Chennai First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Chennai, Tamilians and all the People of TamilNadu – here at Home and Overseas
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    eWasteCF18nov2017

    Non-functional mobile phone chargers, adaptors, calculators, old wires, bulbs, printers, and toners are all part of the e-waste generated at offices, industries, and even households. These mostly get into the regular garbage bags.

    Green Era Recyclers, a seven-month-old start-up by Prasanth Omanakuttan and Syam Premachandran, looks at recycling the e-waste generated in the city. In the last seven months, it has collected and recycled eight to 10 tonnes.

    The firm has recently got a five-year authorisation from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to recycle 150 tonnes of e-waste annually.

    According to Mr. Prasanth, a study on the e-waste inventory shows that Coimbatore generates nearly 2,500 tonnes of e-waste a year. However, most of it goes unsegregated.

    The waste batteries, cartridges, displays, and printers are all collected from institutions, a few houses, and industries and dismantled. The waste is segregated into hazardous and non-hazardous and the non-hazardous waste is recycled. “We also try to recover a lot of materials and refurbish some products,” he said.

    Green Era is in talks with Coimbatore Corporation to collect e-waste from houses in one or two wards initially. “We have designed a special bin for households. It has four compartments to collect bulbs, wires, printers and toners, and miscellaneous items. We will pay an amount for most of these and collect them,” he says. The civic body has asked for some more details on recycling and the company will submit the information in a week or so. The preliminary recycling will be done in Coimbatore and the hazardous waste will be sent to Chennai for safe disposal.

    Started with an investment of ₹15 lakh, the start-up also has a research unit that designs and develops machinery for recycling, “We now have shredder, extruder, and cable stripper,” says Mr. Prasanth. If the machinery available in the market is purchased, a large-scale recylcing plant needs at least ₹2 crore investment. The start-up has machinery that costs much less and plans to commercialise these too.

    “We will go for external funding after developing the machinery,” he said.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Coimbatore / by M. Soundariya Preetha / Coimbatore – November 17th, 2017

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    SriramCF17nov2017

    A software engineer is offering guidance to anyone seeking to set up a low-cost rainwater harvesting system

    Sriram Vasudevan, a software engineer, uses his free time for work involving hardware. Not the hardware you associate with computers. He’s working with PVC pipes, L-joints and valves and other material necessary to build rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. Having set up a self-designed, cost-effective RWH structure at his house in Ramapuram, he is helping others install such structures at theirs.

    He had been researching intensely on how to install cost-effective RWH structures before devising such a model himself. He says this work is motivated by a desire to solve water-related problems in the city. Sometime ago, he posted an announcement on Facebook, expressing his desire to guide anyone who wants to install such an RWH structure. “My friend Balaji set up an RWH structure at his house recently and I was greatly inspired by it. I believe a good RWH structure in each house will help solve many water-related problems in the city,” he says. Here’s how this model works.

    “The rainwater that gets collected in someone’s terrace should be directed to their borewell, well or sump,” he explains. In regular RWH systems, the collected rainwater is directed to a rainwater harvesting pit dug near the house. This pit has a layer of coarse pebbles to help filter impurities and channel the water underground directly. In a variation of this model, Sriram suggests that a valve be placed in the RWH pipes.

    This valve is capable of clearing out the impurities, thereby helping bypass the need for a rainwater harvesting pit.

    Sriram says channeling the collected rainwater directly to the borewell will help improve water quality.

    “There will be a evident change in water quality and taste, post-monsoon,” he says.

    He points out that in case of any overflow in the collection system, an extra tank can always be set up to store excess water.

    Sriram has already helped two residents set up RWH structures at their houses.

