Thursday, July 28, 2011

“Asia’s Nobel Prize” For India’s Solar Lighting Pioneer

Harish Hande, the IITian(IIT-Kharagpur) and University of Massachusetts doctorate and founder of Selco gets the coveted Ramon Magsaysay Award 2011 for his pioneering efforts to provide solar-based lighting solutions in rural India.

[reproduced from

Kantamma is a vegetable vendor in Karnataka’s silk town, Ramanagaram, just 50 kilometers away from the glittering lights of India’s silicon city. Till recently, she used to pack up her business as dusk falls. Not any longer. Thanks to an innovative social innovator, Kantamma carries on her business during the peak buying hours till 8 pm.

How? She basks in the glory of a solar lantern, rented from a local NGO, at a nominal daily cost of Rs. 10 (22 US cents) which has helped to increase the business hours by 180 minutes. The extra volume of business generates more than compensates for the nominal rent.

The lantern for the program comes from Dr. H. Harish Hande’s Solar Electric Light Company (Selco) India, a social enterprise founded by him in 1995 to electrify rural India using innovative solar power technologies. Dr. Hande was a member of the jury for Technology Review India’s Grand Challenges 2010 program to pick innovative technology solutions relevant to India.

In the last few years, the program has caught on with the involvement of civil society groups and philanthropic organizations, and micro finance institutions in the states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Kerala. Selco, founded as a social enterprise, works with these groups to provide innovative lighting solutions in rural areas. More than 125,000 households in these states have benefited from the Selco program so far.

It is not just increased business that matters, said Dr. Hande in a recent meeting. Most of the vegetable and other vendors in rural areas are women from poor families and the only bread winner in their families. The additional income generated enhances the overall quality of life of their families and gives them an extra edge in the subtle power plays at home, besides boosting their self esteem.

After completing his engineering education at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, he enrolled for doctorate at the University of Massachusetts. His topic was on rural electrification and traveled extensively in Latin American countries. He was impressed by some of the innovative solutions used there and decided to start something on his own.

Back in India, Dr. Hande chose solar power to fulfill his mission to light up the lives of rural poor. (Read his Notebook Think Beyond Subsidies on Government of India's model of capital subsidy for solar systems.)

Dr. Hande and Selco have embarked on another ambitious initiative, the Light for Education program. Under this program just last week, students at the Viveka Tribal School in a rural hamlet, which is part of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, got 80 solar lanterns.

The lanterns, made by Selco were bought and supplied by the Rotary Club of Bangalore (RCB) in association with Arjun Menda Foundation.

The program works like this: NGOs like RCB and the Menda Foundation use their funds and buy the solar lantern each costing about Rs. 1,500 ($34) and donate it to schools of their choice. Selco sets up the solar lantern charging stations at the selected schools. RCB members have decided to supply hundreds of solar lamps in other needy schools.

Students from homes without electricity are given a fully-charges lantern each for use at home. With assured lighting available, students get to study in the evenings which was not possible earlier. Students have to take it back to the school for recharging and hence there is additional incentive for attending school regularly. Absenteeism by students mainly to do farm work is a major problem in rural schools. Free supply of midday meals in many of these schools have somewhat improved the attendance records.

The power of Dr. Hande’s simple idea has caught on. Arjun Menda is an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur. The IIT-Kharagpur Alumni Association in Bangalore is a supporter of the Light for Education program. The Association has targeted a supply of 1,000 solar lamps in 2011. Corporates like Tyco Electronics, Tulip, Sungard, Empyrean, Total Environemnt have all enrolled as sponsors.

So Selco provides the basic raw material. But the success comes from the wide network of supporters who take this good idea forward in their own way.

And the Magsaysay Award citation has captured the essence of Dr. Hande’s work in the citation which reads: “… for his pragmatic efforts to put solar power technology in the hands of the poor through his social enterprise Selco India.” The Award was instituted in 1957 in memory of late Philippines President Ramon Del Fierro Magsaysay to recognize outstanding contributions in the public and community service. Each winner gets a citation and $50,000 cash prize. So far 290 Asians have got the award. The 2011 awards have been given to six people/organizations including Dr. Hande and the presentation ceremony is scheduled for August 31, 2011 in Manila.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SPRENG FEST 2010 BANGALORE – Inter IIT Indian Music Competition

Dedicated to charity - LIGHT FOR EDUCATION

Venues – Chodiah, Ambedkar, St. Johns or equivalent (will be booked by Monday)

