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    The spices shop at the State Secretariat. | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

    The spices shop at the State Secretariat. | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

    New retail outlet sells forest produce sourced from Doddabetta

    The Secretariat complex is more than just a cluster of government offices. The nearly 6,000 salaried staff who work there as well as the thousands who visit the offices make the complex a bazaar where a range of products — from vegetables through junk jewellery to snacks — can be bought.

    Jostling for space at the Secretariat is a shop whose products are a heady mix — spices and medicinal oils. On a day when the demand for grants of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department was being debated at the Assembly, the department had opened a retail outlet selling produce sourced from the Medicinal Plant Development Area (MPDA) at Doddabetta.

    The star attraction at the shop was a set of eleven varieties of spices, such as cloves, black pepper and star anise, packaged in sachets and priced at ₹ 160. “You can also buy them separately,” said S. Ashok, who runs the shop.

    Variety of products

    The shop also sells eucalyptus oil, lemon grass oil, camphor oil, citriodora oil, teatree oil and many others. The price of these concentrated oils is between ₹ 90 and ₹140 per 50 ml. “You can apply them directly or mix them with other oils,” added Mr. Ashok.

    Making a strong pitch for the products, Mr. Ashok said the wintergreen oil that is sold in the shop can relieve arthritis. “If you cannot get relief from this oil, there is nothing else in the world that can cure your arthritis,” said Mr. Ashok. The Forest Department runs a similar outlet at Vandalur too.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – June 15th, 2017

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    Chennai :

    More than 120 seed conserving farmers from 15 states across the country have congregated on the Anna University campus here to showcase a variety of quality seeds of different crops such as paddy, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables besides cotton as part a three-day National Seed Diversity Festival.

    The festival began on Friday.

    Stalls in the festival display rare varieties of seeds with exceptional qualities such as drought tolerance, submergence tolerance and nutritional superiority across different types of crops.

    In all, more than 3,000 varieties of seeds are on exhibition at the venue.

    The festival is organised by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), and this is the fourth edition of the festival. The first three editions of the festival were held in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Hyderabad during the last three years.

    Highlighting the importance of crop diversity and traditional seed varieties, both for farmer’s livelihood and consumer health, are the two main objectives with which the festival is being organized.

    Experts will talk about agriculture and health during the festival. It also has traditional food, stalls, terrace gardening session, pottery training and sales, natural dyeing, hand spinning, seed ball making, drinking water purification, composting techniques, traditional games and activity spaces for children.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by P. Oppili / June 09th, 2017

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    In the past few weeks — as well as at a celebration — we’ve heard much about the splendid growth of the Chemplast Sanmar Group from scratch 50 years ago and of how over those years it had nurtured and then been nurtured by N Sankar, whose first job, unpaid apprentice, was on the day Chemicals and Plastics India opened its doors. To me, the happiest part of that success has been how the Group has returned much back to society, promoting education and training, community welfare and healthcare, greening and nature, sport and art, and even saving failing journals like Madras Musings. But one thing I missed in all this was the seeding of the group.

    (Clockwise) KS Narayanan (extreme left) and TS Narayanaswami (extreme right) at the Indo-Commercial Bank’s Vizianagaram branch in 1938

    (Clockwise) KS Narayanan (extreme left) and TS Narayanaswami (extreme right) at the Indo-Commercial Bank’s Vizianagaram branch in 1938

    Those seeds were first sown in the back of beyond, in the village of Kallidaikurichi in Tinnevelly District when Nanu Sastrigal entered textile retailing, then moved into financing. His eldest son SNN Sankaralingam Iyer took the business further and with landowners in Tanjore helped found the Indo-Commercial Bank in Mayavaram in 1932. SNN’s eldest son KS Narayanan (KSN) joined the bank in 1936, gaining experience while moving from branch to branch. He also became a close friend of TS Narayanaswami (TSN), who was with the bank. The two enjoyed a warm working relationship till Narayanaswami passed away in 1968. By then, they had moved beyond banking.

