The hands that serve: Relief work for refugees from Ukraine

Poland and Hungary – March 2022

When the war started between Russia and Ukraine, Amma’s volunteers from across Europe head to border points in Poland and Hungary to aid refugees. Bearing harsh winter weather, they stayed put to care for women, children, and Indian students who arrived after traveling long distances to escape the fighting.


Manos que sirven a los demás: ayuda humanitaria a los refugiados de Ucrania

Polonia y Hungría – marzo 2022

Cuando comenzó la guerra entre Rusia y Ucrania, nuestros voluntarios de toda Europa se dirigieron a los puntos fronterizos de Polonia y Hungría para ayudar a los refugiados. Soportando el duro clima invernal, se quedaron allí para cuidar a mujeres, niños y estudiantes indios que llegaron tras viajar largas distancias para escapar de los combates.

AI, data, and robotics must be for the common good

Brussels, Belgium – July 5-6, 2022

Though not a surprise, it can still be astounding to watch the impact that the continuing evolution of AI, data, and robotics has upon our society. When we wake up, many of us reach for our mobiles or laptops to plan the day.

But how to ensure these technologies do not have negative impacts upon humankind? Especially when it comes to those who live at the bottom of the economic pyramid?

“When we say robotics and AI are for good, I think the good part should come first and then the AI, the robotics, or whatever technology you want to use comes next. It is a reframing,” said Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Dr Bhavani Rao at the FARI for the Common Good Institute’s International Conference in Brussels, Belgium.

“You have to think about everybody in the world and that is a mind shift. There are certain common goods that are beyond national or regional boundaries, and that’s a shift that the technology world has to make. We have a responsibility towards that. You think you solve one problem, and you can break things in another place.”

FARI is an independent, not-for-profit Artificial Intelligence initiative led by two universities in Brussels, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), and aims to help address the everyday and long-term challenges of AI and robotics. With the premise that the future of AI, data, and robotics should serve the common good, the two-day international conference aimed at co-shaping an AI strategy that is sustainable, inclusive, and comprehensive.

Dr Rao travelled to Brussels to attend the gathering, for which she expressed gratitude in being able to meet her fellow academics in person as the pandemic ends. She has an interconnected set of responsibilities at Amrita as the Dean of the School of Social Work & Behavioral Sciences; the Director of AMMACHI Labs which designs and implements technologies to solve social problems; and Amrita’s UNESCO Chair in Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality.

“At our university, we have a very unique mandate in research—it has to have social impact. It’s very rare that we do research which is only in the lab. Almost everything that we do has something tangible that is happening in the field, solving a real-world problem,” explained Dr Rao.

AMMACHI Labs’ research tackles a particular issue, not a particular kind of a technology, and then creates innovative methods to find solutions. One of its largest projects has been skill development in rural India. With a population of 1.39 billion according to the World Bank, the country is the world’s second most populated nation. Most of those people, 66 percent, are below the age of 35 and at the same time, 64 percent of Indians live in rural areas.

As for the most critical issue, the Pew Research Center using World Bank data has estimated that the number of poor in India (with an income of $2 per day or less in purchasing power parity) has more than doubled to 134 million from 60 million due to COVID-19 and the pandemic’s resultant recession.

“Let’s look at this really challenging problem of skill development in India. We have more than 500 million Indians who need some kind of training,” said Dr Rao. “Do we have the infrastructure to do it? We started working on this problem in 2009, and it still looms large despite the efforts we have made.

“We are a very diverse population. We are scattered in such a wide area. We have different languages. We don’t have the kind of infrastructure that can deliver good education. Nobody wants to talk about it. You push it under the carpet because it is not elite.”

One of the key issues is that once someone is trained in a particular vocation, they leave for the city to earn and no one is left back in the village to pass on the knowledge. There is also a social stigma attached to the vocational trades, more so in India where you had a caste system. A plumber is considered a low-caste job, so nobody wants to take it on even if the money earned is higher.

When AMMACHI Labs began its work in skills training, it established a focus on empowering women, as village women are, by tradition, the caregivers of the rest of the family and this leads to society at large.

