Thursday, March 11, 2010


Earth Hour is a WWF initiative where citizens around the globe show their support for action on climate change by turning off lights for one hour. This year the switch off is being observed on March 27, 2010, from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm.

The campaign was recently launched by the Chief Minister of Delhi Smt. Sheila Dikshit and film actor Abhishek Bachchan, in the presence of WWF-India’s SG and CEO Mr. Ravi Singh. Abhishek along with Smt Sheila Dikshit lit the ‘candle of hope’ encouraging citizens of India to ‘switch on’ their minds and showcase solidarity and commitment towards climate change and energy conservation by ‘switching off’ the lights for one hour on the 27th of March.

Earth Hour 2010 is expected to be a culmination of over one billion people around the globe, in more than 6000 cities and towns worldwide, turning off lights and showing support for action on climate change. Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India, said, “Earth Hour 2009 was the largest climate action in history. It was heartening to receive tremendous support for the campaign from all sections of the society all across India it symbolized the aspirations and willingness of our citizens to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. He hoped Earth Hour 2010 will have even wider participation.

Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit reminded everyone of how Delhi was the lead city for Earth Hour 2009 when India joined this global campaign. Several historical buildings, office complexes, RWAs, shopping centers and hotels switched off in support, resulting in close to 600 MW power saving in Delhi alone. She expressed hope as well as confidence that Earth Hour 2010 will also be taken forward in Delhi in a similar manner, only with even greater participation.

Participate in Earth Hour 2010: Switch off your lights, electrical appliances (even your mobile phone for one hour!) on March 27th, 2010 — from 8.30 PM to 9.30 PM (or longer if you wish to!)


Is There a Future in India for Genetically Modified Seeds?

A Growing Problem: Is There a Future in India for Genetically Modified Seeds?

Published: March 11, 2010 in India Knowledge@Wharton

Earlier this month, Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, admitted that its genetically engineered "Bt" (bacillus thuringiensis) cotton seed wasn't all that farmers in India had hoped. Reports coming in from four districts of India's Gujarat state indicated that the company's seeds had not been able to prevent a pest called the pink bollworm from attacking cotton crops. Activists hoping to protect the country's biodiversity and its farmers from excessive dependence on multinational seed companies hailed the news as a victory in the latest round of an increasingly shrill public debate on the role of GM crops. About 90% of India's cotton is based on Bt cotton seed; Monsanto and its licensees are the dominant suppliers of those seeds.

The anti-GM camp had reason to cheer a few weeks earlier as well, when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh abruptly put a moratorium on an insect-resistant variety of aubergine seed, known as Bt brinjal, on the eve of its much-hyped launch. But the battle is far from over. Shortly after the moratorium was declared, the government also made overtures to GM advocates by insisting that it did not want to shut the doors on the industry. Noting biotechnology's importance for "higher agricultural productivity and ensuring food security," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for additional studies on the environmental and health effects of GM crops and promised to set up a national biotechnology authority to stimulate investment in seed development.

Fact vs. Fiction

As the Bt brinjal episode highlights, using GM seeds -- often referred to as "transgenics" -- to increase food production and lower production costs is fraught with controversy. "In the debate over biotech crops, differentiating fact from fiction is not easy," according to a paper on the economic impact of transgeniccrops published last year by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. "The debate has been confused by the influence of rigid, absolutist views (both supportive of and opposed to biotech crops) about the role of science in society, combined with a general ignorance of science."

The global battle lines in the controversy over GM seeds were drawn more than a decade ago in Europe, where strong anti-GM activist groups, including the likes of Greenpeace, have successfully lobbied against GM seeds, claiming that they are unsafe for human consumption and weaken or destroy other seeds and crops. But GM seeds -- for cotton, maize, soybean and rice, among others -- have steadily found their way into the agriculture of a number of countries, including the U.S., Canada, China, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina. On March 2, after a 12-year wait, the European Union approved the cultivation of a GM potato and the import of three types of maize.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a nonprofit that monitors the use of GM crops, there are more than 14 million farmers in 25 countries producing GM crops -- an 80-fold increase since 1996, when GM seeds were first commercialized. In 2009, there were 134 million hectares of "biotech" crops worldwide, representing an 8% increase year on year.

"The clear message is that small farmers are getting substantial benefits" from transgenic crops, says Carl E. Pray, professor with the agricultural, food and resource economics department at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who is currently studying the impact on small farmers of GM crops in South Africa, China and India. "The gain in terms of higher yields or reduced pesticide use is usually a lot more than the increase in the cost of the seeds."

