Bitcoin, Blockchain and their Impact

The next Dhwani talk will be by Prof. N. Viswanadham, on bitcoin and blockchain, on the 12th of April 2018. Bitcoin, the most popular of the many crypto-currencies available today, has been in recent news a lot. The viability of a decentralised currency may be questionable, but the technology makes bitcoin possible is revolutionary and can be put to many other uses. Please join us for Prof. Viswanadham’s talk. Time TBD.


New technologies such as mobile Internet, IOT, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, 3D printing, Blockchain, Digital Valets, Drones, and Driverless Cars are creating new industry giants at the cost of old businesses. Use of machine learning and AI is becoming the new norm for decision making both in Government and Industry. Start-ups in every area such as Edtech, Fintech, healthcare and entertainment are disrupting well-established institutions such as Banks, Hospitals, Movies, Universities, etc.

In this lecture, we first introduce the concept of cryptocurrency and compare with other currencies such as Fiat currency like the Dollar or INR. Bitcoin, a digital currency, was launched in 2009 by a mysterious person (or persons) known only by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Any digital currency has what is called double spending problem. Blockchain provides the means to record and store bitcoin transactions in a secure way. Blockchain has many applications beyond bitcoin in healthcare, Finance, Government, Traceability in food chains, etc

Blockchain which is a shared, distributed ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. An asset can be tangible — a house, a car, cash, land  — or intangible like intellectual property, such as patents. Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved. In the food business, Consumers are always concerned with the origination of products, the authenticity of goods and the transparency of their transactions. For example, Consumers want to know that the food they buy comes from reputable sources and not contaminated. We discuss the application of Blockchain for creating food transparency.

The lecture should be of interest to industry folks, researchers and startup owners

About the speaker:

N. Viswanadham is INSA Senior Scientist in the Computer Science and Automation at the Indian Institute of Science. He was Professor and Executive Director for The Center of Excellence Global logistics and Manufacturing strategies in the Indian School of Business, during 2006-2011. He was Deputy Executive Director of The Logistics Institute-Asia Pacific and Professor in Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Singapore during 1998-2005; before 1998, he was Tata Chemicals Chair Professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

He is the recipient of the 1996 IISc Alumni award for excellence in research, and the IISc Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. He was awarded the 2012 Prof S K Mitra Memorial Award by INAE.

N. Viswanadham is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of Indian National Science Academy, Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, and Third World Academy of Sciences.

Professor Viswanadham has made significant contributions to the areas of manufacturing, logistics and global supply chain networks. He is the author of Four textbooks, Ten edited volumes, over two hundred forty journal and top tier conference papers. He has written several thought-leadership papers on logistics, manufacturing, services in India, some of them are sponsored by CII and FICCI and most of them are published by industry magazines. His book on Performance Modeling of Automated Manufacturing Systems is followed worldwide and has been reprinted six times. His new book Ecosystem Aware Global Supply Chain Management addresses path breaking methodologies for redesign of global supply chains integrating performance, risk, innovation and coordination and execution.

His current research efforts are on Food Security, Supply chain transparency using smart contracts and design of competitive business models. He mentors several startups in the logistics and supply chain areas


Geological Marvels that Unified the People of Prehistoric India

After the successful performance of The Prophet and the Poet by Bangalore Little Theatre , we return to regular programming with a talk by Professor K. S. Valdiya of JNCASR, on geological marvels that unified the people of prehistoric India.

Please join us at Kanada Auditorium at 2:30 pm on Thursday, 8th March for the talk.


Extraordinary geological features formed by uncommon earth processes and spectacular landforms located in picturesque locations first spotted and identified by intrepid explorers and wandering wise men of prehistoric times have been cynosure of adventurers and naturalists alike. Considering these geological marvels as special creation in nature, the visionary leading lights of the society of ancient India invested  them with the aura of divinity so that they attract the curious and the credulous. Recurrent and regular visits since time immemorial of people belonging to diverse ethnic groups, speaking different languages, living different lifestyles, observing disparate social-cultural practices, eating dressing differently and inhabiting different parts of the country promoted intermingling, interaction, mutual understanding and cross-fertilization of thoughts and cultural elements. This resulted in the unity of the people belonging to the largest segment of the population.

The Prophet and the Poet

Dhwani returns on Wednesday, 21 February, with the play “The Prophet and the Poet“.


Based on the letters exchanged between Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore over 25 years (1915-1941), and performed by Bangalore’s oldest English-language theatre company, Bangalore Little Theatre,  the play “The Prophet and the Poet” has been staged nearly a hundred times (including at Sabarmati Ashram and at Santiniketan), and has received wide acclaim.

Gandhi and Tagore’s mutual respect and admiration for each other despite fundamental differences over their vision for India’s future are highly relevant in an age when disagreement and disrespect seem to have become synonymous.

Please do join us for the play at 2:30pm, Wednesday 21st February.

