Amit Paranjape’s Blog

‘वसंत व्याख्यानमाला’ (Vasant Vyakhyanmala- Spring Lecture Series) – A Great 143 Year Tradition

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune, Uncategorized by Amit Paranjape on April 20, 2017

The 143rd edition of  the month long ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series),starts April 21 at Tilak Smarak Mandir. This lecture series was originally started by Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade in 1875.

I had written an article about this great 143 year tradition few years back, and I am reproducing a version of that below. I have also included the schedule for this year’s lecture series (click on the images at the end of this article). Do try to attend as many lectures as you can! Do note, many of the lectures are in Marathi (a few are in English). Please use the hash tag: #VasantVyakhyanmala or #वसंतव्याख्यानमाला when you tweet about these lectures.

This year’s schedule covers a series of topics including politics, governance, history, civic issues, music, literature, healthcare and many more. Good line up of speakers this year with a variety of different experience.

Some of the interesting speakers to look forward, over the month: Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, Mayor of Pune, Mukta Tilak, Dr. Madhavrao Gadgil, Pramod Choudhari and many more.

___________________

(blog-post from 2012 about Vasant Vyakhyanmala)

In recent years, TED and TEDx events are getting quite popular. They do a great job of presenting ideas from various experts and thought leaders. The first TED India event was very well received and many TEDx events have been held in various cities in India over the past year.

But did you know that an event similar in concept, but covering a broader range of topics, has been going on in Pune for 136 years! The great tradition of the ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (translation: ‘Spring Lecture Series’) was started by Justice M.G. Ranade in 1875. The idea was to present a variety of lectures, across various topics to the people. In those days, newspapers were in their infancy (Kesari had not yet started) and live lectures were the most effective medium for knowledge transfer.

Since the 18th century Peshwa era, Pune has always been a center of knowledge and education. Post the fall of the Maratha Empire in 1818, Pune city witnessed a tough period lasting for a few decades. The city’s economy was in shambles. Many scholars and learned experts left the city. Things started to improve towards the later half of the 19th century, under visionary leaders such as Justice Ranade (and later on Lokmanya Tilak).

Ranade, Tilak and other leaders of that period clearly saw the value of ‘Information’. The citizens had to be educated and informed. The Vasant Vyankhyanmala initiative was born out of the need to disseminate information and create awareness. Justice Ranade delivered the first lecture in 1875 in English. Over the years though, most lectures have been delivered in Marathi. Through its rich 137 year history, there have been very rare occasions, where the series had to be cancelled. For many years,  the Vasant Vyankhyanmala was held at Hirabag and Belbag. It has been held at its present venue – Tilak Smarak Mandir, for many decades. Today, this series covers wide ranging topics such as Culture, Arts, Economics, Science, Health, Governance, History, etc.

While I have followed this lecture series over the years through media coverage, this was my first year attending it.  The event format and the organization was very good. The only negative in my view was the number of attendees (probably less than 500). In the pre-independence era, 1000s attended these lectures. Today, there are many other media sources for getting information, but an informative and thought-provoking live lecture is still a very powerful source. If you are in Pune, you should definitely try and attend at least some of these lectures, over the next 3 weeks. The lectures are virtually free to attend (Single lecture ticket costs Rs 5 and the season ticket is Rs 100).

There is a need to get the word out regarding Vasant Vyakhyanmala. More media publicity and social media presence will definitely help. I do hope that in the next few years, this great tradition that started in 1875 will continue to thrive, and reach much bigger audience.

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Vasant Vyakhyanmala 2017 - Schedule

Vasant Vyakhyanmala 2017 – Schedule

Vasant Vyakhyanmala 2017 - 2

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Finally, Some Good News On The New Pune Airport Front!

Posted in Current Affairs, Uncategorized by Amit Paranjape on October 8, 2016

New Pune Airport – Critical Need for Supporting Infrastructure… Facilitating Development of South Pune Region

purandar_landscape_3

A view from the majestic fort of Purandar (image credit: wikipedia)

After waiting for more than a decade, we finally have some positive development on the Pune airport! This week, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced the final site for the new green-field airport.

The need for an independent civilian green-field airport has been identified for a long time. With a population of over 6 million, the Pune Metro Region is the 7th largest in the country, and growing fast. The population is expected to touch 10 million in the next two decades. The present Lohegaon airport at Pune is a defense airfield and this places numerous restrictions on commercial flight operations (number of available flying hours, adequate land for passenger terminal expansion, lack of a longer runway, lack of two parallel runways, etc.)