As for India, its US$1.5 billion seed industry is the fifth largest in the world, with the private sector accounting for three quarters of it, of which Missouri-based Monsanto controls more than 60%. Commercial seeds -- including "hybrids" that combine different crop varieties to achieve higher yields and pest resistance -- account for 15% of the country's total supply, with farm-saved seeds making up the rest.

Over recent years, the seed industry has been encouraged by Bt cotton, which was first commercialized in India in 2002 and continues to be the only type of Bt crop allowed to grow in the country. Bt, which introduces a gene into seeds to disrupt the bollworm insect that plagues cotton crops, has lifted India's cotton production from 190 million bales in 2003 to 310 million bales currently, according to Satish Kagliwal, managing director of Nath Biogene, a seed-manufacturing company in Maharashtra's Aurangabad city, which sells a Bt cotton seed called Fusion and so-called "hybrid" seeds for a variety of other crops. "The same thing can be repeated in other [non-cotton] crops," he says. In the case of aubergine, Bt brinjal would attack the fruit and shoot borer insects that wreak havoc on those crops.

'A Rude Shock'

With February's abortive launch of Bt brinjal, however, "we have fallen behind by at least 10 years and this will have a telling effect on the country's food security," says Kagliwal. "If we are not focused on developing varieties of seeds that can resist pests, insects, heat and drought, we won't have enough food to feed the teeming millions." The government's decision "has given seed companies investing in research a rude shock," he says, adding that "investment efforts will be stopped and new technology will be delayed." Bt brinjal itself took nine years of R&D, according to its developer, Mumbai-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco).

Meanwhile, in the anti-GM camp, there's concern that Bt cotton and the like are doing more harm than good. "On paper, genetic engineering is made to look very good, but on the ground it's a tragedy," says Vandana Shiva, a physicist turned environmental activist in Dehradun in Uttarakhand state, who runs Navdanya, a nonprofit that donates more than 3,000 varieties of salt-tolerant rice seeds to farmers. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have farmer suicides concentrated in the Bt cotton belt." More than 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide over the past decade, according to government statistics, which Shiva blames in part on farmer indebtedness aggravated by transgenic cotton seeds.

"The indebtedness is created by nonrenewable [transgenic] seeds that have to be bought every year," rather than the farm-saved ones, which can be re-used, she says. After Bt seeds arrived in the country in 2002, the price of cotton seeds jumped from Rs. 7 a bag (which covers one acre) to Rs. 1,700 a bag, she says. (The price today is around Rs. 750.) For its part, Monsanto disagrees with the notion that Bt cotton seeds have had anything to do with the spate of farmer suicides, noting on its website that the trend began well before its cotton seeds were introduced to the market.

However, Shiva adds that farmers are also being misled about the seed products they're being sold. Because seed companies in India are allowed to market their products under a self-regulatory system of labeling, the yield and other properties can be overstated. "There is no independent check," says Shiva. In an article in the Huffington Post in April 2009, she alleged, "Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1,500 kilograms a year [per acre] when farmers harvest 300 kg/year to 400 kg/year on an average."

As for the seed companies' claims that Bt brinjal will reduce the need for insecticides by as much as 90%, she counters that Bt cotton seeds have, in fact, increased that need because they have become more resistant to pests. "Bt cotton, even though promoted as resistant to the bollworm, has created new pests, and to control these new pests, farmers are using 13 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt cotton," she wrote in the Huffington Post article.

Shiva contends that government policies and private-sector seed manufacturers erode the banks of native seeds, yet fail to deliver improved seeds. "Genetic engineering cannot engineer tolerance to drought, floods or [salinity]."  She accuses multinational seed companies of "bio-piracy, where you take stuff from the Third World, claim it to be an invention of a U.S. company, and then sell it back for a profit, and forbid the original contributors from having free access." Further, she says MNCs control the Indian seed market, both directly and by licensing seed varieties to numerous domestic Indian companies. Monsanto, for example, has a 26% equity stake in Mahyco, the first Indian company to commercially grow and market Bt cotton in 2002, and has licensing deals with 27 seed companies for Bt cotton in the country.

Kagliwal acknowledges that the fear of MNCs taking over the Indian seed industry is real, and that he too would rather not have them as competitors. In fact, Nath Biogene did not jump at licensing Monsanto's Bt cotton technology and shopped around before settling on a Chinese source, he says. Yet he sees merit in using technologies that MNCs have developed over many years. "Either you develop it yourself or pay the price for it," he says. Farmers earned Rs. 6,000 (US$150) more per acre by paying Rs. 200 (US$4) for Bt cotton seeds. "Isn't the cost-benefit ratio simple to see here?" he asks.

