information and stories about India.

accessibility in IndiaAs of 2020, 50% of people in India had access to the internet, a figure growing most quickly in rural regions. In 2019, there were 264 million internet users in rural India compared to the 310 million internet users in urban India. The rapid growth of internet adoption outside of Indian cities can be accredited in part to the initiatives of the Digital India campaign, including efforts to integrate the country’s cloud infrastructure, promote open data platforms, fill connectivity gaps and offer affordable data plans. Overall, internet penetration rates across the country have more than doubled over the last five years. Through the use of technology and the internet, platforms have been created to increase resource, service and opportunity accessibility in India.

The Digital Revolution Increases Accessibility

In a country where 80% of the impoverished live in rural areas, widespread internet availability is vital. More than just a source of entertainment, the internet increases accessibility of products and services that otherwise might not be affordable or available. Recognizing the potential for digital technologies to cut across geographic and economic barriers, numerous private and public organizations have developed platforms designed to increase accessibility in India. Whether connecting buyers to faraway sellers or simply helping individuals locate public toilets, these innovative tech platforms champion access and promote inclusion in India.

Google Toilet Locator

In 2012, more Indian households had a cellphone than a toilet. A lack of access to toilets leads to rampant open defecation with consequences ranging from water pollution to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera. In a country where technology has grown faster than public services, the government turned to tech for assistance in its campaign to eradicate open defecation and improve waste management. In December 2016, India’s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) partnered with Google to introduce a Google Maps toilet finder tool as part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission. As the government works to construct millions of toilets around the country, the Google Toilet Locator helps Indians to more easily find them. The app even allows users to leave ratings and reviews for public restrooms.

Tractors-as-a-Service

In September 2018, Aeris Communications partnered with Hello Tractor to launch “Tractors-as-a-Service” in India, The service provides on-demand tractor rentals to Indian farmers. In India, agriculture is an essential source of export earnings, employment and food. Tractors play a crucial role in increasing agricultural productivity but less than 30% of farmers utilize such expensive, high-capacity equipment. Hello Tractor’s software, which can be accessed through mobile and web applications, offers a “pay-as-you-use” model based on time in the field and area covered. The app enables small farmers to reap the benefits of commercial model tractors at lower costs while increasing the profits of tractor owners by allowing them to rent out their machines during idle times.

IndiaMART

IndiaMART is India’s largest online business-to-business marketplace, connecting buyers with suppliers of products and services ranging from pharmaceuticals to industrial machinery to wholesale foods. IndiaMART offers more than 67 million products and services to more than 100 million buyers. Importantly, the platform gives small and medium-sized enterprises in India a place to promote their business. There are about 60 million small and medium-sized businesses in India but only around 10 million of them have any web presence, according to the most recent data. IndiaMART allows these companies to expand their market reach and sell through the platform for a subscription fee.

A thriving e-commerce economy allows for goods and services to reach a consumer base that is less affluent and lives outside of traditional urban markets, thereby increasing market accessibility and enhancing the welfare of rural and lower-income populations.

Unified Payments Interface

In the financial sector, the National Payments Corporation of India developed the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), an instant real-time payment system regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The platform allows users to access multiple bank accounts from even the most remote locations, routing funds and making payments under one seamless application. Digital finance platforms such as UPI are crucial in promoting financial inclusion and empowering individuals with tools such as loans and savings accounts.

Both private and public digital platforms have been deployed to increase accessibility in India and reach those who may otherwise be excluded from resources, services and opportunities.

Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr

Flood-Tolerant Rice BenefitsRice farming and production impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. Rice is the staple food of three billion people globally and a source of income for many. The farming of rice also contributes significantly to the economic growth of many countries. Especially within developing countries, the success of rice production is crucial for feeding individuals and creating economic stability. Flood-tolerant rice benefits developing countries reliant upon rice for livelihoods, food security, and the economy’s stability.

