Category Archives: Real Issues

The Youth Pulse: Talking to Mr. Rajesh Kumar, Youth BJP Leader From Bihar

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By Ankush Kumar

MSK and Ankush Kumar start a series of interviews, where we will showcase the views of our youth leaders and their connect with the Youngistaan.

Joining us today is ‘Mr. Rajesh Kumar’ convenor of the professional cell of the BJP for Bihar. He is a son of the soil, born in a village named Narhat, has done his schooling from there, did his engineering in Bangalore and MBA from Pune. He is currently the Zonal head for Frontline, a company that is into trading and investments. He also has other business interests but most importantly is an active youth leader for the BJP in Bihar.

Excerpts.

Ankush Kumar (AK):  Sir why did you choose the BJP and say no to the Congress or any other political party?

Rajesh Kumar (RK): The motto of this party is to work with a difference. It puts the nation as top priority, then the state follows and self is given least priority. They function in a democratic way, unlike the Congress where one family controls its policies. Hence I have chosen the BJP.

AK:  Since you believe in the democratic set up of your party, and the youth is desperate for change. How do you think you can sync your ideologies with the young voters?

RK: The youth has taken to the social media in a big way, any issue and every issue is dissected by them. They are disheartened by the current affairs of our country and its leaders. We as youth leaders want them to know that we empathize with them and we are ready to walk hand-in-hand and bring change to society.

AK: All political leaders say the same thing sir that they will bring in the change. Frankly most leaders choose politics to make money. How do you think this can change?

RK: I agree to a certain extent that most leaders have failed the people of India; they have minted money on people’s misery. But most importantly they have filled their coffers by dividing the nation on communal and caste lines. These leaders can never show us the right direction. They can just do minority vote bank politics. Our NDA Government in has Bihar managed to change that in the last nine years. We have ensured that people in the lowest strata of the society get educated. Because a well educated society can only curb the rampant culture of such selfish leaders.

AK: As you said that we need to educate at the grass root level, India spends very little on elementary education. What steps has the BJP youth wing taken to ensure that education reaches the grassroots level?

RK: As they say Rome was not built in a day. When NDA came to power in Bihar, our aim first was to eradicate the fear of the people by providing security and law and order. We youth level leaders first want to break the syndicate of these selfish politicians who do not let the weaker sections of society to progress. If you remember the induction of 2 lakh teachers happened during our regime. Cycles were provided to girl students to strengthen our education system.

AK: Last time I visited a few schools in Bihar and most teachers under the Shiksha Mitra scheme did not know basic general knowledge about our country. All this eventually hampers the image of Bihar. Even today the perception of a Bihari is wrong in other parts of India. How do you all plan to tackle this?

RK: See there will be some loopholes always. Even we have observed that selection of few teachers have not been up to the mark. And that definitely needs to be corrected. As far as perception is concerned, I don’t care what others think about us, because we too have opinions on them. For example, I believe Maharashtra has the highest crime rate. Furthermore, Maharashtrians haven’t remained in touch with their culture. So, before throwing stones at us, they need to get their own house in order. We are a state that boasts of the best brains, be it from the field of engineering, UPSC or any other. So you cannot judge us uni-dimensionally.

AK: The bitter truth though remains that these brains eventually settle outside Bihar. What steps can be taken to ensure that brain drain does not happen?

RK: Yes that is true! In fact, I too completed Masters from Karnataka. The truth is that the government of Bihar during the nineties in did zilch development. We had neither engineering nor medical colleges, nor infrastructure – no one was ready to invest here hence the intelligent minds decided to migrate. In the last nine years though people have come forward and through public and private ventures medical colleges are opening in the state. IIT came here so did AIIMS. When we came to power our first priority was law and order and once that was achieved we started focusing on other sectors.

AK: As you said your top priority was law and order, but in the past few months Bihar has witnessed terror crimes. How and why did this happen?

RK: Ever since we have split with the JDU, they have only been interested in saving their government. They focus on ways to demean us and harp on NDA’s achievements. The National security agencies had warned them of threats yet no action was taken. It’s a total failure of the state intelligence machinery. Bihar has hardly seen terror attacks based on communal lines, but these people sitting in Pakistan don’t seem to improve.

