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Let us make India more QuTech-friendly

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This is the Quantum Age! There, I said it. With the diversification of theoretical and experimental forays into realising quantum technology, the race to create the first fully functionable and marketable quantum computer has heated up. Today, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Hitachi, Toshiba and various other companies are using everything from superconducting qubits to photonic systems for quantum computation and communication applications. Quantum computers are a million times faster than a regular computer (chip) – with Google announcing that it has a quantum computer that is 100 million times faster than any classical counterpart in its lab, able to withstand cyber attacks better, miniaturized (about 1,500 qubits in Intel’s new qubit D1D Fab chip could fit across the diameter of a single human hair) and more efficient (modern classical supercomputers use between 1-10 mW on average vs a comparable quantum computer would 25 kW).

Nations across the world have been investing in developing quantum technology. Countrywide investments till date, in the realm of quantum technology, include those in China (National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences – $10 billion), United States of America (US National Quantum Initiative Act – $1 billion committed per annum), European Union (Quantum Technology for commercial purposes – $1.1 billion), United Kingdom (UK National Quantum Technologies Programme – $390 million), Netherlands (QuTech Centre for Quantum Computer – $150 million) and Singapore (Centre for Quantum Technologies – Singaporean $29.7 million, in 2008).

Why, you ask?

Quantum technology can spur the development of new breakthroughs in science, and defence (cyber and space security and warfare/deterrence capabilities, particularly with public-key cryptosystems and quantum satellite technology; India is unprepared for any quantum cyber-attack), energy (optimizing power grids, help in monitoring oil and gas deposits, discovering new materials for more efficient carbon capture and efficient data processing in energy sector), medicine (quantum machine learning to diagnose illnesses sooner, clinical trials with virtual humans simulated ‘lives’, the movement of hospitals to the cloud, predictive health and security of medical data), finances and business (quick development of financial strategies, detection of fraudulent activities, complex forecasting of markets, portfolio optimization, asset pricing and risk analysis) and communication (fast and secure communication, usually using photonics with fiber optical channels, besides quantum RAN (Radio Access Network) deployment and Quantum Internet).

India does not have a concerted initiative on building a quantum computer or central institution for Quantum Technology, such as ISRO is for space research. We have various independent groups working across the country, be it in IISc, TIFR, PRL, IISERs, IITs and JIIT, but there has been little, in terms of implementation of protocols such as those for quantum teleportation. We may have Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) being performed in certain labs, but we are still some way off from realising quantum cluster-states, distributed network protocols and surface-to-space QKD. In the Budget 2020 speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a welcome announcement for Indian science, saying that, over the next five years, she proposed spending ₹8,000 crore on a National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications. India initiated QuEST (Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology) in 2019, with an investment of Rs 80 crore (around $11 million) over the next 3 years to develop quantum technology. As per my interactions with various research groups in the country, the problem with QuEST has been in terms of the money reaching the groups across the country and the implementation of the scheme to the extent that it can be.

Looking at the external threats we face as a country and the myriad ways in which quantum technology can help India, I hope the government makes this a priority, in the upcoming days. I believe the Union government should aim to build one central quantum computing system in the country, completely developed and constructed with expertise and resources from within the country (as much as possible) and to build one central institute for research on Quantum Technology (along the lines of ISRO). What is also needed is to initiate tie-ups with companies such as Wipro, Infosys and Reliance on QuTech, collaborate on quantum technology with universities, such as IIT Delhi and RRI, as well as unite all venture capitalists (VCs) and industrial stakeholders who may be interested in QuTech.

In the bid to build quantum technology in the country, an important legal barrier for IP in technology R&D, on the software side, is section 3(k) of the Patents Act, 1970, which excludes “computer programmes, per se or algorithms” from patentability in India. The exact words

3. What are not inventions.—The following are not inventions within the meaning of this Act,—

(k) a mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms;

If we have to move ahead towards a comprehensive plan for making the situation more conducive for quantum technology, on both the software and hardware side, we will have to remove some of these hurdles that remain. We are making steady and promising progress on this front, and I hope that my country shall be able to move ahead in leaps and bounds, when it comes to QuTech in the days ahead.

Jai Hind!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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