RE-IMAGINING INDIA

Digital India is one of the most exciting initiatives taken up in recent times. It has the potential to usher in a truly participatory democracy by pro­viding access to information for all and ensuring accountability and transparency in governance. Financial inclusion, health care, education, skill training and em­ployment will all be greatly facilitated. Not all of this is new. In fact, substantial parts of Digital India were initi­ated in the past years. However, they did not get the at­tention and thrust that they deserved. One example is the very ambitious project of providing broadband connec­tivity to 250,000 village panchayats. Initiated many years ago as the National Optical Fibre Network, its progress has been dismal in relation to the planned (undoubtedly optimistic) timelines. While some of the delays may have been unavoidable, the biggest problem was managerial, worsened by poor technical design. Today, I-ways are the new highways, capable of carrying information, and much more, to every home. The broadband network is, therefore, the key infrastructure underpinning the dream of Digital India, and one hopes that the proposals of the committee that reworked the original plan are not only accepted, but executed with energy.

E-governance is another vital component. Aimed at “providing government services at your doorstep” thro­ugh digital means, this effort has sort of ambled along over the last decade. Lack of enthusiasm within some government departments and inadequate coordination among them slowed the pace, while poor connectivity and dependence on computers further stymied its pro­gress. Yet, this is one area in which there can be immedi­ate and visible benefits to the common man. The new incarnation has to now transform—in today’s scenario— in “providing services at your finger tips” (on a mobile handset) and must be executed with a sense of urgency.

Broadband connectivity can enable the delivery of education and health services to all—even in remote areas— at high quality and affordable prices.

But this requires content that is in local languages and of local relevance.

Similarly, agriculture can greatly ben­efit from first-rate and online extension services, weather information, advice, and crop and input prices. This will also correct the unequal relationship between small farmers and the mid­dle-men who buy their produce.

Livelihood and skill training, in con­junction with entrepreneurship and digital marketing, can transform the rural economy through rural produc­tion for all-India (even global) markets, while creating rural employment.

Dreams of rural IT outsourcing centres

 

may well become a reality.

What is now different is the synergy that is possible through various initiatives. The JAM triad is one exam­ple: a combination of financial inclusion (through the Jan Dhan Yojana), Aadhaar and the mobile opens up vast possibilities for a host of applications ranging from direct benefit transfer (payment of subsidies or pensions/schol- arships directly into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts) to money transfer. Similarly, there is a synergy between the proposed broadband network and the skills mission, with the former being the means for taking skills training to millions. With the scale of the Digital India effort, there is obviously going to be a huge market for digital hardware, and this goes with the Make in India mission.

All these possibilities will, however, remain mere pos­sibilities if critical steps are not taken. The first and fore­most is a mechanism to get the various arms of government to work in unison and with a sense of urgency. Realistically, this cannot happen unless there is a strong leadership and the ability to enforce decisions. In the Indian context, this means the involvement of the prime minister. A mis­sion council, chaired by the PM, which meets once a quar­ter is essential. In the past, such a body was ineffective, but with a PM who is very committed to driving this for­ward, one can hope that it can provide the leadership and push that is essential. Similarly, there is a need for a body to involve and coordinate with the states. This could well be chaired by the communications and IT minister, on the model of the Central Advisory Board of Education.

Indian industry has great capability in this field. A contractor relationship between it and the government will not be able to fully tap into the rich talent and man­agerial capacity of the private sector. Since public-private partnership is no longer a fashionable model, new terms of engagement will have to be crafted. As part of tapping into talent, it is essential to bring in some outside talent (professionals). There are generally serious integration issues with this and such people are effective only when they are independent, eminent in their field and, most importantly, per­ceived to have backing from the top. Aadhaar is a good example of utilising outside talent and integrating it within the government to deliver successfully.

One hopes that the potential of Digital India is not lost due to poor planning and feeble execution. The possible benefits demand that the government looks at new and innovative mechanisms to achieve the very ambitious targets.

Kiran Kamik is chairman, CI1 National Committee for Digital India Mission, and former president, NASSCOM

The possible benefits of Digital India demand that the government looks at innovative mechanisms to achieve the targets.

WHEN IT COMES TO DRESSING UP FOR THE D-DAY, INDIANS LIKE TO FOLLOW TRADITION. BUT, OVER THE YEARS, ONE HAS SEEN THE EMERGENCE OF WEDDING OUTFITS THAT MIX MODERNITY AND TRADITION JUST IN THE RIGHT PROPORTION

Meher Sarid, another wedding planner says, “A wedding in a banquet hall is common. But with the middle-class getting richer, splurging on not-so-ordinary venues is getting popular.” She adds, “There was an NRI couple who wanted a traditional and yet unusual wedding. So we arranged it in the dunes of Rajasthan.” There was also a wedding on an island off Gujarat, with the venue being a jungle with lots of clearing for food and the mandap, she adds.