AK: I disagree here, terror has no face, innocent lives are lost be it any religion. Doesn’t this statement sends out a wrong message to the youth?

RK: Who says terror has no face? Ask a child on the road and he will tell you terror means Pakistan. Yes, I agree innocent people have nothing to do with these terrorists. But these cowards have repeatedly damaged our nation and its time we retaliate in the most appropriate manner.

AK: Elections are round the corner and social media gives the impression that Narendra Modi is going to become the next Prime Minister. It’s being tipped as a battle between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. What is your take on it?

RK: I would like to start with a proverb we use in our villages ‘kahan raja bhog kahan gangu teli’. Narendra Ji has been in active politics for the last forty years, thrice the awaam of Gujarat have made him the Chief Minister. He comes from the grass root level, whereas Rahul Gandhi, apart from his family, has no credentials.

He returns from abroad and is made secretary overnight. Wherever he has campaigned, the Congress has lost. He went to UP and they were reduced to 36 seats, he came to Bihar as the icon of the Congress and made false promises. What happened? They won just three seats. So those people who are comparing him to Narendra bhai have very little knowledge about politics.

AK: Sir as you say NaMo is incomparable to any leader, then why is there so much infighting in the BJP over his nomination for PM post?

RK: See, we are a democratic party; in our set-up everyone has the right to express his or her views and opinions. We don’t have unilateral power centers like the others; we have a system in place, where even a cadre-based leader can voice his opinion and if his demands are genuine, it will be acted upon. Families do not run us. I will give you an example here. Do you know the name of the father of Narendra Modi or Rajnath Ji? But the country knows the name of Rahul Gandhi’s father or Laloo’s son or Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family.

AK: As you said you are a democratic party, then why did your parliamentary board gag Shatrughan Sinha? Once gagging happens how is the party democratic?

RK: I am a son of the soil, likewise Shotgunjee too is. He commented on NaMo on the basis of ideologies and understanding of politics. I don’t want to comment on that. But I would like to say that before he comments on Narendra bhai he should gauge his own popularity. In his own constituency his banners were removed and NaMo’s banners were put up. We too have done our surveys and we believe the nation is with Narendra bhai hence he should and will be the man who will lead us in the next elections.

AK: Sir, if you all are so confident, why has his name not been nominated for the top post?

RK: As I said, we are a democratic party, and we function step by step. Right now teams are being formed in different states. Who will lead our campaigns in which state, who will handle what responsibilities. Once we complete the nitty gritties of the campaign we will soon announce the name of Narendra Modi jee as our Prime ministerial candidate.

AK: What is that one issue, that you think will help you regain control of Delhi?

RK: The issue of development is that issue. The youth wants change today, we still are using the same infrastructure that we used forty years back, that needs to change, we want to do politics of development. We are not interested in politics of religion or states or division. We have had enough of this. My appeal to the voters is to go by the appeal of Narendra bhai ‘Yes We Can’. Lets vote for change, let’s vote for development.

AK: Before I take your leave, one final question ‘ where do we see Rajesh Kumar’ in five years time?

RK: I want to live amongst my society, work for them, help them grow in life. Place me anywhere without any selfish reasons because I want to work for the betterment of my nation, state and system.

This was Mr. Rajesh Kumar, a rising star of the BJP from Bihar. Keep a tab on this space online for yet another youth leaders take on the Youth’s pulse. Till then signing off!

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Ms. Rose Chasm: The Cross Who Double Crossed Us

the cross that double crossed us

Continuing her crusade in India’s defence, Shwetha Kalyanasundaram, brings to you more evidence of why she thinks this entire Ms. Chasm story is a campaign to malign India. A must read. 

A chance comment posted under my article on CNN iReport titled “My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective” (first published on Mission Sharing Knowledge) caught my attention.

Quoting the person under the pseudonym ‘moonboat’ – “Michela Cross posted a number of videos on YouTube during her trip, including one that gives quite a different account of the Ganesha festival incident she related. In the video, she gushes on about how she loved all the attention and photos being taken of her. In the current circumstances, where her story is being taken as gospel and this story has gone viral, I find the videos are appalling. She also shows herself to be ignorant and disrespectful of Indian culture.”

