Tuesday, 31 March 2015

E-INDIA : INDIA'S MARCH TOWARDS DIGITIZATION AND E-GOVERNANCE

Image Source: www.tribuneindia.com
Imagine a situation maybe around 10 years ago. Let's consider a situation where your passport is about to expire and you need to renew it. The very thought of a renewal procedure is likely to send a shiver down your spine, because you're already thinking long lines for the application form, filling up of long forms, long queues for submission of forms, police verification, and so on. You might curse your fate for having had a passport in the first place.

Fast forward to 2015. Today, all you need to do in order to renew your passport is to log in to the Government of India's passport website and follow a simple set of procedures which includes filling up the application form online, taking a few printouts, setting up a date for submission and then finally going to the passport office for submission without standing in long queues, simply because you are coming by appointment.

This is the power of technology. Technology-driven digitisation has brought the ever-expanding world closer together. It redefined the parameters of  time and distance and enabled expedition of processes that were once long-drawn, time-consuming and vulnerable to red-tape. To put it more precisely, this is the power of E-Governance.

What is E-Governance? Electronic governance or 'E-Governance' is the application of information and communication technology for delivering government services, exchange of information communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between government and its departments, stakeholders in an economy, businesses and citizens.It also facilitates integration between back office processes and interactions within the entire government framework.

The progress of E-Governance has been one of the most striking developments of the web. E-Governance initiatives are not a phenomenon that has suddenly made an appearance. In fact, the seeds for E-Governance were sown during the IT-revolution of the early 90s, that was sparked by our late ex-PM Rajiv Gandhi. E-Governance has come a long way since then.

The National E-Governance Plan (NeGP) was approved in May 2006. It was formulated by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) and the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG).

The NeGP had certain elements, mentioned as under:-

1) It involved the setting up of common support infrastructure

2) The Plan provided a framework for monitoring and co-ordinating the implementation, along with standards and guidelines, provision of technical support and capacity building

3) The plan facilitated decentralized implementation in spite of centralized initiative

4) The Plan encouraged Public-Private Partnership so as to enlarge the resource pool, without compromising on the security aspects

5) It laid down the requirement of unique identification codes for citizens, businesses and properties, in order to facilitate integration and avoid ambiguity

6) The Plan enabled and promoted a concerted programme approach at the national and state levels

7) It laid down the role of DEITY as a facilitator; and

8) Under the NeGP, various MMPs were to be owned and spearheaded by the concerned line Ministries

The wonderful  thing about E-Governance is that it inherently encourages participation of citizens in the day-to-day functioning of various government departmental machineries. The rollout of citizen services is made possible through the use of the web. Such a system also facilitates transparency and reliable record-keeping.

India has taken significant steps in the area of e-governance, with most states having launched e-service portals. Notwithstanding the fact that constant efforts are directed towards enhancing the IT infrastructure and user-friendliness of government bodies' websites and public service portals, progress has not been at the optimum pace. The new government at the Centre, headed by Shri Narendra Modi, promises to expedite the process of digitization so as to make #DigitalIndia an efficiently-running reality. In fact, digitization is one of the most important factors that will enable Shri Modi's vision of catapulting India from a currently abysmal global position with respect to 'Ease of Doing Business' to a position among the top 50 countries. Accordingly, it becomes imperative to overcome the hurdles affecting the evolution of e-Governance to enable efficient governance & administration.

So let us join the government, Intel, and other stakeholders in bringing the dream of a #DigitalIndia closer to reality, and quickly.



This post is my entry for Indiblogger and Intel's contest on the topic "Digital India"

Visit http://www.intel.in/ for more information on Intel

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

KELLOGG'S 'ANAAJ KA NASHTA'

Guptaji (as Mr.Gupta is fondly known) is a simple man. He's not a particularly fun person to be with. He has a few odd habits, some of which might put you off (burping is one :p). He is usually quiet, but once he opens his mouth to speak, he can disengage you with his horrible and crass sense of humour. However, if you look closely, you will see that he is a very popular man. Almost everyday, you will see him having friends over for breakfast.

"Why", you ask? Because his family is a Kellogg's family.

What's a 'Kellogg's Family' you ask?

Well, simply put, the Gupta family religiously has Kellogg's cornflakes as a component of its breakfast spread.

