Sunday, October 31, 2021

Podcast: The Great Climate Conundrum

Image credit: Pixabay

Here is the link to the latest episode The Great Climate Conundrum of the Time and Tide and podcast. It's 12 minutes long.

If you prefer reading to listening, here's a gist of what's in the podcast episode:

This episode is about understanding climate change, what is making the earth warmer, what are different countries doing, what is net zero emissions target, and why India doesn’t believe in it.

The United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference is getting underway today at Glasgow in Scotland.


At the core is global warming -- a gradual rise in the overall temperature of the atmosphere. And it’s caused by greenhouse effect.

It's a process by which the earth's atmosphere traps the heat from the sun. That heat is good for all of us, plants and animals.

But now there is more heat on the earth than what is ideal. The last 30 years was the warmest period in more than 800 years. And the most recent decade, that from 2010 to 2019 was the warmest decade since 1850.


Why is the earth’s atmosphere getting warmer? It’s because of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide. 

Now this is how it all works:

  • Radiation from the sun reaches the earth.
  • Some of that is reflected back into space.
  • The rest of the sun's energy is absorbed by the land and the oceans, heating the Earth.

  • This heat radiates from the Earth towards space. 

  • Some of this heat is trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth warm enough to sustain life.

But many of our activities are increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases.


Every country is trying to achieve what is called net-zero emission. 

You have achieved net zero emission when the amount of greenhouse gases produced is less than the amount that has been removed. Many nations are aiming to achieve this by 2050.


India says what is more important is to have a pathway to reduce such emissions. Mere announcement of a target means nothing. 

But India is doing its bit. Its environment minister Bhupendra Yadav said India was on track to achieve targets set at the 2015 Paris conference. 


India relies a lot on processes that create greenhouse gases. For example, nearly 70% of electricity generation in India is coal based.

If India has to cut off or even reduce these processes it would have serious implications on the country's economy and on the general public unless there is a viable alternative to the conventional processes.


Whatever politicians might do or might not, you and I can do our small bit to make this earth a habitable place. 

Reduce, reuse and recycle is one such step. 

Turning off electrical appliances like fans, air conditioners or lights when not being used is another simple step. 

Not wasting water, or walking instead of taking the elevator or the car.

They might not in themselves make a big difference. But if more people adopt these measures, it can cumulatively add up to quite a lot.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

No vaccine hesitancy, and India is back to pre-Covid days, almost

Image courtesy: Pixabay

If I said that day-to-day life here in Bengaluru, and in the rest of India has returned to pre-Covid levels, it would not be an exaggeration at all.

People are all over place. Buses and metro are running packed. The traffic congestion is back. Commuting is taking time. 

The cap the government had imposed on the number of passengers domestic airlines could carry has been removed. 

Schools, colleges and offices have reopened though all students and employees are not on the premises.


Prior to 2020 there was no face mask, now there is. 

This is not the first time since Covid struck that people have streamed out on to the streets. 

What we are seeing now is very similar to what we saw late last year, when cases began to drop after the first wave. 

But back then no one was vaccinated. Now over 75% have got at least one dose. 


Let's rewind and see how Covid cases rose and fell in India.

In the first wave, India recorded the highest number of new daily cases on September 17 last year. That was 97,570.

Around six months later, it dipped to the lowest of 8,635 on February 2 this year. 

Then it began to climb steadily.


Soon we realised that we were in the midst of the 2nd wave triggered by a new variant of the virus found first in India and which was later named Delta. 

The 100,000 new daily cases mark was crossed on April 7.

A week later, the 200,000 mark was crossed on April 15.

Another week later, the 300,000 mark was crossed on April 22.

About a week later, the 400,000 mark was crossed on May 1. 

On May 7, the number peaked at 414,188 new cases.

Today, it's about six months since that day, and the figure is 14,306 new cases. That's a sharp fall in a little over five months.

The numbers are expected to drop further. 

Though alongside, there is a fear that cases would rise because the crowds are back, most health experts say the spread of the infection would not be as severe as before. 


The hope -- that we might not see those horrendous days of March-April-May again -- is riding on the breakneck pace at which people are being vaccinated.

In India, there are three vaccines, and seven vaccine manufacturers. 

About 80% of the vaccines are Covishield, developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India, which incidentally is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer going by the number of doses produced and sold globally which is more than 1.5 billion doses.

The second one is Covaxin that has been indigenously developed, by Bharat Biotech.

The third vaccine is Russia's Sputnik V which is being supplied in India by two companies Dr. Reddy’s Lab and Panacea Biotec.

Other than these four companies, there are three more who are in various stages of developing a vaccine.

One is Zydus Cadila. They have got the drug regulator’s approval for conducting the 3rd phase trial of their two-dose vaccine called ZyCoV-D.

Biological E Ltd is developing a vaccine called Corbevax, and Gennova Biopharmaceutical are conducting trials of its vaccine. 

Besides the three vaccines, the government has given approval for emergency use to two American vaccines, that of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.


On October 21, India recorded a statistical achievement of having administered one billion doses. This figure was achieved in 278 days. 