And this had a bunch of us looking at the videos posted by Ms. Cross on her channel in YouTube. Boy! Weren’t they interesting! And we realized that some of her statements were in total contradiction to her article “India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear”.

Here’s how…

Her video published on September 29, 2012, where she talks about her experiences at the Ganesha festival

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPu2GmF4Y44

Quoting Ms. Cross from the video

  • “We were grabbed by a bunch of GIRLS who started dancing with us, flashing paint on our faces, which was COOL”
  • “Taking loads of photos of us, I felt like a CELEBRITY. If you wanna feel like a celebrity, be a WHITE person and GO TO INDIA”
  • “We danced for 12 more hours to Bollywood music and we were given lots of food. It was super cool. I felt like I was in a movie”
  • “Fun facts – The Ganesha festival which ended today is…ummm…Ganesha is the God who is prayed to for the start of journeys and travels. I consider it GOOD LUCK”

Wow Ms.Cross! This is so contradictory to what you had put up in your story about the Ganesha festival!!!

Quoting from her article “I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets.” However, your video titled “Whipping Boy” published on October 2, 2012 has you saying that your roommate and her friend embarked on an adventure and smiled at the people on the streets!

Didn’t you just break the rules?!? And you say you weren’t prepared for all the stares/glares that sliced away bits of you piece by piece! You brought it on upon yourself – you purposefully drew the locals’ attention on you! And you blame us?!? Preposterous is the word (that would just be an understatement actually!).

There are 6 videos that have been put up by Ms. Cross on YouTube with reference to her India trip – especially her three months of stay in Pune. Surprisingly, none of her videos show signs of struggle or trauma. And you are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now?!? I’m no psychiatrist Ms. Cross – but all I can say is you are suffering from a serious bout of “Attention Deficit Disorder”.

Ms. Cross, now I’m really starting to wonder if your whole article “India:  The Story You Never Wanted to Hear” was a sham to tarnish the image of my beautiful country. You’ve taken the entire nation for a highly emotional ride. Your article drew in a lot of support from my fellow compatriots and this pretence of an article is like a slap on their faces. Deplorable act I must say!!

P.S: @Moonboat – whoever you are, thanks a lot for bringing this to our notice. We owe this article to you!

Parental Guide To ‘Freedom’ And ‘Risk’

parental guidance

Post the gang-rape in Mumbai, a friend observed ‘thank God, I don’t have daughters’. But Jaideep Ghosh has, and he wouldn’t have it any way.

The plus of having a teenaged child is that you get tech savvy in double-quick time. But as a parent of a teenager, you also need to be able to gauge between what is too much interference, or not.

So when I got savvy to Whatsapp, I keep tabs on my daughter. But most of the time it’s to check when was the last time she was online. If the time span is anything more than two hours, I send her a message.

I am a father of daughter who commutes in to the North Campus of Delhi University from the NCR, alone. She travels the entire breadth of the city, through some of the not-so-great neighbourhoods, and beyond. I worry. But I will be damned if I tell her not to.

But while there is no question that people’s freedoms and rights are sacrosanct, some of the reactions to the Mumbai gang-rape, or any other offence, leave me a little frustrated and a little angry.

Our politicians have never been paragons of sensitivity, so their reactions are not to be jumped on with any great gusto.

At the same time, the reactions of the so-called ‘liberals’ scares me. You cannot condone, if not downright encourage, putting women in situations where they would be at risk.

I tell my daughter to be careful, not because I am trying to impinge on her liberties. I would equally tell a son to wear a helmet if he was on a bike. And I would tell them both to be back home by a reasonable time (though the interpretation of ‘reasonable’ has always been different for parents and children).

Irrespective of which country you are in, the initiative is always with the criminal. There is no system by which the police can pre-empt a crime, without prior knowledge. That is also what makes terrorist strikes so successful.

This distinction is pretty clear for me – I won’t let anyone compromise my child’s pursuit of success and happiness. At the same time, I would not accept any hysterical banshee proclamations that ‘freedom’ translates into taking unnecessary risks.

