Nagpur – Center of Learning

Education widely accepted as important for attainment of developmental goals is really the fundamental right of all children whether they are in the city, suburbs or jungles. Nagpur city located in the geographical center of India continues to be a major education hub. College of Agriculture is the oldest college in the country that was founded in 1906 by the then ruling British Government. The historic and heritage Victoria Building in Maharaj Bagh houses this College that was built in 1856 for the stay of Queen Victoria of England at Nagpur!

Nagpur University, now known as Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University was founded in 1923 and is one of the oldest in India. Nagpur with both municipal schools and private schools has emerged as a hub for education in Central India. Nagpur Municipal Corporation runs over 500 schools all over the city. There are numerous private schools run by trusts or individuals. Vidya Shikshan Prasaran Mandal (VSPM) is an affiliate partner of HERD Foundation and it is registered educational body under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

VSPM as it is better known was set up as a trust in the year 1971. The vision was to create learning centers that will allow education for all and at the same time work to eradicate social disparities causing unrest in society. 51 separate educational institutes operate under VSPM that includes a Medical College, Dental College, Physiotherapy College, Nursing Institutes, Hospitals, Degree Colleges with Arts, Commerce, Science, Business Management, Education and the schools in both urban and rural areas.

The school system follows a 10+2+3/4 plan and students have the option to enroll in junior college after 10 years of schooling and then undertake degree courses for three or four years depending on their choice of field. Nagpur can verily be said to be the nucleus for education having countless schools, colleges and higher learning centers. In hindsight it appears that astute political will has seen the emergence of educational centers across the length and breadth of the city.

There is little doubt that Nagpur will continue to grow as a bigger educational hub. Not only in the State but across the country it will have its unparalleled presence drawing countless students from all over the land and outside. Even now students from surrounding districts and states arrive in city with the aim to pursue their education. It is also evident that all these institutions attract companies to Nagpur and create jobs in various disciplines.

Curcuma longa – Turmeric or Haldi

 

Turmeric is really a bulb or tuber (rhizome) not unlike ginger. This underground stem is usually available as yellow powdered condiment in stores. The yellowish-brown underground stem has a deep orange inside that turns bright yellow once processed. To turn it into fine powder used in kitchens, the bulbous stems are boiled for 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens after which they get ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder.

Turmeric is a traditional spice used since times immemorial in the Indian subcontinent. Its main component is curcumin that has medicinal properties. So besides being used to color food it also lends medicinal additives to our dishes. Curcuma longa the plant offers its roots for the wonderful and aromatic spice that flavors our curries with its distinctive indescribable taste that may at best be described as mildly peppery.

The chemical compounds of turmeric known as curcuminoids include curcumin diferuloylmethane, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. The most minutely studied compound remains curcumin which constitutes on average about 3.14% of powdered turmeric. However there are variations in curcumin content depending on species of Curcuma longa. Additionally  turmeric has important volatile oils like turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene. Other general components include sugars, proteins, and resins.

Turmeric is largely used in the form of rhizome powder. In some regions, especially in Maharashtra, Goa, Konkan, and Andhra Pradesh turmeric leaves are used to wrap and cook food. This happens around areas where turmeric is grown and where leaves can be freshly picked. Turmeric leaves impart their distinct flavor. Typically the root is used in its dried, powdered form. Often turmeric is also used fresh, like ginger, especially in East Asian cuisine in the form of pickles.

In medieval Europe turmeric was commonly known as Indian saffron since it became an alternative to the expensive saffron. Although in India it is readily available even so the powdered form may be subject to adulteration. It may include toxic, cheaper agents similar in color like lead (II, IV) oxide that gives adulterated turmeric its orange-red color instead of original gold-yellow. Another common adulterant could be metanil yellow or acid yellow 36 that is an illegal dye used in foods.

Turmeric is often known as the Queen of Spices. Its distinct aroma and golden color is loved by true gourmands. As per the Journal of American Chemical Society, turmeric contains a wide range of antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains many healthy nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. It is said turmeric can inherently treat a wide variety of health problems.

