Olina Banerji

Staff Writer - Education, Mobility, Sustainability • India Edition

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

69 Articles published

Top Comments by Olina Banerji

The IIM franchise is denting the IIM brand

Hi Charan. Thank you for your comment. I hope you read the piece since the article doesn't convey that the spread of quality education should stop. Or that IIMs are the only islands of excellence. The story ends with pointing to other centres opening up in the private sector. But there is a need for course correction while these newer IIMs are still growing, is what the story argues. The argument isn't mine--you will find several people within the IIM system (and outside) report the same.

Olina Banerji

India's public edtech broadcast system DIKSHA has a private bottleneck

Hi Srid har. Thanks for reading the article. I fully agree with you that its heartening that so many students atleast have the opportunity to access content. As far as private bottlenecks are concerned, I think its explained well in the piece, but let me try again. Sunbird doesn't have anything do to operational challenges, DIKSHA does. DIKSHA is an instance of Sunbird. States can independently build a DIKSHA 2.0 of a DIKSHA for just UP, but state education depts don't usually have that kind of bandwidth. But the issue we're sharing is slightly different. It's about the structural nature of DIKSHA, which was a) created with little consent from state governments (its primary customer) and b) needs constant intervention from a central Ekstep team if any changes need to be made to the platform. That can slow down innovation significantly. My point is, contributing code to change DIKSHA is sort of an opaque process, and currently in the hands of a private agency. Hence the term "private bottleneck". I actually came up with the term "edtech broadcast system". It means when you're heavy on the push strategy. Like a broadcast :)

Olina Banerji

India's public edtech broadcast system DIKSHA has a private bottleneck

Hi Syndi. Thanks for reading. We are saying that a public edtech app is actually a great thing for the country. It will democratise learning. But the app/platform has to deliver what it promises or children and parents and teachers reliant on it will still be left behind. The article does not advocate private apps over government platforms. What the article details are challenges that practitioners are facing on the ground, and what can be done to resolve them.

Olina Banerji

India's public edtech broadcast system DIKSHA has a private bottleneck

That's fair Kshitij. A new initiative is always going to have teething issues. When we asked a set of users/collaborators of DIKSHA what they face, the biggest feedback we got was about how technically, the platform isn't open-source in its truest sense. As you mention, states can go to Sunbird and create their own platforms, but we also have to remember that they operate with little tech/fund capacity and its not possible for every state to have its own tech team. NIC has not usually been able to create quality platforms. So there's an inherent challenge with the way DIKSHA is structured.

Olina Banerji

The leadership storm brewing in IIM-Calcutta

Dear Srikrishna Thank you for reading the article and for your comments. At The Ken, we value both sides of the story equally. That's why questions seeking clarifications were sent much in advance to the Director as well as three members of the Board, whose names had come up consistently while reporting. We also reached out to IIM-C students to figure out whether they has experienced any kind of change within the institute. But as I'm sure you understand, these type of decline in academic standards, culture change or research is only felt over years. Still, the sharp stop in both faculty hiring and research output was something that we thought was pertinent to bring out. We presented the reporting we could gather. I specifically don't understand the implication here: "Many of us who have had long corporate careers know that the way organizations or even governments function today is vastly different from what it was twenty years ago. So why should it be any different for an academic institution?" Are you saying that IIM-C should be less democratic in its functioning, to mirror the zeitgeist? If so, that's not a conclusion that we can draw as journalists. We can only present facts, and leave it up to the reader to decipher if this is a good or bad thing. If the vision indeed was to centralise control--for good reason--it would hopefully come through the Director's responses. Which unfortunately did not come despite repeated attempts. If and when the IIM-C administration chooses to respond, we will be happy to update the story.

Olina Banerji

The leadership storm brewing in IIM-Calcutta

Hi Nidhi. Thanks for your comment. And thank you for reading. The reason why this is an important story to tell is that the decline-whether in faculty recruitments, or research output-has been very swift at IIM-C, over the last two years. We have documented the same in the story, though some impacts, like a possible loss of accreditation will only play out over a few years. That's the nature of education, rankings and results. The comparison to IIMB and A was also essential. They are the closest benchmarks and hold identical accreditations as IIM-C. Why these institutions shouldn't be compared, I'm not clear ( also, if IIM-C was always slightly behind the other two, the article argues that the last two years might have widened the gulf). Lastly, I want to address your claim about "opinion over substance" and "unnamed sources". I can tell you here quite clearly that the sources aren't unnamed because they are not relevant to the debates in question. They are unnamed to protect their identity, for they feared repercussions from the administration. We have to respect their wishes, even as we depend on their candour to tell us about what's going on. Also, the reporting isn't based on one letter by the Board to IIM-C alumni. There are other documents which couldn't all be reproduced here.

Olina Banerji

The hidden, second epidemic of ‘Long Covid’

Hi Chris. I'm slightly confused as to why you're surprised. The Ken has closely monitored every aspect of the pandemic health impact since the beginning. This is another, and frankly concerning, facet of how the disease is playing out. The impact of Long Covid isn't limited to any one country. Both the UK and US are now in the process of documenting research and treating patients presenting symptoms of long covid. One such center is Mt Sinai in NY. There's a study done by the CDC that shows the following: "In a multistate telephone survey of symptomatic adults who had a positive outpatient test result for SARS-CoV-2 infection, 35% had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed 2–3 weeks after testing. Among persons aged 18–34 years with no chronic medical conditions, one in five had not returned to their usual state of health. COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness, even among young adults without underlying chronic medical conditions. Effective public health messaging targeting these groups is warranted." https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930e1.htm For more India specific data, we spoke with Dr Sandeep Budhiraja of Max Healthcare, who had the following to say: "Three months back, Max Hospital put a tele-calling system in place with a structured questionnaire and conducted a survey. They contacted all patients with moderate severity of illness who had earlier been hospitalised. One in two patients interviewed complained of lingering symptoms. “Of over 1000 patients that we called, up to 48% complained of some sort of symptoms which were persistent six to twelve weeks. 90% had fatigue, shortness of breath, muscular, joint and chest pains. Two or three per cent had any significant problems which needed medical attention or re-hospitalisation. There was just one death among all people whom we followed up.” We hope ICMR's national registry yields more specific data. But in the meantime, media outfits should talk responsibly about what the after effects of Covid are, and give survivors a voice. If you'd like to read more, you can check out several pieces on the topic in NYT and The Atlantic.

Olina Banerji

The hidden, second epidemic of ‘Long Covid’

Hi Anish. Thanks for reading. I agree that the key takeaway should be amended to reflect the percentages we have encountered in the story. We will fix that. However to your point about creating a one-sided narrative, I respectfully disagree. We set out without any pre-determined biases about Long Covid. And spoke to several patients who are currently suffering. Then we took it a step further to ask ICMR if they're seeing something in the data/feedback. ICMR too is concerned about the post-effects and has instituted a whole registry for this purpose. Once their data collection is complete, we will find more granular results about which symptoms stay the longest. But as for these symptoms cropping up, I don't think its a stretch for us to report on. As for media-created hyperbole, I agree that everyone should be careful about how they present data. But we should present it. Would you rather that voices like Priya's get buried in the fact that mortality is only 3-5%?

Olina Banerji

Stories by Olina Banerji