They say educated women impact civilization. Girls, when given opportunities, bring in innovations and ideas that can propel a nation towards its progress. Therefore promoting the education of girlchild is synonymous with promoting the empowerment of women. This #GlobalLiteracyDay, we bring you the story of social responsibility demonstrated by Legrand Group to make higher education acces...
Bicycles emerged as a beacon of hope throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. With stricter norms and social distancing in place, there was a dire need for a reliable mode of transport that would not just serve the everyday purpose but also keep us safe, and bicycles transformed into the role seamlessly.
A group of cyclists in Karnataka's Bengaluru led the way in redefining this healthier alternative.
Members of 'Relief Riders' were out on the road, during both the phases of the pandemic, delivering essentials, including groceries and medicines to the city's elderly and those under home isolation— free of cost.
The group was recently presented with the 2021 Special Award World Bicycle Day of the United Nations for their initiative and selfless effort in serving the community during a crisis.
"We started out with 10 people on the first day. We wanted to help and with bicycles, we could think of carrying out smaller tasks for the ones in need. We started delivering supplies and by the end of two months, we had more than 80 riders coming to the rescue of more than 250 people in the city," Bengaluru's Bicycle Mayor Sathya Sankaran told The Logical Indian.
When the devastating second wave of COVID-19 hit, the country went haywire. However, the riders continued their endeavour while ensuring that the necessary precautions were taken and protocols were followed.
"We grew to 275 volunteers in Bengaluru during the second phase". By the time, the initiative had steered interest in cyclists from other cities as well.
"Cyclists are often seen as the troublemakers on the road but we were part of the solution and not the problem. Our actions conveyed it. More than 2,000 people were benefitted along with saving tons of carbon emissions because it was on a bicycle. Small steps, bigger impacts," Sankaran added.
He recalled the days when the transmission of the virus was on the rise in the city during the second wave and people were scared to even to step out. The delivery persons were overburdened and stores were short-staffed. He said that the mission was to fill the immediate vacuum and to serve as many people as possible.
"Each delivery was made with utmost care. We moved from spreadsheets to a more organised automated system to record and track the deliveries. Data on the people helped, kilometres covered, the kind of essentials transported, feedback from beneficiaries, and quantifying the environmental impact was done."
"Anyone could raise a request on our Telegram channel or place a call. A back-office team and call handlers would sort, validate and forward the requests to the shoutout room which had all the riders available for the job. The rider nearest to the area of delivery would be tagged and provided with the required information," he added.
With COVID-19 cases peaking, two important aspects were kept in mind while allocating deliveries — the riders should not be all over the city and to ensure they were not allowed back-to-back sorties to reduce their exposure.
The group's tagline 'We carry the supplies and not the virus' worked well with their intention.
Sankaran explained that the tagline instilled confidence in people and also inculcated a sense of responsibility among the riders. He said that the riders diligently followed the protocol whether it was to maintain social distancing or donning the mask.
To fuel his larger vision of revamping the traffic-choked Bengaluru into a green and clean city, the Bicycle Mayor has been building a collective consisting of motivated individuals known as the 'Active Mobility Councillors' and other entities to make active mobility, which includes walking and cycling, an agenda for decision-makers and for the citizens.
Pedal For Change
Called the 'Council For Active Mobility' (CFAM), the group is working towards creating awareness that society is empowered and can contribute to solving the global climate crisis by altering their behaviour. The idea started taking shape with the success of the Relief Riders programme.
Additionally, the group aims to act as a unit, with a pool of resources and knowledge in the field, to aid the governments in the process of transforming the metropolis into a sustainable and liveable space.
In 2019, Bengaluru had topped the list to bag the title of 'Most Traffic Congested City' in the world, beating 415 cities across 57 countries. A year later, however, it occupied sixth place in the annual TomTom Traffic Index.
With reports of companies mulling over putting an end to the work-from-home setup and asking employees to resume working from the office, the traffic congestion is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.
"Anyone who can further our cause which is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels or make cities more liveable by promoting active mobility solutions can be a part of the council," Sankaran added.
#My15MinCity is the council's first initiative that encourages people to walk/cycle or use public transport to accomplish their task that falls under 15 minutes radius, ie, to shun motorized vehicles for shorter distances.
The council's website asks citizens to take the pledge and to be conscious of their everyday travel decisions since these can have significant environmental impacts.
"We take trips to our neighbourhood for several things. Buy vegetables, get a haircut, purchase medicines, or anything. If we make 10 trips per week and just take three trips by walking and then another three on a bicycle, we are able to accomplish 60 per cent of the trips without a motor vehicle which is a substantial saving.