Environmental Challenges Affect Rice Production in India

Recent changes in the climate have caused rice production volatility due to flooding and drought. As many as 4.8 million people in India are exposed to river flood risks each year. In India, environmental challenges have had an especially negative effect on rice crops as floods have overtaken many viable planting areas. This flooding has disproportionately affected low-income farmers. These farmers often work with less reliable plots of land that are more prone to flooding. Without the development of techniques to help combat extreme weather, both the livelihoods of low-income people within India and the general Indian economy will experience a significant socio-economic impact.

Swarna Sub-1 Rice

A strain of flood-tolerant rice called Swarna Sub-1 has been a major development that addresses crop damage due to flooding in India. As a mixture of two different rice varieties, this scientifically developed plant is able to withstand intense flooding. This type of rice has been on the market for use since around 2009; however, many farmers have not had access to the rice strain until recently. This is largely due to the lack of information about the existence of Swarna Sub-1 and a lack of accessibility to it.

Flood-Tolerant Rice Benefits

The introduction of flood-tolerant rice has allowed for an increase in rice production, as J-PAL studies have shown. J-PAL is an organization that researches innovative solutions to global poverty. The increased rice production throughout India has had an incredibly positive effect, both economically and socially, as there is a larger supply of rice boosting local economies. As impoverished farmers have seen more successful rice harvests, they have been keener to cultivate a greater amount of farmland and make riskier agricultural decisions. Farmers have also invested in fertilizers to further increase crop health as they are more sure of their ability to create a solid income through rice farming. Additionally, precautionary rice savings decreased, suggesting farmers have perceived lower risk of crop losses with the flood-tolerant rice.

Swarna Sub-1 seeds increased rice yields by about 10% over the course of two years, as seen in the study. Researchers stated that the productive behavior changes among farmers who planted Swarna Sub-1 accounted for 41% of the long-term increase in rice yields. The higher yields also increased the income of farmers by roughly $47 per hectare.

The Potential of Flood-Tolerant Rice

These flood-tolerant rice benefits have improved the livelihoods of impoverished farmers in India while also contributing to food security and local economies. Increased access to flood-tolerant rice varieties in developing countries has the potential to improve lives and lift people out of poverty.

– Olivia Bay 
Photo: Flickr

Bipolar Awareness in IndiaIndia is the second-most densely populated nation in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people. Of that number, more than 82 million citizens suffer from bipolar disorder, according to data from 2019. Bipolar disorder in India often goes undiagnosed and untreated for reasons ranging from ancient superstitions to the cost of treatment, but, bipolar awareness in India is steadily progressing.

Bipolar Disorder in India

Improved bipolar awareness in India exemplifies how a concerted effort can reduce stigma and create an affordable and readily available avenue for treatments such as therapy and medication. Indians, mostly women, have been disowned and abandoned by family or a spouse after receiving a bipolar diagnosis. In a country where the consequences of a mental condition are isolation and disconnection, the need for awareness and education is paramount.

A nation that once attributed bipolar disorder to demonic spirits, planetary alignments or a sinful past life, has come extremely far in its understanding of the illness. But, the stigma surrounding the disorder is still prevalent in India, and many, especially those from rural locations, believe bipolar disorder is a choice or an illness reserved for the rich and privileged.

BipolarIndia Organization

One resource improving bipolar awareness in India is the organization BipolarIndia. The community was created in 2013 by Vijay Nallawala, an Indian man that suffers from bipolar disorder, and his mentor and friend, Puneet Bhatnagar. BipolarIndia’s mission is to create an empathetic, judgment-free environment for bipolar people to find information, treatment, and most of all, support from those that can relate to their struggle.

BipolarIndia hosts a National Conference every year on World Bipolar Day to create awareness for the illness and educate residents from all over the country. In 2015, the organization began hosting monthly support meetings for individuals to speak with peers that can understand their struggle. It has also recently developed a way for patients to receive real-time support through the Telegram App when they feel they may need immediate help. Resources such as the Telegram App are invaluable due to the lack of mental health professionals in India.

