Category Archives: demographics

A Massive Scale Democracy At Work

The world’s largest democracy (India, in case you didn’t know) is voting now to choose its new government. The sheer numbers that India is dealing with are enormous and astounding – some that the rest of the world will  never witness.

As of Feb 2014, the number of people from this 1.2 billion strong country who are eligible to vote is an amazing 814 million+. Compare that to about 150 million registered voters in USA.

In fact, around 120 million voters in India will be voting for the first time since the last national elections that were held in 2009….they are the new grown-ups with a huge, new responsibility to help guide the country into their future.


A first time female voter displaying her voter identity card, at a polling booth during the 4th Phase of Lok Sabha General Elections-2014, in Sikkim on April 12, 2014

930,000 polling stations will be used with 1.4 million electronic voting machines. Thousands of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed to polling stations to provide security. Truly a behemoth project!

The actual voting is taking place over a period of more than a month, that began on April 7th and will go through May 12th in a phased manner across various regions of the country.  

The national level elections for the Lok Sabha or the “House of the People” (the lower house of the Parliament of India) is represented by members of Parliament from a total of 543 constituencies. The leading party (likely an alliance of parties) will need 272 seats to form the government of India for the next five years. By mid-May, India will have a new leader and government, elected to take the country forward.

Sadly of the more than 3300 candidates contesting the national elections, more than 550 have criminal charges filed against them, with 328 of them being serious charges (murder, kidnapping, rape…).  😦   How is this even permitted?

Appalling Statistics. Frightful Reality

Appalling Statistics. Frightful Reality.

But even with all that said and done, this is truly a marvel as it unfolds…democracy in action at a truly massive scale. And whether one likes the outcome or not, the country has to live with it because the majority has spoken. Did I say, democracy?

[Click here to know everything about this election in 2 minutes, video by BBC]. 

I can safely say that the leading candidate scares the bejesus out of me.

I lost my right to vote when I immigrated and became a citizen of the great democratic nation where I now live. But I didn’t lose my right to care. Or to have an opinion (a strong one at that).

I tell myself, just look back in history and you can see that democracies around the world have survived despite electing some terrible leaders, sometimes coming out even stronger for it.  In fact, you don’t have to look too far, simply see the current highly ineffective, corruption-ridden government of India that is forcing people to choose change

I tell myself that the nation is strong enough to survive, whatever happens. Until the next election.

I tell myself that someday more people will vote for clean, progressive and secular versus the alternative. And someday there will be a viable alternative. Perhaps even multiple alternatives.

I tell myself that I will eat my words if I am proven wrong this time. Happily.

I tell myself that ultimately, even with all its flaws, democracy in action is a beautiful thing.



Statistics courtesy of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), India


Why You Should Read Bill Gates’ 2014 Annual Letter. Yes, You.

Surely you didn’t think I would overlook this?

The day that Bill and Melinda Gates Annual letter arrives is (or should be) a red-letter day. Their 2014 annual letter was published this week.

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Why should you care?

This year, the letter, written from the heart, tears up some big myths about global poverty that pervade our societies and cultures, no matter where in the world you live. While it does so with a sense of optimism, being the self-admitted geeky nerd that he is, Mr. Gates backs up his view of the world and its future with numbers, facts and figures.

Don’t agree that it’s worth a read? Then, here’s another reason you should care.

See, the way I look at it is like this – as the Gates’ commit their lives and contribute invaluable resources to save the world, it should hardly be a difficulty for the rest of us to spend a few minutes to understand their mission and its progress. It’s our world too. Right?

Still don’t care? Well in that case, it’s time to say bye now.  😦



On the other hand, if you who have made it this far, here is a Cliff Notes version of the letter, single-minded and aimed at whetting your appetite-


myth 1

First of is Bill Gates’ fantastic prediction about the end of poverty in the world by 2035. It should make even the most heartless, disbelieving cynic sit up and take notice.

Is this really possible? Remember, it’s not just anyone who is saying it….Bill Gates puts his money (and life) where his mouth is.  

Excerpt: It will be a remarkable achievement. When I was born, most countries in the world were poor. In the next two decades, desperately poor countries will become the exception rather than the rule. Billions of people will have been lifted out of extreme poverty. The idea that this will happen within my lifetime is simply amazing to me.


myth 2

Second is a myth that I for one needed to understand better. The impact of foreign aid is indeed phenomenal – and just in case you doubted it, Mr.Gates blows through the myth that it’s not with impressive facts and figures.

And that’s even with foreign aid being as relatively minuscule as I found out it is.  The US is the largest provider, and its aid amounts to just 0.8 percent of the U.S. federal budget (yes, that period is in the right place).

Excerpt: I don’t want to imply that $11 billion a year isn’t a lot of money. But to put it in perspective, it’s about $30 for every American. Imagine that the income tax form asked, “Can we use $30 of the taxes you’re already paying to protect 120 children from measles?”  Would you check yes or no?

Excerpt:Also remember that healthy children do more than merely survive. They go to school and eventually work, and over time they make their countries more self-sufficient. This is why I say aid is such a bargain.

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Excerpt: The next time someone tells you we can trim the budget by cutting aid, I hope you will ask whether it will come at the cost of more people dying.

Excerpt: Let’s put this achievement in historical perspective. A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent. I can’t think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close.


myth 3

And finally, the third myth that Melinda Gates demolishes is that saving lives will lead to overpopulation.

Excerpt: We make the future sustainable when we invest in the poor, not when we insist on their suffering.

Excerpt: Saving lives doesn’t lead to overpopulation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite…We will build a better future for everyone by giving people the freedom and the power to build a better future for themselves and their families.


Enough said. Or perhaps not?

Go read The Gates Letter in its entirety. Don’t be so selfish – do the world that you live in a big favor.  30 minutes or less is all you need – to learn from it, to get inspired and last but not least, to pass it on (another big favor).


And in case you haven’t seen this video of Bill Gates promoting this letter in his own unique and corny way on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (of all things),  have a look.

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