Here are ten best known benefits of Turmeric:

  • Turmeric Contains Bioactive Compounds with Powerful Medicinal Properties.
  • Curcumin is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound.
  • Turmeric Dramatically Increases The Antioxidant Capacity of The Body.
  • Curcumin Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Linked to Improved Brain Function and a Lower Risk of Brain Diseases.
  • Curcumin Leads to Various Improvements that Lower Risk of Heart Disease
  • Turmeric Can Help Prevent (And Perhaps Even Treat) Cancer.
  • Curcumin May be Useful in Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Arthritis Patients Respond Very Well to Curcumin Supplementation.
  • Studies Show That Curcumin Has Incredible Benefits against Depression.
  • Curcumin May Help Delay Aging and Fight Age-Related Chronic Diseases

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World Water Day Reflections

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It was in 1993 that U.N. General Assembly designated March 22 as World Water Day. This would have occurred in the wake of deepening water crisis and ever diminishing water resources that were perpetually threatened. Access to safe drinking water in many parts of the world is a dim reality. And to warn everybody around the world of this scarce critical resource the World Water Day becomes very important.

Step outside our cities, where we have municipal bodies managing the distribution of water through pipelines, our rural areas are bereft of safe drinking water. The coming summer season portends impending water shortages when all the streams and ponds will dry up. The task of finding water and carrying it home befalls women and girls who will have to carry pitchers and pots on their heads everyday for their daily needs.

Each year the ground water levels are receding. With the coming summer serious concerns about water scarcity will affect both urban and rural people. It will affect their health and well being without access to clean water. Even wells, hand-pumps and bore-wells go dry. This is why rain water harvesting becomes so very essential to conserve water.

Perhaps this is why March 22 was marked out to warn people to learn to conserve water resources. This year’s thematic report published by UN Water is on ‘Waste Water’. It is an effort to highlight the fact that more than 80% of waste water is not utilized. In our own country nearly 90% of water is wasted after use. How do we save this essential resource? Here are important tips to save water in your own way:

  • Fix aerators, faucets or low-flow shower heads that will cut water use at the source in half.
  • Fix leaking pipes or tanks immediately as it can result in wasting huge amounts in just few days.
  • Stop washing your car from water pipes. Instead use a bucket and mop it clean.
  • Install a rain barrel on the roof to collect runoff rain water and use it for plants or lawn.
  • Stop buying bottled water! It takes 3 liters of water to make every 1-liter bottle of water even before it is used for water to be put it in! Use a glass or steel bottle.
  • If you must water a lawn, do it very early in the morning or late evening to minimize evaporation.
  • If you really want to be conscious, don’t have a lawn at all! Replace it with a vegetable garden or landscape it with drought-resistant plants.
  • Limit showers to five minutes or less.
  • Turn off taps while brushing your teeth.
  • Use leftover water to nourish pots and plants.
  • Convert your toilet to a dual flush, and don’t flush it more than necessary.
  • NEVER THROW WATER AWAY.

World Happiness Day

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Don’t Worry – Be Happy

March 20, 2017, World Happiness Day perhaps made us all smile wondering what this was all about. International Day of Happiness celebrated throughout the world on the 20th of March was founded by United Nations adviser Jayme Illien when all 193 member states of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopting the resolution. First celebrated in 2013, this fun day was established to remind that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.

It is not a bad idea to set aside a day to be happy about all things we may take for granted. Things like good health, friends and families to go back to each day. Not many of us perhaps know that neighboring Sikkim has established a Gross National Happiness index. They did this way back in the seventies. When their annual per capita income was about $2,300, they believed that material wealth, measured by GDP was not a meaningful measurement of human happiness!

United Nations suggest that the day be celebrated in “an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities.” You may do little things to make each other happy. According to the UN, we can all help achieve these aims with simple actions like turning off unnecessary lights, riding a bike or walking, and speaking up against social injustice and harassment.

Or you may try simple things like enjoying your favorite music, do a good deed, treat yourself, and enjoy a nice conversation. It may also be a day when you decide to be free of digital devices! And to enjoy the fresh air, green grass and blue skies. A simple invigorating walk might have your endorphin rising. Perhaps it’s a day to remind us all that it is the simple things that really make us happy. Or that small joys are always around us – just reach out for them. Keep smiling!

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Joy on Your Fingertips

HERD Organic Farms Chargaon

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Two years back Herd Organic Farms began cultivating and producing organic produce. Looking to the fact that organic agri-produce needed a shot in the arm to boost both adoption of cultivation practices and adaption to modify eating habits, HERD Organic Farms at Chargaon became part of the revival of traditional agricultural practices, to revert back to as they were prior to advent of chemical fertilizers.