The Mental Health Care Bill

Data from a 2005 report shows that there are only three psychiatrists per million citizens and only 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget goes toward improving mental healthcare. The Indian Government passed a Mental Health Care Bill in June of 2013 laying out a mission to improve bipolar awareness in India as well as reduce stigma surrounding all mental health issues. The bill has been undergoing revisions and policy modifications based on the guidance given by the Indian Association of Psychiatry.

Efforts to Raise Awareness

The government’s efforts to raise awareness about the complexity of bipolar disorder and the number of Indians that suffer in silence is vital to the disorder being understood. The Indian government aims to provide communities with adequate care and reliable information, leading the nation to a better understanding of a complicated mental disorder.

Bipolar awareness in India has improved with private organizations such as the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) funding research on effective treatments and raising awareness across the globe.

Also fighting for bipolar awareness, Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Rukh Kahn, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Anushka Sharma, have stepped forward and opened up about their personal battles with bipolar disorder, combatting the stigma surrounding the illness.

The Road Ahead

Bipolar awareness in India has slowly improved but still has a long way to go. If the government aims to change the attitude toward bipolar disorder and improve treatment, a significant investment in research is vital as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disorder.

–  Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Monsoons in South Asian Countries
Monsoons are seasonal changes in the direction of the wind in a region that causes wet and dry seasons. This phenomenon is most associated with the Indian Ocean where its effects greatly impact South Asian countries. The summer monsoon, which occurs between April and September, brings the wet season. Warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean moves inland and brings heavy rainfall and a humid climate. In contrast, the winter monsoon occurs between October and April and brings the dry season, but it is often weaker than the summer monsoons as the Himalaya Mountains prevent most of the dry air from reaching coastal countries. Monsoons in South Asian countries contribute to many industries, such as farming and electricity, however, there are adverse effects.

Negative Impacts of Monsoons in South Asian Countries

Here is a closer look at how monsoons have impacted some countries.

  1. India. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India is one of Asia’s largest countries. Agriculture makes up 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and over half of the population works in this industry. Consequently, when there is too little or too much rainfall it can be severely damaging to the economy and the livelihoods of millions. The 2009 summer monsoon, for example, brought low rainfall that prevented farmers from planting their crops. Farmers were left to sell their starved farm animals for only a fraction of the normal price. Years with little rainfall also affect India’s electricity as hydropower makes up 25% of its energy source. Likewise, higher levels of rainfall can lead to floods, coastal damage, and other disasters. In 2019, flooding due to heavy rain led to 1,200 deaths and millions of displaced individuals.

  2. Bangladesh. The low elevation and dense population of Bangladesh make it extra vulnerable to the impact of monsoons. Now, with the rise of COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in the country, the summer 2020 monsoon has affected 5.4 million lives. This monsoon season brought heavy rainfall that led to the worst floods Bangladesh has faced within the last decade. Nearly a million homes were submerged underwater and 600 square miles of farmland were damaged by the floods. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made relief efforts difficult to reach the country.

  3. Pakistan. Similar to Bangladesh, Pakistan also faced heavy rainfall and floods from the 2020 monsoon season. Over 400 people have died with another 400 injured and more than 200,000 homes severely damaged from floods and landslides across the country. The government reported that the excessive rainfall destroyed nearly one million acres of farmland leaving farmers and consumers in a difficult position. In the Sindh Province, the impact of the monsoon displaced 68,000 people who are now in relief camps. The summer monsoons also affect the short-term and long-term health of victims as disease and infection spread faster within relief camps and the water.  In 2010, communities affected by flooding reported 113,981 cases of respiratory tract infections.

Relief Efforts

The countries above are only a few of the several areas affected by monsoons in the region. Fortunately, several agencies provide emergency relief for monsoons in South Asian countries. During the 2020 floods, the UN helped with the evacuation of 500,000 people and prepared to provide humanitarian aid to the most affected and vulnerable communities. In Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies worked closely with the government to provide victims with basic necessities, such as food, water, shelter, and other supplies. Additionally, the UN launched a $40 million response plan to help over one million people. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations gave over $1 million dollars in emergency funding to provide relief to the Sindh Province in Pakistan and funded other operations that provided basic needs to 96,250 people. Other agencies such as UNICEF standby and are ready to provide relief to any country impacted by natural disasters. The work of these organizations is critical to saving lives.