    In fact, KSN moved earlier. In the late 1930s, he was Madras-bound to shepherd a failing ink manufacturing unit, Nanco, that had been acquired. By 1941, it was a success. With a War on, he next turned to a commodity in short supply, rubber, acquiring a re-treading unit in Coimbatore. There followed the first foray into chemicals, a sick unit there making calcium carbide, Industrial Chemicals, being taken over.

    Meanwhile, SNN who had bought substantial acreage in Tinnevelly to farm, found it was limestone-rich. His thoughts turned to cement. And so was born India Cements in 1949, with Narayanaswami helping SNN set it up while KSN went to Denmark to train with cement major FL Smidth. At a time when India was yet to industrialise, this was a major venture. When TSN died, KSN headed India Cements till retiring at 60, in 1980.

    Why KSN and TSN decided to get into chemical products we’ll never know, but in 1962 they thought of manufacturing PVC. TSN went to the US and negotiated a joint venture agreement with BF Goodrich, a PVC major. Agreement led to starting Chemicals and Plastics India Ltd in Mettur, near Mettur Chemicals which would supply the necessary chlorine. The plant went on stream on May 4, 1967, the date the Golden Jubilee celebrations recalled. This was one of the first Indo-American joint ventures, also among the first with a multinational in South India. The story only grows from thereon.

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    The death of a trainer

    Few knew him outside the two worlds he’ll sorely be missed in, those of printers and Salesians. They merged for Bro Julian Santi, who passed away recently, in the Salesian Institute of Graphic Arts he set up in Kilpauk in the late 1960s with help from friends and Salesians in Italy from where he arrived in 1957.

    We first met years later and, even after, it was infrequently, but for over 40 years I would meet ex-students of his. And they were generally a class apart. Most of us printers, and several abroad, preferred them when recruiting, because they came with two advantages: More machine experience than those from other printing schools, and they considered themselves craftsmen, not ready-made white collar supervisors, which many from elsewhere thought they should be because they’d got a few letters as suffixes. Training on the job and a strong work ethic, that a printer had to be a hands-on person, not necessarily a whiz in theory, was what Santi taught his wards. Few of our training institutions look at students that way.

    Was Santi a printer himself, was he SIGA’s Principal, I never discovered, but I did find out he was a trainer par excellence, a man who taught his wards the dignity of working with their hands. I hope he has rooted that culture deep in SIGA.

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    When the postman knocked…

    Several items over the last six weeks have brought much mail and, happily, several noteworthy pictures. They’ll appear over the following weeks, one at a time, starting today to supplement the earliest, Marmalong Bridge.

    The Marmalong Bridge seen c.1900

    The Marmalong Bridge seen c.1900

    DH Rao for whom bridges, lighthouses and the Buckingham Canal are passions, sent me today’s picture. Rao had seen it at a Corporation of Madras exhibition where it was dated to 1900. Its caption added, “In 1966 it was dismantled and replaced with today’s bridge.” The caption also said that a plaque was removed and re-positioned at the bridge’s north end. That plaque, recalling Uscan’s contribution, is little cared for today and is almost hidden by road-raising.

    Rao adds he came across the following, written in 1829, by a French naval officer, J Dumont D’Urville: “An entire neighbourhood is reserved for Muslims and we go there by the Armenian bridge (Saidapet?) built on the river Mylapore. This bridge 395 metres in length (has) 29 arches of various sizes.”

    The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places and events from the years gone by, and sometimes, from today.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / May 15th, 2017

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    Chennai:

    Industrialist and philanthropist P R Ramasubrahmaneya Rajha, chairman of  Ramco Group of Companies, died in Rajapalayam after a brief illness. He was 82.

    He leaves behind his wife Sudarsanam, son P R Venketrama Raja, daughters Nalina, Sarada Deepa and five grandchildren.

    Popularly known as the Raja of Rajapalayam, Rajha donned the Ramco chairman’s robe when he was just 27 years old, with just two businesses– Rajapalayam Mills (a textile mill) and Madras Cements (now Ramco Cements) with a single plant capacity of 66,000 tonnes a year.

    Today, the group has businesses spanning across, cement, textiles, software and roofing sheets with annual revenues of more than Rs 6,000 crore. The flagship, Ramco Cements, has a capacity to make 18 million tonnes of cement a year, cumulatively the textile business has 5 lakh spindles capacity, Ramco Industries has a roofing capacity of one million tonnes a year and Ramco Systems is also on a strong footing after stuttering for some time.