The organic agriculture scene today may not be exploding with organic produce but its demand and popularity is certainly rising steadily. More and more people are getting into the organic food fold and they do so because it is safer, healthier and tastier. Additionally it is better for the environment too – for the soil, land, water and the well-being of animals.

Organic food actually focuses on the process of how such crops are produced. They are grown without the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. And to be recognized as organic a product must be free of artificial food additives, so no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, coloring, or flavoring. In fact organic farming grows crops using natural fertilizers like home grown manure to improve plant growth. The pesticides used for weeds or pests are also non-chemical. Organic farming improves soil quality, conserves groundwater, reduces pollution and is good for the environment.

Commonly grown organic foods include variety of fruits and vegetables, grains and more. Nowadays you may even buy processed organic products that are increasingly being made available by a growing organic producer’s community. HERD Organic Farms produces organic turmeric and sells it after careful packaging. The medicinal qualities of turmeric are well known and grown organically the processed product becomes more beneficial.

Evidence suggests foods grown organically are more nutritious since they contain plentiful antioxidants and vitamins. Study after study has proved that organic foods generally contain higher levels of micronutrients like vitamin C, zinc and iron. In fact, it is said antioxidant levels can be up to 55% higher in these foods! In fact many varieties of organically grown fruits and vegetables contained over 50% more antioxidants and higher amounts of vitamin C.

So if one replaces regular fruits and vegetables with organic fruits and vegetables they derive extra antioxidants in their diet. This would be like eating 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables! Since organic plants are not dependent on chemical pesticides to safeguard them they produce more of their own protective compounds or antioxidants. This explains their higher levels of antioxidants.

Of course nutrient content may vary even in organic produce depending on varied factors like soil quality, weather conditions and time of harvest. Evidence suggests that consuming these foods reduces exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Many people therefore choose to eat organic for this reason alone, and that is to avoid artificial chemicals.

HERD Organic Farms is convinced that we need to act as a motivating agent to inspire rural farmers to take up organic farming practice. We hope to set an example in the rural region that growing organic foods is ultimately good for all. As more people demand organic food this will produce a domino effect to alter the economics and most certainly make it a profitable venture, in good time.

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Death by Pollution

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Stop Power Projects in Populated Rural Regions

The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO

Early this month a news release from World Health Organization dated March 6, 2017 stated that more than 1 in 4 deaths of children less than 5 years of age were attributed to unhealthy environments. Environmental risks, that include both indoor and outdoor air pollution, like second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, every year!

How do we fare on the score in India and closer home around our own urban and
rural environs? Earlier on we were contending with death among children aged 1 month to 5 years with diseases like diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia. These were at least prevented by medical interventions known to reduce risks and with access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.

But polluted environments are now becoming more deadly especially for younger children. The WHO report mentions that – “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.” Harmful exposures actually may start even in the mother’s womb to increase risk of premature births.

Further when infants are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke they have increased risks. Exposure to air pollution may also increase their lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Another WHO report provides a comprehensive overview of the environment’s impact on children’s health. The challenges escalate with each passing year.

We in India too are seeing ongoing and emerging environmental threats to children’s health. HERD Foundation has begun to start investing in removal of environmental risks to children’s health, especially in rural areas. We do not want children to be exposed to harmful chemicals through food, water or air around them.

In the largely agricultural rural communities harmful pesticides do find their way into the food chain. HERD Organic Farms is an effort to reduce the use of hazardous pesticides and to avoid using harmful chemicals of food. Organic farming appears to us to be the way out to ensure healthy lives and promote general well-being, particularly to impact children’s health.

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Stop Use of Chemical Pesticides for Agriculture

Why Organic – Why Not Organic

980xThe last decade has seen growing concern all over the world about what we are eating. What we put in our mouths or what we put on our table for our children to eat requires ever closer attention than before. Closer home Beejotsav Nagpur has been drawing attention to this issue. It is essential to understand what organic produce is. All food items grown without use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation are good wholesome food.

Choosing organic foods is therefore the way to benefit public health as well as the health of the earth. Beejotsav Nagpur attempts to do just that. Comprising of a dedicated band of civic conscious activists, urban farmers, rural farmers, organic consumers and more, they also focus on a core dimension of this issue – saving organic seeds. The conservation and propagation of organic and especially heirloom seeds is at the heart of Beejotsav’s endeavors.

Why should one be going in for organic food at all? For one it is safe for our health as it is chemical free. Studies prove that organically grown food has higher amounts of Vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorous, and iron. These nutrients are vital for healthy functioning of our bodies. Organic fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and antioxidants which provide energy and keeps the cells in the body young and well nourished.

