A lifeline to India’s farmers on the edge of despair

first_imgBalaraj said the ideas he’s hearing during the competition seem to be getting better each year. Gramhal stood out this year, however, not just because of the quality of the idea, but also because there’s a team in place in India that can hit the ground running.“It’s good to see students thinking big to solve large social problems in India,” Balaraj said. “What stood out about this [project] is they had a good team in Boston, but they also had a very good team in India. So, for … the first 30, 60, 90 days, they have a team that can actually run with it.”Birhma grew up on a small rural farm in India and came to Harvard to pursue a master of public policy degree at the Kennedy School. When he arrived, he began developing the idea for Gramhal and, instead of taking a summer internship here after his first year, traveled back home to develop it further.“I identified the problem, built a local team, and then I came back here,” Birhma said. “I’m graduating and excited to go back to India to work full time on this.” Across India, debt and the subsistence farmer go hand in hand. Unfortunately, so does suicide.There are an estimated 62 million distressed small farmers in India. According to a recently formed nonprofit, Gramhal, a farmer dies by suicide every half hour in India, largely because of hopelessness caused by a “vicious debt cycle.” That cycle revolves around poor farmers’ desperate need for cash during harvest season and is fostered by an informal credit system that lends desperate farmers money at unfavorable rates. The cash crunch and need to repay the debt often forces farmers to sell crops immediately rather than waiting for optimal prices.Gramhal, founded by Vikas Birhma ’19, a Harvard Kennedy School student, offers farmers a way to break that cycle. The organization, which has four employees in India, provides warehousing and pooling of transport, allowing farmers to store their crops and wait until prices improve. For those who need cash while they wait, Gramhal also provides access to credit on favorable terms through a partner bank. All of this is accessible through a cellphone app that also supplies daily price information and a connection to buyers, so farmers can sell at the most favorable time.A pilot program with 25 farmers resulted in a 40 percent increase in income.On Thursday, the organization received a major boost, winning the Seed for Change Program competition sponsored by Harvard’s Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. The competition seeks to foster student entrepreneurship and innovation in effecting change in India and Pakistan. Winning teams can hail from any Harvard School but must include at least one Harvard student and feature partners on the ground in South Asia. Gramhal won the first prize of $40,000, which Birhma said will allow the organization to double its staff in India and reach 1,100 farmers next year.“The Seed for Change Program best exemplifies what Harvard students are capable of while they’re here at the University,” said Selmon Rafey, program coordinator at the Mittal Institute. “We asked them to identify real problems affecting real people of South Asia and then explore and propose novel solutions to those problems.”Gramhal was among four finalists who presented their ideas to a panel of judges during a lunchtime event at the Harvard Faculty Club. Two runners-up — Meet, an employment app that seeks to connect employers and job seekers, and Riskboard, a digital dashboard tool that monitors political risks such as human rights abuses for corporations, investors, and nongovernmental organizations — both received $5,000 to further their efforts.K.P. Balaraj, the contest’s sponsor and one of its four judges, said Gramhal came out on top because it has immediate applicability to the Indian market, takes a course that is likely to be acceptable to those involved, and targets a problem — the plight of India’s small farmers — widely recognized as urgent.“It’s a very large and current problem,” said Balaraj, a graduate of Harvard Business School. “We could see it scaling over time and at scale it could have groundbreaking impact. I think that’s what excited us [judges] most: If it works at scale it could really create meaningful change to a community that is under stress today.” Getting to the why of British India’s bloody Partition Related Using new technology and techniques, scholars seek answers for 1947 cataclysm that killed millions Strengthening Harvard’s ties to South Asia Lakshmi Mittal family gift expands opportunities for regional engagement last_img read more

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BOXING: MC SHANE LEFT FURIOUS AFTER CONTROVERSIAL DEFEAT TO BRAD BOTHAM

first_imgThe referee raises the hand of Brad Botham as a disgusted Shaun Mc Shane looks on.Donegal boxer Shaun Mc Shane was left bitterly disappointed on Saturday night after losing his bout with Brad Botham.However, Mc Shane was left incensed by the decision in a fight in which many in the crowd felt he controlled throughout.He was left questioning the politics involved in professional boxing, but vowed he would not be sickened out of the sport he loves. Mc Shane was supposed to face Bulgarian fighter Radoslav Mitev, but he had to withdraw late-on due to an injury.Brad Botham stepped in to replace Mitev and looked in trouble early-on as Mc Shane stamped his class all over the fight.Botham did work his way into the fight and turned the latter stages of the fight into a scrappy affair.However, there was late drama and anger among Mc Shane’s travelling support when the judges awarded a narrow one-point win to Botham. Prospect Boxing owner Paul Graham reiterated the view that Mc Shane had been robbed, and even alluded to the fact that boxing politics was at play.Graham said, “I was disappointed with Shaun’s fight as I thought he deserved – at the very least – a draw.“I don’t know if it could be that the with other two guys from Cumbria [Keleher and Warren] the scores went against them so maybe they were trying to even the balance.“Victor scores it as he sees it, I didn’t see it the same way as him, so I’ll just need to bow to his experience. I thought that was a winnable fight for him there. I don’t know what happened but we’ll bounce back.Mc Shane had earned a tough draw in his last outing against the Cumbrian fighter John Greene, and the same judges that night awarded a draw in that particular fight. Graham and Mc Shane feel that with the fight so close again, rather than award a draw, they opted to side with Botham.A disappointed Mc Shane took to his Facebook timeline to express his anger and frustration with the decision, but vowed he’d be back.Mc Shane said, “If they think I’ll be sickened out of it they have another thing coming, long road without a turn.Mc Shane is hoping to get back into the ring in the New Year. BOXING: MC SHANE LEFT FURIOUS AFTER CONTROVERSIAL DEFEAT TO BRAD BOTHAM was last modified: November 18th, 2014 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:boxingControversialDefeatnewsShaun Mc ShaneSportlast_img read more

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LeEco announces Made for India phone Le 1S (Eco) for Rs 10,899

first_imgChinese entertainment conglomerate LeEco on Tuesday launched its first Made for India phone, aka the Le 1S  (Eco) at a price of Rs 10,899. The price tag includes one-year content membership fee of Rs 4,900 and a LeEco offer of Rs 4,000, announced the company.The Le 1S (Eco) will be available via flash sale from Flipkart. The first flash sale of 1,000 units will be held on May 12 at 2PM. The company will be offering the phone at an introductory price of Rs 9,999 specifically for the first flash saleThe Le 1S (Eco) is basically the Le 1S, only that it comes loaded with all the content features and services that the company announced on Tuesday.The Le 1S (Eco) will come “integrated with a content ecosystem, which includes Le Vidi of more than 2,000 movie titles and Live of over 100 TV channels and LeEco Music of 2.5 million tracks. Thanks to LeEco’s successful Ecosystem mode, Le 1s Eco, with 10 local languages, has become the first brand in India that integrates a localised entertainment center in India,” the company said in a statement.In terms of specifications, the Le 1S (Eco) comes with a 5.5-inch FullHd display and a MediaTek Helio X10 processor with 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal memory. It sports a 13-megapixel camera on the rear and a 5-megapixel camera on the front.The phone boasts of a full metal unibody design and a rear mounted fingerprint scanner. It is backed by a 3,000mAh battery.Also read: LeEco Le 1S review: A Rs 10,000 phone has never looked this goodadvertisementlast_img read more

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