Preserving a Gandhian Dream

The Khadi movement in India was framed as a non-violent protest against foreign control of the economic, cultural and artistic lives of the people. For Gandhi, western economics was a devastating negation of the spiritual identity of an Indian. Self-sufficiency was articulated as an attempt to wrest control from the dominant force of the time – the British empire. However, the spirit of self-sustenance went beyond the rejection of the foreign. Gandhi had a radical and nuanced view of what constituted the Indian nation, that many would now consider not only unviable but perhaps also dangerous. Gandhi insisted that the state empower villages to remain independent economic entities, with local production aligned with local consumption. It promoted a view of the Indian village (historically the truth of this view is disputed but mythically it still holds sway) that existed almost outside of History – as entities that were eternal and unchanging – that were generally left alone by political machinations that were concentrated in cities and frontier areas.

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A Unique Challenge From A Unique Context

The Soligas in BR Hills have been resettled into sub-community/Podu level resettlement colonies after the forest was declared a tiger reserve. This has been a step by the government to stop shifting cultivation practices as well as integrate the communities into the mainstream. At one of these villages, we noticed a set of shared toilet facilities right at the entrance. The toilets had prominent signs that declared them to be bio-toilets supported by DRDO technology (http://drdoficciatac.com/Biodigester/aboutus.asp)

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Lost and Found in Time

Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim. This claim cannot be settled cheaply.
Walter Benjamin, Theses on the philosophy of History


The oldest well in Karnataka, which is over a thousand years old is located in a temple in Kolar district. The group of temples called the Ramalingeshwara group were, according to Archaeological Survey of India, dated to 399AD. It was later renovated by the Chola Dynasty, perhaps the most prominent of South Indian empires.

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Farming Practices – Forgotten or Forced to Change?

M. V. Narasimha Rao,  Executive Director, Grama Vikas is not a farmer but he has more than four decades of experience working closely with farmers trying to learn and understand their farming practices. Over the years, he has witnessed a gradual deterioration in groundwater levels, soil health, and farmer appetite to try new things.

“Farmers are forced not to think. They just follow what everyone else in the village is doing. If someone is growing tomatoes then everyone will grow tomatoes. This happens every year.” Although Mr.Rao is upset with farmers not reflecting on their past and learning to adapt to the present, his real issue is with markets not supporting farmers when their crop fails or when there is a glut in production.

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Water crisis in Doddiganahalli

Doddiganahalli is a medium size village located in Mulbagal taluk of Kolar district, Karnataka. Successive failed monsoons and lack of water conservation systems in the village led to the drying up of open wells and drove the ground water beyond 1000 feet below the ground. The villagers were mostly dependent on supply from a borewell more than a kilometre away, pumped to a common point close to them.

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Decentralising the Internet of Things (IoT)

Quicksand is working with the Open IoT Studio at the Mozilla Foundation to explore alternate narratives for the Internet of Things.


How Open or Closed is the IoT Currently?

The narrative of IoT is currently dominated by discourses set by large for-profit organisations. These discourses tend to revolve around closed systems where the touch points for casual users are usually appliances. Even in such cases as the Google Cloud Platform, which are technically open source, the channels of innovation and usage tend to be very narrow.

For example, at present the narrative around the Internet of Things is closely linked with the narrative of Big Data. The Google Cloud Platform, which on the surface appears to be a fairly open set of tools, including a developer hardware kit, is in fact a fairly closed narrative around sensors streaming data through Google Cloud servers. Therefore, while the systems may have diverse and scattered inputs, the data collected is channeled into a narrow utility zone of monitoring and only through the Google Cloud pipeline.

Even this, however, is a fringe component of the IoT ecosystem as it exists today. For most people, interactions with IoT systems will begin (and perhaps end) with mainstream appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, ovens, automobiles etc. An average user perhaps will understand IoT in her home as the communication paradigm between these appliances. The idea seems to be that these appliances will be able to communicate with each other and with a larger system architecture.

This seems to be not only a benign but also a fairly decentralised system where each household forms a contained whole capable of intelligently making the lives of their owners more convenient. However there are large systems and protocols in this ecosystem that are definitely not decentralised and perhaps not so benign either.

For an average user these systems and protocols may be invisible. However, they are apparent to any kind of careful consideration. A fitness device for example, is a closed electronic system collecting user data and communicating with proprietary servers while giving the user a narrow window into the data collected through an interface. Not only are these devices closed systems built with proprietary technologies but they often communicate with centralised server architectures that are proprietary as well.

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