Venue: New Auditorium, Sheikh Saqr Building, JNCASR
Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission

Art in Education

An appreciation of art and music is a necessary element in one’s education and we in
India have steadily eroded this aspect in our education system. The next Dhwani talk features a speaker who has worked to stem this rot. Narendra Desirazu
has started a company which brings high class art prints of world masters to create
a museum experience in schools and institutions, in an effort to bring art back to
our schools and institutions of higher education (including JNCASR). He has been
instrumental in developing an art appreciation based school curriculum that
helps a child understand the various elements of art. Narendra believes that children
with an appreciation of arts and music grow up to become adults who will respect
the finer elements of all apects of life and thus become more fulfilled and happier.

The talk will cover Elements of Art & Principles of design, Art Appreciation,
Form & Content, Art Types, Subjective and Objective Perspectives,
Aesthetics & Neuroesthetics.

Please join us for the talk on Wednesday the 8th of November, at 5:00 pm at Kanada Auditorium, JNCASR. Tea/Coffee at 4:45 pm.

Islands in Flux — The Andaman and Nicobar Story

Islands, because of the geographical (and thus genetic) separation they provide, are hotspots of evolution. They are home to some of the most fascinating species of life on the planet, seriously threatened by the entry of human beings into their ecosystems. India’s own Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a case in point.

The next Dhwani talk, on Thursday, 7th September, at 5:30 pm in Kanada Auditorium, JNCASR, will be an illustrated presentation on the A&N islands by Pankaj Sekhsaria based on his new book of the same title. The presentation will deal with the history and ecology of the islands and challenges that will be faced going forward.

About the book: Islands in Flux is a compilation of writings on key issues and developments in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands over the last two decades. Written by Pankaj Sekhsaria, one of the islands’ best known and most consistent chroniclers of contemporary issues, it features information, insight and perspective related to the environment, wildlife conservation, development and the island’s indigenous communities. The book provides an important account that is relevant both for the present and the future of these beautiful and fragile but also very volatile island chain. It is both a map of the region as well as a framework for the way forward, and essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of our world.

About the speaker: Pankaj Sekhsaria is a researcher, photographer, writer and academic who has worked in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands for over 20 years. He has four books on the islands to his credit, the most recent one being his debut novel The Last Wave, that was published in 2014. The Last Wave – an island novel and his new book Islands in Flux – the Andaman and Nicobar Story have both been published by HarperCollins India.

Sekhsaria is associated with the environmental action group, Kalpavriksh where he works on the issues of the A&N islands and also edits the Protected Area Update, a newsletter on wildlife and conservation that is published every two months. He also writes extensively on conservation related issues for the mainstream English media.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engg (Pune University) and a masters degree in Mass Communication (Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi). He was recently awarded a doctorate in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from the Maastricht University, Netherlands for his thesis ‘Enculturing innovation – Indian engagements with nanotechnology wherein he studied scientific and innovation practices inside six nanoscience and technology labs in India.

Sekhsaria is currently Senior Project Scientist, DST-Centre for Policy Research, Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT-Delhi.

Initial response to the book:

In this update of his earlier book on the Andamans, Sekhsaria demonstrates his unwavering commitment to chronicling the life and times of these beautiful but endangered islands. Few environmental journalists in the country have tracked one area so perceptively. This book is a testimony to his dedication.’

Darryl D’Monte, Chairman Emeritus of the Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI)

Pankaj Sekhsaria has been visiting, researching, photographing and writing about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for decades. With the archipelago facing unprecedented challenges from destructive development, this collection of his articles becomes all the more significant. Anyone who cares about the magical islands and their enticements – the stunning beaches, waters, corals and forests, the unique flora and fauna, and, of course, the utterly fascinating peoples – will find this volume to be both highly readable and exceptionally informative.’

Madhusree Mukerjee, journalist, author and activist

Pankaj joined our Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environment Team (ANET) expedition to the remote South Sentinel Island in the late 1990s. We were there to fi lm the wildlife of the island and I have a feeling that it was this trip which started Pankaj’s obsession with documenting the ups and downs of environmental matters that affect the wonderful Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This collection of nearly twenty years of his writings tells the sometimes disturbing story of how we are treating our fragile islands.’

Romulus Whitaker, founder, ANET

The Musical Heritage of India

Dhwani is back next Wednesday with an interactive session with Dr. Sakuntala Narasimhan on the musical heritage of India. Dr. Narasimhan is a renowned proponent of both Carnatic and Hindustani classical music, and is the author of several books and articles on Indian music, including “Invitation to Indian Music: Carnatic and Hindustani” and “The Splendour of Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana”. She is herself a disciple of Ustad Hafeez Ahmad Khan of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana.
Please join us for her talk at 4pm on Wednesday, 9th August, at Kanada Auditorium. Tea/Coffee at 3:45 pm.

