President Kalam, a role model when there are very few..

apj-abdul-kalam

In a country where the role models run the gamut from Bollywood to Cricket, here came a person who truly became a role model to :
• Young and old
• Hindu and Muslim
• Scientist and a Pan-wallah
• City dweller and village dweller

President Kalam has shown that there are more role models in India and we need to look at different people for this. His signature hairstyle and how he connected to the young were remarkable— Kalam would easily qualify to be the coolest nerd but he chose to be different. He was the coolest.

A highly successful scientist and a naturally gifted speaker and intellectual, Dr. APJ Kalam was popular as the Missile man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technologies. Serving as the 11th President of India (2002-2007) and also a receiver of the Bharat Ratna award, Dr. Kalam never failed to inspire people to overcome obstacles and suceed. While a personal follower of Islam, Dr Kalam showed great respect for all religions and could be spotted launching books on Hinduism, visiting saints, babas and fakirs from different faiths. In his words, “For great men, religion is a way of making friends; small people make religion a fighting tool.” His life was a blend of humility, simplicity, knowledge and greatness even as he proudly spoke about India’s rich culture on his visits around the world.

His books will continue to inspire the young and old alike owing to the simplicity in his writing. This simplicity probably is what connected him with one and all—making him a role model, be it in technical, organizational or political roles.

He launched his mission for the youth of the nation in 2011 known as “What Can I Give Movement” with a theme to defeat corruption in India. Considered a role model for the young in India, I also find people from different ages, professions and ethnicities to consider him a role model for different roles—no wonder he was called the ‘People’s President”. His positivity, constructivity and simple actions along with his vision for India, it’s progress and sovereignity as a world power make him an ideal role model for generations to come.

Kalam believed that the World Space Vision 2050 has the power to enhance the quality of human life, inspire the spirit of space exploration, expand the horizons of knowledge and ensure space security for all nations of the world. Such a unified approach, according to him, would enable the world to see a quantum jump in the progress in space science and technology for the benefit of all the nations of the world.

Filling the nation with a void with his death on July 27th (2015), Dr. Kalam was one of the few living legends who paved way for new ideas for the young, encouraging entrepreneurship, education, and motivating India’s youth to achieve their dreams with hard-work and perseverance. Do you think India needs similar role models? Who are your other role models?

Write to me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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Will #Selfiewithdaughter save rural girls in India?Maybe #DigitalIndia Campaign will!

A well-meaning drive but I see no rural parents posting pictures? Maybe what villages need is a grounded grass-root scheme and a program that can reach out to rural families and girls!

A well-meaning drive but I see no rural parents posting pictures? Maybe what villages need is a grounded grass-root scheme and a program that can reach out to rural families and girls!

Modi’s ‘Selfie with Daughter’ campaign is making news and has had parents from around the world supporting the idea by posting selfies on the Modi’s social media account along with a tagline. There have been similar drives connected to this one, such as #betibachao (save daughters) #educate daughters and other govt. initiatives that seem to strike a cord with Indians. What is striking about this drive is the way PM Modi addressed the topic in his popular radio talk show— ‘Mann ki Baat’.

After tourism, yoga, swacch bharat, rain water harvesting, animal husbandry, fisheries, agriculture and fertilizers and solar energy (and many more initiatives), Modi’s social media initiative encouraging girls and their parents to click a selfie is almost a fairy tale account on the subject. The outpouring of selfies in Sunil Jaglan’s whatsapp (the Sarpanch of Haryana’s Bibipur village whose idea it happens to be) seem to speak volumes about what can happen when a political leader backs a bright idea.

The irony of such a campaign is that the people it is meant for are exactly the ones who are left out. Twitter postings (of selfies) looks like a fine statement coming from families (mostly urban) who do not need education on saving the girl child or educating their girls. India residing in rural areas is a world apart when it comes to communication (mobile phones simply being a mean to talk with friends and relatives unlike application-enabled (twitter and social media) smart phones that flash in most hands when it comes to cities and towns), and it will take some time before a rural family living away in some remote corner of India will post a twitter picture or get inspired to educate a girl: probably they are the ones who do not have double-sided camera phones in first place! The PM’s Digital India campaign is a good one that will provide broadband connectivity to rural India. India only has over 154m internet connections (Source: www.statista.com, 2013) with some of the slowest speeds in the world. The Digital India campaign can not only give bandwidth for taking selfies with daughters but also provide bandwidth for girls in rural areas to learn and get degrees remotely through online education from the most prestigious schools and colleges. This might be the way to get the girl-child to really become independent and strong. So, in my view, before #Selfiewithdaughter and #Betibachaobetipadhao, there should be #DigitalIndia!

What do you think? Share more ideas.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

 

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Nestle’s Maggi row—the national noodle in a ‘soup’ & the stars to go free?

stars is equally misleading for masses: There needs to be a level of responsibility when it comes to endorsing products—people trust stars as responsible citizens! What do you think?