Jayraj Gupta of shaadi.com remembers a spa wedding he had organised in the Himalayan foothills. “People have started loving the whole drama behind wedding ceremonies The event has become larger than life,” he says. Marriages at these venues also have themes to match the decor. For a beach-front marriage, expect a swimsuit to be the dress code. A marriage in an abandoned church will have long white drapes, for instance. So, be it a wedding on a barge by the seaside or in a cricket stadium, the wilder the idea, the more memories it’s bound to leave.

With the mushrooming of skilled wedding planners all across the country, the common man is seeing a makeover of the traditional pocket- friendly marriages. Tying the knot is no longer about how many tents you
prop up or the pretty lilies a: -■* entrance. The holy matrimony ce* :* in a Roman ambience, a far.-3* castle, a tapovan or at the art • : a > created Niagara Falls with re a ax dress, headgear and food to rra : –

Generating awe amongst invitees, what with fancy deco a-1 fancier food, is making “a t extravagant and cosmopc *ar marriages a rage in cities >*« Ludhiana, Indore, Surat, Ka-: ■ Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar. – e the luxury wedding has bee- a metropolitan phenomenon for a : z time now, the smaller towns of -zm are now also witnessing extra, a:ax weddings. In one of the wedd ‘:: r Surat, I had the bride landing :* re venue by a crane,” says wee: c planner Vikas Guggutia. He o~e- b variety of themes ranging from rw low-budget floral decors to ha = * and palaces draped in ethnic ;ar * zm like zardosi and brocade fc- r* flexible budget.

Marriage bureaus and We:: tse are mushrooming, the _ i successful ones diversifyr:      r

event management. Surpr s – j* there’s a marriage burea. v Bangalore that matches waveie- rather than horoscopes! That s »’-«* is done at Marigold, locate; ar Kammanadhalli. It caters : * growing number of Banglorear: :w to inter-caste and inter-re ; m unions!

However, one really doesr: • -sac to be a king to organise a : * t wedding these days with c:: c technicians, lighting expen: sm

designers, fusion cuisine, er^ -ra­iment managers and on cn : J graphers available right o’ yc r doorstep. A capable p a-nsd promises a wonder wedding e.e- a a nondescript place. The options in small cities are fa’ : than those available in De * Mumbai.

Dancing at marriages, wh just for fun till now, is gettr: professional. Dance schoo s dancing their way to the ba-». relatives, friends even brice: grooms are approaching t~rlessons. The rate is Rs 20.: ::

 

MORE AND MORE PARENTS ARE GETTING MARRIAGE WEBSITES DESIGNED FOR THEIR CHILDREN.

A WEBSITE THAT’LL CAPTURE ALL THE KODAK MOMENTS OF THE WEDDING.

While the entire extravaganza gets bigger and brighter for those with huge budgets the middle class still has the option to be subtle yet stylish. There’s no limit to a wedding expenditure, so what planners do is emphasise glamour only on the focal areas of a marriage. Compromising on a thing or two doesn’t matter to most small-towners who desire an exceptional ceremony for limited funds.

Marriage still holds pride of place in the Indian ethos, the more traditional and lavish, the better. Unsurprisingly, expenses incurred on weddings have been increasing steadily over the years, despite calls for restraint from some quarters. Right from the invitation cards to grooming the bride and the bridegroom expenses are out of this world.

The envelopes are, after all, the first things that the guests get to see and then gauge your socio-economic status. Designer invitation cards with a 24-carat gold embossed border or a Tanjore painting or even something as ornamental as a papier mache jewellery box studded with precious stones are the hot favourites, they’re meant to be cherished and preserved for posterity, for such invitations never see the light of the garbage can. One thing that remains unchanged, however, is the stoic Lord Ganesha on the cover of the card, though with some modifications.

In pandal decor, marigold time a la
traversed widely over the years to become an upwardly mobile phenomenon, in the sense that, from the hands it has gone up to the arms, the waist and also the naval and onto the back in the form of tattoos. From the feet it goes up to the ankles and the legs and maybe higher up which is best left to the imagination. Motifs with fish and other Fengshui symbols rule the roost. Exorbitant cost, of course, doesn’t matter. It’s the coordinated look that counts.

For the bride, it’s a torrid ritual of the pre-bridal package with 12 sittings that start 2 months before the big day, which culminate in the just- before-the-wedding make-up routine and the wedding day make-up and draping of the sari. The parlours are raking in lollies with this new way of making the bride look her best. For that enhanced glow and radiance, popular spa and yoga centres have introduced special wedding packages for the bride as well as the groom.

When it comes to dressing up for the D-Day, Indians like to follow tradition. But, over the years, one has seen the emergence of wedding outfits that mix modernity and tradition just in the right proportion. A traditional bride is slowly making way for a more modern bride in a number of ways. Here’s now:

  • Corsets are being liberally used

 

instead of blouses these days Ire are giving preference to. ha te- spaghetti blouses and e\e* t backless choli.

• Brides are no longer we= re dupattas in a traditional way. s: lift much more of crepe and georgette chiffons so that carrying them around becomes easier.