That applies particularly given the fact that we live in a society which largely, at best, just tolerates women. Men cannot handle being bettered by women, or even equalled. Take a look at how men drivers react to being passed by women. That is a classic example. So, given half a chance, they will try to force this ‘superiority’. Don’t give them that chance.

I worry. I am always keeping track of where my daughter is. She has been brought up in the rather unforgiving environs of Delhi, but that bravado and attitude can be a double-edged weapon.

But that doesn’t mean she will sit at home. She will do whatever she wants to do, but as a sensible 20-year-old, she knows where she has to draw a line. This ‘drawing a line’ seems to be an issue with many women. To them I say, get real.

That said, I wouldn’t trade having a daughter with anything else. I would wish her a happy life, as to all women. But be a little careful out there.

My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective

India the story you never wanted

Shwetha Kalyanasundaram rebuts this story which lambasts India and makes you feel the country is made up of vultures only looking for prey landing in form of women tourists. A must read for all, no matter what nationality.  

Ms. Rose Chasm’s article “India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear” has been trending for the last couple of days, with many of my friends sharing the story on various social networking sites. The headline of the article prompted me to read and I was shocked to read about Ms. Chasm’s traumatic experience in my country. As a woman, my heart went out to Ms. Chasm. When I read your article Ms. Chasm, I was ashamed of my country (for the first time!). But pondering over your article, I realized that I cannot sit in my comfortable space and watch people tear my country down (with reference to the 1000+ comments left behind by people to your story).

As a citizen of this wonderful nation (and not a nation of snake charmers and elephants), I am writing in to clear the air and do my bit to support my country. I love my country. And I am not blind to the flaws that exist today.

India has been my home for over two and a half decades. As a woman who bears resemblance to a South East Asian (rather than having the typical Indian features), I have always been looked upon as a foreigner in my own land. I can understand how it feels to have hundred pairs of eyes follow your every move. There have been many instances when the local people have tried to sell their wares to me; with a hope their goods reach foreign shores. I wouldn’t call them advances, rather we are just a group of people who take pride in what we do and feel the need to be appreciated by somebody from a foreign land.

We have always been dubbed as a nation of brown-skinned people and I don’t have any qualms in accepting that we have an obsession for the “white” skin. That could probably explain why people stopped and gaped at you in the bazaars. And I can bet they weren’t just men who stared at you – women and children would have looked at you as well. As a foreigner, you must have been prepared to stand out in the crowd. I am sure you would have been briefed about the cultural differences between the two nations. Yes! It can be uncomfortable to be stared at and photographed but lady, you know ignorance is bliss.

Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendoes. For the millions of women who use public transportation in India, there have been numerous cases of “accidental” brushes and gropes. There have been numerous cases where women have been stalked and flashed – at. But for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be ten men who will fight for you and your dignity.

The recent spate of rape attacks and incest cases that we hear and read day in and day out have definitely tarnished my country’s image. And your story just adds more fuel to the fire. If there had been an attempt to rape against you or your friend, did you reach out to the local police to lodge a complaint or did you approach your consulate for help?!? I assume, as an exchange student, you would definitely have been briefed about all these formalities in the event of any untoward incident.

In Sanskrit, we say “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” (translated: Mother, Father, Teacher, God). The meaning of this adage is the greatest truth and is the order in which we offer reverence. This is the basic tenet in existence from time immemorial and every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God. The Indian men know to treat their women with respect. And I cannot tolerate your generalization that Indian men are bad. You cannot blame the entire male population for the actions of few.

I have seen the best and worst of both the worlds, having spent a considerable portion of my adult life in America and the Middle East. In all the countries I have been to, I have been subjected to roving eyes and sexual overtures from men. I have been leered and heckled by cab drivers and pedestrians alike. Even a middle aged woman is not spared!! Let’s not be too dramatic here and accept that sexual crimes against women are a problem world over.