Results compound when more and more people do it. More than 40 per cent of the emissions are transport-based in major urban cities which is the prime culprit and needs to be tackled," the Bicycle Mayor explained.
Health, Leisure. Why Still Not A Commuting Option?
Answering the question of why cycling has not been able to become a mainstream idea in India, Sankaran said that Indians have been attaching the idea of success with owning a motor vehicle and it does not stop there.
"The bigger the vehicle, the better. Aspirational goals are linked. The idea, however, is very dangerous because the infrastructure then gets built for the vehicles you buy. There is a lack of pride in being sustainable. If anyone asks you about the cycle, you say it is just for health purposes. This is the problem. Also, people do not want ownership in solving the crisis. Somebody else will solve the crisis, I do not have to do it or whatever I do is insignificant is another fallacy. Inadequate infrastructure adds to the existing list of problems," he added.
He pointed out that the need of the hour is a bunch of courageous changemakers who are going to put themselves out and lead by example.
"It's time to pull up our socks because climate change is a reality. We cannot delay the actions. India is going to be hit the hardest since the population is going to grow and consumption will be five times higher. We need to make judicious use of the resources and maximize the use of existing infrastructure.
We can put six bicycles in the place of a car. If just 20 per cent of the city's population switches to cycling, imagine the space that can be saved and the pollution that can be reduced. Carbon emission and wastage need to be controlled. We need to protect the green spaces and not overcrowd them, hence we need the council that can make plans and engages the community especially youngsters to drive the change," Sankaran stated.
Who Is A Bicycle Mayor?
The concept of 'bicycle mayor' belongs to the programme run by BYCS, an Amsterdam-based social enterprise aiming to fulfill the 50/30 goal. In simpler terms, it is to get to have 50 per cent of all city trips on bicycles by 2030 thus conserving the environment and bringing a change in social mindset.
Bicycle Mayor is an appointed individual entrusted with the task of coordinating between the cyclists, the community, government, and nonprofits organisations to attain the goal. Currently, there are seven Bicycle Mayors in India.
An Indian-origin scientist has started an initiative to offer help and support to Indian students who belong to impoverished families with low socio-economic status and interest in space-related studies.
Priya Patel, a 25-year-old space scientist, has started an NGO called Sharda Foundation, which aims to bring talented and aspiring Indian school students to the facilities of an overseas space agency, like NASA.
Named after her grandmother, she believes the NGO will allow these students to experience space culture in different nations. "I want to bring resources to my own country, where there is a lot of potential, talent and passion for space exploration," she told a leading daily, according to News18.
The young scientist has experience working on important interplanetary missions with leading space agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Immense Sacrifices By Parents
Presently, Priya is pursuing a PhD course from the University College London, which is in coordination with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was able to get the opportunities because of her parent's immense sacrifices when they moved out of India.
"I was lucky enough to have such experience, but now I want to ensure that I share my experiences with students who are truly passionate about space, but don't have the resources to follow their dreams," she said, as per News18.
The scientist was born in Gujarat and later shifted to London in 2005. She is currently working on collecting atmospheric data to study the presence of water from NASA's Perseverance Rover, which landed on Mars earlier this year in February.
Priya said that working with NASA was a 'dream come true' for her and she is pleased to represent Indian women in STEM. She is also training to become a stunt pilot in the years to come.
The International Day of Peace is observed each year across the globe on September 21. Every year, the United Nations designates a theme to mark the day. This year, the theme is "recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world".
The UN General Assembly has announced the day devoted to strengthening peace ideals by observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. The appeal has been to pause local conflicts while the people are caught battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also recognised as a day that celebrates the efforts of people and countries who work hard to promote peace and end rising conflicts.
The United Nations General Assembly established the International Day of Peace in 1981. It was officially celebrated a year later on the third Tuesday of September. However, after two decades in 2001, it unanimously voted to designate the day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.
While many nations have desired a conflict-free and peaceful environment, a world with minimal conflict and crime still remains out of reach. But some countries have raised the bar and emerged as proportionately peaceful countries, with Iceland topping the list.
Why Is Iceland World's Most Peaceful Country?
According to the 2021 Global Peace Index (GPI), published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Iceland continues to remain the most peaceful country globally for the 13th consecutive year. Since the start of the index in 2008, Iceland has consistently dominated the top position.
It is followed by New Zealand, Denmark, and Portugal. On the other hand, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and South Sudan continue to be the least peaceful countries on the list.
How Are Countries Ranked?
The GPI gauges worldwide peace using three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarisation.
