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The collective Karma! #India #Asia #Population

I was walking hurriedly near Jyothi Nivas bus stop in Bangalore, It was almost time for my appointment, and I did my usual fast stroll, which is faster than the average walking speed for a stroll! I was walking on the road, as several vehicles were parked against the footpath, and I was not able to navigate myself to walk in the footpath alone. And then, this gentleman comes along from the footpath, takes 5 steps, walks in front of me, and starts staring at something behind me. I could not stop myself at that speed, so I took his two hands, moved him out of my way, and kept walking. He started yelling at me, but I didn’t care. I kept walking.

Has this ever happened to you? People suddenly coming in your way without giving due thought and consideration that you might bump into them? To be precise ‘StumbleUpon’ into them?

This indeed set of a series of thoughts in me. I usually scan the area around which I walk or drive, and I make sure that I give space to people who are coming into my zone. I either stop, or move away, or do something such that there’s no crash. But sadly, I have observed that many in India do not do that. They stare somewhere, have their own thoughts going in their minds, and walk or drive right royally into me.

So, is this my karma ? I broke my head almost 10 years thinking about this since I moved to Bangalore. Someone close to me always makes fun of me that I attract such people to me unconsciously! But, today, I would and have definitely concluded that it is not MY karma, but the collective karma of India.

Before you start showering obscenities towards me for taking India’s name, let me explain myself!

I think it’s the collective karma of India, in terms of population.

Already absent-minded and the free-flow Indian who does not have the concept of queue or discipline in their blood – if the numbers of those multiply, the StumbleUpon crashes also multiply!

I sometimes wonder that if I had been in New Mexico state of the United States, where in some areas one can’t see human beings for miles together, or probably even in Arizona state of the United States, I would be able to do my fast straight stroll without a problem! And yes, I could have my own thought process going on and jay-walk along till that 24-wheeler truck comes and hits me or scares me off the road with that loud honk!

Yes, it’s the no. of heads, people. Nothing else. India has 17% of world’s population in 2% of world’s land, and what else can you expect from that Koramangala uncle ?

And being quiet, abstaining (ahem, ahem…) or may be adopting would be a good collective karma for India moving forward!

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The #Sunday wandering on #Population awareness! – #IndiBlogger & #AnahataLife

When I was planning this March 23th Sunday a month back, I didn’t expect that I would get two opportunities to talk about population and create awareness among two different sets of interesting audience!

Population, being a topic that has been ignored by many completely – due to so many reasons – deemed unable to do anything about it, or just the stigma to even think about it due to various social, cultural, religious and emotional reasons, it is a matter of personal choice – in India especially. Nevertheless, the need of the hour demands that people be aware of the gloomy picture of what India is facing in terms of resources and living well, and thus it’s worthwhile to share the data in forums where people listen and think about it.

On March 23th afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a very youthful blogger meet organized by Indiblogger, sponsored by Kotak Mahindra Bank for launching one of the products, and I was so happy that I was part of it, since I got to meet a mostly young crowd of college-goers and young working people.  It was around 100 people in a club setup at The Biere Club, Bangalore, where there was so much opportunity to mingle and talk about areas of blogging interests.

When I introduced myself as a blogger who write about population control, there was a collective gasp in the room, and then the smiles of recognition that this is a topic that is different, and valuable too in a broader perspective. Many were very curious to hear about what I share. Two or three approached me to ask what I write in my blogs, and I said I just share data and rest is upto the individuals to decide what to do about it – to stay single, to get married and not have babies, to get married and adopt instead of generating children, or to have children but volunteer to spread the message and link with organisations which will help create awareness. I said the choices are individual but every one of us should get involved in some way or the other if we really care about India, and waht to do something about how we live well in this country – for which population is a burden.

Some of them were quite surprised to hear that in some central Indian states, people have babies so that their kids can go to work and earn money to support the family. A little extension of the traditional 2 children family in an urban area where the parents expect the children to study well, go to a professional job and support them financially – just that in case of rural, they generate 5 or 6 children so that they all go to wages kind of job and support the family. Either way, the concept is the same!

