GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS AND ITS CHALLENGES

Many in this world have the notion that the term Government Affairs in an organization, is related to lobbying. However, to me personally Government Affairs do not mean that it’s about lobbying with a lobbyist group and on the other hand there are instances where the Government Affairs Department in an organization have taken initiatives with the Government for increasing the brand value of the organization and also have contributed for social development. Government Affairs is more than all these achievements. It’s actually deals with big or small projects with a difference. In this world where every move has its own challenge, a good expert in Government Affairs need to have a good understanding about the subject in which the particular job is assigned in addition to excellent breakthrough skills in pushing the agenda of the organization to the Government. In short, the Government Affairs department need to formulate superior strategies and policies to jointly work with the Government so that it serves business as well as the community.

Amongst all key departments, this is one of the key divisions for any business as well as projects to succeed as this is the key contact between the relevant authorities as well as internal departments of the organization. In fact a Government Affair specialist not only propagates the brand but also serves the organization as well as the society. A bigger challenge arises when a said organization faces a crisis. When the entire management tries to set the tune in order, the onus of setting things right so as to put the rising tide in ones favour lies with this Government Affairs department. Starting from marketing a new product to the corporate, Government as well as community to relevant regulatory authorities, an executive in Government Affairs need to manage all.

We often observe that it needs a lot of advertisement to bring a product to the market, but does it matter much, if it does not serve any purpose on ground. An organization’s key departments may be product management, production and planning, purchasing department, the stores, design and technical support department and all need to move ahead with the basic research based on the needs of the community. When we talk about this community, there are various laws and regulations to do something concrete on ground. That’s where the Government Affairs department plays a key role to connect. A Government Affairs executive needs to make research on the recent happenings to use one’s intellect to form projects. So, it’s not just about having numerous contacts but what matters most is how serious one is to effectively to take ones agenda forward with presentations, communication, knowledge and diplomacy. While the job of a Government Affairs Department is fascinating, but it’s full of challenge as it’s always mixed with knowledge coupled with diplomacy which makes the job more difficult.

There is also a need to understand the details of the policies and projects undertaken by the Government as well as other International Agencies in a particular sector so that an expert in the field of Government Affairs can formulate new policies. It requires a lot of reading and understanding to make oneself equipped with the global and local trend in a particular sector where one is making a difference. So, though some may say that it’s one form of lobbying, technically speaking, it’s not so. It’s about calculative move towards pushing the organization agenda with all stakeholders for the betterment of the organization, the brand as well as the community at large. Some may disagree as it’s always not so, as the Government Affairs may tend to have an agenda for the organization and not for the community. While a perfect Government Affairs executive does also serve the community at large, however it depends on the type of human and how eager one is about the passion of doing business as well as serving society with the help of all relevant authorities.

Above Are My Personal Views:

Writer has a decade experience in Disaster Management, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Business to Business & Government Affairs.

(MAINAK MAJUMDAR)

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DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ARTICLE

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a ‘term’ quite frequently used these days and more and more corporate are coming forward to take this challenge. Let it be the Media sector, the Insurance Sector, the Retail sector, the Petrochemical Sector, the Chemical Sector, Food & Beverages, IT Industry, Healthcare Industry, Telecommunications Industry, Automotive, Construction Industry, Crafts, Energy, Banking and Insurances every corporate are trying to find ways of spending money for social responsibility.

As intensive researches are carried on in the best universities of the world, the first initiatives on CSR are generally taken by oil and chemical industries. There is a rise to prominence of CSR in particular companies, we also observe the emergence of something like the CSR ‘movement’ with a aim to find ways to serve humanity as well as finding business opportunities in the growing popularity of the subject.

The reasons are simple; the earth has seen so many natural disasters along with changes in environmental phenomenon due to rapid growth of industrialization. The money received from environment is now being thought to be utilized for the construction of the same. It’s like the saying which states that whatever energy we spent in our entire life for wealth at the cost of our health is later spend for our own wellbeing. These days even customers and clients look at their brands for something new done for society.

Pressures from Media, NGO’s, International Organizations, Government are making corporate to take up tasks which give fast results and are fast visible, which are dangerous because it do not serve any purpose for the community and neither for the organization.

While the world is still researching into CSR, there is a need to understand its long term goals, its long term indications, before any investment decisions are taken. If we take a closer look at the recent rise of CSR, some might well argue that this ‘new’ management idea is all about a recycled fashion; something which again sees ‘business in new way’. It’s actually more than that, it’s about ensuring more humane working conditions for its employees, building good healthcare systems, creating new educational opportunities for the have-nots, making development in areas where people fight for basic amenities and lots more. It’s absolutely not about standing in front of a hungry man providing him/her food with your industry’s photograph. That doesn’t help.

Some of the questions which arise are:

a) Are we investing something which will serve the community in long term?

b) Are we investing keeping in mind the long term objectives of the organizations?

c) Are we really doing something apart from writing reports on corporate social responsibility?

d) Are the amount allotted for CSR meeting the needs of the needy and targeted people?

e) Are the money used for the organizational goal increasing your brand value in real terms?

