Library of India

Why did India’s ambitious global translations project, die prematurely?

ILA or Indian Literature in Translation was launched with great hope and a clear focus, but things fell apart quickly.

Back in 2010, a group of India’s best literary writers, publishers and thinkers came together for something they believed was absolutely essential to projecting India’s literary cannon on the international stage. Poet Ashok Vajpeyi conceived the idea, formulated along the lines of what former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had envisioned, and the Indian Literature Abroad – better known as the ILA – project was born.

The objectives were precise: translate works written in 24-plus different languages in India into the eight languages recognised by UNESCO. Inevitably, a committee was formed at once, including in its ranks UR Ananthamurthy, Namita Gokhale, K Satchidanandan, Urvashi Butalia, Mini Krishnan, N Kamala, Varyam Singh, Oscar Pujol, Supriya Chaudhari, Sabaree Mitra, and Zikrur Rahman, besides Vajpeyi himself.

Cut to six years later. In March 2016, Mini Krishnan, who has built a significant part of the translations list at Oxford University Press, wrote in a letter to the editor of The Hindu about three wasted years for the project, after which, without any clear indication or communication, it was taken “elsewhere”. “Between May 2010 and December 2012 I helped to select the writers and books. The fatiguing admin work and travels were all undertaken by Namita Gokhale. I know that some publishers overseas did show interest in some of the books but I do not know why things did not progress after a point,” she says.

An energetic beginning runs out of funds

For a couple of years, the committee selected works and prepared catalogues. In 2011, a catalogue prepared by the committee arrived at the Frankfurt Book Fair with much about it being written in the Indian media as well. The catalogue listed works that were to be translated, around which tie-ups with international publishers would be established. A number of overseas publishers showed interest.

The committee then changed tack a little and identified a number of universities within the country to act as nodal points for translation into specific languages. For example, Jadavpur University, where Chaudhuri taught at the time, was identified as the nodal centre for translation into English, while Delhi University was identified as a nodal centre for Spanish. Memorandums of Understanding were signed with the universities, binding them to undertake responsibility for coordinating the translations and complete the project within given timeline.

It was, of course, clear from the beginning that the project needed funding. From authors and translators, to editors and publishers, everyone had to be paid. But it appears that not a rupee was released by the Ministry of Culture, under which the project was to have run. And by late 2013, the project was pulled from the committee and transferred to the Sahitya Akademi. A new committee was reconvened and some of the previous members found themselves on the new one as well – among them the poet and Akademi award winner K Satchidanandan.

However, even in the hands of the Akademi – which has an operating, although lumbering, translation practice, the fortunes of the project did not change. “I continued to be involved even when the project was moved to the Sahitya Akademi, and Gopichand Narang, then the president, summoned a meeting of concerned academics. But being a pragmatist, he knew nothing would move without special grants and was sceptical from the beginning, though he was all for such a project,” Satchidanandan says.

Not surprisingly, these funds never did come. As Satchidanandan points out, he was told that the Akademi’s spending on the projects came from its own limited funds. He adds, “When publishers from abroad whom I knew complained to me they had not received the promised grant even after the books (two books) were published, I could only direct them to the Secretary, who said they might be paid from the Akademi's own funds. I assume it has been done, as I have not received any more complaints.”

Why committee members are disappointed and angry

Namita Gokhale – author, publisher and co-orchestrator of the Jaipur Literary Festival – was at the centre of most of the committee’s activities. And quite predictably she has – for good reason – been the most disenchanted with the experience. “All of us involved with the project put in an extraordinary amount of time and effort into this project, which was killed by wilful bureaucratic interference. I don't really want to revisit ILA and the disappointments associated with it. Over the last few years I have tried to work towards the same goals at an individual level, and also through the excellent initiatives of Jaipur Bookmark, the publishing segment that happens alongside JLF,” she says.

What kept the project going as long as it did was the sheer motivation of the people involved in it. Says Chaudhuri, “There was no shortage of goodwill. India is among the few countries that do not have such a translation programme. Everyone on the committee gave all they could and we had so much motivation and energy to carry this project through. Most of us even attended the first meeting at the Akademi, because we believed this was important.”

Urvashi Butalia, founder of Zubaan Books, had this to say, “In the bureaucracy, in our ministries, there is no sense of pride. And then, there's a lot of suspicion of publishers – or an unwillingness to trust them. It's always assumed that publishers are after foreign trips and if they make contacts with foreign publishers then they will exploit these or get known. It's as petty as that. Why do so few valuable projects not get off the ground bureaucratically in India? Because we don't really care about the value of the things we should be promoting, instead we see them as vehicles for privileges and concessions that we might get, so naturally we (by we I mean Indians, and especially Indian bureaucrats) have to stop that.”

Adds Butalia, commenting on India’s lack of a translation programme, “Go to any international book fair, the smallest countries will be offering translation subsidies. In the last few years Turkish literature has really taken off on the world stage – why? Because of Turkey's very generous translation schemes. And the training they provide to translators.”

The future looks bleak

Almost all the committee members have been unaware of the status of the project since 2013, and most believe it has been shut down. A link to the project still exists on the website of the Ministry of Culture and also on the website of the Sahitya Akademi. According to the secretary of the Akademi, Sreenivas Rao, the project is still up and running. “We have translated three books and have asked for further grants from the Ministry of Culture. As soon as they come through we will translate more works,” he says.

The three translations: Khushwant Singh’s Train To Pakistan (into Swedish), Nabarun Bhattacharya’s Herbert (into German), and Ambai’s In A Forest, A Deer (into French). Asked whether the erstwhile members of the first committee were informed of developments, Rao refused to comment. The Ministry of Culture, despite repeated attempts, did not respond to questions.

Did the change of government at the Centre have anything to do with this? Says Satchidandan, “What I find is that it is hard to sustain autonomous institutions and defend them from political interventions, especially with the kind of government we now have who are keen to destroy every public institution by turning them into their ideological tools and discourage and kill those institutions like the NGOs who are not always ready to dance to their tune. This government has every reason to fight and reject the Nehruvian legacy of encouraging freedom and autonomy in public institutions and universities and ensuring quality in their leadership.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

Play

The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.