Increase in risk-taking ability.
  4. Smoothing consumption.
  5. Safety of assets from major disruptions.

Even though it is a new social-economic concept on the Indian economic landscape, the gradual progress being made by the government is remarkable by every standard. The first step towards achieving comprehensive financial inclusion is to achieve credit inclusion for the disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of our society. This, coupled with tailored government policies and improvement of the market functioning mechanism, should encourage the financially excluded to enjoy the rewards of the economic growth of the country.

By- Rohitanshu Kar