The Rift Grows

Will a seed policy that's now in the works address anti-GM concerns? Some of the proposed changes include making the registration of seed varieties compulsory and increasing the penalties for impingements. Yet Shiva fears these proposals target farmers' indigenous seed varieties that have evolved as resistant to drought, floods and frost. Compulsory registration will make it illegal to plant unlicensed varieties and increase farmers' dependency on "corporate" seeds, she adds.

Though the government has not set a timetable for the new policy's rollout, its objective is clear, says R. K. Sinha, executive director of the National Seed Association of India, who is among the range of stakeholders the government has asked to provide input for the new policy: "We should be in a position to supply the best planting material. The source is immaterial -- public, private, domestic or from abroad."

He sees "immense" opportunities for GM seeds in India, but calls for a "science-based approach" in deciding whether to permit which ones should be allowed. "Our problems are declining availability of arable land, declining resources, increasing population, low productivity and heavy losses due to drought, pests and salinity," he says. "We will support any technology that helps us combat those, and GM is an important element of it."

As for what India can learn from the experiences of other countries, Gyanendra Shukla, a director at Monsanto (India) in Mumbai, says China sets a good example: "It had a clear-cut policy statement that it is going to use GM crops to the fullest extent," he says. "If China can produce 450 million tons of grain from 100 million hectares, why can't India produce even 300 million metric tons from 135 million hectares, which is the second largest arable land in the world?" Shukla asks. India currently produces about 230 million tons of food grains annually.

Pray of Rutgers recommends a regulatory system that achieves two objectives. One is to keep errant elements out: "It certainly is possible to think about government plant breeders or biotech or private-sector scientists doing things that could affect the nutritional profile of the plant or potential allergens," he says. Second, he cites the need for strong competition policies, because "companies will use their scientific advantage to increase their share of their market."

But while the central ministry of environment and forests controls the release of specific strains of GM seeds, agriculture is very much a state-level issue, and it is the individual states that can sway the GM debate in India. At least 13 states, including Karnataka and Orissa, opposed Bt brinjal's commercial launch, while a few other states, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, wanted more time to examine the issue. Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, which did not openly oppose Bt brinjal, account for about 40% of the country's brinjal production, so have arguably the most to gain or lose from the outcome.

But now that cotton is back in the spotlight, the debate could have even more twists and turns than it currently does. Shiva sees the latest news about Bt cotton's inability to combat the bollworm as a ploy by Monsanto to win support for its next generation of Bt cotton "It's like the pesticide treadmill … when you have resistance to [one type of GM seed] you use a more lethal pesticide," she says. Monsanto notes that the type of resistance seen in Gujarat "is natural and expected" and says it is stepping up monitoring. It also is calling for an "intensified farmer education campaign," noting that farmers may be using the Bt cotton seed improperly.

Until more trials and studies are complete, it seems that the only thing now for India's anti- and pro-GM lobbyists to do is to simply agree to disagree.


Monday, March 8, 2010


 Hi all,

We are planning to launch a NO DOWRY CAMPAIGN at AID NCR level.

The basic idea is to spread more awareness about the damages caused due to prevalence of DOWRY in Indian society, and how it is related to other gender issues ranging from female foeticide to neglect of girl child to relegated position of women in Indian society.

This campaign is in its inception phase and we will needing more inputs and helping hands to make it a more successful one. Please go through the basic FAQs about this campaign and how you can be a part of it.

Q: Why a campaign like NO DOWRY ?

Ans: While we at AID have been involved in campaigns from time to time related to social justice, there have been fewer campaigns which call for actions to redefine our personal lives, and the larger impact it has on society. It might seem that dowry has been issue of the past, and is not a "burning issue" anymore, given that we hear of only few incidents on and off in the media. However, by the term dowry, here we don't intend to keep it restricted to the cash or wedding gifts, which the girl's parents need to give during marriage, but would also include the exorbitant costs which the girl's parents have to bear for ostentatious celebrations for the sake of keeping a certain "status" in society.

This phenomenon is not restricted to the affluent upper class and upper middle class, but the pressure for dowry in subtle forms exist also in lower socio-economic strata of the society and where girls are seen more as an economic burden on the family. There have been laws since last five decades to prevent the menace of dowry. However, the implementation has been poor. What we really need is not more Anti-Dowry legislation's, but more active involvement from the members of civil society in discouraging this pernicious trend and strengthening the position of women in society.

Q: Who is the target audience of this campaign?