    “In the passing of Rajha, the cement industry has lost a stalwart. I have known him for more than four decades. He was one of the first in the industry to put up a dry process cement plant. A pious, religious person, he had a quiet and sober leadership style. All of us will miss him,” said India Cements vice chairman & managing director N Srinivasan.

    The group supports eight educational institutions in Rajapalayam including Ramco Institute of Technology.

    “He was one of the outstanding leaders known for his vision, values and philanthropy. His death is a great loss to Tamil Nadu and the country,” recalled TVS Motor Company chairman Venu Srinivasan.

    Rajha was deeply associated with temples and donated liberally to building new ones and renovating dilapidated temples.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / TNN / May 12th, 2017

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    Rebecca Paul firmly believes in an organic way of life

    Rebecca Paul firmly believes in an organic way of life

    Rebecca Paul says making organic soaps is not difficult and it certainly need not be so expensive

    Rebecca Paul’s foray into organic soap making came courtesy of her sister. Paul, who had worked in sales and marketing in Chennai for over five years, was taking a break after the birth of her first child. “I was bored and didn’t know what to do with myself. My sister signed me up for a workshop,” she giggles. “She didn’t even tell me till that morning when she pushed me out of the house.”

    The other factor that led her to take this seriously was the fact that her baby had sensitive skin. “I tried all kinds of branded stuff but nothing helped, not even the green gram flour that we traditionally use. Finally I started making specific soaps for him and that’s when we began to see a difference.” This led her husband Deepak also to start using her soaps and, when she realised that it was helping him as well, Paul plunged whole heartedly into the business of making organic soaps.

    Her initial products were gifted to family and friends and slowly, as word spread, she began getting other customers. “I started with a sample pack, which had nine different varieties. So that allowed people to choose the variety they wanted. And the orders started to come in.” A large portion of her orders comes from Coimbatore but she has sent her stuff to places like Chennai and Andaman Islands. “One person who was using my soaps went to Dubai and continues to order from there,” she smiles. Paul retails through her Facebook page, The Kraft Farm, and in various exhibitions.

    SoapCF10may2017

    Her soaps are made of two different processes: cold processed and melt-and-pour. The latter is easier, so she teaches that at her workshops. “A readymade base is available, so one just has to melt and add the other ingredients, fragrances and colours. It’s so simple, even a child can make one.” Ask about the problem of sourcing ingredients and Paul returns a vehement “that’s easy. It’s convincing people that’s difficult.” But a lot of people are going organic, I protest. She agrees but points out that most people assume that such products are expensive. “So when I charge ₹60 or ₹70 for a soap of 100gm, they don’t believe it’s fully organic. When I set up a stall at exhibitions, I am constantly dealing with this question: ‘how can you say it’s organic when your prices are so low?’”

    The other problem is fragrances. “In commercial soaps, the fragrance lasts till the last bit. But I use essential oils, which evaporate when exposed to heat. So sometimes that becomes an issue. I prefer to make according to the customer’s requirement, so I ask if they want it heavily scented or mildly.”

    She has started holding workshops as well. “It’s a way to encourage people to go organic. I offer to help those who want to continue. If they need ingredients, I help them source it. Or even if they want to sell.” She goes on to narrate how one lady — who was speech- and hearing-impaired — was using this as a way to earn some extra money. “She texted to say that she had bought her daughter a gift with the money she made. It made me feel good,” she says softly. She is also working with the Indian Superheroes, a group of organic farmers from tribal and rural communities of South India, to train them and their families to make products that are then retailed on their website.

    She’s also looking at increasing the number of products. “I’ve started trials of the body butter. So that should be out soon. I’m also hoping to introduce lip balm, lotion bars, beard wax for guys… I have to explain the concept of lotion bars. Not many people know about it. But still…,” she shrugs, “There’s a lot you can do with organic beauty products.”