Then I moved on in the evening to address a totally different kind of audience at the M.G.Road Boulevard, where AnahataLife had organized a series of performances and talks where people from various walks of life come and gather and share their thoughts. This was a closed set of audience from various backgrounds. Here I presented a purely data based view of India population problem. Pure data tend to be boring – but then this was my first attempt to talk pure data. I wanted to get a feel of how people connect to data-based awareness creation. Of course, we all know population is a problem and need be addressed, but, how serious the issue is, and what solutions can we look at to address the issue – was something I wanted to share.  It was received well – atleast put some seeds on people’s minds to think about it.

So, that was indeed a fun-filled and sharing sunday with lots of good food, bloggers, audiences and think-tanks. I can’t ask for anything better! I wish I had these kind of opportunities every week-end so that I can mingle with people and share information and data and brainstorm about solutions to address the issue. And I am sure, over time and connections, it will happen!

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The #HopeProject #IndiBlogger meet – #Bangalore – December 15, 2013

I got the email intimation about the #HopeProject #IndiBlogger meet at #Bangalore that was going to happen at Bangalore on December 15th a week back. I was always looking forward to participate in a blogger meet for a while, and I was excited that there’s an opportunity to attend one in Bangalore itself.

Came December 15th, and off I went to the #Microsoft R&D campus in Lavelle Road. The venue was decorated pretty nice, and the IndiBlogger folks have been taking care of all aspects starting from registration to ushering to photographs in a very professional way. I liked the part about people entering their Indiblogger-registered email id., and then their Twitter ID showing in the live event feed along with the time when they walked in. That was cool.

There was a whiteboard in which many keywords were written, and each blogger was asked to write a keyword that they looking forward to in 2014. Swati took the pictures of the bloggers along with those individual sheets showing against the background of the whiteboard.

The event started with Anoop Johnson welcoming everyone, followed by Nihal taking all of us through step-to-step towards “We will…We will.. Rock you!” to get us all out of the so-called ‘corporate’ mode, and help us relax and have fun!

After this, we had introductions from each blogger who is coming for the Bangalore meet for the first time, and everyone was given a minute’s time to introduce themselves, the topics that they blog about, and the theme of hope that they have in mind for 2014.

I thought a lot about my theme. I have been volunteering for fund-raising for rural education for underprivileged children, but at the same time, on the big picture perspective, I am always concerned about how as Indians we are going to help ourselves when we have so many people. So, even though I would be working a lot on the rural education front in 2014, my focus would be to create awareness about India population perils and how we need to control it – among various forums, channels, organisations, policy-makers and individuals, and so, I chose my theme as ‘Population’.

I was given a golden chance to present my 5-slide presentation on population & control approach during the introduction session, thanks to Anoop. The reason I am saying it’s a golden chance was because – we were yet to get into the thick of things about the agenda of the meet; we just had started the meeting, and the attendees were still very attentive on what was being said by everyone, and so I had the attention of the entire audience with an open mind so that I can put across my views. And good enough it was received well and understood by many. They could appreciate the seriousness of the situation as I had projected the gloomy picture with the help of supporting data collected from the India Census 2010, sincere thanks to data collected by Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

After the introductions, all the bloggers got into groups of 5 and played a Milaap theme picture-puzzle solving game. Three groups won the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes, which had gift codes for donations made at the Milaap web-site. It was good fun and a nice team-work exercise.

This was followed by high tea which included samosas, biscuits, and coffee-tea. We had an opportunity to mingle with fellow bloggers. I had the chance to introduce myself with Raghav, Jey, Sangeeta and Knitha.

We then got into the main agenda of the meeting – the #HopeProject by #Milaap, which is trying to eradicate the DevaDaasi system from the many districts along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border through micro-financing. Anoj Viswanathan, and Aditi, the founders of Milaap presented about their work, which was followed by a real-life sharing by a person from Belgaum district who got out of the DevaDaasi system and explained the challenges and how she managed to form a group to help people like her. There was a video which showed a sad story before Milaap intervention, and how the person’s life changed after the intervention.