Many projects for the new airport were proposed since the last decade, but with no progress. It was a long wait. Some old timers on twitter will remember my regular tweets (since 2010) about the new Pune airport progress (or lack thereof).

Multiple sites in the Chakan-Rajgurunagar area (North Pune) were considered, but rejected due to land acquisition and other constraints. Finally, this last week the Maharashtra Government has finalized on the site near Purandar. The ‘Chatrapati Sambhaji Raje Airport’ (as it will be called) will come up near the Pargao-Memane villages, located to the South East of Pune, near the town of Saswad and the Purandar Fort. A big thanks to the CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Pune MP Anil Shirole and other authorities for pushing through this long pending critical project!

An aggressive 2019 deadline has been proposed. This is great, but will need extremely good execution.

This new airport can be an excellent catalyst to drive the development of South and South East Pune Region. Over the past two decades, a lot of the manufacturing and software/IT growth of Pune has been concentrated in the North West/North/North East corridors. This new airport will act as a magnet to attract development on the South/South East side. This is good for the long term balanced growth of the Pune Metro Region.

It is critical that a 5-10-30 year plan is created for this area. I believe this area (and development planning associated with it) will come under the newly formed PMRDA (Pune Metro Regional Development Authority). There are many lessons that can be learned from other areas development in Pune, as well as from other cities.

First and foremost, it will be critical to build a good road access to the new airport. At present, the accessibility of this area is not great. The routes through Dive Ghat, Bobdev Ghat and via Katraj Ghat – Khed Shivapur are all not ideal, given the current condition of these roads. The Ring Road project for Pune is another long pending project, and completing this project (at least certain sections of it) before 2019 is imperative for good access to the new airport. A ring road connection from the NH4 near Khed Shivapur to the new airport would be a good first access point.

Here we need to learn from the Bangalore and Hyderabad examples of the past decade. The new Bangalore airport was built in 2008, however the access road (widening the highway, flyovers, etc.) took a long time to build. Hyderabad on the other hand built good road access to the new airport from early on. The goal should be to have excellent road access infrastructure ready before the airport completion deadline.

Looking at the next few decades, it is also important to consider a good fast rail connectivity to this new airport, from the city center. Rail connectivity (public transport access) to the airport is critical.

As I mentioned earlier, the new airport will act as a prime catalyst to develop South/South-East Pune. Proximity to the airport will drive many businesses, industries, education/research institutions, tourism centric facilities to locate to this area.  The long-term plan for this area should include setting up new IT/Software, Business and Research Parks in this area. The existing manufacturing areas (MIDCs) at Jejuri, Shirval/Khandala (Satara district) need to be expanded. This airport will have good proximity to Satara and Baramati as well, and manufacturing infrastructure in these areas can be boosted. A Delhi Aero-City type area should also be planned to locate hotels and businesses near the airport complex.

One important infrastructure piece that is lacking in Pune today is a good international standard expo and convention center. This should be ideally build near the new airport as well.

In addition to Pune, Panchagani and Mahabaleshwar will have very easy access from this new airport (less than 100 km). Similarly, the majestic forts of Purandar, Rajgad, Torna and Sinhagad are also nearby. If a good plan is developed, this airport can drive more tourism in the Pune region (including neighboring districts).

Pune has been lagging behind all the other metros on many of the key infrastructure projects (Airport, Metro, Ring Road, etc.). We have a lot of catch up to do, and fast execution is going to be of paramount importance. Whether that happens or not …. it remains to be seen. But at least as far as the airport is concerned, I am more optimistic this week, than I was at any point in the past 10 years!

We need more ISROs, and more government led strategic R&D investments

Posted in Current Affairs, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on September 26, 2016

Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, the former Chairman of ISRO, spoke at the 5th Foundation Day of Pune International Center in Pune this Saturday. It was an excellent lecture, covering many details around ISRO’s great progress and achievements, and future plans. ISRO has made tremendous strides over the past four decades in R&D led innovation and has succeeded in developing key technologies such as the cryogenic propulsion system. One thing that stood out in my mind during the lecture was the extent of private industry participation in R&D and manufacturing, and the manufacturing ecosystem.

pslv-way-to-launchpad-vab

PSLV (image credit: ISRO)

Dr. Radhakrishnan mentioned that 80% of the value addition of ISRO’s workhorse launcher, the ‘Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’ (PSLV) comes from private industry. (Note – the PSLV is one of the most reliable space launch platforms in the world, with 34 successful launches in a row – at one of the lowest launch cost per payload weight).