“Women are the keepers of all vulnerable populations. They look after the aged. They look after the children. They look after the cows in the fields. They look after the water sources. They pretty much take care of everybody, including the men. So, we have a very good chance of actually addressing a much larger scenario when we work with women,” said Dr Rao.

Yet, at the same time, women are the most disadvantaged. The level engaged in the paid workforce in India is less than 20 percent. To address this, AMMACHI Labs explored a series of technology to train women in skill development using e-content on vocational trades. As the project evolved, they developed robotic technology to directly engage the students in the physical skills they needed to learn.

“We built the first haptic simulator in the country. It is a force feedback device with three degrees of freedom and one degree of force feedback. It simulates about 18 different tools in the computer. We fed the machine with data from experts in the construction business to record all the movements and gestures,” said Dr Rao.

The haptic simulator was a success and led to the development of more complicated simulators, but then came the question of addressing the entire ecosystem of learning. This meant establishing systems that would make practical sense in the women’s daily lives. The first issue to address became the health of their children, especially since E. coli contamination is one of the biggest problems in villages. Three hundred thousand children five-years-old and under die of diarrhoea each year, according to the Govt of India.

Many of the women with whom AMMACHI Labs worked were manual labourers, so a project was initiated to use digital training for toilet construction to provide for their homes and communities. The women received certificates in recognition of their vocational skills and were eligible for three times the money they made in general manual labour. Timing-wise, this worked well with the Central Government’s national agenda to end open defecation across the country.

“The women were very excited. In the first cohort of 18 villages, we worked with about 10 women from each village and taught them masonry, plumbing, and plastering using all the technologies that we had developed to build toilets in their villages,” said Dr Rao.

“Most of those villages were declared open defecation free (ODF) by the Govt of India. It was something that we were very proud of, so we took it even further.”

AMMACHI Labs projects quickly expanded and now include developing teams of women to test water contamination in their villages, a robot to monitor and mentor school children in handwashing, and further development of technology to support skills training instead of robots replacing people in the workforce.

The vital component of this evolution is that we must realise the dependence of the parts upon the complex whole to which they belong. Technology has no meaning without relationships, environment, and context. Its development cannot be abandoned, but it must be ethical.

“Technology is an amplifier. Please remember that,” concluded Dr Rao as she shared from the heart that it can be a means to a better world.

“There are some very core SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)— like gender equality, reduced inequalities overall, responsible consumption—and I think as the academics, it’s our moral responsibility and duty to spread the knowledge and share the wisdom.”

Photo 1: AMMACHI Labs developed India’s first haptic simulator, a robotic device that can replicate construction tools via computer and user interaction.
Photo 2: ARI for the Common Good Institute helps address the everyday and long-term challenges of AI and robotics.
Photo 3: AMMACHI Labs works with women in villages across India to teach them masonry, plumbing, and plastering as an alternative means of income for their families.
Photo 4: A crucial key to AMMACHI Labs’ work is to first consult with the villagers about their needs and priorities and then ensure their voices remain central in the development of solutions.
Photo 5: AMMACHI Labs also focuses on empowering women, as village women are, by tradition, the caregivers of the rest of the family and this leads to society at large.
Photo 6: AMMACHI Labs works to provide village women with skills training in vocational trades so they may transcend daily wage labour and earn significantly higher income for their families.

La IA, los datos y la robótica deben ser para el bien común

Bruselas, Bélgica – 5 y 6 de julio de 2022

Aunque no es una sorpresa, aún puede ser sorprendente observar el impacto que tiene en nuestra sociedad la continua evolución de la IA, los datos y la robótica. Cuando nos despertamos, muchos de nosotros buscamos nuestros móviles o portátiles para planificar el día. 

¿Y cómo garantizar que estas tecnologías no tengan impactos negativos sobre la humanidad? Especialmente cuando se trata de aquellos que viven en la base de la pirámide económica.

“Cuando decimos que la robótica y la IA son para bien común, creo que el bien común debería ser lo primero y luego vendría la IA, la robótica o cualquier tecnología que quieras usar. Hay que hacer un replanteamiento”, dijo la Dra Bhavani Rao de Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham en el FARI - Congreso Internacional del Instituto del Bien Común celebrado en Bruselas, Bélgica.

