Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bandhan : From a NGO to a bank - A success story in rural Bengal

Riddled with inflation, unemployment, corruption, falling growth and high Non Performing Assets (NPAs) of Public sector(PSU) banks; the Indian Economy hasn’t had much news to cheer about in the last 3 years excepting for some overheating of stock markets. On the redistribution front the marquee scheme of the preceding government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Assistance (MRNEGA in short), has had problems of  low utilization & partisanship  in majority of the 28 states. One of the main way outs suggested was to increase the coverage of  PSU banks in the remotest corners of rural India to enable financial inclusion for the beneficiary community. The PSU banks have shown lukewarm response to such a measure adopted for the sub-prime market fearing large defaults. In some states the space not filled by the PSU banks had also been usurped by different ponzi scheme masterminds who have siphoned away the savings of millions of people. In this context; the approval of new banking licenses by RBI , as per the guidelines of the Vimal Jalan committee, has been granted to only two entities whose business models show promise for financial stability & inclusion. One of them is an erstwhile  NGO , Bandhan, which started off in 2001 with micro-financing activities in Eastern India complemented by developmental work in health, education, livelihood among the beneficiaries with the twin objectives of poverty alleviation and women empowerment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dispersed Radiance by Abha Sur - A book review

Western scientists , newspapers in the late 19th-20th century created through propaganda an European  knowledge-is-power brand that ascribed little credit to the works of Indian scientists. JC Bose , who didn’t seek a patent for discovery of wireless telegraphy due to his strong anti-commercialization stance, was overtaken by the Italian scientist Marconi who claimed title to its discovery although it was dated by more than an year of Bose’s. Even recent literature on history of Indian science , written by western authors, do not mention Raman, Chandrasekhar, Saha or Bose although standard physics textbooks will still have a chapter on Raman effect or white dwarfs and Saha’s ionisation equations.
Abha Sur, the author of Dispersed Radiance (published from Navayana)   looks at the impact of caste, class , gender on the history of modern Indian physics through the lives and works of two of India’s greatest scientists –CV Raman & Meghnad Saha. An interesting selection since Raman is a Brahmin, conservative , taciturn while Saha is a low-caste, active in politics & vocal.