    Sriram can be reached at 9944888755

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Anjana Shekar / November 17th, 2017

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    Artistes of Karaikudi, company’s designers, handcrafting the eco-friendly products of Tetewood

    Artistes of Karaikudi, company’s designers, handcrafting the eco-friendly products of Tetewood

    Chennai :

    As fashion progresses towards going green, this Chennai startup went one step further turning spectacle frames biodegradable. Though there are many options for buying spectacle frames in the market today, an online store TeteWood, deals in a unique product — biodegradable wooden frames. ‘When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves, so why not go green, make a cleaner greener environment and make the Earth a better place for our fellow Earthlings’ reads the company’s motto.

    Tetewood02CF14nov2017

    Jayakumar Mamani, (24), CEO, TeteWood, started the company in January 2017. ‘Tete’ stands for Tectonas Texture. He was inspired by a local optical vendor in Karaikudi and that is how it all began. “I am interested in wood and studied a lot about bamboo in Auroville. When I visited Hyderabad, I loved the concept of the wooden house, and wanted to learn more,” he says. “I was always looking forward to creating something innovative that can be used by people on a daily basis. So I thought of making wooden eyewear which is a unique concept in India, and preferred by youngsters,” he says.

    The business is helmed from Chennai and Bengaluru. They also ship orders to  Maldives, Kenya and Australia. Most of their products go to retailers and wholesalers, and the stalls at international optical expos paved way for it. Jayakumar does his business online in other websites like Indiamart and TradeIndia.

    He faced several challenges in the initial stages. “My mother was a house maid; we struggled to eat one square meal a day. I also lost my father in the first month of the launch of our website,” he shares.

    Collecting wooden frames for sampling was also difficult as there were lots of legal formalities. Now, he wants to take Tetewood to the next level and is looking for big investors.

    “Customers can bring any wooden piece to us and we will make the desired spectacle out of it. For instance, even if a broken chair is given to us, we can make multiple frames out of it!” His investors include his friends with whom he plays basketball. “They gave me all that I wanted; they are my genies. One of my friends, Ragu showed great interest in the product and invested Rs 5 lakh for starting the project. Now I have three other individual investors, a sum of Rs 25 lakh on the whole,” he says.
    There are 12 employees in the team and 80% of the work is handcrafted by the traditional artists of Karaikudi. Sonnet and Booze model are in demand in the Indian market and product with customer’s name engraved on it is most liked.

    Tetewood has taken the patent for the patterns/engravings over wooden optical frames, luxury frames — frames with wood and gold costing from Rs 20,000 to Rs 60,000 per frame. In future, he plans to make frames from wood and jean, oxidized plate, metal/stone/linen/other combo with natural prints, wooden phone cases, bowties, wooden certificates, wooden notebooks and  the list goes on.

    Due to the large scale demands of the products, he had to reject few offers as they only produce around 100 pieces of frames as the time and labour invested is more. “We are the first manufacturers in India to build a company exclusively for the wooden eyewear, so there is not much competition for us in the market,” claims Jayakumar.
    To make a strong base offline and market his project he would need Rs 3 crore.

    Rs 5 lakh
    The basic investment Tetewood started  off with

    Rs 25 lakh
    The current capital with which they work on wih three investors on board

    Rs 3 crore

    The amount they  need in investment for venturing into luxury products

    12 employees
    While their products are handcrafted by artistes of Karaikudi.

    source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Priyanka Susil / Express News Service / November 01st, 2017

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    Chennai:

    Red diamonds, he calls them. The fruits of his labour. And since January, Gopinath Jayaraja and his coterie of city farmers have harvested three tonnes of this precious commodity. Incidentally, it has also made his idli-dosa batter taste spectacular.

    During Pongal 2017, Jayaraja and friends decided to try their hand at community farming on a leased land near Chengalpet, calling the initiative Valam 1.0, after the organic produce store they run in Chennai. Their first crop — the red diamonds, a native rice grain called poongar. “We sell organic products from our Tirunelveli farm but found customers in Chennai were interested in trying their hand at farming. So, for Valam 1.0, we got people to invest in leasing five acres from a farmer to cultivate rice,” says Jayaraja, who farms part-time, and works full-time at an IT firm.