These private industry contributions for building the PSLV come from over 120 large, medium and small companies. ISRO acts as the designer and system integrator, and assembles the final rocket at Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. I had known about the industry participation, but the 80% number was indeed surprising. It was great to note the private sector’s role in India’s space program. ISRO is thus not only delivering great rockets and satellites technology, but also helping build an aerospace R&D and manufacturing ecosystem in India. This is critical. Over the past 50 years, NASA has played a key role in driving the development of a similar ecosystem in U.S. The advances made in space tech around materials, propulsion, guidance, navigation and other areas have many direct and indirect technology benefits in other sectors. ISRO should follow a similar example.

For the ‘Make in India’ initiative to succeed, we need high quality R&D investments in the public and private sector. R&D investments as a percent of GDP is an important metric and has a good correlation with the overall strength of the economy. South Korea (highest R&D/GDP in the world) is a great example. It invests 4.3% of its GDP in R&D. U.S. invests 2.7% (highest in absolute terms, given their GDP). China invests 2.1%. India invests only 0.85%.

Government led R&D is an important component of the total R&D spending in a country. Let’s look at the U.S. example. Here is a recent tweet by Bill Gates.

bill-gates-tweet-govt-rd

The tweet references a link from U.S. Department of Energy (www.energy.gov), where Bill Gates is drawing attention to this:

“Research and development (R&D) is the unsung hero of American innovation. Government-funded R&D spurs new industries, creates jobs and helps us tackle our greatest challenges. Decades ago, that challenge was the space race; today, it is climate change.”

While we regularly talk about the R&D in private sector U.S. companies such as Google, Apple, etc., what is often ignored is the huge investments made by the U.S. government in this area. NASA and U.S. Department of Defense are excellent examples. Another one is the agency that funds important research in U.S. Universities – NSF (National Science Foundation). Many of today’s great technologies and innovations were built on this R&D Foundation laid by the U.S. government R&D investments. Perhaps the best example of such an innovation is the ‘internet’. Just like U.S., France too has made many strategic R&D investments in areas related to aerospace & defense, energy and computing technologies.

Often government led R&D is also driven by a country’s strategic interests. This is very much applicable to India as well. This is one more important driver for government led R&D investments (and a topic of a separate article).

As discussed earlier, private R&D and manufacturing can build on top of the government led R&D initiatives. Yes, there are examples of wasteful expenditures, especially in the public sector. For one successful ISRO, there are counter examples as well. However, this should not deter the policy makers from allocating more R&D investments in strategic areas. It is important to study what has worked at ISRO, and then to institutionalize these processes in other R&D organizations. (This was one process related question, I wanted to ask Dr. Radhakrishnan yesterday, but we were short on time at the lecture).

ISRO represents one of the best examples (not just in India, but in the world) of effective and efficient R&D. The Mars Orbiter Mission ‘Mangalyaan’ is a great example. ISRO was able to deliver this incredible project for a fraction of the cost (around 10%) of what NASA spent on a similar project.

India’s goal should be create more ISRO like organizations in other areas – R&D driven organizations that develop important strategic and commercial products – and also help build a private R&D and manufacturing ecosystems around them. As a product/technology matures, the role of the private sector can grow. Where possible (in terms of tech capabilities), the private sector can also play an upfront role in collaborating on new technology development.

 

‘वसंत व्याख्यानमाला’ (Vasant Vyakhyanmala- Spring Lecture Series) – A Great 142 Year Tradition

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 19, 2016

The 142nd edition of  the month long ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series),starts April 21 at Tilak Smarak Mandir. This lecture series was originally started by Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade in 1875.

I had written an article about this great 142 year tradition few years back, and I am reproducing a version of that below. I have also included the schedule for this year’s lecture series (click on the images at the end of this article). Do try to attend as many lectures as you can! Do note, many of the lectures are in Marathi (a few are in English). Also, do share this schedule via social media. Please use the hash tag: #VasantVyakhyanmala or #वसंतव्याख्यानमाला in your tweets.

This year’s schedule covers a series of topics including politics, governance, history, infrastructure, music, literature, healthcare and many more. Good line up of speakers this year with a variety of different experience. These include politicians, historians, doctors, researchers, artists and others.

Some of the interesting speakers to look forward, over the month: Manohar Parrikar, Prithviraj Chavan, Prakash Javadekar, Dr. Vikas Amte, Prakash Ambedkar, Kunal Kumar (Pune Commissioner), Dr. Uday Kulkarni, Mahesh Kale and many more.

___________________

(blog-post from 2012 about Vasant Vyakhyanmala)

In recent years, TED and TEDx events are getting quite popular. They do a great job of presenting ideas from various experts and thought leaders. The first TED India event was very well received and many TEDx events have been held in various cities in India over the past year.

