Lesser-known achievers of India shine in Padma awards glory

News Network
November 9, 2021

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A man who cures elephants, a fruit seller who built a school, a former revenue officer who started libraries for tribal children, and a botanist who translated a 17th century Latin botanical treatise are among the lesser-known Padma Shri awardees for 2020.

President Ram Nath Kovind presented them the awards at the civil investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday, November 9, 2021

Himmatram Bhambhu from Rajasthan's Nagaur district has not just raised a forest with 11,000 trees on 25 bigha land in a village near Nagaur but has planted more than five lakh trees in five years. His fights for saving the environment includes taking cudgels on behalf of the wild animals against hunters and poachers and being more vigilant than the Forest Department.

No wonder, the local environment hero, Bhambhu was the recipient of what is now called the 'People's Padma". Bhambhu was one of the 60 people who received Padma Shri award for 2020 on Monday from the President.

But he is not the only lesser-known person on the list.

Clad in a simple white cotton shirt and a dhoti, when Harekala Hajabba from Mangalore in Karnataka walked to receive the Padma Shri award at the august assembly in Rashtrapati Bhavan, the audience erupted in little louder claps for him than others.

After all, not every day do you meet a humble fruit seller with megre earnings who has spent his life earnings to build a school for the children of his village that did not have one.

His 'Gaon Chhodab Nahi' song from the last decade made him famous in the development sector but for the 1948-born folk-singer Madhu Mansuri Hasmukh from Jharkhand, keeping the flame alive for traditional songs from his region, earned him the prestigious award.

Another Padma Shri awardee Professor K.S. Manilal is a name to reckon with in the field of botany but not for the masses. The award recognises his tremendous work as a botanist and taxonomist, for his research, translation and annotation of Hendrik van Rheede's 17th century Latin botanical treatise documenting extensive details of Kerala's 700 indigenous plants and discovery of 14 species along with his students.

Former revenue officer turned educationist, Kerala-born Sathyanarayanan Mundayoor started 13 libraries and the Home Library Movement in remotest villages in Arunachal Pradesh. The septuagenarian spent more than three decades in creating awareness and interest for reading in children of tribal areas there.

And then there is the terracotta artist V.K. Munusamy from Villianur village, near Puducherry, who is known not just for making miniatures as small as 1.5 inches and dramatic life-size terracotta statues but also training scores of others to earn a livelihood.

Similar is the case of fish farmer Bata Krishna Sahoo, who received Padma Shri for animal husbandry. He has, from his own pockets, trained several college students and farmers in spawn production (eggs of aquatic animals) by traditional breeding methods.

The list of lesser-known awardees will be incomplete without the 'Elephant Man of India' or the 'elephant surgeon' Dr Kushal Konwar Sarma, a veterinarian and Professor of Surgery and Radiology at the College of Veterinary Science in Assam. For more than a decade, he has treated 600 plus elephants and saved 140 rogue bull elephants. 

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News Network
November 30,2021

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With his elevation as the CEO of Twitter, Parag Agrawal, in whom co-founder of the microblogging giant Jack Dorsey has “bone-deep” trust, joins the growing power club of Indian-origin executives helming US-based global multinationals.

Twitter’s outgoing CEO Dorsey announced on Monday that 37-year old Agrawal, an IIT Mumbai and Stanford University alumnus, will be the company’s new chief executive as he stepped down after 16 years at the company that he co-founded and helmed.

A report in The New York Times said that Agrawal will receive an annual salary of $1 million, in addition to bonuses, restricted stock units and performance-based stock units.

“After almost 16 years of having a role at our company...from co-founder to CEO to Chair to Exec Chair to interim-CEO to CEO...I decided it's finally time for me to leave. Why?

“There's a lot of talk about the importance of a company being 'founder-led.' Ultimately I believe that's severely limiting and a single point of failure. I've worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders. There are 3 reasons I believe now is the right time.

“The first is Parag becoming our CEO. The board ran a rigorous process considering all options and unanimously appointed Parag. He's been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs.

Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around. He's curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone-deep,” Dorsey said.

Agrawal’s ascension as Twitter CEO puts him in the growing ranks of Indian-origin and Indian-born executives being named to the helm of global multinationals.

In January last year, Indian-born technology executive Arvind Krishna was named Chief Executive Officer of American IT giant IBM after a "world-class succession process", succeeding Virginia Rometty, who had described him as the “right CEO for the next era at IBM” and “well-positioned" to lead the company into the cloud and cognitive era.

Krishna, 59, had joined IBM in 1990 and has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a PhD. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In August 2015, Sundar Pichai was named CEO of the newly organised Google, becoming only the third chief executive of the company after former CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founder Larry Page. In December 2019, Pichai became the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet.