The moot question is why one should put chemicals in the body. Organic foods avoid using synthetic pesticides that are rampant in non-organic conventional agriculture. Chemical pesticides and herbicides are linked to birth defects, obesity, diabetes and other health issues. While organic foods limit your exposure to carcinogens by removing toxins from food. Each time you choose organic you choose to leave these chemicals off your plate.

Importantly, organic agriculture is great for the earth and its precious soil. Organic farmers face the same challenges as non-organic farmers with regard to weeds, pests, diseases, drought, floods, and nutrient requirements. But they have made the decision to grow food in a way that protects the soil. Organic farmers focus on preserving the soil for future generations by farming in a way that sustains nutrients and harbors beneficial organisms. Organic farming neither causes nor leads to soil erosion, groundwater contamination, dead zones or loss of biodiversity. We now know that organic agriculture limits the effects of climate change too. Organic farmers are extremely dedicated to the excellent quality of their soil. Sustained organic farming will positively impact that soil to keep it healthy forever.

Yes, organic farming and production practices are costlier and more time consuming than present agriculture practices. But the care that goes into growing organic fruits and vegetables is well worth the investment. Demanding more organic produce is a sure way to work out the economics. For all of us who believe in healthy eating we have options to buy organic produce from Beejotsav, HERD Farms, Nagpur Organic Farmers and a host of rural farmers who have on offer good organic produce. Over 35 farmers from Vidarbha would be selling organic products, grains and indigenous seeds at Mure Memorial Grounds on 7-8-9 April. Look it up!!

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The Beat is On…

Maharashtra Police Recruitment 2017

Nagpur Police has advertised for vacancies for constable’s post for which the last date is March 17th. HERD Foundation is spreading the good word and informing suitable candidates to understand the job implications. A police constables job is pretty strenuous. They need to put in long, tough hours and their duties include being part of bandobast or special assignments. Aside from the hours they put in they also undertake sensitive and hazardous jobs. For in the final count a police constable is a law enforcement officer.

Law enforcement in India broadly follows the British model of policing. However in India there is a far more complex structure involved. Constables are appointed once they meet up with stipulated educational requirements and take an examination. They need to undergo both written and physical exam for selection. The written exam consists of 200 questions that tests general knowledge of candidates. The written test is simple and can be taken with due  preparation.

Once written exam is cleared, there is a physical test which requires the candidate to run for 1 mile (1.6 kms) in 6 minutes. For women it is 1 kms in 6 min. High Jump requirement of 4 foot and long jump of 12 foot. Some states require shot put throw up to 16 feet for men and up to 10 feet for women.

Constables work under the head constable who is a senior constable and one who leads the team of constables. A stipendiary cadet trainee constable falls in the age group of 18-22 years and both men and women can apply. After successful completion of training, constables may work in police stations also find placement as warders in prisons or correctional facilities.

The police constable or PC is the lowest police ranking official. Since general law and order in India is a state subject, each state government recruits police constables as per set directives. A police constable has no shoulder insignia while a Head Constable has one strip or one Chevron depending upon the state.

Since each state has its own police force, the uniforms and insignia of the police varies, though the rank structure is generally the same. All police constables wear khaki colored uniform which indicates that he/she is a police officer. Police constables have been seen in possession of guns but their ability to use them is known to be subjected to authorization passed by the chain of command in the police force.

The pay grade for police constable position is fairly good and comes with neat perks. Selected candidates can expect to reach to the level of police inspector by retirement. In general Indian police constables do not carry firearms when on regular duty, though they are always available at police stations. They are allotted batons, helmets and other anti-riot gear when needed. HERD Foundation hopes all qualifying aspirants will look up and explore this avenue. The beat is on!

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Looking Beyond Seed Wars…

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Conserving indigenous seeds

Seed. Source of life. Embodiment of biological diversity. Link between evolution. Common property of tilling communities. Seed sovereignty is the base for food sovereignty. Seed freedom is the foundation for food freedom. This is why one needs to save our seeds. Especially, from being stolen, appropriated and sold back proprietorially by money-mongering corporations. The great seed robbery has to stop!

Several farsighted ngo’s and individuals in India are joining hands against genetically engineered seeds and crops. GMOs have unleashed seed wars and now the world is awash with me-know-best knowledge wars! Without getting into the veracity of claims about who is right and who is wrong, one thing is for certain – genetic engineering is simply to get patents on seeds to be collected as royalties!