    In a lather

    Most popular soaps: Goat’s milk, Shea butter, Aloe Vera and Honey

    Natural colours: Turmeric for yellow, beetroot powder for red/pink, annatto seeds for orange, neem/spirulina for green, activated charcoal for black

    Other products: Yarn lanterns, string art, beeswax candles, painted t-shirts

    More details: Visit https://www.facebook.com/TheKraftFarm/

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    When Immanuel S, employee at a private firm was diagnosed with a heart ailment recently, his doctor advised him to switched to cold-pressed gingelly (sesame) oil. Since then, the entire family has been following suit and they consider the change, an informed choice. “We didn’t want to spend on medicine and hence, changed our dietary habits. The move seems to have worked as no one in the family has fallen ill since then,” he says. Just like Immanuel, many households in Coimbatore are gradually switching to cold-pressed oil. After millets made a comeback on Coimbatorean’s menu, it’s the turn of cold-pressed oil (chekku ennai) to find its way back in health-conscious Coimbatorean’s life.

    ChekkuOilCF17may2017
    For the last three months, homemaker Rajeswari N has been making a trip to the nearest oil mill in her locality. She opts for cold-pressed gingelly oil, groundnut oil and coconut oil. “During my childhood, back home in my village in Theni, we used cold-pressed oil for cooking. But, after I got married and moved to Coimbatore, it became an arduous task to find chekku ennai and I switched to refined oil. It was only recently that I heard of an oil mill near our house and immediately went back to those good old days of cooking. Life has come full circle,” says Rajeswari.

    According to BS Venkatachalam, proprietor of a cold-pressed oil chain in the city, “There is an increased awareness among people today and they are extremely conscious about their health. They are now aware that many health issues can be addressed by changing one’s food habits and opting for cold-pressed oil is an example. It’s a misconception that oil in itself is bad for the body. Human body needs lubrication and hence, it needs oil. It’s in the extraction process that we go wrong. In the days of yore, the oil was extracted in chekku made of vaagai maram and the vaagai marachekku oil (vigin cold-pressed oil) was considered extremely beneficial to one’s health. Vaagai maram has the propensity to absorb heat and the hence, the oil churned out from such an oil expeller is beneficial in the long run. They would also use bulls to operate the chekku as they would move slowly. This would ensure that the same temperature is maintained throughout the extraction. The cold-pressed oil extracted with this press (oil expeller) has no LDL (bad) cholesterol. On the other hand, adulterated oil when heated extensively becomes toxic in the long run. ”

    K Velusamy, who runs a cold-pressed oil mill in Ganapathy, says, “People who have been making the switch to cold-pressed oil consists of two types- those who are suffering from a health issue like joint pain or sugar; and those who want to prevent diseases. But, merely switching to cold-pressed oil will not improve one’s health. One needs to cut down or stop the intake of unhealthy options like white sugar and white rice. Cold-pressed oil has a unique colour, texture and taste.”

    Seconding him is fitness nutritionist Almas Sajjath, “Any product in its refined form is unhealthy – be it rice or sugar. Cold-pressed oil is a healthy  alternative. In India, coconut oil is considered the best as it contains Omega 3. It has the property to cut down bad fat and keep you healthy. Cold-pressed gingelly oil (nallenai) on the other hand, has the property to keep food intact for a long time. Apart from switching to chekku ennai, one should follow a good dietary pattern that provides proper nutrition to remain healthy in the long run.” Venkatachalam adds, “Our ancestors enjoyed good health, because they opted for healthy cooking habits. It’s time we followed suit and taught our younger generations about the same.”

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by P. Sangeetha / TNN / April 19th, 2017

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    That was a question I was recently asked in connection with a reference I had made to Umda Bagh and its links with education in the city for nearly 125 years. Good question, and off I went ahunting for information.

    Into the Umda Bagh campus moved c.1895 the Madrasa-I-Azam, the chief Muslim school in the South and which was established in 1849. This developed partially into a Government Muhammadan College with its own buildings in 1934.

    In 1948, the College was reconstituted as the Government Arts College for Men. The College moved to Nandanam in 1972 and a women’s college opened in its stead in 1974. This was named the Quaid-E-Millat Government College for Women, leaving many a student puzzling over the prefixed name, which I’m told means ‘Leader of the Nation’.

