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Children from impoverished backgrounds remain excluded.During the past 10 years when Bangalore grew as a boomtown of infotech it has also witnessed an increase in the number of people who cannot read and write. Bangalore has a comparatively high literacy rate of 88.48 per cent. But when Bangalore’s population jumped from about 65 lakhs to 96 lakhs the growth included an increased number of illiterates – 8,447 to be precise.T K Anil Kumar, director, census operations (Karnataka), said that literacy is a complex issue to understand. Experts said that though the number appears small, it in effect means more illiterate people are coming into Bangalore. Normally, as had happened elsewhere in the state – except Bangalore and Yadgir – the number of illiterates decrease as educational opportunities increase and a new literate generation enters the population.A population growth of over 45 per cent indicates that migration accounts for about 30 per cent, pointed out Prof K S James, an expert in demography at the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore.The natural growth is just about 15 per cent. “Clearly there has been migration of illiterate groups.” There are large scale construction sites which attract migrant labourers.”It is surprising that Bangalore being a hub of knowledge shows pathetic performance on literacy,” said Prof R S Deshpande, director of ISEC. “In Bangalore most of the corporate sector is happy with the cheap migrant labour. But rarely do they think about the children who are brought here.” Children migrating to Bangalore are often busy working or looking after their siblings, Deshpande added.advertisementChild labour is still prevalent in Bangalore despite NGO inter vention and state- sponosored programmes. A nun who started a school in a poorer area of the city many years ago said she made the decision after seeing labourers going to work with their toddlers tied to a tree near the work area. Still there is no good institutional mechanism to look after labourers’ children.There are policy issues too.National Policy on Education 1986 and the Revised version of 1992 laid emphasis on strengthening school education as well as enhancing literacy rate.Accordingly the National Literacy Mission was created and programmes were launched as part of Total Literacy Campaigns (TLCs) across the Nation. “It was literally a social movement,” said Dr Niranjanaradhya V P, fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law at NLSIU. It later got diluted and a project approach replaced this social movement with nontransparent initiatives supported by external agencies, he pointed out. “We need to create reasonably good access to the children coming from marginalised communities to receive reasonably good quality education.” There should be a well- designed literacy programme for all who require it after 18 plus, connecting it to their day to day life. In metros like Bangalore the programme should be in more than one language. ===Everybody loves a good political crisis It is that time of the year when the Karnataka government is in crisis. Everybody knows it by experiencing the traffic jam in front of the Raj Bhavan and the police bandobast that causes further blockages along important roads. Visitors are barred from the Vidhana Soudha.Cars of political leaders are seen parked in rows in front of the Raj Bhavan gate. You get to see politicians, clad in the customary white shirt and white trousers, just like the chief minister. Some look worried. The dhoti-clad leaders normally come from the north of the state; some sport green shawls.Outside broadcast (OB) vans with their dish antennae are also seen parked in front of the Raj Bhavan. The crew sometimes has round the clock duty. Correspondents from small news bureaus have a tough time covering simultaneous press briefings at far-away venues.Many run out of battery in their cell phones and laptops and go incommunicado.The street-side hawkers, however, enjoy the show. They gather at the Raj Bhavan and sell groundnut, bhelpuri and buttermilk – to MLAs and journalists. They do it boldly, right under the noses of policemen who would have beaten them up on normal days for daring to be seen in such a sensitive spot. ===Bangalore to become a biofuel boomtown After IT, BPOs and biotechnology, the next wave in Bangalore could well be alternative energy. Products and processes are in the pipeline. The credit for some of them goes to Dr Rajah Vijay Kumar, a researcher in biophysics, nanotechnology, and sustainable energy.Scalene Energy Research Institute (SERI) that he heads has the technology to produce electricity from waste – food, vegetables, meat, husk, municipal waste, water weeds, spent grain left after brewing beer.advertisementPurely cultured bacteria from SERI’s lab break them all down to produce natural gas. The science is called Microbe Incubated Bioreactor (MIBR).The SERI campus has a gas plant that runs on water hyacinth collected from a nearby lake, called the ‘oil well’. ‘Serigas’ runs a 1.2 megawatt capacity unit that lights up and cools down the campus and keeps the stoves flaming at the campus kitchen for 80 personnel. A tonne of waste a day can produce 300 kg of gas.Scalene has now come out with a micro plant for kitchens that runs on vegetable peels, food waste and old newspapers. Kumar’s logic is that a small home produces 2.5 to 3 kg of waste, including newspapers – enough to produce half a kilo gas a day. That is roughly the consumption in an average home.After developing a Rs 50,000 prototype, Kumar would like sell it for Rs 12,000. The ITI Limited, a public sector firm, is trying to value-engineer it to look more like an appliance. === Chandrayaan a hit with city kids ISRO may have it own share of worries with its giant launcher GSLV failing twice recently, but the space agency is upbeat about its achievements in general.And it makes it a point to reach out to the people, especially students.Senior ISRO scientists travel across the country and abroad to tell people about India’s space programme. They conduct exhibitions in schools and colleges and install satellite and launcher models. The crowdpuller is ISRO’s set of colourful panels that tell the story of India’s first moon mission. In 20 colourful panels it describes the project from its conception to the launch and explains lunar science in simple terms – What are lunar crators? How did Chandrayaan-1 find water on the surface of the moon? Accompanying the exhibition is a booklet meant for students titled ‘Chandrayaan -1 – Indian Giant Leap to Moon ‘. Written by B R Guruprasad, ISRO’s PRO, it describes how ISRO scientist graduated from sending satellites circling the earth at 36,000 km to reaching the moon that is 3,58,000 km away.Cartoons and lucidly written text mark the publication. The readership includes upper primary and high school students, Guruprasad said. Children get to hear about stories of the moon, how ancient Indians viewed it and how scientists have been trying to explore it. It is now running into multiple print orders.