“2-minute noodles endorsed by stars is equally misleading for masses: There needs to be a level of responsibility when it comes to endorsing products—people trust stars as responsible citizens! What do you think?”

Indian cities simply woke up one fine day to find their worst fears come true— Maggi noodles, the nation’s favorite brunch, crunch and all-day meal is no longer safe to eat! Did it come as a shock? What I find shocking is the response I have been following, coming right from the celebrity bandwagon and their limited knowledge about maggi noodles, or even showing any responsibility over endorsing a product. The advertisement industry for over a decade has seen a bombardment of sport stars, more stars and bollywood actors on different TV channels— all busy endorsing some product or the other!

While India has criticized cricket stars in the past for appearing in more number of ads compared to cricket matches, the maggi row opens the question of credibility and responsibility of ‘stardom’ like never before! The last time I heard India going bonkers over a brand was with Kapil Dev endorsing ‘Colgate’ where the name itself meant toothpaste for many in rural and urban India who woke up to colgate their teeth every morning.

The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned the sale of Maggi noodles on June 5, after Maggi test results confirmed that the noodles contained lead(upto 7 times more than permissible limits: 17.2 parts per million (ppm) while permissible limit of lead ranges between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm).) and flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate in excess . However, to be fair, Nestle India has disputed it and the Mumbai High Court has allowed the company to export maggi noodles whereas the curb on sales within the country continues to stay (the next hearing is on July 14. 2015). Countries like UK, Singapore and Canada have tested maggi noodle samples and found them safe for public consumption.

Is the starcast endorsing maggi noodles aware that potentially excess levels of lead can lead to serious harm in children aged six years and younger? They, ofcourse, have nothing to do with it except enact a well-scripted noodle ad! Regular consumption of high-level of lead may result in learning disabilities—low IQ, attention deficit disorder, speech and language impairment, decreased bone growth, and kidney damage, among other diseases.

Do you think celebrities should endorse a brand without any responsibility over the quality of the product they endorse? When stardom endorses something as healthy, the masses look up to their favorite stars, also as responsible citizens! If you cannot deny that stars endorsing products does add up to a brand’s ‘USP’ (Unique selling point) then why deny the responsibility that comes with it?

Endorsement has a bigger context in terms of masses, and shirking-off responsibility is just a way of saying “I can’t be blamed for a bad product beyond a limit!”. What is that limit? Aren’t masses looking up to a la Big B, Preity Zinta or Madhuri Dixit Nene as trustworthy stars ?

Does India need better consumer laws in context to stars endorsing products? What do you think?

Write to me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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Will Google Driverless Cars save lives in India?

WHO claims more than 2.3 million yearly deaths in India(2013): Google driverless car should test-drive their cars in India! With a high rate of accidents in the country, it will help save lives and prove to be great testing grounds for Google cars. What do you think?

WHO claims more than 2.3 million yearly deaths in India(2013): Google driverless car should test-drive their cars in India! With a high rate of accidents in the country, it will help save lives and prove to be great testing grounds for Google cars. What do you think?

In a country where one serious road accident takes place every minute and 16 people die on Indian roads every hour, can Google’s autonomous cars bring down the rampant number of death on Indian roads?

In the US, LA may be one of the most traffic-congested cities, there are other major US cities where car drivers suffer from nasty traffic congestions regularly—–San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, Seattle, San Jose, Miami, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Portland, as per the annual traffic index conducted by navigation system maker TomTom in Burlington, Mass. Car owners in the US have a reason to smile now! Google’s self-driving car running on test drives will be launched for the public within 2 to 5 years (as per Chris Umrson, head of driver-less cars, Google) ! In January 2015, Google announced it had begun discussions with most of the world’s top automakers to speed up its efforts of launching self-driving cars in the market by 2020.

Google believes that these smart robotic cars will reduce accidents due to errors made by human drivers owing to its robotic system for which drivers won’t need to worry about distractions and typical reaction time. This belief found roots this summer when the search giant revealed that its driverless cars has completed 300,000 miles of testing without a single incident.

While there is still some way before the cars hit the road in terms of testing hours and implementation of legal framework and establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars, the making is in the process. While India’s minister of road transport and highways seems to think that it is not possible to copy cent percent road safety laws similar to countries like the US, UK or Canada, one cannot deny the rising road accident deaths in the country. With rising affluence, owning a car is no longer a luxury in India. India may have more cars but it also has bad drivers, poor regulations, and faulty road designs. Speeding, running lights, drunken driving, riding motorcycles without helmets, and lane violations are commonplace.

While it looks like a long way before the robotic cars can start operating in India! Apart from technology and legislation, road infrastructure, poor traffic rules and bad traffic, there may be some boon in the idea of test-driving Google cars in India.

Why? The Indian auto industry is one of the largest in the world with an annual production of 21.48 million vehicles in FY 2013-14. Technology exchange and robotic cars can bring down the number of road accidents.

What do think? Is India ready for Google cars?

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