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ashokbhatia

The conscientious ones amongst the mandarins in the Indian Health Ministry cannot really be blamed for having sleepless nights. The epidemic of such lifestyle diseases as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular abnormalities is leaving them a wee bit clueless. The need of the hour is to come up with a scheme which nudges Indians of all sizes and shapes to start living slimmer and healthier lives.

Take obesity, for instance. As many as 60 million Indians – roughly 5% of the population – are considered obese. With more than 50 millionObesity image suffering from high blood sugar, India is a nation headed for a health tsunami the devastation caused by which would be anything but sweet. This is a grave threat to our vision of the country reaping a hefty demographic dividend in the years to come.

How do we motivate the Indian couch potatoes to switch off their TV sets…

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Here is an inspiring narrative covering the Milk Revolution of India. When innovation meets conviction and guts, the society benefits.

In case you wish to read a brief on Amul, here is yet another utterly butterly delicious post that you may like:

http://life11.org/2015/05/08/amul-indias-beloved-brand.

Enjoy!

A Writer's Notebook.

Amul has instant recall in our minds – images of the cute Amul moppet girl, their priceless topical ads, Amul butter, Amul milk, Taste of India, all come instantly to our notice. We don’t quite realize the story within which would have images of – Dr. Verghese Kurien, White Revolution, Operation Flood, NDDB, GCMMF, milk co-operative movement, milk movie Manthan, etc.

The book (I too had a dream) is less of an autobiography – fleeting personal details are mentioned – but it is a great narrative of India’s milk revolution. From a country struggling with milk production and per capita consumption, a great journey has been covered wherein we are now the second largest milk producers in the world and have significantly improved on consumption per capita as well.

Dr. Kurien has set the narrative but it has been scribed by Ms. Gouri Salvi. It provides great insight into India’s…

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When members of the next generation of a family, born in First World countries like Norway and Switzerland, visit their roots in a Third World country like India, the poor souls are left clueless at times. Often, much hilarity ensues, as they try to cope with the realities of day-to-day life in such a delightful country as ours.

The best countries to be born in

Some time back, The Economic Intelligence Unit had compiled an index onEU Flag image the best places to be born in 2013. As many as 80 countries had been ranked on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 standing for ideal living conditions. The rank took into account 11 indicators, like crime, trust in public institutions, health infrastructure, family life, besides fixed factors such as geography.

As per this reckoning, Switzerland was at the top, scoring 8.22. Norway was ranked number 3, scoring 8.09. Amongst the top 10 were not only Sweden (rank 4, score 8.02), Denmark (rank 5, score 8.01) and Netherlands (rank 8, score 7.94), but also Australia (rank 2, score 8.12), Singapore (rank 6, score 8.00), New Zealand (rank 7, score 7.95), Canada (rank 9, score 7.81) and Hong Kong (rank 10, score 7.80). Incidentally, India was then ranked 66, with a score of 5.67.

Hard core patriots in India may derive some comfort from the fact that Russia was ranked at 72 (score 5.54), Pakistan at 75 (score 5.17) and Bangladesh at 77 (score 5.07).

The side effects of a visit to India

What do such kids discover when they visit their roots in India?

First off, there are objects which invite wonderment.

A ceiling fan sounds like an alien object. A manually driven rickshaw is looked The horse carriages I saw in the museum were larger, grander version of this cycle rickshaw.at with unmasked curiosity. An auto rickshaw evokes a sense of novelty. A horse-driven Tonga comes in for ardent admiration. A bullock-cart gets viewed with wide-eyed wonder.

Insects and reptiles like cockroaches, lizards, ants, spiders, snails and worms of all sizes and shapes come in for close scrutiny. So do creatures of all kinds, whether bovine or porcine, especially when found exercising their democratic rights on Indian roads. Flying objects – whether unidentifiable or otherwise – get looked up to with a sense of awe and respect. Squirrels and chameleons generate much merriment.

A splash in the tropical rains uplifts the tender souls. Jumps into puddles on

Lakshmi

Lakshmi

the streets generate much excitement. The seagulls flapping about their sonorous wings leave them mesmerized. The wavering reflection of a pale yellow uprising moon on the pristine waters of the Bay of Bengal makes them attain a heavenly bliss.

Kolams outside homes arouse their curiosity. A classical dance performance leaves them spell-bound. Depending upon their own areas of interest, a keen desire to learn some form of fine art or a cultural activity gets enshrined.

An encounter with Lakshmi, the famous temple elephant of Pondicherry, invigorates them no end. A dip in the sea comes about as a blissful experience. A visit to the Planetarium and the Science Centre proves to be highly instructive.