    A Tirunelveli Rowther, Mohammed Ismail went into business in the 1920s and became a leader in the worlds of leather and Madras commerce. That leadership led him into politics, in which he had shown interest from when, as a 13-year-old, he started in 1909 the Young Muslim Society in Tirunelveli.

    Nine years later, he founded the Council of Islamic Scholars and joined the Indian Muslim League. In 1946, he led the League’s Madras unit in the Assembly elections and became Leader of the Opposition. He was also elected to the first Lok Sabha, which simultaneously served as the Indian Constituent Assembly. And, an intriguing election that year was as the founding President of the Madras State Mutton Dealers’ Association, which he remained till his death 26 years later.

    When Pakistan was born in 1947, the Muslim League divided and an Indian Union Muslim League came into being. Mohammed Ismail was elected its first President. After serving in the Rajya Sabha from 1952 to 1958, he moved into Kerala politics with States’ Reorganisation in 1956. Leading the IUML, he won Lok Sabha seats in 1962, 1967 and 1971. He died a year after his last election, revered in both Tamil Nadu and Kerala as the Quaid-E-Millat, a leader who ensured communal harmony. Interestingly, his education had been in Hindu, Catholic and Protestant schools and colleges!

    Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to him was by Congress Chief Minister M Bhaktavatsalam who, describing his dignified and conciliatory behaviour in the Legislature, said he was “a model for all Opposition leaders”.

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    When the postman knocked…

    V Mahalingam writes (Miscellany, April 17): “N Kannayiram went to the West Indies as a replacement for G Kasturirangan of Mysore who cried off because of groin injury and not as replacement for CD Gopinath.

    Also CDG didn’t opt out as he was not happy with the cricket board’s ways. He pulled out as he was suffering from collar bone injuries and he was replaced by L Adisesh of Mysore who also pulled out. Totally there were four replacements before the tour.”

    With this column’s word length now abbreviated, I don’t have the luxury of elaboration. But even then, there was no reason to link two entirely different sentences about Kannayiram and Gopinath except for the fact that they were adjacent to each other. Juxtaposition is not the equivalent of replacement! More interesting is my correspondent saying it was “collarbone injuries” that made Gopinath skip the tour.

    Reporting a long interview with Gopinath for the book Office Chai, Planter’s Brew — Gopinath approving every word of the final text — this writer stated: “(In 1952) Gopinath, being South Indian, was ‘rather strangely called Madrasi in a rather contemptuous way’ by other members of the team. This was an era when cricket essentially meant Bombay — and in Gopinath’s words, ‘…it was almost as if, if you came from Madras, you had no business to play cricket…’ He goes on that around then Gordon Woodroffe’s offered him a job — it was a time when the first Indians were being recruited by British firms — and he was mulling over it because he felt the remuneration was inadequate given his academic and sporting record.

    But his father, an old Imperial Bank hand, pointed out he’d get fair treatment in a British firm and could go far (he did; he became its first Indian Chairman). The interview then records, “Musing on the advice and his issues with (Indian) cricket, Gopinath decided to refuse the West Indian tour.” No mention of collar bone injuries anywhere.

    Subash Chandra Bose at the Tea hosted for him at the Beehive Foundry, Madras on September 3,1939. To his right is K S Rao, owner of the Beehive Group, and third from right (seated) a mystery man only recently identified by the owner of this picture. Standing is C. Audikesavalu Chettiar, Rao’s partner.

    Subash Chandra Bose at the Tea hosted for him at the Beehive Foundry, Madras on September 3,1939. To his right is K S Rao, owner of the Beehive Group, and third from right (seated) a mystery man only recently identified by the owner of this picture. Standing is C. Audikesavalu Chettiar, Rao’s partner.

    Ramesh Kumar, who’s kept the Beehive Foundry name going in its original Oakes & Co. premises on Popham’s Broadway (Miscellany, June 2, 2014), now Prakasam Salai, sends me today’s picture of yesteryear. It’s of Subhas Chandra Bose being hosted at tea at the Beehive premises on September 3, 1939. With him are Kowtha Suryanarayana Rao, the founder of the group that owns the premises, and his partner C Audikesavalu Chettiar, Ramesh Kumar’s grandfather. To Rao’s right is a person whom I wonder how many recognise, despite his being a well-known name in Tamil Nadu. He is Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar.