And the only traits these corporations have introduced into plants through genetic engineering are toxic traits of Bt toxin and herbicide resistance. Other than being noxious, these traits have not reduced chemical use. Studies in Vidarbha show a 13 fold increase in pesticide use since Bt cotton was introduced. The data on increased chemical use shows that the claim that Bt toxin crops will reduce pesticide use and herbicide resistant crops will reduce herbicide use, is false.

Corporations assert intellectual property rights on seeds, biodiversity and life forms! But seeds are not an invention. They embody biological evolution and centuries of breeding by farmers. How can a corporation claim patent on traits that nature and farmers evolved. But now they pirate on traits like aromas, low-gluten, salt-tolerant, and even climate resilient crops! This is neither innovation nor invention. It is bio-piracy all in the name of greed and business as usual.

The future of the seed, the future of food and the future of farmers lies in conservation of biodiversity of our seeds. It is a great big myth being propagated that we need to hand over our seed supply to corporations to increase food production. The truth is farmers’ varieties when used in agro-ecological systems have the potential to double food production in 10 years as suggested by UNO.

Mure Memorial Grounds are to be the venue for the seed festival in Nagpur on April 7-8-9, 2017. HERD Foundation as an integral part of the agenda for Beejotsav Festival celebrates organic farming. More people need to join in to check the exhibition-cum-sale of diverse indigenous seeds, seed diversity, organic farm produce, organic dishes, organic clothing, and books – all put in place to better understand the need for healthy eating and sustainable agriculture. Let us all celebrate indigenous seeds. Celebrate seed diversity! Celebrate organic seeds! Celebrate Organic Food!

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A growing organic market

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Hope At Last! First Patient with Sickle Cell Disease Treated in Paris

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Keith Haring Necker Chidren’s Hospital,Paris

 

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Imagine Institute

 

News published on 2 March 2017, in New England Journal of Medicine states that remission of the signs of sickle cell disease of the first patient in the world was recorded after being treated with gene therapy. The treatment was undertaken for a French teenager with sickle cell disease which is a group of inherited blood disorders with abnormal hemoglobin in red blood cells that causes blood to clog in tiny vessels and organs.

The team from Necker Children’s Hospital, AP-HP and Imagine Institute (AP-HP/Inserm/Université Paris Descartes) led by Marina Cavazzana conducted the gene therapy from October 2014 with a phase I clinical trial/II in the 13 year old patient with severe sickle cell disease. This disease affects known segments in the world – Africa, Middle East, Caribbean and among Asian origin people. Worldwide 275,000 babies are born with it every year. In India tribal populations are largely afflicted with the disease.

The results of this life-long disease remain complex and varied. Patients suffer from bouts of severe anemia due to the inefficient transport of oxygen. They are also at higher risk of contracting major infections and can suffer from occasional, extremely painful spasms known as sickle cell crises. Stunted growth and strokes are also symptoms in some cases.

Conventional medicine does not cure sickle cell disease. Till date the only way to attempt to cure it has been to use bone marrow or stem cell transplants from a healthy donor to allow the patient’s body to produce healthy blood cells. Although this works but risks of dangerous immune response (transplanted cells begin attacking patient’s normal cells) is too high.

Now we see this case of a teenager in the Paris hospital since 2014 who underwent the unique new therapy. A specific gene that induces “anti-sickling” effect on red blood cells was inserted into the patient’s own stem cells using a modified virus. The cells were then allowed to transform into red blood cells and they began to proliferate in the patient’s body. Fifteen months later the boy, now 15, is not suffering from any of the effects of sickle cell disease.

It appears that at least 50 percent of his blood cells have normal hemoglobin and are normally shaped. Although this isn’t a cure for the disease, the treatment has proven effective as the symptoms have been quashed and he is off all other forms of medication and treatment. “Since therapy was applied, he hasn’t had any pain, any complications. He is free of any transfusions. He plays sports and goes to school,” said Dr. Philippe Leboulch, an author of the new research and a professor of medicine at the University of Paris. “So we are quite pleased with the results.”

The gene therapy was invented by scientists at Bluebird Bio based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They’ve treated six other patients with sickle cell disease in the same way, and although the results have yet to be published, it appears that it has not worked as successfully in all of them just yet. However, trials are still taking place, and the future is looking increasingly bright for those with this unfortunate condition.

And now there is hope for patients!

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