    With 54 investors joining in for round one, Jayaraja has begun preparing ground for Valam 2.0 near Mambakkam. “At the end of the crop cycle, investors share the harvest with everyone taking home a certain amount of organically grown native rice. The idea of farming draws people in. Most of those who put in their money, also put in their time working the land along with the farmer who owns the land,” says Jayaraja.

    The Valam collective is one of several mini urban-rural joint ventures cropping up across TN, which not only encourage organic farming and give city-dwellers a chance to explore their entrepreneurial side, but also help rural farmers who are in dire straits financially.

    Anything that gives financial respite to farmers is an encouraging trend, believes Dr M Maheswaran, director of research, TN Agricultural University, Coimbatore. “Many from the IT industry are getting into organic farming and collaborating with farmers. The government too is facilitating it,” he says.

    At Valam, land is leased from a farmer who also works at the collective, thereby earning him a steady income, apart from what he makes from the rest of his farmland. Divya Shetty and Vishnu Vardhan of Indian Superheroes (ISH) from Coimbatore, started a similar venture a few months ago, where people can rent out a portion of farmland for three months to a year. “We have 823 organic farmers on board and have got several NRIs to book farmlands, which they want to cultivate whenever they come down,” says Shetty, 27, a management graduate whose grandparents were farmers. ISH also runs weekend workshops with farmers to generate interest in sustainable agriculture.

    Ilumurugan, a farmer who has signed on with ISH, says doing workshops has not just given him a second stream of income but a voice too. “When people from the city work on the farm, they understand the effort we put in. I don’t know how much of a steady income it will generate but at least I see respect in their eyes at the end of every interaction,” says the 22-year-old, who has a 15-acre farm where he grows turmeric, cotton and sugarcane.

    At ISupportFarming, a community initiative in Cuddalore and Virudhunagar, co-founders and brothers Vijaykumar and Vasanthkumar Mani see themselves as a “hinge” between the disjointed worlds of the officegoer and the farmer. Here, all the working capital is given by people from the city, and the farmer who owns the land does the work, while we monitor the process, says Vijaykumar, an HR consultant with a farming background.
    “The farmland is evaluated on aspects like water facilities, and farmers on social credibility before they are signed on. After the harvest, farmers get 80% of the returns, investors get 15%, and we take 5%,” says Vijaykumar, adding that they are now working with 80 farmers, 50 investors, and 250 acres of land, growing paddy, maize, groundnut and watermelon.

    Vijakumar says the average investment to cultivate one acre through one crop cycle of three to four months is `25,000. “Most of our investors are IT professionals and each of them usually puts in `5,000. At the end of a quarter, we divide the profit and they can choose to reinvest or pull out,” says Vijaykumar.

    But for investors like Gokulavan Jayaraman, for whom farming is the ‘ultimate dream’, pulling out is nowhere in the picture. “I started a year ago with an investment of `5,000, not expecting anything other than the satisfaction of helping a farmer and spending time working in fields with my family. I was surprised to realise farming was also giving me financial returns, 12% in the first year,” says Jayaraman, lead auditor at a city IT firm.

    “I’m now in this for the long run,” he adds. And of course, the organically grown watermelon he brought home from his farm is just the more mouth-watering piece of that pie.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / TNN / November 11th, 2017

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    GeologistCF08nov2017

    Award-winning geologist C Singaraja explains how what’s happening beneath our feet impacts our lives and health

    It’s Shawshank Redemption in real life. Or, if you prefer, Erin Brockovich. In the first, a banker (Tim Robbins) charged with murder is sent to a high-security prison where he uses his fine knowledge of rocks to dig a tunnel and escape.

    In the second, based on a true story, Erin Brockovich, a law-firm assistant (Julia Roberts) investigates a chemicals company that releases untreated hexavalent chromium thus contaminating groundwater and jeopardising the health of local residents.