    Rao founded the Swadharma Swaarajya Sangh (Orthodox National League) in 1913 for the “revival of the declining spiritual and cultural values of Bharateeya life, dharma and religion”, I wonder how much Bose or Thevar had in common with it? I also wonder, given the date of the felicitation, whether Bose fled to Germany from Madras; that was the day India was dragged into a World War.

    The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places and events from the years gone by and, sometimes, from today

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / May 01st, 2017

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    Harkesh Mittal (left), advisor and head of National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, inaugurates the PSG Nanotech Research, Innovation and Incubation Centre in Coimbatore on Monday. L. Gopalakrishnan, Managing Trustee of PSG Sons and Charities is seen in the picture . | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

    Harkesh Mittal (left), advisor and head of National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, inaugurates the PSG Nanotech Research, Innovation and Incubation Centre in Coimbatore on Monday. L. Gopalakrishnan, Managing Trustee of PSG Sons and Charities is seen in the picture . | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

    It will focus on smart textiles, healthcare, renewable energy

    With efforts to encourage commercial production of innovative products in areas such as biotechnology, internet of things, and nano technology, about 30 % companies at the technology business incubators in the country are in such high-end technologies, Harkesh Mittal, advisor and head of National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), told presspersons here on Monday.

    He inaugurated here the PSG Nanotech Research, Innovation, and Incubation Centre, which is a collaboration of the PSG Institute of Advanced Studies, PSG College of Technology, and PSG-STEP and is supported by the NSTEDB.

    This is the only incubation centre so far for nano technology and it will focus on smart textiles, healthcare, renewable energy, and plastic electronics.

    The area of nano technology is new and lot of research is happening in this field. There is a need for transfer of technology, taking ideas to the market. The incubator will support such an effort, he said.

    The NSTEDB aims to start 20 new technology business incubators every year in different verticals.

    There are 110 technology business incubators in the country and 50 of these give seed support to the incubatees. The NSTEDB gives ₹10 crore to each of these incubators and the amount is disbursed as loan or equity in two to three years. The National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations was launched last year. Under this initiative, an incubator gets seed support, has the scope to upscale, and will get support to covert ideas into prototypes.

    PSG STEP will launch shortly an entrepreneurial residential programme. It is among the 10 incubators in the country that will offer fellowship for a year to students who are entrepreneurs. A student can receive up to ₹30,000 a month. Each incubator will get ₹36 lakh a year to extend this support, he said.

    It will also launch a programme to give up to ₹10 lakh as grant to convert ideas into prototypes (Promoting and Accelerating Young and Aspiring Innovators and Start Ups). About 10 innovators will receive the support every year and this project is sanctioned for 10 incubators this year. The incubator will get ₹1.2 crore support from the Department of Science and Technology to set up a lab and ₹20 lakh to buy raw materials.

    According to K Suresh Kumar, General Manager of PSG STEP, the nano tech centre here is established at a total cost of ₹15 crore. While ₹7.5 crore is provided by the DST, the rest is from the PSG Institute.

    It will support 10 incubatees for a maximum of five years each. Entrepreneurs can come with their own projects or take up products developed by researchers at PSG Institute of Advanced Studies, he said.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Coimbatore / by Special Correspondent / Coimbatore – February 28th, 2017

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    From a high-paying job to a home-made curry business and rearing indigenous cattle at home, G. Rajesh is living his dream

    “What’s with you now? Don’t be scared, they won’t hurt you!” G. Rajesh chides his cow Singari. Summer is setting in with a vengeance and the grazing ground in Tambaram where Rajesh is cajoling his cattle to drink water, is blazing hot. Cut to five years ago, and the 34-year-old would’ve been seated in an air-conditioned office discussing mutual funds across the table, with a customer. Some decisions can tilt one’s world on its head and Rajesh’s did just that. A year ago, he decided to give up a high-paying corporate job and live life on his own terms.

