Trivia Thursday: Major Environmental Movements in India

Trivia Thursday: Major Environmental Movements in India

Hi Folks, today on April 22nd, we are celebrating the 51st Earth Day! To mark this event, in this week’s Trivia Thursday, let’s have a look on a few prominent environmental movements that took place in India.

Crux of the Matter

In this week’s Trivia Thursday, let us have a look at some major environmental movements that happened in India:

Chipko Movement
Started in 1973 in Uttarakhand, Chipko movement was a forest conservation movement in India. The word ‘chipko’ means “to cling to” and refers to the rural villagers, mostly women hugging trees as a mark to protect them from loggers.

Silent Valley Movement
Silent Valley is an evergreen tropical forest in the Palakkad district of Kerala. In 1973, a plan to build a hydroelectric project on the Kunthipuzha River would have flooded the rainforest. Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP) and other NGOs started a social movement called Save Silent Valley. The rainforest was declared as Silent Valley National Park in 1985.

Bishnoi Movement 
Bishnoi is a Hindu religious sect found in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India. They follow a set of 29 principles/commandments given by Guru Jambeshwar. These include a ban on killing animals and felling green trees, and providing protection to all life forms. 

Appiko Movement 
The famous Chipko Andolan of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas inspired the villagers of the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka Province in southern India to launch a similar movement to save their forests. In September 1983, men, women and children of Salkani “hugged the trees” in Kalase forest. (The local term for “hugging” in Kannada is appiko.) Appiko Andolan gave birth to a new awareness all over southern India.

Narmada Bachao Andolan 
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is a social movement spearheaded by native tribes (adivasis), farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against a number of large dam projects across the Narmada River. The NBA, with its leading spokespersons Medha Patkar and Baba Amte, received the Right Livelihood Award in 1991.

Take a look at our last week’s Trivia Thursday here: Trivia Thursday: 7 Wonders Of The World

Why Are Some Products Designed To Fail?

Why Are Some Products Designed To Fail?

Designed to Fail – sounds baffling at first instance, isn’t it? Well, what if we say that it is true! That products and services today are intentionally manufactured to be defective or to get worn out soon. But why would companies do that? Why would they produce an inferior good that could actually hurt their brand image? Let us find out.

Crux of the Matter

The Centennial Light
The Centennial Light is the world’s longest-lasting light bulb, burning since 1901. The handmade bulb has never been switched off and is running for 120 years! If handmade bulbs can survive this long then why don’t our present day bulbs?

Phoebus Cartel
In December 1924, senior executives of world’s top light bulb companies had met in Geneva, Switzerland.

Major firms include : Philips (Netherlands), General Electric (US), Tokyo Electric (Japan), Osram (Germany), Associated Electrical Industries (UK), etc. This group came to be known as Phoebus Cartel.

Purpose Of Cartel
In a move to increase the sale of their products, the cartel decided to cut down the lifespan of their bulbs to 1000 hours, which was then almost half of the existing period. Each member’s sample light bulb was tested at a lab to see if they have confirmed with the 1000 hour limit.

Companies were heavily fined if bulbs surpassed the limits. For instance, for a bulb lasting 3,000+ hours, a fine of 200 Swiss Francs for every 1,000 bulbs sold was charged.

Life of Bulbs over the years
While Phoebus Cartel died in 1939, the practise of planned obsolescence continued.

What Is Planned Obsolescence?
It is a strategy of making a product with an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design, so that it becomes obsolete after a predetermined period of time. It also means not creating an efficient product even if the manufacturer can easily provide its customers with a better product.

The Case Of Inkjet Printers
Inkjet printer manufacturers employ smart chips in their ink cartridges to prevent them from being used after a certain threshold, even though the cartridge may still contain usable ink or could be refilled. The poor durability and high cost of repair turn printers into nothing but disposable commodities. As a result, consumers find it easier to buy a new printer instead of repairing the old one.

The Case Of Apple
In 2017-18, Apple confirmed that it did slow down some iPhones, but said it only did so to “prolong the life” of the devices. iPhone owners “were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices”.

As a result, Apple was fined 25 million euros by the French authority DGCCRF that was probing Apple for “planned obsolescence” in Apple’s iPhone. Later, Apple also agreed to pay $113 million to 34 states in the US to settle an investigation into its practice of slowing down iPhones.