    Geologist Dr C Singaraja was recently conferred a Dr APJ Abdul Kalam prize for Young Scientist — 2017, by Marina Labs R&D, Chennai, a Medical Research Center and Biotechnology Company. The award was given in recognition of his study of groundwater. Rocks, water, contamination: how does he join the dots?

    “I did my graduation and post graduation studies in Thoothukudi, and moved to Annamalai University for my M.Phil and doctorate work,” he says. “My paper for MPhil was on how tidal variation affects groundwater along the Cuddalore coast. My PhD thesis on the other hand was on the hydro-geo chemistry of groundwater in Thoothukudi district. This place has sea-water intrusion and heavy-metal pollution by industries. I checked the land for the presence of radon and fluoride and their effect on groundwater.”

    He listed the findings. Groundwater is impacted by salt content in coastal regions. In inland areas the weathering of bed-rock leaches mica, fluorite and fluoro-apatite into groundwater. The report educates panchayats and builders about water quality, and the reasons why it gets contaminated.

    Singaraja also worked as an assistant on a project that surveyed soil in Thoothukudi, Dindigul, Krishnagiri, Nagapattinam, Puducherry and Villuppuram. He prepared a groundwater quality index, and pointed to where people could find good aquifer zones.

    The team tested and labelled water quality region-wise based on scientific parameters. “In Cuddalore district we showed how tidal waves and salt-pans impacted water salinity, and how this affected sea creatures. We devised a method to remove excess fluoride from water using natural materials,” he says

    Since 2009 Singaraja has been part of several soil-testing projects and has written 40 papers on hydro-geology. “Rocks don’t change for millennia, but water content does, indicating what’s happening beneath our feet and how it impacts our lives and health.” He also studies what he calls medical geology. “It looks into the health effects of rocks,” he explains. For example, granite, a source rock, contains naturally-occurring uranium and radon, and exposure to weather makes uranium radio-active and radon into gas. These run into groundwater, making it unsafe.

    Doing research on water quality in 100-plus villages was memorable. “Some villagers noticed the instrument we dipped in the water and accused us of poisoning their sources. Others knew what we were doing and asked us to check the water in wells in their homes. Still others requested us to bore wells for them. We helped farmers identify zones to dig for water.” That’s a lot of passion in someone who calls himself a reluctant geologist. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after school. A cousin had studied Geology and was doing well with the Geological Survey of India. I joined VOC, Thoothukkudi, which has a well-known 85-year-old Geology Department. I soon warmed up to my subject.”

    Talking about the water in Chennai, he says boiling drinking water will make it salt-free. “Store can water in porous mud pots, so the pH increases through air circulation. It’s good for health. Check common water for fluoride. Beyond 1.5 mg/litre it could cause yellowing teeth and problems with bones.”

    He adds, “Never buy land or construct houses without first testing the soil for curability; and water for elements within permissible levels. Certain types of soil swell with water and shake the foundation. The effects of groundwater contamination show up slowly after regular intake. Rain-water harvesting purifies groundwater. So opt for preventive measures.”

    He adds, “Geology is currently an important subject. Future wars will be fought over fresh water… Research on groundwater components can get you two Nobels — for Science and for Peace.”

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by Geeta Padmanabhan / November 06th, 2017

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    James Ajoo, a man who grew up in Chennai, realised that his grandfather was a pawn in one of the greatest heists of the 19th century – the Great Tea Robbery.

    Canton, Kwangtung province, China. Photograph by John Thomson, 1867. Image: Wellcome Image

    Canton, Kwangtung province, China. Photograph by John Thomson, 1867. Image: Wellcome Image

    When James Ajoo, a Chennai-based English professor, was growing up, he often wondered why his surname was so different from that of his classmates. It was not a typical South Indian name – for that matter, it didn’t even sound Indian. When he asked his paternal grandmother, her answer was so unexpected that it set him off on a quest to trace his roots.