Giselle Ramirez-Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Farming Reform in IndiaToward the end of November 2020, more than 250 million people around the Indian subcontinent protested for farming reform in India. Protestors are pushing back against the three-piece legislation passed by the Indian Parliament which attempts to liberalize the agricultural sector by increasing Indian farmers’ access to bigger markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the recently passed agricultural bills intend to grant farmers autonomy and increase their income. However, Indian farmers fear these laws will threaten their livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful agricultural corporations.

The Indian Agricultural Sector

The agricultural sector is an essential part of the Indian economy, as it generates livelihood for nearly 60% of the Indian population. Despite the vital role of Indian farmers, the agricultural sector only makes up 15-16% of the subcontinent’s GDP, leaving farmers grappling for livelihood. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, almost three million farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Having one of the highest suicide rates in the agricultural sector, Indian farmers have long suffered despair from tyrannical policies, debt, low income and climate change inducing production risks. On September 28, 2020, the Parliament attempted farming reform in India by passing three bills that the government and Modi claim will benefit farmers’ livelihoods by decreasing financial burdens and increasing profit.

The 3 Farming Acts Passed

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act

  • Allows for intra-state trading, inner-state trading, electronic trading and e-commerce of produce.

  • Abolishes the imposition of government-determined financial burdens.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • Withdraws the previously determined list of essential commodities.

  • Removes stockholding restriction on essential commodities.

  • Demands that levying of stockholding limit on produce emanates from increased price.

The Reason Behind Protests

With support for farming reform in India from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of farmers and those in solidarity have taken to the streets with a common goal: to have the acts repealed. The laws spark deep worry that transitioning to a free market will enable powerful agricultural businesses to take advantage of the farmers, potentially leading to loss of land, income and autonomy. Indian farmers, who sell their produce at a set rate, are certain that a market-aligned system will solely increase private equities welfare while continuing to forbade domestic benefits. Farmers are also concerned that differences in business objectives could leave farmers at risk of financial consequences from market unpredictability. Finally, farmers are fearful that the abolition of stockholding limits will empower corporations to distort prices for personal monetary reward.

Global Support for Indian Farmers

There is a consensus among Indian farmers that their agricultural sector requires reform. Although the new laws of farming reform in India promise to improve farmers’ livelihoods and freedom, the lack of trust in a market-friendly reform and the government’s incentive has prompted a collective demand for change. As the protestors persist with force, the demand for alternative farming reform in India is being heard by Prime Minister Modi who is beginning to listen to farmers’ concerns. The exploitation of farmers continues to spark global support for farming reform in India from organizations, advocates, politicians and humanitarians until fairness and justice is achieved.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Taco Bell is Helping India
Taco Bell Corp. has made India its largest international market. Yum! Brands, Inc., is a U.S.-based quick service restaurant (QSR) corporation that owns and operates the widely recognized Taco Bell brand. Few QSRs have attempted to infiltrate the market of the most vegetarian country in the world, but India’s young and growing middle-class make it the perfect untapped market for this Mexican-style cuisine. Taco Bell hopes to further drive forward India’s already rapidly growing economy with the promise to open 600 restaurants in the next 10 years. Here is some information about how Taco Bell is helping India by increasing employment opportunities.

An American-Born Brand Hands India the Reins

Taco Bell has named Burman Hospitality Private Limited (BHPL) of India as its exclusive Master Franchise Partner, giving it control of the entire Indian territory. While Taco Bell was already a successful and recognizable brand, it needed the help of an Indian company to get the concept ready to launch. Imagine a trendy, industrial-looking space, where the walls are decorated in graffiti that reads, “Nachos” and “Quesadillas” but written in the Hindi language.