The Incredible India

Then there are things which invoke ridicule and pity.

A power cut which disrupts a Tom and Jerry show on TV invites a stridentPGW Tom and Jerry protest and needs to be explained. When a beggar gets sighted, or when the vehicle passes a hut by the road side, the parents get called upon to explain the rationale of peaceful co-existence of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ of Indian society.

The absence of dustbins ready to receive the wrapper of a chocolate arouses curiosity. The garbage, as well as the generally poor civic sense, invites an adverse comment. Smelly trains and railway stations get negative rankings.

The absence of courtesy and discipline on the roads and the density of vehiclesKrishna_Arjuna_Gita on our roads, all come in for sharp criticism. To ensure parking space near a favourite ice cream joint, divine intervention is prayed for.

Crossing a road is a trying experience. Use of public toilets, if any are available, leaves their souls in torment. A rat feasting on a dead bird lying on the road side comes across as a traumatic sight, explained with great difficulty by an accompanying adult by invoking the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Within the confines of a home, unquestioned obedience on part of the juniors in the family causes some surprise and amusement. The rights of the younger ones – to decide which flavour of ice cream to have for dinner – can simply not get curtailed. This is an experience which is quite alien to their value system.

Expansion of the family nucleus

Other than feasting on Indian delicacies, the pampering by all seniors theyRamayana 1 come in contact with leaves them assured and self-confident. A sense of belongingness comes about. Stories from scriptures fascinate them. Narrations of the lives of great men and women of the country leave them awestruck.

They also end up imbibing some values of a joint family system. Sharing, caring, a sense of responsibility towards juniors and a healthy regard for the elderly gets implanted in their thought processes.

The twin advantage

This generation has a unique twin advantage – that of having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. Their analytical abilities are getting nurtured in a more scientific environment, while their hearts carry the seeds of compassion, empathy and love. From their working parent, they imbibe a sense of professionalism in whatever they do. Through their folks back home, they understand the importance of togetherness and team work.

A truly balanced human being they are apt to make. Unknown to them, they take humanity further on its path of evolution.

(Photograph of cycle rickshaw courtesy http://www.shabnamphoto.wordpress.com; link: http://shabnamphoto.com/2014/10/28/pondicherry-a-certain-sense-of-gallic-glory-gone-by)

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Rashtrapati Bahavan

The denizens of Delhi have cast their vote and shown the way,

Indians now have a new App downloaded, keeping voter fatigue at bay;

 

Considerations of caste, creed, sex and religion no longer count,

A clean image, humility and performance on the job alone count;

 

The age of the political party no more entices, nor does a dynasty,

Use of religion to polarize voters is an attempt which turns nasty;

 

What counts is the delight and empowerment of the common man,

Absence of graft, delegation of powers, with corruption facing a ban;

 

Transparent political funding, good governance not a myth but a reality,

Tangible returns from the citizens’ franchise, a non-criminal polity;

 

Better life, time-bound delivery of services, safety on the road and street,

Hopefully, the new government lives up to its promises and does not retreat;

 

Meer slogans and jingoism would not do, nor skillful media management,

Gone are the days of a rag-tag coalition and an underhand arrangement;

 

For all other politicos across the country, the writing on the wall is clear,

Be transparent, be sincere, be innovative, and hold the common man dear;

 

Sixty-seven years after independence, on this Valentine Day,

Mother India has been rewarded with the AAP App bright and gay;

 

The crucible of democracy has yielded a new ray of hope,

Upholding the torch of the Constitution, in the darkness of ignorance we no longer grope.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/a-16-point-agenda-for-the-16th-lok-sabha-of-india

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The Indian Republic is awash with fresh winds of change these days. New policies and programs are getting rolled out. Animal spirits of the economy are attempting to come out of a period of relative hibernation. Start-ups of all sizes and shapes are mushrooming by leaps and bounds. World leaders appear to be courting India in the hope that their own countries become an integral part of the growth story of India.happy-republic-day

Our science historians are busy digging up the glory of our ancient knowledge. Flying contraptions, genetic feats and precision surgical achievements of yore dominate the public discourse. Educationists are busy twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out ways of revamping the entire education system.

Some of our religious and political leaders are busy exhorting young women to reproduce at a higher rate, so the future of the country is brighter. Reversing the inverted triangle in red which denoted the family control program a few decades back, they are telling the delicately nurtured that having only two children will no longer work. Some advocate having five, some ten.