    The big leap

    “I’ve always been angry with consumerism,” says Rajesh. “To have someone dictate terms, telling us what to buy, what to eat, and how to live our lives.” His 12 years of corporate life only furthered his dislike for all things “superficial”. “I was being judged based on the car I drove and the brand of pen I used,” he shakes his head. There was good money, but then Rajesh says that he’s the same person — whether he earned ₹ 8,000 or ₹ 80,000. “The more money I made, the more my needs increased.” He put an end to this constant struggle with his way of thinking and how society functioned, and started his own business.

    Headquartered at his Tambaram home, Rajesh’s ‘Thamizhan Home-made Curries’ has five outlets around the area. His small team that consists of S. Madhusudanan (his business partner), M. Govardanan, R. Sridevi, G. Mithra, S. Deepa, T. Jayanthi, and M. Vaidegi, makes various curries that range from sambar and urundai kuzhambu, to prawn and fish curry, at their central kitchen, to be sold in the evenings.

    “I’ve always wanted to run a business of my own,” says Rajesh. The idea of selling curries has been with him for a long time. “After an evening of shopping with my family, my father would say ‘let’s buy pakodas and manage dinner at home’. Or mother would say, ‘There’s sambar, let’s have dosas’.” A lot of people prefer a simple home-cooked meal after a workday or a day out, he feels. These are the customers he taps into.

    Home-style food

    Rajesh hopes his takeaway curries give customers the satisfaction of having eaten at home, and at the same time, reduce the time and energy spent in cooking. He says that the curries are made home-style, and that they are free from food colours and taste-enhancers. Rajesh plans to expand his business in the future if things go well. “But to ensure quality, the kitchens should be within a 10-km radius of the outlets,” he says.

    Enter Rajesh’s Tambaram home, and you are greeted by an interesting mix of smells — of the curries bubbling on the terrace kitchen, and that of cow dung. For in his backyard, is a cow-shed, where a noisy brood of chickens peck at the bushes by a well. The cows, Thangam, Singari, and Selvi, all from the Kankrej breed, have gone out to graze. “They’ll be back by 3.30 pm,” explains Rajesh.

    Cattle love

    He takes us to see them at the grazing grounds — with glorious horns and tinkling bells around their necks, the cows are beautiful. “I sell their milk to friends and family,” says Rajesh. The cows take up a lot of his time during the day, and his curry business keeps him occupied in the evenings.

    But Rajesh functions at his own pace — he picks up his kids from school, has long conversations with like-minded people who drop in at his home over a delicious meal cooked by his mother…

    In short, Rajesh’s day is in his hands and he can choose to do what makes him happy.

    “This is why I gave up my job,” he says. “I might not save as much as I would’ve had otherwise,” he says. “But that’s all right. I’m able to practise sustainable living in my own way. I want to show that it is possible to live close to Nature as well as make a viable business out of it to take care of one’s needs.”

    Rajesh has no regrets about leaving the corporate way of life. “Earlier, I would keep running; running to catch the train, running to meet my clients, just running through the day,” he says. “Now, I’m able to slow down. I read a lot, I’m able to grow a beard,” he laughs.

    Here’s a shortfilm on Rajesh by Big Short Films

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by Akila Kannadasan / February 27th, 2017

  • scissors
    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    Meet the man who has devoted his life to saving some of those now-famous native cattle breeds in his farm in the heart of Tamil Nadu.

    A dappled calf saunters up. I offer it my hand. It nuzzles and then proceeds to lick it. Another joins it, and yet another. I am enjoying the attention — until a sudden tug distracts me. A tiny mouth has just begun nibbling the tassels of my cotton dupatta. I beat a hasty retreat, almost landing ankle-deep in a mound of steaming dung.

    Ganesan laughs and pats the head of the calf that has just tried to eat up my dupatta. “This calf belongs to the Gir breed,” he says, drawing my attention to the convex forehead and pendulous ears distinctive to the breed whose origins lie, as the name suggests, in the Gir forest region of Gujarat.

    C. Ganesan is a slender, bespectacled man, wearing a dhoti, blue shirt and ready smile. He runs what he calls an “experimental farm” in P. Chellandipalayam in Karur district of Tamil Nadu, the state that exploded with the jallikattu protests some weeks ago. Among the arguments extended by the fans of this rather cruel bull race was that native breeds of cattle could be protected through the sport. Experts spoke of how Indian cattle had vanished and of the higher nutrient content in the milk of these cows.