Pichai wished Dorsey “the very best ahead” and congratulated Agrawal and Board Chair Bret Taylor, saying he is “excited for Twitter's future!”

In February 2014, Microsoft veteran Satya Nadella was named CEO of the technology giant. MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, PepsiCo’s former CEO Indra Nooyi and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen are among the other Indian-origin executives who have climbed up the corporate ladder and helmed multinational giants.

Mumbai-born Agrawal tweeted Monday “Deep gratitude” for Dorsey and the entire team.

In a note posted on Twitter, he said he is “honoured and humbled” on his appointment and expressed gratitude to Dorsey’s “continued mentorship and your friendship.”

Agrawal had joined Twitter 10 years ago when there were fewer than 1,000 employees.

"While it was a decade ago, those days feel like yesterday to me. I've walked in your shoes, I've seen the ups and downs, the challenges and obstacles, the wins and the mistakes. But then and now, above all else, I see Twitter's incredible impact, our continued progress, and the exciting opportunities ahead of us,” he said.

“Our purpose has never been more important. Our people and our culture are unlike anything in the world. There is no limit to what we can do together,” he said.

“The world is watching us right now, even more than they have before. Lots of people are going to have lots of different views and opinions about today's news. It is because they care about Twitter and our future, and it's a signal that the work we do here matters,” he said.

A report in The New York Times said Agrawal, who was Twitter’s chief technology officer since 2017, “is little known to the public, with even some Twitter insiders saying they were surprised by his appointment."

But behind the scenes, the India-born engineer has been a Twitter veteran and confidant of Dorsey who has been involved in many of the company’s biggest strategic initiatives, it said.

The NYT report said that in 2005, Agrawal moved to the United States and pursued a doctorate in computer science while enrolled at Stanford University.

“Even among students at Stanford, Agrawal stood out for his strong grasp of the math and the theory that underpins computer science,” the NYT report quoted Jennifer Widom, who led the research lab and served as his thesis adviser, as saying.

As CTO, Agrawal was responsible for Twitter’s technical strategy, leading work to improve development velocity while advancing the state of Machine Learning across the company.

“Even as chief technology officer, Agrawal has kept a low profile. He worked behind the scenes to rebuild Twitter’s technical infrastructure, which had been cobbled together over the years. That led to engineering problems and prevented the company from introducing new products and services as quickly as it wanted. Agrawal helped Twitter shift to using cloud computing services from Google and Amazon, streamlining its operations,” the NYT report said.

Prior to being appointed CTO, he “had risen to be Twitter's first Distinguished Engineer due to his work across revenue and consumer engineering, including his impact on the re-acceleration of audience growth in 2016 and 2017,” company said.

Agrawal also managed Twitter’s effort to “incorporate cryptocurrencies into the platform, letting users send tips in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. And he has supported efforts to be transparent about Twitter’s algorithmic mistakes, urging the company to go public with its findings that a photo-cropping algorithm it used was biased,” the NYT report said.

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News Network
November 18,2021

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Even though the ‘Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020’, claims to protect cattle and increase the breed of cattle, in reality the Act has a detrimental impact on the cattle rearing and market ecosystem, according to a scientific study. 

The study was led by public health specialist Sylvia Karpagam and independent researcher Siddharth Joshi. The study was an initiative by a group of researchers part of Ahaara Namma Hakku collective. 

The study report “Criminalising Livelihoods, Legalising Vigilantism” analyses the impact of the legislation on various communities including farmers, cattle transporters, slaughterhouses, skin and hide curing units, butchers, eateries and consumers.
It states that the justification provided by the government to implement the Act “betrays a complete lack of understanding of how the cattle production cycle works, and the utter disregard for the destructive impact it is going to have on the lives, incomes and livelihoods of the those who are part of the long chain of economic activities sustained by slaughter of cattle...”

While farmers usually sell unproductive cattle to traders who transport them to slaughterhouses, the new legislation which prohibits the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and buffaloes (below the age of 13 years), criminalizes traders who buy cattle for slaughter. Without an option to sell unproductive animals, farmers have to continue taking care of the animal making it economically unviable, it says. The report also highlights farmers lamenting how the legislation portrays them like criminals, leaving them vulnerable to vigilantes.

Further, the measures proposed by the government for mitigation of these adverse impacts are also impractical, it points out. For instance, while the government has proposed to take care of stray cattle in gaushalas, it doesn’t solve the economic loss to the farmers from being unable to sell the unproductive cattle. The report also quotes stakeholders who point out that cattle aren’t fed properly in gaushalas and they are sold on the sly. 

Considering that Karnataka is grappling with malnutrition, the researchers emphasize the importance of beef as a nutrition source.

Karpagam demanded that the government revoke the Act. “Else, it should at least allow slaughter of all other animals such as ox and bull. Now the exemption is allowed only for buffalo, which people in Karnataka do not consume,” she said.

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