Date – 25th September 2010


6.30 to 7.00 – Registrations and Magic Show

7.00 to 7.30 – Inaugural Ceremonies comprising of

* Welcome Note

* Light For Education (solar lighing for rural children thro Selco run by

KGP graduate) and handing over cheque

* Launch of Outstanding Faculty Award initiated by Bangalore based

KGP Alumni

* Launch of IIT Alumni Club Bangalore

7.00 to 9.00 – Music Competition

9.00 to 9.15 – 11th Hour tunes up

9.15 to 9.30 – Prize Distribution

9.30 to 10.30 – Western Music Performance by Eleventh Hour – all IIT Band

10.30 to 10.45 – Vote of Thanks


  1. We expect all 7 IITs to put up teams
  2. Each IIT will nominate one person as the Group Leader. Already identified

Shanti – Chennai

Ranjita – KGP

Vijaya – Mumbai

Shankar – Kanpur

We need to get names for Delhi, Roorke and Guwahati 27th July 2010

  1. Each band will be given 10 to 12 minutes to perform. 12 minutes x 7 = 84minutes + 6 switches x 5 minutes = 30 minutes Total 114 minutes. Band exceeding 12 minutes will be given negative marks. Within their stipulated time, band can perform any number of songs.
  2. Music should be Indian and performance should have Vocals
  3. Heavy Duty Classical Music not allowed.
  4. Teams putting up full band on their own will be given bonus marks
  5. The team with the largest band will get bonus marks (provided they play in synch!)
  6. Professional Percussion / keyboard assistance will be provided for teams that can’t mobilize full band. Professionals will be available at venue on the same day a few hours for practice. Teams that want to avail Pro assistance should give the songs one week in advance.
  7. Teams can also get non-Bangalore based alumni to augment their team
  8. Children of Alumni are allowed to be a part of the band


  1. Booze obviously is out
  2. Food Stalls will be there for people to buy food
  3. We are looking at keeping Ticket price very low and are targeting at 500+ audience
  4. Prizes will be awarded for No1. Band, No.2 Band, No1. Vocalist, No.2 Vocalist and Best Instrumentalist.
  5. During breaks, we will have MC to entertain people with crowd games, etc. Thoughts?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A sonata a day keeps the doctor away

A recent research at Tel Aviv University say that the music of Mozart has a calming effect on premature babies. When these babies listen to Mozart's music they are less agitated and calmer. Hence they expend lesser energy and grow faster because now they need lesser calories to grow. The research doesn't conclude firmly what the actual reason behind it may be or what specific characteristics of Mozart's music may be causing this, but the researchers do mention about a hypothesis. They are of the opinion that Mozart's music has certain repetitive melodies which may be acting as the calming or soothing effect on the babies. They have also pointed out that similar repetitive melodies are characteristics only of Mozart's composition and not of anyone else's like that of Bach or Beethoven.

After I read he report I consciously gave attention to the music of Mozart and others like Bach and Beethoven. It's not easy to classify if only Mozart's music has repetitive melodies and others' don't, but still there's no doubt that in many of Mozart's compositions a particular melody flows around throughout the piece, very much like a theme music or like a hymn.

Here are some examples.

String Quartet No. 17 in B flat major ('Hunt'), K. 458

Andante-Grazioso - this one is perhaps a very good example of the repetitiveness in Mozart's music - it keeps on repeating like a hymn.

Symphony No. 25 (Titan theme music)

Symphony No. 40 (Salil Chowdhury's Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badha)

The repetitiveness in music having a calming effect may not be a new thing. I can't say if there's any connection, but still it may not be just a coincidence also that all religious chants are very much repetitive almost in all cultures. The Mantras are always chanted in a typical repetitive fashion. There's no doubt that any hymn or chant is meant to soothe or calm our minds. Perhaps it's a very primitive intuition that was known to the mankind for ever and it came naturally more to Mozart than other composers.

I remember that my grandmother and other elder people at home used to say that it's good if pregnant mothers listen to religious songs or Gayatri Mantra or some other mantras because that is likely to have a very good impact on the baby in the womb. I heard a similar thing from Lata Mangeshkar. In an interview she mentioned that her father Dinanath Mangeshkar used to always sing good classical songs and read pieces from classical literature every time her mother had baby in her womb. She even claimed that the extraordinary sense of music in the Mangeshkar siblings might be due to all the music they all had heard since they were in wombs. A similar reference is found in the Mahabharata where Abhimanyu learns about a particular battle art while in womb. I haven't come across any scientific research on whether anything that babies hear while in wombs has any far lasting impact, but this particular research about repetitive music having calming effect on premature babies may be of some relevance. Also the age old Indian belief that listening to religious songs, which are in most cases repetitive in nature, in womb is good for the babies may have something to do with it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jamming for a cause

Deccan Herald: Wednesday 3 February 2010

The evening saw former IIT students belting out a selection of Hindi songs —some old, some new

IITians from all over the country got together for some music, fellowship and above all, a good social cause at a well-attended event in the City recently.