Do you know that every 1 out of 5 women in America are raped every day (This is according to a UN report published in 2011 and the same figure has been quoted in a NY times article, published December 2011). Does this mean I can issue a travel warning and tell people how unsafe America is?!? Your country is a beautiful place Ms. Chasm and a few bad moments are not going to deter me from travelling again. I just hope your personal experiences don’t make you too judgmental about our great country.

Ms. Chasm, I sympathize with you completely. As a woman, I understand the trauma of your three months stay in my country. Your problem is with that category of homo-sapiens bearing the Y-chromosome and not with my country.

It tears me apart that men and women have apologized on behalf of the Indian population and have left comments to your article. I’m not going to offer apologies. I can only offer you an olive branch and hope you visit my country again, and view this nation from a different and an unbiased perspective. 

Are We Really Free?

By Chandan Das

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The 68th Round Survey by the National Sample Survey Office ( NSSO), ministry of statistics and programme implementation says:

“In 2013, Unemployment rate in India has increased. It is 2% in rural areas and 3% in urban India.

The unemployment rate per 1,000 population is at 27, while it was 25 two years ago. As on January 1, 2010, the number of unemployed was 9.8 million. By January 1, 2012, it has increased to 10.8 million. In rural areas, the unemployment rate for both male and female is almost at the same level, 2%. But, in, urban areas, women are more unemployed than men. The rate is 5% for women and 2% for men.”

This man in the picture , who is currently jobless with a family to feed and other responsibilities on his shoulder is wondering on the eve of Independence Day “Have we really got the Freedom?”

Defining Moments : India at 66

As India takes one more step forward, let us take a look at 11 defining moments after its Independence.

From Dominion to Republic, 1950.

From Dominion to Republic

The Dominion of India becomes the Republic of India on 26th January 1950 by adopting the newly drafted constitution. Today, we are the largest democracy in the world and the constitution is the largest one in the world and maintains its unique nature while adopting several portions from British, US & other constitutions of the world.

Biggest Gamble in History : First General Elections 1951-52

First General Elections 1951-52

It was like the biggest gamble in the history of India. Consider, first of all, the size of the electorate: 176 million Indian voters of whose more than 85% could not read or write. Each one had to be identified, named & registered. At stake were around 4500 seats – about 500 for Parliament and rest for Provincial assemblies. Again these figures are not enough, there were 224,000 polling booths, 2 million steel ballot boxes (made of 8200 tonnes of steel) and about 380,000 reams of paper were used. And with all this, India went to its first general elections.

Redrawing the Map : State Reorganization Act, 1956

State Reorganization

India is a land of many languages, each with its distinct script, grammar, vocabulary and literary traditions. And as we became independent, demand for states on linguistic and ethnic identities started growing. It was the 58 – day long fast of Potti Sriramulu that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh and setting up the First State Reorganization Commission. Potti Sriramulu might be a forgotten man today but his fast and its aftermath sparked off a wholesale redrawing of the map of India on linguistic lines.

The Experience of Defeat ; Sino – Indian War, 1962

1962 India China War

As the Dalai Lama crossed into India in 1959 and China tightened its control over Tibet, the “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ slogans on the border were replaced by “Yeh Zameen Hamara Hai, Tum Wapas Jao”. Border & territorial claims of both the countries were starkly different and as China grew stronger under the Communist rule, it was determined to undo all the ground positions. As China attacked India in 1962, the war lead to a bitter defeat for ill-prepared India. The India-China conflict, then, was a clash of national myths, national egos, national insecurities and ultimately of the national armies.

Victory against Pakistan, 1965

1965 War

Pakistan’s ruler Ayub Khan and his company were encouraged by the debacle against China in 1962. But they forgot that it was in wet & slippery Himalayas, while war with Pakistan is on a terrain that Indians knew much better. The victory in the 1965 war came as a confidence booster to everybody, be it army, civilians or the Govt.

The Uncertain years and the Bangladesh War, 1967-71

Pakistan

Once the Congress was the national cohesive force, but by late 1960s, it was split into disputatious parts. Between Banking nationalization, slogans of “Garibi Hatao” and several other reforms by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, India was again facing trouble from its western neighbor, but this time on the eastern frontiers. The than East Pakistan was witnessing popular uprising for a separate nation and this lead to a war between India & Pakistan. Within 6 days, Indian army had marched till Dacca. It was hailed as the biggest victory ever in Indian history and it changed the map of the subcontinent.