India rolled out its vaccination programme on January 16 this year. Though this averages out to around million doses a day, currently the pace is much faster, over 5 million doses a day. 

Out of the around 940 million adult population in India, 75% have got at least one dose, and 30% are fully vaccinated.


The Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping that by the end of the year, the entire adult population would be fully vaccinated. That's quite an ambitious target. Many think it's impossible.

But others feel it's not impossible, may be we might overshoot the deadline by a few months. 

The cause for optimism is the fact that the two manufacturers Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech have scaled up production considerably, and we will have more vaccines available soon.


What is really driving the high pace is the willingness of people to get themselves vaccinated. There is very minimal vaccine hesitancy in India. 

If at all people aren't getting vaccinated, it's because of laziness and lethargy rather than any ideology or beliefs.

So, if India is now really turning a corner, a lot of credit has to go to the average Indian as well, besides of course the healthcare professionals.

I can see two reasons why India is doing very well on the vaccine front. One, we have a very robust immunization programme. 

Every child is mandatorily vaccinated at regular intervals against a host of diseases, like tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) etc.

So, vaccination is nothing new for an Indian. 

The second reason could be that all are desperate to get back to their normal routine. If vaccination is what it takes, "we are all ready!" 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Maharaja is back home

When a government decides to privatise something it owns, there is usually lots of protests from different quarters. 

Among the fears are that either it will go to wrong hands who will mismanage it or it will turn into an elite establishment accessible only to the wealthy.

Last week, when India government finally completed the privatisation process of its national airline -- Air India -- there were hardly any murmurs of disapproval. On the contrary, it was sort of a celebration! 

The primary reason: the airline has now gone back to its original owner -- the Tata group, a company founded in 1869, by a Parsi entrepreneur named Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. 

The cost: ₹18,000 crore or around $2,387 million.

The Maharaja is Air India's mascot.

The famous Amul butter advertisement said it the best:

(Amul butter is arguably the most famous in that category and the ad campaign - like the one above - that plays on words, has been running since 1967 pegged on current events, and is very popular.)

As a government enterprise, Air India hasn't been able to keep up with the cut-throat competition in the private sector, and it is in the red. 

I think on various counts the Tata Group is the most successful Indian company. We will get to that in some other post.

Suffice to say that they have been around for as long as 152 years and they have a presence in such a diverse portfolio of products and services -- from salt, steel and software to jewellery, hospitality and aviation, and more!

Hopefully, the Tatas will be able to nurse the airline back to the glorious days. 


Air India was founded in 1932 by J R D Tata (Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata), the 4th chairman of the Tata Group.

Tata was the first person in India to get a pilot's licence, and he flew India's first aircrft. It transported mails during the British time, and later began India's first passenger flights.

Air India was born as Tata Air Services which was renamed later as Tata Airlines. In 1947, soon after Independence, the government acquired 49% of stakes and in 1953, the airline was fully nationalised.

With the airline flying to international destinations, it was not just a company growing its business, it was also the image of India abroad, as Tata saw it. 

The legend has it that Tata, a perfectionist, got on to the flights, and looked closely at the reactions of the passengers and took down notes. He then passed them on to the staff appreciating them or pointing out areas that need improvement. 

He didn't want any complaints from the passengers, and he didn't want any airline that was better than Air India in the world. And he achieved that to a great extent.


In the 1980s, Rajiv Mehrotra ran a very popular interview programme on the national broadcaster Doordarshan. (India in those didn't private TV channels, the only channel was the government one.)

One of the interviewees was J R D Tata. Here it is. 44 minutes long.

In those days, Tata Steel brought out a series of very popular TV jingles titled "We also make steel". It spoke a lot about how the company saw itself. Here it is: 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Visit to Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad

We were in Ahmedabad for 6 years - from 1990 to 1996. It was one of the most memorable periods in my life.

After 19 years, in March 2015, we were back in that city for a few days' visit.

We caught up with our friends; went back to the place where we had stayed; and to the streets from where we used to shop.

We also went to the Lucky Restaurant in Mirzapur. It hadn't changed much.

They had the very same popular maska bun and tea. (Maska is butter; and bun is a small thick roll of bread. The bun is sliced, and served with butter and jam inside.)

The same taste. The same ambience. So reminiscent of those good old days!


Yesterday was Gandhi Jayanti (birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi). He born 152 years ago, on the 2nd of October 1869.

During our visit to Ahmedbad, we went to Sabarmati Ashram, the serene enclave on the banks of the Sabarmati River, which was Gandhi's home from 1917 to 1930 -- the most significant period in India's freedom struggle.

(Ashram is a religious or monastic retreat. Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer, in 1915. India became independent in 1947.)

Yesterday, we remembered our visit to Sabarmati Ashram. Here are some photos taken during the visit to the ashram.

Sabarmati River, on the banks of which is the ashram.

Hriday Kunj

Gandhi's work place

Gandhi's wife Kasturba's room

If you would like to know more about Sabarmati Ashram, here is the link.

The webiste has a virtual tour of the ashram.

There is a video tour on the Ashram's Youtube channel.