It was enlightening to see how there are still many portions in India which are under the clutches of blind beliefs, people who would trade other people for money in the disguise of religious beliefs, etc. It almost looked like there was no doctrine of law and enforcements in these places. Kudos to Milaap which is doing a fantastic job in rehabilitating these people are making them enterpreneurs so that they can take their life in their own hands!  This was followed by a photograph session.

After the video and the talk, the forum was split into three or four groups for discussions, during which time I had to leave.

It was a wonderful energetic meet!  I wish I had taken pictures for sharing, but unfortunately I didn’t. I hope this blog itself has the meet visualized in words!

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India passport issuance renewal – a few thoughts

The passport application & renewal in India has become relatively hassle-free and straight-forward, thanks to the new online tracking system. I applied on 20th and got my passport on hand on 31st.  The process is transparent – and stage-by-stage, the progress is updated in the web-site at http://passport.gov.in . No stage takes more than a day or two. Police verification stage proceeds smoothly and fast if you go to the police station and give your details with the photocopies of I.D. proofs and the documents that they ask for.

I do have a lot of concerns in the forms and the physical logistics of the passport seva kendra. This is true for the passport seva kendra in Lalbagh, Bangalore, and passport office in Kormangala, wherever specified.

1) Annexure F asks for the applicant name followed by S/O information, using blanks. Nowhere it says in the application or the associated instructions that the applicant’s full name (First name followed by middle name followed by last name) should be entered in the applicant name. Most of us tend to enter just our first name, especially since the S/O is asked immediately after the first name. If we enter just the first name, it is not accepted by the officials.

2) Lalbagh PSV, Bangalore: The place where they issue the tokens and the enquiry area is pretty crowded. Officials don’t realise the fact that every applicant is carrying sensitive documents with them like I.D. proofs and the queue system does not work. Everyone tries to push and fall on each other. If anyone’s document is lost, it is a big problem for them.  On the other hand, there is plenty of space inside the seva kendra allocated for the first stage of application processing called the ‘A’ section in the right side of the office, which is not used at all. This space should be around 5000 sq.ft. Why not use this space for receiving the applicants in a well-managed fashion, in a queue or a token system, so that people don’t fall over each other?

3) The no. of people attending to the tokens in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections are just 4 people each on a typical day, wherease ‘A’ section has 20 people. This leads to ‘B’ and ‘C’ section applicants waiting for a long time to be served. On the day I went for the interview, 100 applicants were sitting for around 7 hours waiting to be served in ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections.  The tokens were being issued even after 4:30 PM, which lead to heavy crowd.  It was sad to see the Assistant Regional Passport Officer herself doing the ‘B’ and ‘C’ verifications on the day I went. Her role should be to monitor whether things are moving smoothly in the office and to take actions where required.  Token issuance should be stopped once the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section no. of applications become unmanageable. No. of officers processing the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section should be increased.

4) There is a wonderful token issuing software algorithm to manage the applicants category like women, children, senior citizens, tatkal and normal quota, but at the end of the day, we all feel the crunch as the algorithm’s speed does not match with the no. of officers serving the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section. Talk about smart machines managed by not-so-smart people!

5) In the Kormangala passport office, applicants are forced to stand outside without cover in the queue though some limited no. of shaded seats are available, but they are not sufficient.  The token issuance windows look like a foreign embassy where applicants are asked to stand outside their office for visa stamping ! (Everyone know the Chennai scene near Gemini flyover!). If India itself treats their citizens like this, how will other countries respect India’s citizens ?

5) Securities manning the exit gate at Lalbagh PSV are openly asking to write their name and mobile number in a form that solicits Tata AIG insurance. This clearly falls in the borderline of illegal marketing. I don’t know who pays the securities – the Ministry of External Affairs (or) Tata AIG. Action has to be taken on this front.

If space and the monitoring and servicing of crowd is done properly in passport seva kendra, things will move a lot faster and smoother. Will the Ministry of External Affairs look into these points and take action?