There is the option for table service, a menu for alcoholic drinks and possibly even a DJ playing music; this is an example of the marriage of the Western and Indian brand and how it has evolved. The menu is now entirely free of beef. It includes a variety of vegetarian options and is affordable to its target market of young, up-and-coming adults. Menu items start at 18 Indian rupees or approximately 40 American cents. Former President and CEO of Yum! Restaurants International, Graham Allen said, “You have a young population with improving standards of living and an enthusiasm to embrace Western brands.”

Employment Opportunities and Training

India’s economy will add more than 20,000 jobs over the course of the 600 new restaurant openings. Through partnerships with vendors and supply chains, Taco Bell is helping India through the creation of additional job opportunities. Taco Bell refers to front-of-house and back-of-house employees as “team members” and “champions.” The staff complete intensive training to hone their people skills and learn excellent customer service. Employees looking to climb the ranks and further their careers can opt to take part in paid training programs. Paid time off, health care benefits and aid with financial planning are also options.

Developing Business Pushes Economic Growth

Taco Bell India sets its sights on rapid expansion, on track to open a new restaurant every 10 days until 2029. It is already in several major cities, often in areas like malls, that draw India’s booming young population. The extent to which the growth of the Taco Bell chain will help India’s economy is promising but depends on how the poor are able to share in the growth process. If hired, Taco Bell is helping India by allowing new recruits to learn better communication skills, receive a uniform and one complimentary meal per shift. These are major perks for a poor individual. The low price point coupled with the adventure of trying something new and “exotic” is appealing for all patrons.

– Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Housing In IndiaIndia is among the world’s poorest countries, with more than two-thirds of its residents living in extreme poverty. Recently, however, a changing economy centered around industrialization has prompted many rural residents to move to urban areas of the region. The interregional migration has led to an accumulation of slums and poor villages on the outskirts of cities. The problem prompts a powerful need for affordable housing in India. In recent years, new organizations have begun to answer this call with unique responses to alleviate the problem.

3 Ways India is Implementing Affordable Housing

  1. Big bank support for finances: One of the major banks leading this movement, the National Housing Bank of India, extends housing loans to low-income households. This allows for affordable housing at the lowest level while also expanding the Indian housing market. The bank’s project has positively impacted 15,000 households across 17 states in India, including households primarily managed by women. The expanded access to these loans is not the only aspect of this plan. Higher loans are also given out to poorer people to ensure that housing transactions are faster and more effective. These loans also help invest in important infrastructures like schools, temples and communal facilities.
  2. Government home-building initiatives: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has launched a “housing for all” campaign since his election. The urban focus of the plan pledges to build more than 12 million houses by the year 2022. Although only 3.2 million urban homes have come to fruition so far, more funding to continue the project is on the way. These efforts ensure that 40% of India’s population, now living in urban areas like Mumbai, has access to cheaper apartment buildings. The new housing spaces target a variety of people, including first-time buyers, older individuals and those aspiring to move to urban areas, a demographic that largely includes impoverished communities.
  3. Targeting traditional real estate developers: In addition to building affordable housing, the Indian Government is also taking steps to target real estate members who generally focus their efforts on higher-end living spaces. To combat this practice, the government gives more incentives for interest rates on middle-to-low class homes. Many major real estate companies only switched to marketing affordable housing (as late as 2018) after the introduction of these benefits. This trickle-down effect experienced in the real estate sector will in turn fuel the industry. In other words, it has a multiplied effect on India’s economy. The shift in the country’s housing market will make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Affordable Housing Means Less Poverty

The combination of nongovernmental and governmental support in India is rapidly leading to positive changes in the country. The future of affordable housing in the region is on track to provide commodities to millions of people. With increased funding and more initiatives, India is a leading example of how affordable housing can raise standards of living and boost the economy, essentially alleviating poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