It identifies the most and least peaceful countries, trends in violence and conflict, and calculates the economic impact of violence. The Index is composed of 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources and ranks 162 independent states, covering 99.6 per cent of the global population.
This honour is calculated using a number of factors like less crime rate, high levels of equality, less corruption, people's trust in police, low level of violent conflict in and out of the nation, and a cornucopia of other aspects.
Due to deterioration in the homicide rate and a small increase in military expenditure, Iceland recorded a slight dip in peacefulness this time. But the country score remains much more peaceful than the worldwide average on both these indicators.
The 163 countries and independent states are rated across three domains: Societal safety and security domain, Ongoing domestic and international conflict domain, and Militarisation domain.
In addition, the countries are ranked based on their economic cost of violence, where Iceland ranks 157th out of 163 countries.
Since 2008, the world has witnessed less peace. Europe remains the most peaceful region globally, although there was a slight deterioration in peacefulness. The continent consists of 13 out of the 20 most peaceful countries. Only two European countries do not make it to the top half of the index.
Iceland is not just peaceful, but also clean, safe, and worthy of travel!
Iceland scores a 1 out of 5 on militarisation. The country does not have a standing army, and even the police are unarmed there.
It scores 1.2 out of 4 on Safety and Security and 1 out of 5 on Ongoing Conflict. People treat each other equally, despite their sex, sexual orientation, or belief.
There is no 'class system', some people may be well-off than others, but they all live side by side and go to the same schools without any discrimination. The country is also ranked first in gender equality, the LGBTQ community is not looked down on and instead celebrated and religious clashes are significantly less in number, as most people are not very actively religious, although around 80 per cent population is still a part of the Lutheran State Church.
The country also enjoys record-low crime rates, an enviable education, and welfare system, and ranks among the top nations in terms of jobs and earnings and subjective sense of well-being.
The country has a well-functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbouring countries, high levels of human capital, equitable distribution of resources, among others.
Among the other European countries, Sweden is the best example of a country with a high positive peace, with countries like Afghanistan and Syria faring worst on both the Global Peace Index and the Positive Peace Index.
While Europe scored high as a region itself, France as a country dropped by two points at 60 out of 163.
Sister Lissie Chakkalkal, the Principal of Our Ladies Convent Girls' and Lily Paul, another teacher at the same school, took the initiative of building a house for one of the schools students who had become homeless. The girl was a class 8 student who had just lost her father, who worked as a mason and had no shelter for herself and her family.
The two teachers initially raised funds for a 600 square feet house for the girl; however, there was no looking back after that. Both teachers started raising funds to provide housing for those who needed it the most.
150 Houses in 6 States
Eventually, it came to light that several students from the school lived in poor housing conditions. Therefore, the teachers met stakeholders, well-wishers and locals after their working hours to raise funds for the needy. The workers involved in the construction process also donated their bit.
The teachers began with the Housing Challenge Project in 2014, the year they celebrated the Platinum Jubilee for their school. They had built 150 houses in only six years, and the cost ranged from ₹6 lakh to ₹ 10 lakh. The new homes under the project are built under one cent and two-cent plots.
Homeless Free Society
Under the project, over 80 children and their families have gotten new homes and families with women, children, widows and ailing members were given a priority. The ANI quoted Sister Lissie Chakkalkal, "We started our House Challenging Project to provide shelter for our students who were living without basic facilities. Our dream is to make our society 'homeless free'. If people have a culture of sharing, then we can achieve our dream of making such a society".
Lily Paul further mentioned that the project is a team effort of people from several sections of the society, and everyone, including the students and teachers, contributes their bit.
Government schools in Madhya Pradesh will now have dining tables installed on their premises for students, who earlier sat on the ground/mats, to have their mid-day meals. The government has launched a scheme for the same and will establish the first one in the state's Guna district.
Rural Development Minister Mahendra Sin¹gh Sisodia was the person behind this idea. Late year, he had mentioned setting up benches for meals that can also be used for classes. He said it was the best way to serve meals in a dignified manner and not have students sit on tarpaulin sheets for meals, The Indian Express reported.
'Will Raise School Standards'
It will also raise school standards and help students to have well-groomed personalities, he added. The authorities will also teach the students the primary use of cutleries, napkins, etc., along with a brief set of instructions when the meals are served.
So far, 20 schools have been covered, out of the government's target of 100 schools under 80-gram panchayats.
They will be made of cement and concrete, and the surface is out of stones and granites. A sum of ₹ 50,000 is allocated to each school and is being carried out under MGNREGA.