Corn, as most of us know (hope you do too), are one of the world's healthiest foods. They are rich in phytochemicals, and provide protection against a string of chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart ailments and hypertension, among others. It also reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and colo-rectal cancer. It is also a rich source of vitamins, minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and copper, and anti-oxidants which have anti-aging properties. Kellogg's Cornflakes, which are essentially flattened corn kernels, pack in the goodness and nutritional benefits of corn, while making a tasty breakfast. Even better, Kellogg's Cornflakes do not use preservatives, some of which can be really harmful for the human body, especially for kids.

I see you nod in agreement. But "How Boring to Have Cornflakes Each and Every Day", you might say.

Well, I agree. But I discovered something, and would like to share this with you.

What if I told you that the way cornflakes are dished out can be tweaked and experimented with, to come up with a unique breakfast spread every day? Guptaji's wife uses almost a 100 breakfast recipes using the humble cornflakes?

Hard to believe? Maybe you should visit the Kellogg's India website.

Still think I'm bluffing? Allow me to name a few breakfast items:-

  • Cornflakes Khatta Moong
  • Cornflakes Chana Chaat
  • Chikoo Banana Cornflakes
  • Choco Mint Cornflakes
  • Choco Cornflakes Peanut Chikki
  • Cornflakes Sesame Modaks/Dumplings
  • Cornflakes Almond Payasam
  • Cornflakes Anjeer Porridge
  • Cornflakes Guava Milkshake; and many many more

Is your mouth watering yet?

Check out more recipes on the Kellogg's India website. Here it is http://www.kelloggs.in

Also visit Kellogg's Youtube page for useful information here:-


“What if Cornflakes are not my thing?” you might ask. Well, Kellogg’s offers other options too. Kellogg’s Muesli Nuts can be a god choice for those who want a quick power breakfast. Kellogg’s Oats is for those who are very conscious about healthy food, because it is extremely good for the heart, and is known to reduce bad cholesterol. Fussy kids with a sweet tooth can have Kellogg’s Chocos. 

As you can see in the video below, everyone wants to have 'Naashta' with the Kellogg's Waale Gupta family.


Everyone will love to have breakfast at your place too, if only you were a Kellogg's family. Check out Kellogg's 'Anaaj Ka Nashta' facebook page here ==> https://www.facebook.com/anaajkanashta

Thursday, 19 March 2015

BRINGING OUT THE OPTIMIST

Image Source: www.synnovatia.com
All people who are close to me have some good things to say about me. For many, I might be a pillar of support, and a source of good counsel, or honest feedback, or someone they can expect unwavering loyalty from. However, if they were to be asked about me, each and every one of these friends would point out the same negative trait, and that is super pessimism. Although for certain situations, I can vehemently say that I am more practical than pessimistic, it would be absolutely dishonest on my part to deny this. In fact, I am an eternal pessimist (well, almost).

If you were to ask me what I think makes pessimists turn out to be so cynical, I think it could be because of an abject fear of failure. This fear can either be by inherent nature, or due to a past experience of failure that resulted in dejection and humiliation. Also, the greater the degree of effort and toil that went into an attempt before the failure, the bigger the degree of cynicism.

I've had my share of failures. I wouldn't say that I always got a raw deal, but I guess it wouldn't be wrong to say that there was a stage in life when every time I failed, I was made to feel depressed about it. To get humiliation instead of encouragement at every fall tends to make you avoid walking on certain paths. And that is what happened to me. I avoided trying too hard, since I always thought I would fail and face humiliation.

There was this professional course that I had attempted many times, but somehow failed to crack. Loved ones who were initially supportive eventually lost patience. Loss of patience soon translated into taunts and jibes, which would make me really depressed. Also, since the course was what was keeping me from a full time job, I began to feel like a burden. Eventually, I took up a low paying job, just to keep myself busy and to stay away from the feeling of being a black sheep. I avoided meeting friends, thinking I was embarassment personified.

One day, I met a friend after a long time. During the course of our conversation, I learnt that he had joined a coaching class for management course entrance exams. Out of curiosity, I asked him to show me his study material. The books covered interesting stuff like English, visual reasoning, logical reasoning, maths, and so on. It didn't look hard at all. He told me that although the study material was interesting, scoring well enough to secure admission at a premier institute was not an easy feat. A candidate needed to firstly score well in the written exam, and then also do well at a round of Group Discussions and Personal Interviews (GD-PI). He then asked whether I would consider attempting the entrance test myself.