Ans: While our efforts will be to make this campaign to make a more inclusive one, to reach a wider audience, we will be initially aiming to reach the AID NCR volunteer base. As the saying goes, "Be the change you wish to see in the world", we intend to involve the volunteers, urging them to redefine their own personal lives, and what changes they can incorporate in their own lives, especially in terms of changing the trends within their own families with respect to their own weddings. As we will get more volunteers for being part of this campaign, we will aim to reach our friends, colleagues and more college students. While this campaign is essentially targeted towards the bachelors, married people are most welcome to provide solidarity to the campaign and help with their experiences in making this campaign a more successful one.

Q: What all things can I do to be part of this campaign?

Ans: We haven't finalized on all the action items related to this campaign, we would like to suggest the following steps which the volunteers can take:

  • Take a pledge for a NO DOWRY wedding - You would pledge that you will not take any kind of dowry in your marriage.
  • Strive for a simple wedding: You should try to have as simple wedding as possible. Lavish spending on weddings adds to the burden on girl's parents and needs to be discouraged. At the same time, the guy's family should share at least 50% of the total wedding expenses.
  • Don't change your surname after marriage (for girls): We need to challenge the traditional patriarchial society, and one of the steps can be, that girls after marriage should not change their surname. They grow up with a certain identity and marriage should not be the reason to foresake it. "Marriage is a women's choice not her destiny".
  • Have more say in the marriages in the family: Try to have more say during the wedding arrangements of your siblings and cousins. Before we reach others, we should try to convince our own family members. 
  • Spread more awareness: Spread more awareness about the aftereffects of dowry and the need of challenging the traditional patriarchial system prevalent in society, to enable the women to have their due position in society. This can include reaching your friends, colleagues, colleges and your neighbourhood associations.
  • Promote No Dowry Matrimony Sites: Promote matrimonial websites which discourage dowry, and hence enabling people to find their life partners without the strings of dowry attached. Some relevant matrimony sites are: , ,
  • Promote Inter-caste Marriages: Many a times, the instances of dowry happen because people seek alliances only in their same caste, which leads to limited options. We should make an effort to encourage more inter-caste marriages which will provide more options to people for seeking suitable alliances without paying dowry. is a matrimony site which is promoting inter-caste marriages.
  • Make an online presence: Try to reach more online communities related to Anti-Dowry and try to promote more anti-dowry messages on social networking sites. Let's make people realize that this is still a grave problem and needs attention. Also, you can write more blogs and articles on this issue.
  • Collaborate with organizations working on gender issues: We can collaborate with other organizations that are specifically working on gender issues and can take their help in strengthening the campaign.
  • Publicize more in media: Try to highlight the issue more in mainstream media by approaching newspapers and TV channels to reach a wider audience.

Please go through the attached powerpoint to get some more insights about the issue.

Also, please go through the articles below to know more about the issue in detail.

We would be forming a team of volunteers to work on this campaign. We would be discussing about this campaign on an informal basis after the scheduled ORM sessions.

Kindly provide your inputs/suggestions to make this campaign a more successful one.

Thanks and regards,


India: 50 Years On, Dowry Is Still With Us (

'Dowry, the inherited stigma of Indian society' (

Why is dowry prevalent in India? (

Dowry by Techies! Shameful act still prevalent in the Indian Society. (


Supreme Court expresses anguish over continuing dowry deaths (


Indian brides pay a high price (


A brand called dowry (


 Female Foeticide


A murderous arithmetic (


Where have they all gone? (


The Daughter Deficit — Exploring Declining Sex Ratios in India (


India’s missing girls- nipping them in the bud (


Inter caste marriages


Can Love Conquer Caste? (


Post-marital Rechristening


What’s in a sire’s name? (


What’s in a name? (


The Naming Game (


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Invite: Thousands of Women March in Delhi on Intl. Womens' Day Centenary

Invite, March 6, 2010


Thousands of Women to March in Central Delhi on the Centenary of March Eighth (International Womens' Day)


March 8, 2010 starting at 11 am

March from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar for a Public Meeting


To carry forward the long struggle for Dignity , Equality and Freedom from oppression, thousands of women, girls and men will take to the street in Central Delhi. Following the march, a public meeting will be held where participating organizations will celebrate the Centenary of March Eighth with readings, speeches, songs and skits. Key demands will be presented on the issues of price rise, inequality, healthcare, and violence against women. The systematic abdication of responsibility by the government, along with the State's increasing repression and intolerance will also be highlighted in the daylong programme.

March 8 is celebrated as International Womens' Day to mark the brave struggles of women workers against inhuman treatment at the workplace. The womens' movement in India, marked with a long and glorious list of individuals and groups struggling against all odds, serves as an inspiration to the current generation. Today, women have gained several victories in their bid for equality, and are continuing at various levels, to right a historical wrong. Women have taken the lead in the resistance to the giveaway of their natural resources to corporations, in the opposition to caste-communal violence, in issues of displacement, and in bringing to light the adverse impact of globalization and Structural Adjustment Policies.