The evening was also in aid of Hippocampus, an organisation that promotes reading habits among disadvantaged children, which was founded over six years ago.
“Many of the IITians used to jam in college and never lost their passion for music over the years.They were anxious to get together like in the old days, play out their passion for music and meet up with friends and family. Many also felt that since they are well-settled in life now and pursing different careers, they would like to come together and be part of a cause that gives back to society,” said Umesh Malhotra, founder of Hippocampus.

The evening began with a selection of light Hindi songs from yesteryears played and sung by former IIT students.
As they sang the old melodies, the appreciative audience kept tapping to the beat and humming to the well-loved old tunes.
Once the band moved into the more contemporary set of songs, many were inspired to get on to the dance floor and rock the night away.
“We hope to raise funds for worthy self-sustaining causes through initiatives like these which combine fellowship and social awareness. In fact, we were quite overwhelmed by the response today as many of our alumni came forward enthusiastically to help put this event together,” Umesh said.

“Bangalore alone has 20 self-sustaining libraries that helps children from economically disadvantaged background improve their reading skills and do away with the menace of tuition with the active participation of their parents,” added Umesh.
The evening’s programme was interspersed with presentations on the reach and scope of Hippocampus as well as with live music played by the talented band.
Besides Bollywood numbers, they also played a mix of rock and typical IIT style music keeping the crowd well-entertained.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lyrics of "Pherari Mon" from Antaheen

Film: Antaheen (wiki)
Lyrics: Anindya Chatterjee & Chandril Bhattacharya
Music: Shantanu Moitra
Singer: Shreya Ghoshal & Babul Supriyo
Awards: 2009: National Film Award

Pherari Mon: The escaping Mind

Alo alo rong jamkalo chand dhuye jai…
Chena sona mukh janasona hat chhuye jai..
Fire fire ghum ghire ghire gaan rekhe jai…
Kichhu michhu rat pichu pichu tan deke jai…

The hues of light drape the moon gorgeous,
The acquainted faces touch the known hand,
The lingering slumber surrounds me with its songs -
Those few nights, call me, call me back!!

Ajo ache gopon….
Pherari mon…
Beje gechhe kakhon….
Se telephone…

Still is concealed
The escaping mind -
When has it rung
That telephone?

Choto choto din, alape rongin, nurir moton..
Chhoto chhoto raat - chena mou tar polasher bon..
Agochhalo ghor, khorkuto moy chilekotha kon

Kotha chhilo hete jabooo chhayaapoth….

Small days - colorful with words - like pebbles,
Small nights - spreads like the Polash forest,
The unkept room - the littered corner of my attic -

We promised to walk together in the shaded alleys......

Ajo ache gopon….
Pherari mon…
Beje gechhe kakhon….
Se telephone…

Still is concealed
The escaping mind -
When has it rung
That telephone?

Kichhu michhu rat pichhu pichu tan obikol...
Alo alo rong jamkalo chand jholmol…

The few nights, call me, call me back!!
The hues of light drape the moon gorgeous,

Ajo ache gopon….
Ferari mon…
Beje gechhe kokhon….
Se telephone…

Still is concealed
The escaping mind -
When has it rung
That telephone?

Guro guro nil rong pencil jochhonar jol..
Jhuro jhuro kanch agun chhoyach dhekechhe anchal…
Footpate vir jahajer dak phire chole jai..

Kotha chhilo hete jabo chhayapoth………

The pieces of blue - the watery moon light of the color pencil,
The shredded glasses and the touches of fire - drape your scarf,
The crowds in the footpath and the siren of the ships - return they all!!

We promised to walk together in the shaded alleys......

Ajo ache gopon….
Ferari mon…
Beje gechhe kokhon….
Se telephone…

Still is concealed
The escaping mind -
When has it rung
That telephone?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Unusual Jazz number in Hindi

There's a song called "Rut Jawaan", sung by Bhupinder and composed by Khayyam for a 60s movie "Akhri Khat". Given the style of Khayyam and also Bhupinder I found this song very unique. This is perhaps one of the best jazz numbers composed for a Hindi movie. I'm sure you would be surpirsed to hear this unusual song!!