    His grandmother told him that his ancestor was one of the six Chinese tea manufacturers that Robert Fortune smuggled into India to help the English manufacture tea, harvested from their newly planted tea estates. Some of these estates are in what is now The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. His grandfather was a primary player, albeit a pawn, in one of the greatest heists of the 19th century – the Great Tea Robbery pulled off by Robert Fortune, a botanist and plant hunter who stole tea from Imperial China.

    In modern day terms, there are three serious violations: Geographical Indications (GIs), bio-piracy and the theft of a process.

    James Ajoo

    James Ajoo

    James questioned other older members of his family, but none of them knew anything more. The information he had gathered was inadequate. Several years later, when James went to the US to study, he found the time and resources to further research his ancestor, the mysterious John Ajoo.

    European interest in China

    Since the Ajoo family story in India is tied up with that of Robert Fortune and the nascent tea industry in India, let’s start with the Scottish botanist. What made him a hero in the times he lived in and a villain thereafter? Robert Fortune was best known for stealing tea plants from China, the only country where tea was grown at that time. Tea growing and manufacture in China was a closely guarded secret.

    Trade with China was much sought after by the European trading powers of that time, primarily the English, Americans and the Dutch. Trade with China grew and flourished right through the 18th century, when the English East India Company traded woolens and Indian cottons for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain.

    However, with the widespread popularity of tea in England, tea soon became the single largest export item out of China, while the imports declined. The Chinese made things more difficult by insisting that tea has to be paid for in silver. Soon, there was a shortage of silver and the English were forced to look for other commodities to offset the balance of trade.

    L0056403 China: women tea plantation workers by John Thomson Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Fukien province, China: women tea plantation workers. Photograph by John Thomson, 1871. 1871 By: J. ThomsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

    L0056403 China: women tea plantation workers by John Thomson
    Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
    images@wellcome.ac.uk
    http://wellcomeimages.org
    Fukien province, China: women tea plantation workers. Photograph by John Thomson, 1871.
    1871 By: J. ThomsonPublished: –
    Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

    This is when they introduced opium grown in India to China, which proved to be a profitable business.

    The tea robber

    After the Treaty of Nanking in 1848, Fortune was sent by the Royal Horticultural Society to collect exotic plants from China, tea primarily. The latter was to be replanted in parts of India which was considered to be congenial to tea and thus break China’s monopoly of global trade.

    “The task required a plant hunter, a gardener, a thief, a spy,” writes Sarah Rose, in her award-winning book ‘For All the Tea in China’, which charts Fortune’s great British Tea Robbery. Though some of the saplings perished, the tea seeds brought back by Fortune were instrumental in starting the tea industry in India and breaking Chinese monopoly on tea.

    Rober Fortune. Source: Wiki Commons

    Rober Fortune. Source: Wiki Commons

    In 1849, Fortune disguised as a wealthy Chinese trader travelled to the remote tea growing areas in China and witnessed both green and black tea being processed. He realized that manufacturing tea was a complex and intricate process and experienced tea manufacturers would be required. So, he recruited a team of experienced tea farmers and manufacturers from Hawgchow, present day Huizhou in the Anhui province of China, with help of Chinese contractors called Wang tih Poon and Hoo. Fortune and this small band of Chinese set sail for India from Shanghai.

    John Ajoo enters India

    James Ajoo, now in his 30s, is of the opinion that his ancestor took the name John when he arrived in India, because he had been secretly converted to Christianity by the Jesuits who had been active in China since 1582. The name Ajoo, he says, could be the phonetic pronunciation of a Chinese surname.

    James started his research by digging deep into the available material on the internet. After months of searching, he finally got lucky when he found a log entry made on February 15, 1851 which mentions that the Chinese tea manufacturers are to be paid from that date and the order was to be executed by the Chinese contractor Wang tih Poon.