  • Osram apparently means “to poop” in Polish. As a result, many believe that this company failed badly in Poland.
  • In 1924, American automobile market began reaching saturation point. To maintain unit sales, General Motors executive Alfred P. Sloan Jr. suggested annual model-year design changes to convince car owners to buy new replacements each year, with refreshed appearances headed by Harley Earl and the Art and Color Section.
  • The origins of the phrase planned obsolescence go back at least as far as 1932 with Bernard London’s pamphlet Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence. The essence of London’s plan would have the government impose a legal obsolescence on personal-use items, to stimulate and perpetuate purchasing. 

How Is Digital Yuan Different?

How is Digital Yuan Different?

In our last story on Digital Yuan, we saw the composition of Digital Yuan and some of its disruptive features. In this story we dive deep into some strategic areas of the currency and try to understand how it is positioned to impact the global economy in long run. And of course, this story answers many of the questions surrounding the new digital currency.

Crux of the Matter

How Is Digital Yuan Different From Bitcoin?

  • Bitcoin is a decentralized currency which means that it has no controlling authority like a government or a central bank. Digital Yuan on the other hand is the legal tender issued by China’s central bank.
  • In bitcoin, the identity of its users is not known. While Digital Yuan with its innate traceability feature overcomes the user anonymity issue.

Currency Stability
China will not increase its money supply by introducing new form of currency. With every Yuan introduced digitally in the market, an equivalent worth of physical cash will be drawn out from the circulation thus ensuring the stability of economy.

Will Digital Yuan Disrupt The Global Financial System?
The US Dollar holds 88% share in international foreign-exchange trades. Moreover, at present most of the international settlements happen over the SWIFT technology which is a messaging network used to securely transmit information through a standardized system of codes. The US administration has a significant authority over both the mechanisms.

The Chinese Renminbi holds mere 4% of share in international foreign-exchange trades. Hence, simply with its own digital currency, China cannot replace US Dollar in international transactions. But it will definitely open up new options for people to transfer money and maybe at better margins.

Dollar Weaponization
With US being the prime source of dollar, it has the ability to freeze institutions and nations by laying various sanctions on them. Sanctioned nations are kicked out of the global financial system as banks and financial institutions are prohibited from doing transactions with them. This entire phenomena is known as Dollar Weaponization.

Examples Include:

  • Crippling Economies of Iran and North Korea owing to US laid sanctions.
  • Blocking the movement of top military officials financial assets in Myanmar amidst the coup.
  • The unending US – China conflict followed by multitude of economic and financial sanctions laid on China.

Aim Of China
One of the prominent aims of Beijing for introducing Yuan is to limit the power of US dollar in international settlements.
Thus, nations that are penalized by US can transact and transfer their money through Digital Yuan – without the knowledge of US.

This takes away sanction leveraging power of the US.

Nicholas Burns, American diplomat

Final thoughts?
It is maybe farfetched to say that Digital Yuan will take over US Dollar. Nevertheless, the building blocks are too important to be ignored.

  • The official currency of China is Renminbi. Yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, but internationally the word is also used to refer to the Chinese currency.
  • One yuan is divided into 10 jiao and one jiao is divided into 10 fen.
  • The United States dollar is called Meiyuan in Chinese, and the euro is called Ouyuan.

How Did Lijjat Papad Set The Women Empowerment Ball Rolling?

How Did Lijjat Papad Set The Women Empowerment Ball Rolling?

Provides economic opportunities through domestic activity, makes extraordinary leaders out of Indian women, empowers women by providing them with a respectful income source – this is what Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad has been practicing since its inception in 1959. Let us have a look at the journey of Lijjat Papad.

Crux of the Matter

The Humble Beginnings
Seven Gujarati women with an aim of a creating a sustainable livelihood for their families started the venture of making Papads. They borrowed ₹ 80 from Chhaganbhai Patel (also called Chhagan Bapa), a noted social worker and philanthropist, who later guided the Lijjat Empire too.

The seven women are Jaswantiben Popat, Banuben Tanna, Jayaben Vithalani, Laguben Gokani, Parvatiben Thodani, Ujamben Kundalia, and Diwaliben Lukka.

The System of Co Owners
Lijjat Papad eventually expanded as a cooperative society. Well, the membership was restricted only for women, a policy that stands to date. Men in the cooperative are salaried employees majorly in the roles of accountants, drivers or security guards. Simply put, men are not members/owners in the cooperative society.

A Typical Day Of Lijjat Sisters

1. The working kick starts early in the morning when a group of women start kneading lentil (urad) dough.
2. Another group of women arrive with finished goods which is then tested for quality at the branch laboratory.
3. The second group of women then pick up freshly prepared lentil dough to prepare dry papads at home.