    Despite the argument, the truth is that most cattle raised for dairy farming in India is imported from abroad. Since these breeds are reported to yield much higher quantities of milk, they are found more suitable for commercial use.

    A Sahiwal and a Rathi calf. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    A Sahiwal and a Rathi calf. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    There is merit in wanting to protect the hardier native breeds from extinction, but clearly the solution lies in efforts that are far more effective, committed and enduring than jallikattu. The 69-year-old Ganesan is among a handful of cattle breeders in India making that effort.

    The road that leads to Ganesan’s farm is a kaccha, vertigo-inducing path flanked by arid, patchy coconut groves, rust-coloured rocks, and acres of barren paddy fields. Thorny scrub give way to worn fences but they offer scant protection from the marauding peacocks, complains Ganesan, “I really need to fence these fields properly,” he says with a shrug.

    Ganesan set up his farm some 13 years ago to prove that Indian breeds can give high yields of milk, more than 15 litres a day: “My cows produce copious quantities of milk and like all other local breeds have excellent immunity.” His farm has only indigenous breeds. Besides Gir, there is Sahiwal and Tharparkar (named after the Pakistani towns of their origin), a few buffaloes, the local Kangayam breed, and a few head of Thalacherry goat.

    Ganesan’s family also owns a textile business but farming is in their blood. “Agriculture is our ancestral occupation and we have been keeping cattle for a long time,” he says. Earlier, the genial farmer’s animals were Jersey cross-breeds. “The government recommends a mix of 65% Jersey with 35% native breed of cattle, but this is hard for farmers to maintain,” he explains. “Proper breeding management doesn’t happen in India.”

    Then, in 2003, he lost five Jersey cross-bred cows very suddenly, “They have poor immunity and one had to keep replacing them,” he says. That’s when he began to convert exotic cross-breeds into desi. “I purchased a few desi animals — around 10 Tharparkar cows. Also, I began inseminating my Jersey cross-bred cows with semen samples taken from pure Indian breeds.”

    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    At the cattle shed in P. Chellandipalayam, Karur district. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

    There are over 50 heads of pure Indian cattle on his farm now — of various colours, shapes and sizes. A newly born calf totters up as we approach while its mother fixes us with a steely gaze and lowers her horns. Pitch-black buffaloes swill down water and bellow; red and white cows stick their heads into feeding troughs; gambolling calves behind wire-netting peer curiously at us.

    “The easiest way to identify a desi breed is by the hump,” says Ganesan. And yes, all humped cattle produce milk rich in the much-touted A2 milk protein. A2 milk is excellent for children, he says, adding that it helps brain function and promotes growth. The fodder, culled from the fields around him, does not have pesticide and unlike commercial establishments he does not inject his cows with oxytocin injections to induce lactation, “My grandchildren refuse to drink any other milk or curd,” he laughs, as he leads me into his sparse office where a hot cup of tea made with freshly-drawn milk awaits.

    Milk, however, is only a by-product of Ganesan’s experiment, “This is not a commercial farm — it is only a model one,” he says, explaining that he sells his milk at the ridiculously low rate of ₹30 per litre, “It must be the lowest rate in Tamil Nadu,” he grins. But the milk reaches his customers within two hours of milking.

    What Ganesan really wants to prove is that native Indian breeds are more than capable of producing milk on a commercial scale. “The government doesn’t work at improving their milk capacity. Even breeds like Kangayam, which are not traditionally bred for milk, can produce up to six litres a day if the breeding is done properly.”

    According to him, the best sort of cattle comes from artificial insemination done right. Getting high quality semen samples can be challenging. Ganesan currently gets his frozen samples from the National Dairy Development Board. “Once we get good animals, the milk is automatically better.”

    And what role can jallikattu play in preserving desi breeds, I ask. “Those bulls are not really used for breeding — they are trained to be ferocious,” he says, and adds, “Anyway, jallikattu is not about preserving local breeds, it is about men proving themselves.”

    preeti.z@thehindu.co.in

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture> Cattle Class / by Preeti Zachariah / February 04th, 2017

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