    Ajoo was clutching at straws but persisted in his search; he combed through endless maritime lists and passenger arrivals lists and then finally, struck gold when he found an old notice of passenger arrivals into Calcutta port on November 27, 1851, when the streamer Lady Mary Wood docked in Calcutta with six Chinese on board. (Most records show that there were eight Chinese – six tea manufacturers and two pewterers, whose sole job was preparing lead casings to the tea chests).

    When Ajoo came to Nilgiris

    James Ajoo followed the progress of the Chinese tea manufacturers who were sent to work in the tea gardens of the North-West Province. It was hard work, (for James Ajoo) for there was but a scant mention here or there. In May 1862, the Chinese left government service and entered private employment for higher wages.

    The next year, a report on the tea plantations in East Indies made to the House of Commons mentioned that Dr HFC Cleghorn, Conservator of Forests of the Madras Presidency, had asked the government for Chinese tea manufacturers to help tea growers in the Neilgherries (as Nilgiris was spelt those days). This report also states that there were no Chinese tea manufacturers available for the Nilgiris planters, and instead “native” tea manufacturers were offered.

    However, may be because of continued pressure from the Nilgiris planters, two Chinese tea manufacturers were sent to the hills in 1864, one of them being John Ajoo. It is interesting to note that these two were not the only Chinese in the Nilgiris at the time.

    Did Chinese PoWs teach Indians how to manufacture tea?

    Between 1856 and 1860, the British brought in Chinese Prisoners of War (PoWs) captured during the second Anglo Chinese war, also known as the Opium Wars, which involved British trade in opium to China and China’s sovereignty. Chinese prisoners were also brought to the Nilgiris from the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca, Dinding and Penang. They were initially sent to the Nilgiris because of the overcrowding in the Madras jails, but later, when it was discovered the Chinese were good workmen, they were put to work in the newly opened tea and cinchona plantations.

    An 1850 depiction of the tea cultivation process in Assam. By Joseph Lionel Williams after Thomas Brown, via Wiki Commons

    An 1850 depiction of the tea cultivation process in Assam. By Joseph Lionel Williams after Thomas Brown, via Wiki Commons

    Many senior Nilgiri planters have poofed the idea that the Chinese PoWs taught the pioneer planters how to plant and manufacture tea, mainly because the PoWs were mostly seafaring men with no experience in tea farming or manufacture. Sir Percival Griffiths, a British civil servant and tea historian is one who dismissed claims that Chinese PoWs instructed planters how to plant and manufacture tea. But records indicate that at this time, Miss Cockburn, (pronounced Coburn) daughter of the Collector of Salem and pioneer tea and coffee planter, had one Chinese man help on the tea estate near Kotagiri, while Thaishola Estate, where many PoWs were housed, has anecdotal evidence that the Chinese planted tea and has a Jail Thottam (garden) even today.

    Chinaman’s field

    James Ajoo at this point, reiterates that his ancestor, John Ajoo, a free man, worked with some planters in the Nilgiris for a short while and was then lured away to work with a tea planter called AW Turner, who founded the North Travancore Land Planting Agricultural Society in Munnar.

    S Muthiah, the Chennai based historian, in his book “A Planting Century” which records the history of South India’s plantations has made a mention of John Ajoo, a Chinaman who planted 13 acres of tea in Munnar, and this plot of land was known popularly as the Chinaman’s Field.

    Somewhere along the line, John Ajoo married a local woman, though there is no mention of that. (It would be pertinent to note that most of the Chinese PoWs who settled down in Nattuvattom, a small hamlet in the Nilgiris where the Government cinchona factory was located, married local women and lived the rest of their lives tending cattle and growing garden vegetables.)

    The Chinaman’s son

    \John Ajoo’s son John Antony, referred to as the Chinaman’s son, was born in June 1869 and would become the owner of a small estate called Vialkadavu near Talliar Estate in which the Turner family had an interest.