While all these questions looms around, we need to introspect on our policies and plans with new innovations. Marketing is a secondary thing and brand value increases when those thoughts are put into action and things starts moving on ground. There are industries who had served many in different fields and those industry leaders still flashes in our minds as souls who came into this world to bring a change. Their company values are not counted by their financial strength in billions but by their work which had touched a billion hearts. There are many positive events happening in the world on CSR as Industry associations are coming forward to coordinate and create synergies among individual business approaches to CSR.

Let’s be that messiah for change and lets that thought of change percolates through our minds and together move towards a safer world for our future generations.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Assistant Director in Industry Association/Body

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND GREEN CITIES

Greener City
Green City

I thought of writing this small write-up since it has been going in my mind for last two years. I’m trying to express that thought through the following document.

Across the world, there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of Global Climate Change. Cities are experiencing warmer weather, hotter summers and delayed winters. Even, we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead.

The population is increasing day by day and with no specific control on the increasing population explosion, there is a fierce struggle for land and space. There is also an increase in the intake of food and water. So, all these factors lead to an increase in demand graph and supply chart seems to go down. This is a worrying fact for a city, which needs to survive this trouble times. 

Hence, we need to find some sustainable approach to keep a balance. The approach should be in areas concerning water, land, food and the air we breathe. All these are the basics of human survival. Let us take the example of water. It’s not the simple expansion of irrigation. It had an ecological and social dimension as well and was the key to rural transformation. Providing a limited but assured quantity of water to all urban households irrespective of their landholding is the key for water conservation. Now, to serve such dispersed need, the systems required had to be entirely different – technologically and socially. The population of the world tripled in the 20th century and now the use of renewable resources have grown six fold. Within the next fifty years the World population will increase by 40%-50%. Now this population growth coupled with industrialization and urbanization will result in an increasing demand of water and will have serious consequences in the environment. Already there is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other time in the history of our planet: more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation, namely 2.6 billion people.

(Estimation for 2002, by the WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2004) One must know that these figures represent only people with very poor conditions. In reality, these figures should be much higher.

Less availability of water leads to water stress. Water stress results from an imbalance between water use and water resources. The water stress indicator in this map measures the proportion of water withdrawal with respect to total renewable resources. The depleting resource leads to many tensions over neighbors, communities, districts, states and countries. So, it is a real fact that there is a water crisis today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – suffer badly.”  World Water Vision Report

With this current state of affairs, correcting measures still can be taken to avoid the crisis to be worsening. There is an increasing awareness that our freshwater resources are limited and need to be protected both in terms of quantity and quality. This water challenge affects not only the water community, but also decision-makers and every human being. “Water is everybody’s business” was one the key messages of the 2nd World Water Forum. Indian Cities are no different.

Another challenging factor, which haunts an Indian city, is Green Cover.

As per the report of National Institute of Environmental Studies, Bangalore has a Green Cover of 8.60 per cent, National Capital Region (New Delhi): 8.49 per cent, Greater Mumbai: 6.20 per cent, Chennai: 7.50 percent. The most astonishing fact is that Kolkata has a very less Green cover of 0.95 per cent. The numbers indicate percentage of green cover as a proportion of the total area for major Indian cities. Needless to say, the list — prepared by the Delhi-based National Institute of Environment Studies (NIES), who had made it clear that Calcutta has the lowest green count among all the cities.

It’s stated that as per the established norms the green cover should be at least 15 percent for mega-cities for a population of one – million. Lack of open space and greenery increases air pollution and triggers respiratory and other problems, besides raising temperature, affecting biodiversity and causing psychosomatic disorders among citizens. According to the report it also states that the Green Cover of the city has continuously been depleting from 1.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 0.95 per cent in 1999-2000, due to indiscriminate felling of trees due to various reasons.

Hence, it is very clear that most Indian Cities faces many environmental challenges. Hence a variety of methods will be needed to tackle climate change and its consequences and that living roofs and walls can play a significant role in tackling the situation. The greening of a roof can support rare and interesting types of plant, which in turn can host or provide suitable habitat for a variety of rare and interesting invertebrates.

These would serve many purposes:

a)    Help to reduce global warming and green house gas effect

b)    Help to reduce urban heat island effect (UHIE)

c)    Help to reduce energy and carbon-dioxide emissions

d)    Help to enhance bio-diversity, reduce flood risk, provide insulation and improve the appearance of the city.

Creation of Green Bus Shelters will not only increase the green cover. The mission would be to increase the green look of the city as well as educate the public about the many environmental benefits of green roofs, as well as improve urban air quality and provide attractive waiting spaces for public transit users.  The Green Bus Shelters will serve the following purposes:

a)    Filtering air pollution and particulates from vehicle exhaust

b)    Managing storm water by slowing the runoff rate

c)    Adding an extra layer of insulation to roofs

d)    Providing wildlife habitat opportunities in a dense urban area.

The next concept is Rain water harvesting and creation of Rain Homes. This will together create a Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods. A sustainable neighbourhood is a mixed used area with a feeling of community. It is a place where people want to live and work, now and in the future. Sustainable neighbourhoods meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services to all. (Bristol Accord, 6-7 December 2005)

Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods will make the communities have access to round the clock usage of water, irrespective of the number of people through effective capturing, storing and usage of Rain water.