I wasn't ready for another potential failure yet. My response was a quick "No", without thinking too much about my chances.

My friend, however, was not willing to give up without trying. He said, "Look dude, you're intelligent. Maybe you've had bad luck with your professional course, but hey, maybe a management course will help you turn the tide. Why don't you give it a try?"

"Nah", I said, determined to keep my resolve intact.

"Look, even if you don't do well, you have nothing much to lose, right? Also, enrolling yourself for the entrance exam isn't very expensive. Why don't you try it out?"

"What if I fail?"

"What if nobody knows you've attempted such a test?"

"How am I gonna join this coaching class?"

"Why don't you take photocopies of my study material for yourself and read up in your spare time?"

I smiled, "Thanks dude."

"Don't worry dude", he said. "We're together in this"

I promised my friend that I'd give it a try.

Well, I ended up doing reasonably well in the written test. I messed up the GD-PI a wee bit, but it was enough to get into a well-known institute. I mustered up courage, informed my folks about the test.

The best thing is that my family supported me, both emotionally and financially, and I ended up with a Management Degree in Finance in 2010.

All this was possible because of the pep talk, encouragement and advice of my friend. He brought out within me a ray of optimism that had somehow gone below the surface.

This post is written as a part of the #together campaign by https://housing.com

Thursday, 12 March 2015

TURNING A NEW LEAF

An extract of a very popular Catholic hymn titled 'Be With Us Mary' goes like this - "No man can live as an island, journeying through life alone". True enough, mankind needs relationships for nurturing and to grow, and surely even to survive. No matter how much of a loner a person might be, deep inside he always craves for some kind of human contact.

Everyone has relationships. As kids, we have our parents and grandparents to raise us and give us solid ground in health and values. Without care in early childhood, no one can survive. In our adolescence and teenage years, we have our friends and peers, along with family, to help us through. From there on, even though we might have a sea of friends and family, we crave for that one special companion, with whom we can share our feelings, our needs, our desires, and intimate moments, without feelings of guilt or the fear of being judged. Everyone needs a lover/spouse.

Like everyone else, I too had dreams of finding that someone special, falling in love with her, making my feelings known, having the same feelings reciprocated, and living happily ever after. Even better if she had to do all the hard work. Either way, I wanted to experience a romantic love life. I had promised myself that I would only have a love marriage. The idea of spending my life with someone I did not know and whom getting to did not entail any sort of pursuit simply did not appeal to me. 

So when I hadn't found love (of the requited type) even after finishing my studies, fetching a job and turning 28, I was utterly disappointed. Like all Indian parents, mine also began getting worried about my future and experiencing pseudo panic attacks when I wan't showing signs of wanting to settle down. Motions to get me consider getting married were very subtle initially, but very soon turned blatant and eventually to threats and ultimatums. Then came the dreaded profiles created on my behalf on matrimonial sites. But yours truly offered fierce resistance, not ready to have anything lesser than a love marriage. Soon I was being told to phone and/or meet girls. Sometimes I was tricked into attending functions/events to meet someone. Most of the time, I was able to fend off interest with my not-so-attractive looks and boring demeanor. Of course, there were a few times where the parents did not approve of the girl. Either way, I wasn't complaining, and life was good.

My parents were getting anxious. My brother already had a girlfriend and my marriage was the only thing that was keeping him waiting in line. I did feel guilty, but I also thought it was unfair on their part to expect me to toe their line just to match their expectations. But I decided to cede some ground by at least wholeheartedly meeting girls, even if only to keep my family happy. 

One day, my mom sent me to an aunt's place to go and collect something. My aunt handed me an envelope and said that there are a girl's photographs in it. This made me livid, since my family hadn't taken me into confidence. Having concealed my anger from my aunt, I simply came home and handed the envelope to my parents without even looking at the contents.

The next day, being a Sunday, our family went to church. As soon as service was over, my family asked me to wait with them outside. Very soon, another family consisting of a lady, her sister and her two young daughters joined us. Both families exchanged pleasantries, and me and one of the girls were introduced to each other. I immediately realised that I had been tricked. This time though, I somehow wasn't angry at all. In fact, post conversing with the girl, I realised that I actually enjoyed her company. Somehow, I had become keen on meeting her again.

I searched her up on facebook, sent her a friend invitation, and set up a date to meet so as to get to know her better.