Low-Cost Power in India
Millions of people around the world own smartphones, tablets and laptop computers, all of which batteries power. Inevitably, as these devices age, their batteries degrade and lose capacity.  Nevertheless, even after one grows tired of constantly hunting for the charging cable and decides instead to buy a new one, it turns out that the old battery, the same “dead” battery that will likely end up in your garbage can, just might have some life in it yet. One start-up company has emerged on exactly that premise. With offices in Germany and India, Nunam (which means “for the future” in Sanskrit) repurposes lithium-ion batteries to produce new energy storage systems and provide low-cost power in India. Funding from the Audi Environmental Foundation has recently allowed Nunam to complete a prototype and offer its units for free to street vendors in Bengaluru, India.

Nunam’s Innovation

Founders Darshan Virupaksha and Prodip Chatterjee met in 2017 when both men were looking to apply their technical backgrounds in ways that could create real social impact. Deciding that energy access was an issue they wanted to tackle, they created their lab in Bengaluru and began testing different types of batteries. Eventually, they settled on the lithium-ion cells that power laptop computers and are easily acquirable from scrap dealers.

Containing several dozen of these “second life” batteries, each of which still possesses at least two-thirds of its original capacity, Nunam’s prototype is smaller than a briefcase. Yet these units provide enough energy for Bengaluru’s street vendors to light their stalls after dark and to charge their cell phones.

Nunam’s Prototype

Nunam has also developed a different prototype in collaboration with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a research organization based in New Delhi that is concerned with energy, the environment and sustainability. This second model comprises electric-vehicle batteries and can provide energy to multiple shops at the same time. One unit inside an electrical shop, for instance, powers another 39 stores in the nearby vicinity. In addition, as the owner of the shop pointed out to The Better India, Nunam’s energy devices are cost-effective. Even for those who cannot pay for electricity, a daily supply of candles can cost upwards of 10 Indian rupees, while Nunam’s unit reaches 40 shops for one-third of the price, thus providing low-cost power in India.

Plus, by reusing batteries to generate electricity, the new devices reduce waste and pollution. Many countries currently recycle less than 5% of lithium-ion batteries; despite their remaining energy capacity, most discarded batteries simply end up in landfills. In a further effort to minimize its environmental impact, Nunan has also developed an app that allows its engineers to keep track of their energy units and to observe the battery cells’ condition. Once Nunam sees that the batteries are nearing the end of their capacity, it retrieves the unit and then recycles the fully depleted batteries.

Addressing Energy Access

Although the company is still in the process of development, its creation of energy storage systems that are both affordable and environmentally friendly has important implications for issues surrounding poverty and energy access. In India, although the government has made enormous strides in expanding the reach of power grids, roughly 2.4% of households do not have access to electricity, with most of these concentrated in rural areas. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), households without electricity pointed most often to their inability to afford the expense, while others were simply beyond power grids’ geographical reach.

Thus, one wonders if Nunam’s cheap, portable units could offer a potential solution for people who lack access to electricity, even if they live in rural settings. At present, the storage systems can power only low-wattage devices for several hours at a time, but before 100% of Indian households undergo electrification, even charging a smartphone or lighting an electric bulb can bring huge benefits.  Especially in the latter case, students are able to continue their schoolwork after dark while adults (like how it provides low-cost power in India to the street vendors in Bengaluru) can engage in productive activities to generate income.

Looking Ahead

Furthermore, Nunam’s founders hope someday to expand their operation within India and in other developing countries. Globally, more than 1 billion people lack access to light, with most living in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. While households must spend valuable time and resources procuring fuel, doctors struggle to treat patients after sunset, and pollution from indoor fires and kerosene lamps causes millions of deaths.