The Emergency Years, 1975-77

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After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was found guilty of electoral malpractice, she declared State of Emergency in June 1975. The emergency revived the debate as to whether India could, should, or ever would be reliably democratic. The emergency was lifted in 1977, and India saw its first non-Congress govt, though a short-lived one.

Operation Blue Star and Assassination of the Indira Gandhi, 1984

Assassination of Indira

As militancy and violence was on the peak in Punjab, the Indian Government decided to attack the Khalistan movement and “Operation Blue Star” was launched in July 1984. As a consequence, in October that year, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards and this was followed by large-scale Anti-Sikh riots in Northern India. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

Mandal, Kamandal & Economic Reforms : 1990-92

Babri Mosque Demolition

In 1990, the controversy rose over PM V.P. Singh’s decision to implement 1980 recommendations of the Mandal commission for further job reservations to “other backward classes”. The same year Bharatiya Janata Party launched nationwide protests over Ayodhya issue. After the tenth General elections in 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE terrorists. The economy took a downturn, and gold reserves were pawned to stave off default on international debt. In 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished and riots broke out not only in India but in several other countries.

Peace & War, 1999

Lahore Bus Trip

As Prime Minister Vajpayee undertook a historic bus journey to Pakistan and signs a declaration of peace; within a few days, Pakistani soldiers crossed the LOC and infiltrated Indian Kashmir. India repulsed the attack and Pakistan lost the brief, but bloody, border conflict in the Himalayan district of Kargil.

Gandhi’s land in communal riots, 2002

Gujarat Riots 2002

As several Kar Sevaks were burned to death in an attack on Sabarmati Express in Godhra town in 2002, large-scale Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Gujarat leaving over a thousand dead.

Akshaya Patra Foundation: A Case Study For All Mid-Day Meal Schemes: MSK Exclusive

It’s been a month since 23 children died in the Bihar mid-day meal tragedy. However, the village has not been able to get over the trauma. The Bihar Government has promised a compensation of Rs. two lakh per child. Were those children worth just a couple of lakhs for their parents? The only way such fatalities can be averted in the future is by keeping corruption out of the system. Akshaya Patra Foundation gives us a good insight into the same. Here is Akshaya Patra, probably world’s most successful mid-day meal scheme running organization, telling us how they manage such grand scales daily, how is supply chain taken care of and most importantly how they keep corruption out of bay. An exclusive must read. 

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Mission Sharing Knowledge (MSK): Feeding 1.3 million mouths every day surely must be a challenging task. How and where are tonnes of vegetable and rice cooked? How do you ensure hygiene levels?

AkshayaPatra_9Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF): It is an incredibly challenging task because quality levels need to be maintained from preparation till the delivery of meals to the children. Each Akshaya Patra centralized kitchen has the capacity to cook between 50,000 to 150,000 meals every day, without compromising on hygiene.

Our industrial-sized kitchens are equipped with custom-built machines to suit our need for quality and quantity. Chopping machines can cut 40 kg of vegetables in 60 seconds. Our roti-making machine churns out 60,000 rotis per hour. The food is cooked in mechanized, steam-heated cauldrons that reduce preparation time.

Akshaya-Patra-Foundation-Mid-Day-MealA mechanized process minimizes human handling of food, ensuring high levels of sanitation. All kitchen workers wear uniforms, gloves, caps and face masks. To protect it from microbes, the food is prepared at a temperature of 93°C and kept heated in insulated trucks till its delivery to schools.

MSK: What motivated you to start a programme such as midday meal for children?

sree-prabhuAPF: When His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada saw a group of children fighting with street dogs over scraps of food, he came to a determination that:  No one within a ten mile radius of our center should go hungry. It was this compassion that birthed Akshaya Patra.

Trustees T.V. Mohandas Pai and Abhay Jain along with Madhu Pandit Dasa, chairman of Akshaya Patra sowed the seeds of thought of starting a kitchen at ISKCON, Bangalore where meals would be cooked for underprivileged children in government schools.

