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.

61 Articles published

Top Comments by 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

Rage against the machine: behind Byju’s swift silencing of dissent

Hi Sudarshan. Thanks for reading. I have to say that I disagree with you slightly. I do think every company has the right to object to claims against them. But there have been next to zero instances of the founders making their disagreement public. If they do think there is some serious copyright violation, then they can file a legal case against these individuals. The takedown route is an easy shortcut and the way the laws of social media platforms are stacked, they can be used to target an individual quite effectively. There has to be a space for open and honest criticism online. I agree with you though that the laws on platform moderation should be more clear. But intermediary liability is a difficult thing to resolve, not just in India.

Olina Banerji

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