Therefore, by providing low-cost energy and reducing waste and pollution, Nunam’s innovation tackles several of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at once. Since ending global poverty necessitates ending light and energy poverty, too, it will be exciting to watch the start-up strive to live up to the promise of its name: “for the future” indeed.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

rice exportsPakistan and India are battling a rice war, as India is attempting to gain exclusive branding rights to export basmati rice to the EU. India’s trademark “geographic indication” for basmati rice has received approval from the EU and Pakistan has three months to respond to this claim or it will not be able to export basmati rice to the EU. Further implications of expanding geographic indication could compromise other markets for Pakistan, yet its response so far has been slow and inconsistent. The EU’s decision on basmati rice exports will influence each country’s economy, and with hundreds of millions of impoverished people between the two, there is much at stake.

The Value of Rice in Pakistan and India

The basmati rice industry is one that Pakistan heavily contributes to and relies on. Pakistan contributes to 35% of global basmati rice exports and its trade to the EU has grown from 120,000 tons in 2017 to 300,000 tons in 2019. A whole 40% of Pakistan’s workers work in agriculture, with rice accounting for 20% of agricultural land.

India exported 4.4 million tons of basmati rice between 2019 and 2020, which made up 65% of global basmati rice exports.

Rice Yield Challenges

Despite rice production increasing due to new practices, rice yields in both Pakistan and India are lower than the global average. Growing challenges such as drastic climate change can negatively influence annual rice production. Experts conclude that improving irrigation facilities and increasing the use of new technology will allow the countries to effectively expand their rice yields.

Population Growth & Economic Contraction

Already the fifth most populous nation in the world, projections have determined that Pakistan will grow from 220 million to 345 million by 2045. As its population continues to grow, its economy must grow at least 7% to prevent unemployment. However, in 2019, the economy contracted from 5.5% to 1.9% and the COVID-19 crisis further exacerbated this shrinkage. Unemployment has increased each year since 2014 and currently sits between 4% and 5%. It is imperative that Pakistan jumpstarts its economy or unemployment and poverty will spread.

Poverty in South Asia

Pakistan made great strides in reducing poverty in the early 2000s but has since stalled under more recent governments. By 2015, roughly one in four people, or 50 million Pakistanis, lived under the poverty line. Furthermore, there remains little opportunity for economic improvement.

India also has few opportunities for the poor to improve their lives as it placed 76 out of 82 countries in terms of social mobility. The lack of social mobility means that most people who are born poor will die poor, with minimal chances to jump to a higher social class. India also suffers from severe social inequality and a lack of growth in rural areas. A whole 364 million out of 1.3 billion, or 28% of the world’s poor live in India. However, globalization has allowed India to bring 270 million people out of poverty between 2005 and 2015. Consequently, since 1990, the life expectancy has increased by 11 years, schooling years have increased by three years and India has increased its human development index to above the medium average.

Malnutrition Causes Infant Mortality

Pakistan has an alarmingly high infant mortality rate of 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is twice that of India’s. A multitude of factors causes this, most notably, the malnutrition of mothers and their infants. Although wheat and rice are produced in abundant quantities, 44% of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The problem is not whether food is available but it is that food is not accessible for the poor.

Rice as a Key Export

In Pakistan, rice provides value both nutritionally and economically. Rice accounts for 1.4% of the GDP and the traditional basmati rice makes up 0.6% of the GDP. However, most rice is sold as an export and is not used to feed hungry mouths domestically. In 2019, Pakistan exported $2.17 billion worth of rice, of which $790 million was basmati, a 25% increase from 2018.

A whole 90% of the rice grown in India is consumed domestically. Boasting the second-largest population in the world of 1.3 billion people, India accounts for 22% of global rice production but has many more people to feed than Pakistan. India is projected to produce 120 million tons of rice between 2020 and 2021.

Basmati rice exports generate massive profit for each country, If one country were to gain an advantage over the market, it would create enormous value for the winner and dire consequences for the loser. The winner would stand to gain economically and competitively as a result of increased production and profits. Additionally, increased demand for agricultural workers and production in rural areas would create revenue in historically impoverished areas.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

How Ekal Vidyalaya is Adapting for Indian ChildrenIn India, literacy and education stand as critical tests to measure success, whether in future prospects for the individual or future success for a community. After the end of British rule in the nation, the literacy rate stood at about 12%. Today, the rate has more than quintupled to nearly 70% across the nation. Even so, disparities exist across villages, provinces and states. To tackle these issues and advance the education of India’s next-generation, a non-profit organization is helping the children in the midst of a global pandemic. Ekal Vidyalaya is adapting for Indian children, continues to build schools, prioritize sustainability and maintain ambitious objectives from a variety of different chapters across not just India, but around the world.