In these testosterone-driven times, those who have entrepreneurial inclinations could perhaps consider the following start-up ideas in the year to come:

1. KamaSutra.com
Taking advantage of the profound wisdom enshrined in ancient Indian texts, such start-ups would fire up the romantic fervor of those in the reproductive age group. Nothing vulgar and illegal would appear here. The content would merely offer simplified lessons in social and dating etiquette, personal hygiene, and reproductive pursuits of all kinds. Guidance would be available on the comparative merits and efficacy of all kinds of libido-enhancing supplements.

2. DesignerBabies.com
Some of the delicately nurtured might take a leaf out of our ancient scriptures like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Estrogen-enriched sweets and savouries would be on offer here. For securing designer babies, the high standards set by some of the women in our epics would be followed. Demand for high quality sperms of illustrious figures from our armed forces, sports, entertainment and business arenas would be met by these start-ups, albeit at a premium. Sperm banks would be created and aggressively marketed.

3. Priest.com
For the religiously inclined, wanting to invoke Gods and Goddesses representing diverse virtues, these start-ups would provide wide-ranging ceremonial and IVF services. Invocating, propitiating and bidding farewell to entities from higher realms would get covered. Special designer packages would also be on offer.

4. GrandMom.com
This one would address all the neo-natal and post-natal services required by young women who wish to contribute towards the endeavor of nation building. For couples who have to overcome fertility issues, these start-ups would offer free advice and a listing of all fertility clinics in each district of the country. The government could announce special awards and incentives to honor those who deliver quadruplets and higher multiples of young babies in a single shot.

5. BackToTheFuture.com
Since our health infrastructure would be left gasping to handle the sudden surge in demand, start-ups in this category would promote the practice of home deliveries. It would provide on-call services of midwives who are adept at handling deliveries in the comfort of one’s own house. With internet accessibility improving, deliveries would be guided over Skype and Viber, thereby making life easier for wannabe mothers in the hinterland.

6. Lakshmi.com
Herein lies a unique opportunity to correct the adverse gender ratio in most parts of the country. Start-ups in this category would facilitate the proliferation of female babies as opposed to male ones. Over a period of time, when the country has a marginal excess of the delicately nurtured, their harassment would become a thing of the past. Female power would rule the roost.

7. TinyTots.com
To handle the rush of baby boomers, a string of preparatory schools would be on offer here. Teachers wanting to get trained to higher levels of proficiency would get directed to educational outfits specializing in this area. The need for additional educational facilities would be addressed in a mission mode.

8. ToysAndLiterature.com
The new wave of babies would need to be entertained, amused and kept busy. Toys, accessories and all related items would need to be made in India. Comic strip producers will need to scale up their capacities. Games and apps based on our epics would need to be developed and made available, so the hassled parents can upload these onto their latest kid-friendly tablets and enable the young ones to learn India’s ancient values and social mores.

9. Nanny.com
The demand for well-behaved nannies would undergo a quantum jump. Start-ups in this category would identify, train and place highly proficient nannies. Couples desirous of having such services without any interruption would get a nanny within a few hours of the earlier distraught one having left the household.

The possibilities are limitless. The mind boggles. Different sectors in manufacturing as well as in services would witness a boom. Mop up of direct as well as indirect taxes would exceed all targets.

Here is a call to all the young and patriotic citizens of India to gird up those loins, oil those wombs and get down to some serious work. There could be no better way of celebrating our 66th Republic Day.

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Mention the name of any sweet and our bodies respond immediately. The saliva glands start operating on all twelve cylinders. The gastric juices gear up to receive the next morsel in keen anticipation, much like an Aberdeen terrier eyeing a slice of fish in his master’s hands.

Sweets contain heavy doses of sugar, a basic source of energy for our bodies. Besides keeping our bodies alive and kicking, sugar also keeps our spirits high. With the rights amount of sugar within us, we walk around with our head held high and with our chins up.

However, consumption of excess sugar is fraught with several risks. If one belongs to the Couch Potato Club, the body eventually registers a protest. Obesity, cardio vascular diseases and other ailments gradually start popping up. Pretty soon, life starts throwing up surprises of an unpleasant kind.

Each year, Indians gobble up around 23 million tons of the pristine white intoxicant. Each region has its own exquisite variety of sweets on offer. Talk of sandes, rasagulla, gulab jamun, jalebi and payasam, and we start drooling with gay abandon. For many Indians, these sweets form an integral part of at least one meal of the day. It comes as no surprise that we have more than 68 million diabetics in our fold. The real number is certainly much higher, given the absence of rural areas on our public health radar.

Think of long-term implications and the mind boggles. Besides ruining personal and family lives, diabetes surely drags down the Indian economy. The imagery of the country being a super power and reaping its demographic dividend simply evaporates. This truly calls for a National Mission which is supported by the public, the corporate world and the government alike.