In a society riven with the oppressive inequalities of class, caste, religion, on top of patriarchy and an increasingly repressive State, women find themselves receiving the brunt of the burdens as well as the harassment engendered in these fault lines. On March 8, 2010, various womens' organizations will come together under the Centenary Committee to Celebrate Womens' Day to give voice to their protests and carry their struggles forward. The women’s movement in India recognizes that genuine emancipation of women is possible only in a society where other inequalities and injustices also cease to exist, and hence has always strived to link with the struggles of other sections oppressed by patriarchy, class, caste, and religion.

The participating organizations are: Action India, All India Progressive Womens' Association, All India Students' Association, Ankur, CADAM, Centre for Struggling Women, Committee Against Violence on Women, Democratic Students' Union, Delhi Forum, Disha Chhatra Sangathan, Forum for Democratic Struggle, Intercultural Resources, Jagori, Krantikari Lok Adhikari Sanghatan, Krantikari Yuv Sanghatan, NTUI, Nari Mukti Sangh, NACDOR,New Socialist Initiative, Pragatisheeel Mahila Manch, Progressive Students' Union, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Saheli, Saanjha Adhaar, Sama, Stree Adhikar Sangathan, Stree Mukti League, The Other Media and Anita Bharti, Dr. Ajita, Indira Chakravarthy, Jayashri, Nandini Rao and others.

The demands are: Addressing of Price Rise * Equal Wages for Equal Work * People-centred and Pro-Women policies * Food Security * Livelihoods with fair wages and good living conditions * Land Reform with womens' access to and control over productive resources * Freedom from sexual assault and harassment, domestic and public violence * Effective Implementation of laws on domestic violence and prevention of atrocities on SC/ST * Elimination of caste-based professions such as scavenging * Strengthening of institutions to address special needs of women, SC, ST, OBC and religious minorities * Repeal of repressive laws such as AFSPA, UAPA and SEZ Act * Demilitarization of the country with justice given to victims of all excesses of security forces * Rehabilitation of all internally displaced people


Welcome to Operational Review Meet of AID NCR on 14 March


Dear AID’ers

On behalf of AID – Delhi – Noida and Gurgaon, I invite all of you to the Operational Review Meeting (ORM) on

14 MARCH 2010 (SUNDAY) to be held at Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi


Purpose of ORM

This meeting is held quarterly and aims to discuss all the activities, quarterly objectives,

 problems faced and the learning by the fellow volunteers working across the NCR Delhi.

Along this, we always invite a guest speaker who can share their experience while working in social development spheres and motivate the young volunteers to be more participative in social development.

Please try to bring you friends and Colleagues also .


Following will be the schedule of the events

10:00 AM:

Welcome address to everyone.

Introduction to AID + Orientation of new volunteers.


10:30 AM:

Interactive Session on Microfinance and Social Development (40+20 mins Q/A)


11:30 AM:

Treasury Updates and Annual Closure of Accounts for FY 2009-10


11:50 AM:

Major Updates by Sub Chapters and Partner Projects- Parichay, LEU Foundation, Learning Inq ( 10 mins each )

12:15 AM:

Short movie screening- SCOOLING THE WORLD (45 MINS)

01:00 PM:

Everyone proceeds for lunch, and 

 Meal A Month (MaM) Collection for Month of March by respective chapter coordinators

Contact points

Noida - Selva - 9891358457/Arun  9910908774

Delhi -Anchit- 9555086554/Dr Prachi- 9811462868

Gurgaon - Anshul -9873469546/Manish - 9910889769 

Brief Profile of Ms Devahuti Choudhary:


Devahuti is an BA(H) in English Literature and MSW from Delhi University. She is working in the sector for about four years now. Currently she holds the position of Regional incharge at SKS Microfinance Ltd.. She is overseeing the MF operations for SKS in Delhi NCR region with 50 branches and a portfolio of 60 crores. Handling a team of 500 personnel across departments. She has successfully given momentum to the Retail Insurance product and launched Sangam Stores product in the potential pockets. Prior to this she has also worked in the state of West Bengal and has a client base of 71000 and a portfolio outstanding of 45 crores. She has also worked with ASTHA for their Community Based Rehabilitation for the severely disabled children in Govindpuri slums of South Delhi and on a Delhi Police initiative, Parivartan for community mobilisation in the slums of North West Delhi for the establishment of a friendly interface between Delhi Police and the community women with respect to Violence against Women.


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