A few meetings later, we conveyed our assent to get engaged in a couple of months, and to get married six months after the engagement.

Today, I and my wife have been married for more than three years, and we have a 15-months old kid to stand witness to our deep love for each other. I am so glad that I had altered my stance of not meeting someone and shutting people out of my life. If I had to remain adamant, I would have probably missed meeting my soulmate.

Truly, when you decide to turn a new leaf in your life, changes become possible and dreams come to life.

Watch the video below to know how to bring to life your housing dreams.

For more information on how to start a new life, visit https://housing.com/in

Friday, 6 March 2015

DRY BABY, HAPPY BABY

"A Child Can Teach An Adult Three Things - To Always Be Busy With Something, To Know How To Demand With All His Might That Which He Desires, and To Be Happy For No Reason." 

- Paulo Coelho

There couldn't have been a more accurate quote about children, especially toddlers. A child is free from all the worries in life, the same worries that are as burdensome as huge rocks strung around necks for us adults. It doesn't take much to make a kid happy, sometimes something as simple as calling out his/her name can make a child beam from ear to ear and cackle like there was no tomorrow. Also, their smile is infectious. When you seem them happy, you end up with a smile across your own lips.

They say a child cries only in three scenarios - when they're hungry, when they're sleepy, and when they need a diaper change. Of course, sometimes kids cry when they crave for your attention and care. So, by and large, if you are able to meet these needs, you are keeping your baby happy.

My son, Nigel, is one and a half years old now. From a grumpy child with a perpetual scowl on his face as an infant, he has turned into a very naughty toddler who always smiles, loves to babble at everyone, whether known or strangers, and always has a trick or two up his sleeve and mischief in his eyes. He loves playing hide and seek, opening bags, playing with shoes, tossing and turning playfully in bed, pretending to have fallen asleep, and many other things. He has his moments of tantrums, where he's absolutely hell-bent on getting what he wants, and such moments, on certain days, are less spaced out that we'd like. But by and large, it is not hard to keep him happy.

Presenting a few things that keep my son happy:-

1) A Lift - Most kids love to be lifted. It gives them a sense of being loved and protected. Also, it also gives them a sense of power and achievement to be able to see the world from the same height as you. I think it also makes it easy for them to speak to you face to face, without straining their necks while looking up at you.

2) Going Outdoors - Toddlers are curious beings. although some kids are happy being safe and rested at home, most kids love to see the world and to experience new sights, sounds, touches, smells, elements and experiences. The outdoors are like a whole new world for toddlers. An outing is like a learning experience, and makes kids very very happy. So much so that when I or my wife leave for work, my son bawls when he is not allowed to come along with us.

3) Gadgets and Gizmos - My kid stares in amazement every time the TV is switched on. It's not a good habit at all, but sometimes running behind a kid makes us feel helpless at time when we need to rush, and that's when the TV comes to our rescue. My son starts clapping every time Taarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma plays on TV. Baby TV and Home Shop 18 are his favourite channels. Apart from TV, he loves mobile phones a lot. When we're occupied with other stuff, he loves to fidget with our phones. The way he learnt to unlock our phones by swiping across the screen with his thumb is simply astounding. He thumb moves in one single stroke, and with a flourish, and leaves onlookers dumbstruck and laughing.

4) Pampering by Loved Ones - Kids are loved by one and all. Young girls play with them for hours and shower them with hugs and kisses, oldies give them loads of pampering and parents just run behind them like they are royalty. Nigel has two sets of grandparents, who absolutely adore him, and literally dance to his tune and his whims and fancies. It makes us parents very envious, because all our ideas of strictness and discipline, that we encountered as kids, suddenly get tossed out of the window when it comes to him.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

LOOKING FORWARD

The waiting room seemed packed to the rafters. Although the open windows offered us a lot of fresh air, there weren't enough seats for everyone. I, for one, had been standing for almost three hours now, one outside the clinic, before the shutters were even up, and two more inside the clinic, awaiting my turn. I had reckoned that not many people would come an hour early to book their slots for a consultation. I was wrong.

I had my biopsy report with me. It had cost me a bomb, this 20-pager bland sheet filled with a lot of numbered readings and medical terms that I would never be able to decipher in a hundred years or two. All that concerned me was the fact that I had strange lesions all over my scalp, and that they hurt and bled, and that they had begun to spread to my face. A new unwelcome update was that diagnosis and treatment was making a sizeable dent in the household savings. I couldn't afford to let this monster get bigger.