The promise of meals in schools would ensure that children will seek and continue an education, instead of turning to labor.

In June, 2000 our midday meal scheme was launched in Bangalore, feeding 1,500 children in five schools. An overwhelming response from schools encouraged us to reach out to many more government schools in other states. Today we feed over 1.3 million school children across India.

MSK: People must be a very important component of the entire process. Who are the people Akshaya Patra credits it to?

APF: We are thankful to the central and state governments from whom we get around 65 per cent of our funds. The generosity of our donors is crucial for carrying out daily activities for providing midday meals to schoolchildren. We value the constant support of our volunteers, teachers and parents of the children.

An initiative of this magnitude and extent cannot be undertaken and managed without the involvement of many, and so Akshaya Patra is a team that comprises not only its employees, but also its supporters.

MSK: Is there a larger goal you are trying to achieve by feeding children and motivating them to study?

APF: According to World Bank and UNICEF statistics, over 8 million underprivileged children in India are out of school and have to resort to child labor to earn enough for a single meal in a day.

A midday meal is more than just an incentive for children to attain an education. It is a promise of progress, one that has the potential to rid India of malnourishment, illiteracy and poverty. India’s children are the future and education will empower them to be self-sufficient, successful and contribute to society.

By feeding our future we ensure a brighter tomorrow not just for them, but also for the country at large.

Akshaya_Patra_Jaipur_26

MSK: What is the core feature of your mid-day meal programme?

APF: A combination of quality and adaptability to manage constantly growing needs is the core feature of our programme.

Our large-scale operations that owe its success to constant technological innovation, allow us to function efficiently as the world’s largest school-lunch programme.

Kitchen processes begin at about 2 a.m. and continue throughout the night till the food is ready to be dispatched in custom-made delivery vans at 8 a.m. Meals are promptly delivered to each school by lunchtime. It takes a whole lot of determination and dedication to carry out this glitch-free process every day.

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MSK: How easy or difficult is it for you to raise money such a grand endeavor?

APF: We rely on the support of not only the government, but also our donors. We use the resources available to us in the most efficient ways possible, yet an ambitious mission to feed five million children by 2020 will always require more assistance.

Effective results and absolute transparency of the Foundation makes donors feels secure about their contribution and encourages more support. We hope that our work will always be appreciated and we can continue raising funds to help more children.

MSK: How do you manage such a huge scale supply chain and also keep corruption out of the entire system?

APF: Technology is our greatest resource. Without our state of the art kitchen facilities, efficient management of our extensive operations is impossible. Customization and innovation continuously improves our process to cater to the growing need of nourishment.

Akshaya Patra’s 4000 employees have chosen a way of life to provide care for underprivileged children. The Foundation holds absolute transparency as one of its most important principles, complying with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the Indian Accounting Standards issued by the Institute of Chartered accountants of India.

S Akshaya Patra

MSK: How do you think the recent Bihar mishap came to happen? And what can be done to avoid such disasters in the future? If you can share a few tips.

APF: To run a successful midday meal programme it is vital to realize the complexity of it. It is different from cooking meals for a family; it’s not a job for a single individual. The workforce employed to prepare meals must be competent and trained to maintain sanitation. Teachers have to attend to their pupils and manage their academic duties; they must not be overburdened with the task of cooking meals as well. The funds allocated to the midday meal programme need to be used judiciously for employment of suitable workers, training, infrastructure and so on.

Preparing food for so many children requires attention and precaution. Hygienic conditions for storage and preparation, sanitary area for operation, monitoring and quality checks are mandatory factors that guarantee an effective programme. Food safety trainers, auditors and supervisors need to play an active role in the process.

Food safety cannot be taken lightly, especially when meals are prepared for children.

MSK: What kind of an impact do you think your meal programme has on the society at large?

APF: A satisfied appetite provides an ability to focus on academics and take a keen interest in learning. Our programme has increased school enrollment, especially female enrollment, and encourages children to continue their education. Combating illiteracy, poverty and child labor can be achieved with midday meals.

The success of the programme and other efforts like it will help reach out to those underprivileged children who continue to miss out on a healthy and happy childhood.

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