But did you know that an event similar in concept, but covering a broader range of topics, has been going on in Pune for 136 years! The great tradition of the ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (translation: ‘Spring Lecture Series’) was started by Justice M.G. Ranade in 1875. The idea was to present a variety of lectures, across various topics to the people. In those days, newspapers were in their infancy (Kesari had not yet started) and live lectures were the most effective medium for knowledge transfer.

Since the 18th century Peshwa era, Pune has always been a center of knowledge and education. Post the fall of the Maratha Empire in 1818, Pune city witnessed a tough period lasting for a few decades. The city’s economy was in shambles. Many scholars and learned experts left the city. Things started to improve towards the later half of the 19th century, under visionary leaders such as Justice Ranade (and later on Lokmanya Tilak).

Ranade, Tilak and other leaders of that period clearly saw the value of ‘Information’. The citizens had to be educated and informed. The Vasant Vyankhyanmala initiative was born out of the need to disseminate information and create awareness. Justice Ranade delivered the first lecture in 1875 in English. Over the years though, most lectures have been delivered in Marathi. Through its rich 137 year history, there have been very rare occasions, where the series had to be cancelled. For many years,  the Vasant Vyankhyanmala was held at Hirabag and Belbag. It has been held at its present venue – Tilak Smarak Mandir, for many decades. Today, this series covers wide ranging topics such as Culture, Arts, Economics, Science, Health, Governance, History, etc.

While I have followed this lecture series over the years through media coverage, this was my first year attending it.  The event format and the organization was very good. The only negative in my view was the number of attendees (probably less than 500). In the pre-independence era, 1000s attended these lectures. Today, there are many other media sources for getting information, but an informative and thought-provoking live lecture is still a very powerful source. If you are in Pune, you should definitely try and attend at least some of these lectures, over the next 3 weeks. The lectures are virtually free to attend (Single lecture ticket costs Rs 5 and the season ticket is Rs 100).

There is a need to get the word out regarding Vasant Vyakhyanmala. More media publicity and social media presence will definitely help. I do hope that in the next few years, this great tradition that started in 1875 will continue to thrive, and reach much bigger audience.

__________________________________

 

VV2016-1 (1)VV2016-1 (3)

Why the Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail (HSR) corridor should be extended to Panvel-Pune

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 12, 2015

Pune – Mumbai is one of the busiest urban corridors in the country. It connects two metro regions with populations of over 6 million and 20 million, respectively. Today, the commuters rely on the expressway and the train corridor. The traffic on this corridor is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade. There are already plans in place to expand the expressway from 6 to 8 lanes, and to improve the Bhor Ghat section via an alternate road alignment.

1024px-JR_East_Shinkansen_lineup_at_Niigata_Depot_201210(Shinkansen (Bullet Trains), Japan. Image Credit: Wikipedia)

However, given the future growth in this area (Pune metro region may cross 10 million by 2030!), an alternative high speed rail corridor is also critical. The present rail corridor is restricted to 110 km/h (..and to a much slower limit in the Bhor Ghat section), and more importantly has a severe traffic congestion, thanks to the Mumbai suburban rail traffic. The Deccan Queen took less time to travel between Mumbai-Pune in 1930s (when launched), than today!

 

In addition to catering to the inter-city traffic, the high speed rail corridor can also support the new Navi Mumbai Airport in Kharghar (Panvel). The HSR corridor from Pune-Panvel-Kurla will support rapid access for Pune and Mumbai travellers to reach this airport (reducing the need for the new airport in Pune, which has been in a limbo for a long time). It will be possible to travel from Pune to Panvel (120 km) in under 45 min, and from Kurla, Central Mumbai to Panvel (30 km) in under 15 min.  This will enable a great access to the new international airport from both cities.

 

I understand that the Pune-Panvel HSR corridor will be a bit more expensive and challenging given the mountainous Bhor Ghat section…but these challenges have been addressed in many other places in the world. More tunnelling will be required. One advantage of tunnelling is that, it may reduce some land acquisition issues.

 

The Ahmadabad-Mumbai HSR corridor entails a huge investment of 100,000 crores. For a small fraction (less than 25%?) of this investment, the corridor can also support excellent high speed connectivity between:

 

Pune – Navi Mumbai (Airport)

Mumbai – Navi Mumbai (Airport)

Pune – Ahmadabad

 

I hope the concerned authorities (Maharashtra Government, Central Government, Railways and others) consider this HSR corridor as a top priority and start work in this direction. Also, Pune, Mumbai industry and commerce bodies need to lobby for this aggressively.

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