A good 45 minutes later, my turn finally came. The doctor, a lady slightly older than my mother welcomed me in. After the customary asking about general well-being, she asked me for the biopsy report and the histopathology laboratory slide that came with it.
I broke the silent moment, "I've done a little reading about this alopecia mucinosa online. Is really a precursor to lymphoma?"

She huffed, "In 40 per cent of the cases, yes, people do end up with lymphoma within a span of three years." Then she smiled. "But you don't have to worry too much. Just go ahead with the treatment religiously."
A more worried and 'woe-is-me' look came across my face now. "I'm scared Doctor. My wife is pregnant, and we have our hands tied due to our housing loan.”

She cut in, “You worry a lot son, you need to relax.”

“But…”
“Listen son”, she continued, “Life is full of problems, it never has been easy, and it never will be easy. Difficulties will come at unexpected points, sometimes you will have your plate full and you will feel helpless.”

I nodded half-heartedly.

“Seriously son. You need to have faith. Do you see that lady at the reception table out there?”

I looked outside. A young, thin, but seemingly healthy girl sat t the table, ably taking down appointments.

She continued, “Yes, her. She had exactly the same problem as you did. That was 5 years ago. But she wasn’t depressed like you are. She stayed busy and left the rest to treatment and to fate. You need to stay strong son. Life is hard, but you need to keep your chin up, otherwise you’ll lose your battles before they even begin.”

She prescribed me some medicines. But I don’t know if the medicines were even half as effective as her pep talk. It changed my outlook towards life and gave me renewed hope.

As luck would have it, the problem was not life-threatening at all.

 To look up innovation and optimism, visit https://housing.com/lookup

Sunday, 1 March 2015

WHAT MY FATHER TAUGHT ME

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My Father is a very emotional man. He's also a hard taskmaster, and tends to get very impatient when a task is not done the way he wants it done, and within his preferred time-frame. If he's pissed, everyone gets to know, because he makes his displeasure known very expressly. There is another aspect to his personality, he loves his family. However, like most 'Indian Dads', he is not very expressive when it comes to showing love and caring.

Since childhood, my dad has always made sure that we had a disciplined upbringing. As kids, me and my two siblings were always told to follow a disciplined lifestyle. A very important rule was that money had to be valued, and that wasteful expenditure would not be acceptable. We never got things easily as kids. If we ever had a an item on our wishlist, whether it was something we wanted for our birthday or otherwise - clothes, shoes, toys, books, go to a movie, etc. - it would always have to be something our parents approved of. Also, even after getting approvals, we always had to earn them through good conduct or by doing a good job - whether in terms of chores or tasks or in our studies.

I have never been someone who has too many expectations. I find it difficult to ask for things, and it is hard for me to say no. Even when asked if i wanted something, I would feel shy to ask. My dad's strict persona also made me hesitate to ask for things. As a result, I hardly had too many fancy belongings while growing up. There were many times that I would see my peers - classmates, friends...and even siblings - flaunt their stuff, while I would have nothing. I would sit quiet about it, but deep inside I would actually indulge in self-pity and disappointment on what I didn't have.

But as I grew up and started working, I slowly realized that I somehow had a trait that not many friends of mine could claim as their strong points. I realized that I had not picked up habits that were expensive and that would burn a hole in my pocket. I had somehow developed an ability to save a significant portion of my earnings, nevermind what my salary was, while my friends seemed to struggle like crazy while trying to finance their lifestyles. Initially I would wonder what I was doing differently. Eventually it dawned upon me that it was the value system that demanded that I be cautious with my spendings and save more that held me in good stead, and continues to keep me secure even today. The best part is that I don't even have to look stingy, because I have my share of fun and leisure, albeit in moderation. 

I can only thank my parents for this, especially my dad. I am glad that he did not raise us to become spoilt irresponsible brats. I wish I can teach half the lessons he taught me to my son.

He truly has taught me to live life 'Apne Dam Par'.

Sometimes it takes a little motivation, a little inspiration and a little support to live life on your own terms.

Watch the video embedded below to see how HDFC Life supported a father in helping his daughter get to her feet, literally.


For information on HDFC Life, visit http://www.hdfclife.com

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