Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lead India: You too can make a difference

The spirit that drove the Lead India campaign - seek solutions rather than bemoaning problems; encourage achievers to get involved in addressing public concerns rather than remaining cocooned in their personal spheres - is more relevant than ever before.

India will need that spirit as long as it is confronted by barriers that prevent it from attaining its full potential.

What more can be done to attain the goals of Lead India ? We have a few suggestions, and we invite all stakeholders in civil society - including other media houses - to take them up.

Health and education are obviously two big focus areas - the first involves a citizen's right to life, the other his right to make a decent living. So are the environment and campaign financing. So we'd suggest:

1 | Make it a requirement for any undergraduate student to complete a certain number of hours teaching underprivileged children before s/he gets her degree. On the same principle, all professional students (doctors, engineers, MBAs, etc) could be required to spend the last three months of their course working on a live project with a rural community, using their skills to improve their quality of life.

2 | Rewrite tax laws to further encourage corporate social responsibility. In particular, we have one suggestion: a yawning void exists today between 'five-star' and government hospitals. The luxury hospitals are too expensive, while government hospitals are so mired in squalor that none but the most desperate and deprived are willing to go there.

Perhaps India is ready for budget hospitals – no-frills medical establishments which provide decent treatment and hygienic surroundings at affordable rates. The government could encourage entrepreneurs to enter this space by providing tax write-offs. It's a better way to ensure public health than by hiking budgetary outlays which never reach their intended beneficiaries.

3 | Set up an Environment Army, and have a draft. There's been talk of introducing conscription, and not everyone is comfortable with the idea. But surely no one can object to this: set up a Green Corps whose sole task is to move from place to place and carry out afforestation projects. Then make it mandatory for able-bodied youngsters to serve for a year in this force. A year of one's life to ensure future generations have a decent shot at survival. Is that too much to ask for?

4 | Give decent salaries to those in public life. Today, our best and brightest students would much rather join the private sector than public administration, because the former is a much better option for those who'd like to make an honest living while enjoying a decent quality of life. We must offer politicians and bureaucrats compensation that is at least competitive with the private sector.

5 | Clean up campaign funding: Probably the single biggest reason honest individuals are deterred from entering politics. Fighting elections has now become such an expensive proposition that it's impossible for anyone who doesn't have deep pockets to contest with a realistic chance to win. This opens the floodgates for corruption and criminalization of politics. State funding of elections might be an option worth considering.

All of the above-mentioned suggestions involve macro-level, policy decisions. But that's not to say we can't make a difference at the individual level. In Mahatma Gandhi's immortal words, "be the change you want to see in the world". So, even if you can't spare the time to get involved with campaigns, here are a few tangible things you could still do:

1 | Give way to ambulances: Just ask yourself a simple question: What would you do if it was a loved one of yours in the ambulance behind you? Act accordingly.

2 | Take accident victims to hospital: Don't ignore the person lying on the road and carry on blithely. And please don't become part of the crowd that invariably gathers to gawk. Inconvenience yourself, and save a life.

3 | Do some voluntary counselling: Schools, colleges, hospitals and other public institutions are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer number of confused people they have to cope with. Something as basic as guiding people to the right location can be a huge help. How about volunteering to help out for one hour in a week?

4 | Encourage your children to teach the domestic help: We assume you've already taught them to be respectful and considerate of the less fortunate. Why not ask them to spare a little time to teach the maid and/or her children.

5 | Be a green warrior: Switch off lights when you're not using them. Walk to the nearby market. Take up rainwater harvesting. Join a car pool.

There are many ways to make a difference. Surely you can find a few?


Lets we change first to make a Change!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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