The February 20 issue of India Abroad highlights the
Aam Aadmi Party’s victory in Delhi in a manner that
would give the impression that the winners are about to
run over India.
The very next week after Delhi, elections were held
across Assam for the civic bodies (municipalities) and the
BJP swept them in a big way, reducing the Congress party
to number two. It may be recalled that the BJP is only the
fifth-largest party in the Assam legislation, holding only
five seats. The BJP’s performance at the latest polls hardly
indicates that the people of India have turned against
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as most writers in the
February 20 issue euphorically proclaim.
There is obviously a great deal of wishful thinking going
on among your writers.
The complexity of Delhi’s local politics have not registered with the authors at all. Kejriwal has now to step up
to the plate and govern. His pledges to lower water and
electricity bills drastically hit the wall the last time and
that wall needs to be climbed again. It will test the AAP.
After all, the BJP still ended up holding on to its 33 percent vote share, clearly indicating that the real difference
was made by the total route of the Congress party which,
in the ‘first across the line’ electoral system, resulted in the
lopsided win for the AAP.
Where one can fault the BJP is that the party could not
garner the votes that the Congress party lost.
Subhash Bhagwat Urbana, Illinois
Encouraging Indian youth
to give back
ow much community service have you done?”
It’s one of the first three questions asked by every
guidance counselor in our high school that we saw for
advice on how to apply to college. And most of our peers
in high school had answers: I volunteer at the local hospi-
tal. I help out once a week at an animal shelter. Raising
awareness about local politics. Coaching special needs
children’s sports. Tutoring. There is a culture of volun-
teerism among American youth that is ingrained in us
from a very early age. It’s called ‘giving back’; those who
have comfortable lives are somehow obligated to make the
lives of those who do not a little bit easier.
Most American public causes are run by volunteers: the
library system, Goodwill clothing stores for the poor,
tutoring centers, causes that raise millions of dollars for
cancer research, among others. They continue to churn
out work and benefits for the underserved populations.
When volunteers leave or retire, new ones fill their vacancies. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013
that 25.4 percent of Americans volunteer.
Everyone that volunteers knows that it is addictive.
Nothing feels better than seeing the smile on someone’s
face as they thank you for pushing their wheelchair to the
hospital cafeteria or help them with their impossible math
problem. Volunteering has innumerable benefits: The
Corporation for National and Community Service reported in 2007 that it has been shown to be associated with a
longer life, lower blood pressure, and a lower chance of
depression mediated byan increase self-efficacy. Hindu
karmic law dictates that the benefits of volunteering on
the atma transcend even one’s lifetime.
Only 1.5 percent of Indians volunteer, according to the
ministry of statistics’ report in 2013. That number is
astoundingly low, and we sought to understand why.
What is the difference between Indian youth and
American youth that makes that number so different? The
answer took us back to our guidance counselor’s office,
“Colleges will want to see some volunteering on your
The major problem in India is that there is no motiva-
tion, no incentive, to even try volunteering. Where aca-
demic competition is so fierce that even a fraction of a
percentage is the difference between success and failure, it
is not surprising that students choose that time for them-
selves. But something needs to change.
When we asked a handful of cousins our age how vol-
unteering impacts their lives, the responses ranged
from: “I don’t have time,” to “What is volunteering? Do
you get paid?”
That is concerning.
In trying to find partners for our organization, we came
across a large majority of organizations that focus on
scholarships and donations. Certainly those are important, but philanthropy extends beyond just giving tangible
items. Volunteering is not charity.
We advocate making a major change. According to
Ericsson ConsumerLab, the average Indian with a smart-
phone spends three hours every day on that smartphone,
using it for social media to streaming video and music. If
there could be a positive mindset around helping the
needy or underprivileged, even just occasionally, the many
understaffed and overworked NGOs in India would
receive an enormous boon in their missions to make India
a better place for all.
So, we encourage anyone who has had a sympathetic
thought toward someone less fortunate than themselves
to find a cause that will inspire them to leave the house,
go out into the community, and give back.
Sonali and Anika Mehta co-founders, The Kuch Karo Project www.thekuchkaroproject.org
Freedom of speech or freedom of hate?
The recent attacks in Europe due to the Muslim Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons should get people wondering whether these journalists or cartoonists are fueling freedom of hate.
No professional journalist or cartoonist around the world should ever make degrading remarks or insulting
cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, Jesus Christ, Lord Krishna, the Buddha, Guru Nanak, or any world religion.
Children are taught at a young age that people should respect other people’s faith or religion then why are
adults in journalism igniting hate and calling this hate as ‘freedom of speech’?
Is it worth drawing insulting cartoons or speaking ill of Islam putting innocent babies, children, teens, adults,
and elders at risk of terrorism from radical groups that claim to follow a world religion?
Let me remind you that in England and France when radical Muslims hosted rallies, speeches, and protests on
the streets the governments allowed these radical groups to voice their hate calling these events as ‘freedom of
speech’ when in fact it is freedom of hate. Now you see the English and French governments dealing with radical Muslims; the same group of people that they gave permission to conduct freedom of speech events on their
All world governments need to crack down on radical groups of any religion, along with people that use hate
speeches including cartoonists and journalists — because they are risking innocent lives.
Alpa Patel Jersey City, New Jersey
Murali Kamma’s column, (The desi X factor) in the
Magazine, India Abroad, February 20, incorrectly
referred to the Indian-American population of 3.2
million as being a tenth of the United States population. It is about one-hundredth of the US population.
The error is regretted.
Secretary of State John Kerry with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at a memorial at the site of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris, January 16. RICK WILKING/REU TERS