Wastes and its disposal is another problem which haunts a metropolitan city. Human is behind every developmental sector. The large-scale production and improper disposal of waste has become a source of pollution and further accumulation of garbage has resulted in serious deterioration of quality of life and the ecological balance.  An initiative need to be taken on the need of systemic waste management. We need to have good projects all around the globe to address these issues and plan its mitigation policies. It’s then we can move towards a Safer World for us as well as for the future generations.

For any project to be successful, there is a need to create lot of awareness campaigns. The purpose of the campaign would be to help everyone learn how to make the city a better place to live, in both small and big ways.

Hope through these write-up, International Agencies, Government and Non-Government organizations take up these projects so that we can see a Greener and a Safer World.

Thanks a lot for reading. Please put a comment if your time permits.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Assistant Director (Disaster Management) in India’s Industry and Business organization at New Delhi

Specialist in Disaster Management and Environmental Sciences

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

CREATING LIFE: IS IT A BLESSING OR A CALL FOR AN UNKNOWN DISASTER?

Life was formed 3.6 billion years ago. Some scientist’s are of different view. There are various models for origin of life and is a debatable issue. Religious groups take a different stand. But whatever it is, evolution of life is still a mystery. Scientists after their experiment had arrived at a conclusion that life arose from a single cell. That which has the capacity to replicate, and its progeny replicated them, and so on, with lots of genetic twists and it is carried on from generations to generations and thus we find the living beings in this world.

Imagine all this started with just a DNA (Deoxy Ribo Nuclic Acid)!

Today, every living organism – every person, plant, animal and microbe – can trace its heritage back to that first cell.

Imagine amongst this present day species, arrives some new comers and here we are not talking of some extraterrestrials. Scientists in the last couple of years have been trying to create novel forms of life. They’ve forged chemicals into synthetic DNA, the DNA into genes, genes into genomes and built the molecular machinery of completely new organisms in their lab, such type of organisms that are nothing like anything Nature has produced before. We do not know, what forms of life that would be. Will the new species succumb us or it will help us to move our life with more ease is a question, which time can only answer. If the earlier fact is true then we are into trouble. As, it would be the reason for a new disaster!

If the latter part is true, we can live a better life. The notion of creating life in the lab has plenty of detractors. Some Scientists aren’t convinced it can be done and religious leaders and environmentalists are in arm against this move. But there are also lots of advantages to it. Jay Keasling at UC Berkeley received $ 42 million from Bill Gates to create living microfactories that manufacture a powerful antimalaria agent. (Newsweek). Imagine that a microbe being created that would circulate in the blood and hunt down Cancer Cells, Imagine such type of bio devices that could conceivably have enormous advantages over traditional manufacturing processes and sources of material. Cell machinery that could operate the equivalent of multistep production lines at molecular level, fabricating complex chemical products precisely, atom by atom.  They would also work cheaply and efficiently, fed by simple safe substances like sugar. A few such types of projects are already giving us a glimpse of the power of this new field. The most extraordinary effort is to create a microbial organism that would produce a powerful antimalarial drug.

New York Times newspaper reports: ‘Such Biofabs produce made- to- order genes, the stretches of DNA that contain the instructions for living creatures.’ Sale of gene-synthesis industry are estimated at only $ 50 million a year, but they are growing rapidly. One foundry in Germany, has gone public. It says it expects sales this year to increase at least 60% , to 12.5 million euros, or about $17 billion, New York Times report.

The ability to make genes has given rise to a new subject called synthetic biology, which might lead to artificial life in very few years. Genetic Engineers extract a gene from an organism. Then they might modify it and put it in a different organism. There is certainly a behavior change in the organism. It then acts in the desired way. And once this bio device is designed and properly fabricated, the hard work becomes over – its users can instruct it to make as many copies of itself, by itself, as are needed. This Biodevices could make impossible drugs, including ones that are quite impossible to create through traditional chemistry. While there might be some other biodevices created that act as sensitive environmental biosensors, programmed to detect and degrade specific toxic organisms or  act as indicators like glow in the proximity of a biological, chemical or radioactive weapon. Anything is possible with these genetically modified organisms.

An organization is eyeing an even bigger prize: a self sustaining, highly efficient biological organism that converts sunlight directly into clean biofuel, with minimal environmental impact and zero net release of greenhouse gases (Newsweek).

Now, look at it in this way. Imagine that any of these mutated forms of biodevice doesn’t obey orders.

A species, which becomes an enemy of its own masters, it’s own Gods.

Probably, it would be a day, when humans have to wage war against that unknown species, which if wins, would lead to our extinction. Pope Benedict XVI has expressed outrage at scientists who “modify the very grammar of life as planned and willed by God.”

Some critics point out that Government should devise some regulations for saving Humans from any such mishaps.  “The result is not bioterror,” ETC Group, a technology watcher said in a report, “but BIOERROR” and we write our own annihilation story.

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Please send your feedback in the e-mail address given below.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/