Lunes, 15 Agosto 2022 10:28

Amma en India

“Tenemos un rol a interpretar y un dharma hacia nuestro país.” – Amma.

“Igual que nos bañamos a diario para que nuestros cuerpos estén limpios, y usamos perfumes, debemos asegurar mantener la limpieza de nuestras carreteras y lugares públicos, que forman parte del cuerpo de nuestro país.” – Amma.

“Si Bharat (India) muere, el mundo morirá. Pero Bharat no morirá, dará paz y amor al mundo entero.” – Amma.

“Si protegemos el Dharma, el Dharma nos protegerá. Protegerá a todo el mundo. Que el Dharma sea victorioso en todos los países.” – Amma.

El hospital con 2400 camas  futuras es el mayor del sector privado en India; ochenta y una especialidades, sesenta y cuatro quirófanos,  UCI con quinientas treinta y cuatro camas, etc. Este centro médico, el más avanzado en medicina y rehabilitación,  también contará con una unidad de investigación.

El Primer Ministro de India, Shri Narendra Modi, inaugurará el Hospital Amrita de Faridabad el próximo 24 de agosto. Esta institución médica que contará con 2.400 camas, será el mayor hospital del sector privado de India. El gobernador del estado de Haryana, Bandaru Dattatreya y su ministro principal,  Manohar Lal Khattar, asistirán a la ceremonia junto a otros dignatarios.

Sábado, 30 Julio 2022 15:52

El poder que hay en ti.

                                       “Es algo que te da de la capacidad de tener el pensamiento

                                    correcto, decir la palabra correcta, de realizar la acción correcta

                                                      en el momento adecuado. Eso es poder.”

                                                                     30 de julio 2022

28 de junio – 3 de Julio 2022, AYUDH Cumbre europea, Alemania

Los jóvenes se reúnen para buscar un cambio positivo en un mundo que enfrenta los efectos de una pandemia, una crisis climática severa y una inestable esfera geopolítica.

Domingo, 10 Julio 2022 19:35

Concierto benéfico en Mataró

El pasado sábado 9 de julio tuvo lugar en Mataró (Barcelona) un concierto benéfico en favor de Embracing the World, la organización humanitaria de Amma.
Concretamente, fue en el centro YogaOne y, gracias a las aportaciones voluntarias de las personas que acudieron al evento, fue posible hacer un donativo a Embracing the World.
Asistieron unas cincuenta personas que pudieron disfrutar del canto de kirtans y bhajans (cantos devocionales de la India) utilizando flautas traveseras y cuencos tibetanos entre otros instrumentos.

Hospitals Amrita obrirà la institució mèdica privada més gran de l'Índia

L'Hospital Amrita de Faridabad està previst que iniciï els serveis a l'agost i inclourà 81 departaments especialitzats.

16 de juny de 2022 - Faridabad, Haryana

El nou Hospital Amrita està ubicat a la regió de la capital nacional de l'Índia i albergarà 2.400 llits quan estigui en ple funcionament, fet que el converteix en l'hospital del sector privat més gran del país. Les instal·lacions d'especialitats múltiples estan ubicades a 133 acres de terra de Faridabad, i està previst que obrin a l'agost. Serà el segon Hospital Amrita a gran escala, ja que la icònica institució de 1300 llits es va establir a Kochi, Kerala, fa 25 anys.

AYUDH Europa: reunió per primera vegada després del covid-19

Els joves s’uneixen per buscar un canvi positiu en un món que afronta els efectes d’una pandèmia, una crisi climàtica que avança i una esfera geopolítica inestable.

05 juliol 2022 - Alemanya

Més de 200 persones a Europa van viatjar al M.A. Center a Alemanya per participar a la primera reunió física de AYUDH Europe després de tres anys. Aquesta va ser la 18a Cimera Anual Europea de la Joventut, i les dues últimes es van celebrar en línia a causa del COVID-19. Però poder reunir-se en persona ha constituït un gran suport i alleugeriment per als membres de la nostra branca juvenil.

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