Other than launching a media campaign exhorting the public to lead more active and healthier lives, the government can push this critical reform through in several ways.

One, we need to ensure availability of healthier food choices to our citizens across all our public spaces. For example, Indian Railways can offer the option of sugar-free diets to its passengers. As of now, even a cup of tea sans sugar is not readily available. Take a saunter down any of our railway stations and you would run into vendors peddling deep-fried stuff. If you are searching for some fruits or milk, you would have to be a Milkha Singh to be able to buy what you need and hop on back to your compartment. Travel by a bus and a similar challenge would await you. Go on a shopping spree and you are left gasping looking for a decent fruit juice joint. IRCTC can surely juggle around its menu and enable the hapless passengers to make a better choice as to the kind of nourishment they need.

Two, bicycles need to be promoted as a means of conveyance in a big way. Entrepreneurs can be encouraged to participate with the government in offering bicycle-on-rent facilities in cities and towns. Leaders and role models can be persuaded to get off their high-end limousines once in a while and campaign for this healthier and smarter way of commuting.

Three, urban planners and city mayors need to be pushed to create parks and dedicated walking spaces in the areas under their control. Cities and towns need to ensure clean and level pavements free of encroachments.

Four, our entrepreneurs simply hate taxes and love exemptions. Our taxation mandarins can surely sweeten the deal by offering tax breaks to those who deal in healthier food products of any kind. This would fire up their zeal to support the proposed National Mission and come up with innovative solutions. Perhaps the time has come to treat sugar at par with liquor and slap a ‘sin tax’ on it. Of course, this is a bitter pill to swallow.

Five, sugarcane can be increasingly diverted to produce bio-fuels. This would also help in curtailing our import bills, thereby improving India’s fiscal health. Countries like Brazil are already doing this.

If steps to control the Diabetes Tsunami are not taken now, the costs of healthcare in India would shoot up exponentially in the decades to come. The so-called demographic ‘asset’ would then become a severe ‘liability’ instead. Our time is running out.

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/o-my-beloved-when-would-you-depart)

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The heat, the dust and the vitriol thrown up by the campaign for general elections in India has already started fading away from public memory. Media has had a field day, what with rival claims being made by the contestants in the fray. Quite a few voters have been at a receiving end of a different kind; of freebies, money and liquor. In some pockets, sheer muscle power has been on overt display. Some armchair revolutionaries are disappointed; when it comes to real issues, whether in the realm of economy, diplomatic relations or delivery of public services, very little light has been generated in the past few months.SansadBhavan

The denizens desperately hope to collectively bring in a stable and strong government at the centre. They also realize that it is the right time to set the agenda for the 16th Lok Sabha.

Here are a few things which our new representatives need to consider:

1. Boosting infrastructure across the board, especially in the farm sector.
2. Containing inflation.
3. Giving an impetus to manufacturing, especially to check projected imports of IT products and selected white goods in the years to come.
4. Simplifying investment processes with clear goal posts.
5. Boosting revenue and simplifying indirect taxation by introducing GST in a time-bound manner. Bringing in DTC so as to reform direct taxation.
6. Revamping our definition of growth which should include not only economic growth but also social indicators like the Millenium Development Goals. Eventually, like one of our neighbours, a Gross Happiness Index should become the cornerstone of public policies.
7. Upgrading skill development mission and related programs so as to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.
8. Instituting Power and Coal sector reforms.
9. Redefining basic principles of natural resource allocation.
10. Judicial reforms.
11. Law and order reforms.
12. Political reforms, especially in the areas of poll funding and decriminalization.
13. Curbing the parallel economy; building sector reforms and rationalization of stamp duties.
14. Implementing women’s reservation in all legislative bodies, public services and institutions. Enabling women’s education, empowerment and safety.
15. Focusing on IT-based enablement of citizens. Building on Aadhar card to improve the delivery of services to citizens. Replacing ‘narrow band’ by broadband. Special focus on the greying population.
16. Restoring the dignity of our legislative bodies.

A heartening feature of the 2014 election campaign has been the higher voter turnout. The aggregate turnout so far in the first 7 phases for 438 parliamentary seats has been 66.20%, significantly more than 57.41% figure in 2009 general elections. It appears that the silent majority wants to register its aspirations more effectively. This is a clear indication that our politicos need to sink their differences and work together for improving the quality of life of all its citizens.

Concerned citizens eagerly await the future contours of their ‘tryst with destiny’ to emerge on the 16th of May, 2014. Irrespective of the shape and composition of the new government which takes charge, a vigorous thrust in the areas mentioned above alone can ensure that India performs better and improves upon its image and stature in the comity of nations.

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