    Now John Antony was quite a colorful character and had worked in a provision store owned by an Englishman in Munnar town. He taught himself English, joined the Anglican Church and endeared himself to the English planters in the area. He was a skilled tracker and shikari and in the course of time, became a favourite with the planters for the hunting jaunts; which lead him to be acquainted with the Sri Kerala Varma Valiya Koilthampuranan, who was married to Her Highness Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, the adopted niece of the Maharajah of Travancore.

    A plac of John Antony

    A plac of John Antony

    Anecdotal evidence within the family is that, the marriage of John Antony to Mariamma was brought about by none other than the Koilthampuranan himself. Mariamma, it is said, was a child widow of a member of royal family. Nothing more is known of the mysterious Mariamma (that may not even be her real name) as there is no documentary evidence to the marriage or her background.

    John Antony died when he was 82 after establishing himself as a planter and with a large acreage under him. He was also a founder member of the Travancore Cardamom Planters Association in Madurai district. Subsequently, the Ajoos moved away from the plantations and turned to the Church with many of them becoming pastors.

    James Ajoo has never visited the land of his ancestor but hopes to do so one day. But now he has a story to tell too, of John Ajoo’s long journey from the tea growing farms of his youth in China, to the High Ranges in the south of India. One wonders, did John Ajoo ever think of going back home?  We will never know.

    source: http://www.thenewsminute.com / The News Minute / Home> History / by Nina Varghese / Sunday – October 22nd, 2017

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    JasmineCF26sept2017

    The state boasts of being one of the major cultivators of jasmine in the country . Yet, with jasmine being a seasonal shrub, its cultivation is limited between March and September, leaving farmers unemployed during the off-season. Not anymore.

    Floriculturists at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) are now working on developing a variety of jasmine that grows all year round. Called the improved CO2 variety of `pitchi’ -one that is popular for hair accessorising – it promises to produce flowers throughout the year.

    Though the yield of the variety is expected to be around 30% lesser than the older varieties of pitchi jasmine, it will give the farmers extremely high returns during the off season or winter.

    The older varieties of pitchi jasmine cultivated during the flowering season (between March and September-end) give farmers an annual yield of around 10 tonnes per hectare.

    “However, the price of jasmine during the season is only Rs150 per kg. They almost have no income during the off-season, ” says professor and head of the floriculture department, M Kannai.

    “But, there were a few farmers who harvest their flowers during the off season too, because it yields a much better price. That is what gave us the idea to come up with a clone of a variety that grows all year round, ” he adds.

    The new variety called `improved CO2′ is expected to produce a uniform yield throughout the year. “The variety will give an overall yield of 7 tonnes per hectare, which is 30% lesser than the yield given by CO1 and CO2,” says Kannan.

    “But the advantage is that farmers will be able to rake in at least `700 to `800 per kg for even loose flowers during the off season between October and February. Thus, the returns for farmers will be higher with the new variety than the older CO1 and CO2 varieties, ” he adds.

    The variety is also resistant to major diseases and pests that affect the jasmine plant. “The buds of the new variety are an intensive pink, com pared to the usual light pink, but once the flower blooms, it assumes a neat white colour, ” says Kannan.

    The only disadvantage of the variety is that, with a shelf life of hardly 24 hours, the pitchi jasmine is unlikely to be chosen for ex ports. The Gundu Malli which stays fresh for around 48 hours when refrigerated is instead preferred for exports.

    Multi-locational trials of the variety have been under progress for the past six months, say department staff. ” We have been conducting trials with the new variety in farmer’s fields, shrubs for which were planted in March.Some of them have started bearing flowers too, ” says Kannan. The department has also distributed plants of the new clone to around 25 jasmine farmers in 10 jasmine growing districts including Madurai, Dindigul, Erode, Krishnagiri, Villupuram, Thiruvannamalai and Coimbatore.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Madurai News / by Pratiksha Ramkumari / TNN / September 26th, 2017

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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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    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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