Initial Difficulties and Welcome Surprises

As a non-profit, Ekal Vidyalaya delivers various resources and instructional services through its village-to-village outreach. Establishing schools with a teacher impacts a previously education-lacking community in significant ways. Before the pandemic, various Ekal Vidyalaya’s chapters would host different events per year to raise funds to allow various programs to continue. The Chapter President Senthil Kumar detailed to the Borgen Project how typical efforts would no longer be viable this year. Kumar shared that most of the average fundraisers are cultural events for local Indian communities in various parts of the world. It drew in between $70,000 and $100,000. He carefully notes that just “$1 can keep a school open for a day.”

Moreover, Ekal Vidyalaya seeks to grow its impact in communities 10-20% more than last year. Because of significant differences across India’s economic, geographical and social landscape, funding necessities can vary. In addition, transitioning to online events has its own advantages. Local gatherings can still survive in digital spaces. Because annual events usually bring in singers, actors, and other notable icons from India, overhead fees can be entirely forgoed. Empty seats in auditoriums are not concerns over Zoom or similar platforms. As a result, this diverts resources to more directly meet program financial targets. It makes a tangible change for rural children and has allowed the same level of grassroots fundraising to persist, according to Kumar. Adapting for Indian children might mean venue changes and alterations from a traditional schedule. However, it seems that sacrificing the fundamental missions is not an insurmountable concern.

An Implementation Landscape: Three Things to Know

  1. Kumar told The Borgen Project that “[About 30%] of all schools are self-sustaining.” He spoke on the long-term ability of Ekal Vidyalaya to support students and communities to utilize and provided tools for future improvement. The Standard Social Innovation Review points to “scale and scarcity.” They are the two most essential obstacles that nonprofits and organizations working in India have to overcome. To that end, Ekal Vidyalaya continues to strive forward to meet its ultimate goal of total literacy across India. With well over 120,000 schools running, supported by trained volunteers and others, a necessary review of financial disbursement comes into the forefront.

  2. The usage and allocation of the fund play a crucial role in a nonprofit’s vision. According to Kumar, funds Ekal Vidyalaya raises are divided into the following amounts: 60% is set for teachers and teaching, 27% is for training and capacity, 4% is dedicated for teaching materials and 9% is used for administrative costs. While these numbers alone don’t necessarily signal direct change, a key signifier of the nonprofit’s attentiveness to its mission. By extension, its effectiveness is its recent shift in order to facilitate adapting for Indian children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. Efforts in towns and communities, outside of Ekal villages, highlight wide-scale mask distributions and food outreach. There is also information campaigns that make use of Ekal resources to protect Indian communities. The teachers and volunteers served as health volunteers in many situations. Additionally, they keep villages and tribal areas safer under guidelines through checks that might have otherwise been difficult to establish and enforce. While the situation has changed, useful approaches using existing resources also testify to the resiliency of Ekal villages. In many areas, trained villagers are taught through school programs and skills sessions to manufacture materials like face masks. This is to ensure reliable incomes and necessary local health support.

The landscape that Ekal Vidyalaya functions on is perpetually shifting. However, it isn’t beyond the reach of sustained communal efforts and careful elasticity when meeting new intentions and ambitions. Even in light of a public health crisis, Ekal Vidyalaya’s work extends beyond a single facet of nonprofit capability. Due to the nature of its support and of where it’s positioned, Ekal Vidyalaya bears the capacity for change. This change happens in the relatively short term and in the long term. The education, literacy and future of millions of India’s next-generation depend on this.

Alan Mathew

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