Common Cause: A Romance with Public Causes

The balance between Exit, Voice and Loyalty, argues the late great political economist Albert Hirschman, determines the nature of a democracy. Organisations that enable the voiceless to hold those in power accountable are, therefore, more than necessary nuisances; they are essential to the very survival of a democracy.

Common Cause, an organisation founded in 1980, has worked tirelessly since its inception for the rights of ordinary citizens and propriety in governance. Mr. Kamal Kant Jaswal, a career civil servant in the IAS, and the current President of Common Cause, will talk to us about the history and achievements of the organisation, and the lessons we should learn.

Please join us for his talk at 5pm on Friday the 16th of June at Kanada Auditorium, JNCASR. An abstract from the speaker follows.


Common Cause was established in 1980 by Mr. Hari Dev Shourie, a retired civil servant, as a forum for ventilating the common problems and grievances of the people. The organisation was soon able to secure relief from the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking in respect of consumer grievances.

Common Cause was then persuaded to take up the case of old pensioners, who had arbitrarily been excluded from the liberalised pension scheme of 1979. In its landmark decision in the very first PIL filed by Common Cause, the Supreme Court held that central government pensioners formed one class and could not be treated differently on the basis of date of retirement. The principle was later extended to pensioners of state governments, local bodies and other government organisations. This PIL benefitted more than 4 million pensioners and was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most impactful litigation of the time.

Subsequently, Common Cause succeeded in securing family pension for the widows of pre-1964 pensioners and the restoration of the commuted value of pension after 15 years of recovery.

Emboldened by its successes in the domain of liberalised pension, Common Cause took up in rapid succession various causes of public import, including property tax, Rent Control Act, malfunctioning blood banks, grievances of consumers of public utilities, establishment of consumer courts, pendency of criminal cases, police reforms, financial accountability of political parties, and probity in public life.

In all, Common Cause filed more than seventy writ petitions, many drafted and argued by Mr. Shourie himself. His social activism won him many laurels and wide acclaim. The government often sought his wise counsel in the formation of public policy.

Mr. Shourie served as Director of Common Cause to his last breath in June 2005. He had been a one-man army; and after his death, the organisation went into a dormant phase lasting until 2007. A determined effort was then made to consolidate the Founder Director’s legacy, transforming in the process an essentially individual initiative into a collegial, research-based, systems-driven and networked organisation.

In the last decade, the focus of Common Cause has been on policy interventions in key areas of governance reforms and on safeguarding the integrity of institutions of governance. It has never shied from speaking truth to power and pursuing its PILs to their logical end, regardless of consequences.

The interventions of Common Cause, often undertaken in concert with like-minded civil society organisations, have been spearheaded by public spirited lawyers like Prashant Bhushan. Among the notable outcomes of the recent PILs are the following.

  • Revocation of the appointment of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.
  • Enunciation of a new jurisprudence of institutional integrity.
  • Cancellation of 2G telecom licences and spectrum allocations.
  • Cancellation of captive coal mine allocations.
  • Enforcing the accountability of holders of high public office for their sins of omission and commission.
  • Radical reform of the system of attribution of national resources to commercial entities and institution of the system of public auctions, resulting in enormous increases in government revenues.
  • Striking down of certain arbitrary and iniquitous provisions of the Information Technology Act and Representation of the People Act.

A number of PILs, which raise substantive issues of law and equity, is pending in the Supreme Court and the High Courts. Many others are in the pipeline. The instrument of public interest litigation is, however, losing its edge, as the courts are increasingly wary of interfering in the legislative and executive domains.

Under the circumstance, Common Cause has decided to attribute a major part of its resources to projects of research-based policy advocacy concerning critical issues of governance. The most important of these projects relates to the launch of an Annual State of Policing Report across states with a view to imparting an impetus to the stalled movement for police reforms. Policy interventions in the implementation of the Right to Education are also under preparation.

About the Speaker

Kamal Kant Jaswal served in the Uttar Pradesh Cadre of the Indian Administrative Service for over 36 years till October 2004.

Kamal Jaswal holds degrees of Master of Science in Geology from the University of Lucknow, M.Phil. in Economics and Management of Public Enterprises from the University of Paris XI and L.L.B. from the University of Delhi.

During his career in the IAS, Kamal Jaswal held a number of important positions in the field as well as the State and Central secretariats. He also served in the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation as Chief Technical Advisor of a major industrial planning project in the Republic of Mali for three years.

As Secretary to Government of India, Department of Information Technology, he formulated a comprehensive programme for development of the IT infrastructure in the country and piloted the National e-Governance Action Plan. After his retirement from the IAS, he was appointed Member Secretary of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector and played a key role in making it functional.

During his long public career, Kamal Jaswal specialized in the areas of rural development, industrial planning & promotion, public enterprise policy and privatization. In March 2007 he took charge as Director and Chief Executive of Common Cause, a position he held for the next eight years. In 2015 the Common Cause Governing Council unanimously elected him as the Presiden