How It Empowers Women
To be a part of Lijjat Group, the only condition is that each women has to abide by the quality norms. Lijjat has welcomed the ‘Work from Home’ methodology long before it was accepted as a working medium in corporate world. The reason was quite straight which was to enable a homemaker to balance her family while earning an alternate income source.

The Glorifying Growth
The business which began with 7 women making 4 packets of papads on their building’s terrace now employs 45000 women across 82 Indian branches with presence in 15 nations. Lijjat Papad’s journey from seed capital of ₹80 in 1959 to ₹800 crore turnover in 2018 is overwhelming to say the least.

Perks Of Being A Lijjat Member

  • Women have the freedom to choose their work area.
  • Members can become a part of managing committee if selected in elections.
  • Seniority in the cooperative society doesn’t matter. Work responsibilities and work output makes the difference.
  • Women can apply for educational loans and scholarships for their children.

The Uncompromising Attitude on Quality

  • In 2002, the “Businesswoman of the Year” award was given to “The Women Behind Lijjat Papad” at The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence. Lijjat received the “Best Village Industries Institution” award from KVIC for the period 1998–99 to 2000–01.
  • Lijjat believes in the philosophy of sarvodaya and collective ownership. Sarvodaya is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’. The term was used by Mahatma Gandhi as the title of his 1908 translation of John Ruskin’s tract on political economy, Unto This Last, and Gandhi came to use the term for the ideal of his own political philosophy.
  • Lijjat Patrika, the in-house magazine, is published and circulated for a nominal rate to those interested in the activities of Lijjat. It has emerged as a strong mode of communication for information related to significant events and initiatives at Lijjat, in addition to presenting articles on women.

Fidel Castro And Why His Brother Raul Is In News

Amidst major political shuffle in Cuba as well as declassification of a file by US, Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro has been in news. In that light, it’s perfect time to look at who Fidel Castro was, and how his regime drew strong reaction from both critics and supporters.

Amidst major political shuffle in Cuba as well as declassification of a file by US, Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro has been in news. In that light, it’s perfect time to look at who Fidel Castro was, and how his regime drew strong reaction from both critics and supporters.

Crux of the Matter

Raul Steps Down
On 16 April, Raul Castro announced to step down as the head of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba. On the same day, US declassified documents regarding Raul.

Revelations Of The Declassified Document

  • In 1960, Jose R Martinez, recruited by CIA of the US, was Raul’s pilot once.
  • Martinez was given $10,000 to arrange an ‘accident’ to assassinate Raul.
  • However, Martinez couldn’t find opportunity before it was called off.

Raul is the brother of Fidel Castro.

Then Who Was Fidel Castro?
Fidel was a Cuban revolutionary famous for establishing Communist regime in Cuba

  • 1953: Attacked an army base of the US-backed General Fulgencio Batista, who had seized power in a coup. The attack failed and he was sentenced to 15 years jail.
  • 1955: Went into exile in Mexico after being released early. He met Che Guevara there and formed guerilla group.
  • 1956: Landed back in Cuba and started guerilla war against Batista.
  • 1959: Batista was overthrown – Castro became the PM and later President.

Major Decisions

  • Nationalized businesses and industries.
  • Brought universal healthcare and large-scale literacy schemes.
  • Such measures are credited by experts to have uplifted the poor.
  • He also banned critical press and jailed political opponents.
  • Persecuted homosexual people and publicly accepted blame in 2010.
  • The Cuban economy suffered from such strict rule and thousands of citizens fled to the US.

Anti-US Stance

  • Castro is renowned for his conflicts with the US.
  • Even the 1961 ‘Bay of Pigs’ failed, where Cuban-exiles had attempted to overthrow Castro with US support under Kennedy.
  • 1962: The conflict reached one climax as the Soviet Union placed nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of hitting the US. They later withdrew after US promised to withdraw from Turkey and to not invade Cuba again.
  • US and Cuba didn’t have diplomatic relations between 1961 and 2014.

Castro survived 638 assassination plans as per Guinness World Records, mostly from the US. He retired in 2008 (49 years in power) before passing away in 2016 at age of 90.

An Unusual Friendship

  • One of his most unusual friendships came with Argentina football legend Diego Maradona.
  • Maradona famously considered Castro his “second father”.

He opened Cuba’s doors to me when clinics in Argentina were slamming them shut.

Maradona on Castro

  • Manuel Marrero Cruz is the current Prime Minister of Cuba since 2019. The position of Prime Minister was abolished 43 years, from 1976 to 2019.
  • Cuba has no private hospitals or clinics. All health services are government-run.
  • With a population of over 11 million, Cuba is the second-most populous country in the Caribbean after Haiti.