Tag Archives: Election

In the Mighty Presence of Gandhi Ji

Every October 2nd, August 15th, January 26th, I fondly remember Gandhi Ji.

I was twelve – a young idealist with big dreams for my own life and a compelling desire to see India as a free and prosperous nation, free from the bondage of two hundred years of subjugation by the British.

Then in one of the rarest moments of my life, I had the good fortune to meet the most admired person in India, and the world –the Apostle of Peace and Non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi. The revered Father of India!

On massive, public grounds called the ‘Maidan’, a crowd of thousands had settled down on the ground.  All from far and near were there. I sat along with my sixty schoolmates and teachers, anxiously glancing in every direction to catch the first glimpse of this magnificent hero of mine. I was viewing over a sea of Muslim caps, Congress Party’s Nehru caps, turbans of every color, shape, and size. Occasionally, heads popped up here and there. A bunch of people would stand up abruptly, as if aware of an arrival.

Then, as if magically, there appeared a diminutive figure, sparsely clad in a white home-spun cotton ‘Khadi Dhoti’, tucked in between the legs, giving the appearance of a loincloth.  His narrow shoulders were wrapped around in a white, home-spun shawl.  I was immediately reminded of Gandhi’s image, sitting on the ground with folded legs, spinning cotton yarn at a Spinning Wheel.  He inspired Indians to be self-reliant, so as to be independent of the need to import cotton from the mills of Manchester, in Great Britain.  Gandhiji’s images had inspired me, as they had done millions of others.  I looked around at my friends.  We were all wearing white saris with blue borders – a fabric of five and a half yards of hand-spun cotton.  I was proud of myself.

As he got seated on a small, raised platform in the middle of the vast grounds, there was a hush, a deafening silence!  Could this be Gandhiji? The same towering figure, which had shaken the foundations of the British Empire?  Where was the augur who had incensed the Rulers to a fiery rage?  Could this slight, slender frame endure all the hardships of endless imprisonments – sleeping on cold, cemented floors; fasting endlessly to make a point, and subjugate the mighty master’s will?

Yet this was Mahatma Gandhi, whom I had heard again and again over the loudspeakers, who had endeared himself to me, as to millions of others!

He spoke. Stillness prevailed. From microphones all around, his every word rang loud and clear – entering my consciousness.  The echoes rolled from soul to soul.

As he spoke, I did not hear a lion’s roar.  Yet, this calmly persuasive, magnetic voice was energizing and compelling:

“Arise, my children, rise!

Rise to your soul’s call!

Rise in Freedom, every waking moment!

Remember. When India introduced Zero to the Science of Mathematics, the possibilities became infinite, unlimited, un-limiting!

One small zero – one individual at a time, small or big, can magnify the possibilities a thousand-fold. 

Each small voice, when joined by millions of your heroes, can reach across seven seas.

Do not underestimate the power of zero.  The power of even the smallest, the gentles of you.”

The crescendo of his tone and message rose from perceptibly calming to invigorating, to uplifting.  It was a magical moment; a mesmerizing experience! I was awed by the strength of Gandhiji’s convictions; the appeal of his persuasion across a wide spectrum of society.

“Follow you Dharma, your moral duty.

God’s truth demands Liberty and Justice for all.

We all are the children of one God.  We Hindus, and we Muslims invoke the one and the same God, whether we call Him Ram or we call Him Allah.

We, all Indians, deserve the right to be in charge of our own destiny.”

Gandhiji’s inspiring, invigorating word liberated the downcast souls and challenged the masses.  Even the faint-hearted, the indifferent felt an enthusiasm to take up the cause.

“There are times when you have to obey.

A call which is the highest of all, that is the voice of conscience.

Even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear,

And even more, separation from friends,

From family, from the state to which you may belong,

From all that you have held as dear as life itself.

For this obedience is the law of our being.”

A fine mix of elation and enthusiasm hung in the air.  I was witnessing a rare moment in eternity, a moment bigger than life, infinitely bigger than myself!

Gandhi Ji’s message rings just as true today.

On becoming citizens of the United States of America, by birth or adoption, we have pledged to uphold the principle of ‘Inalienable rights of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for All’. In expressing our voice by casting our vote to elect the President and Congress, we fulfill our civic duty. Follow our Dharma. Our decisions on societal issues have an impact on our lives. They give direction to the destiny of the Nation too.

Remember, your one powerful vote has the power to change the course of history! 


Usha Dhupa has lived extended periods of her life in Africa, India, England, and America.  Her rich experiences over eight decades give us a panoramic view of her life. Find the rest of this story in her recently published book ‘Child of Two Worlds‘.

On the Presidential Debate: “Candron Enkolo!”

Unrestricted international travel – the one thing that has been denied to millions across the world – has been mine, these past few months, through the act of reading for hours in an uninterrupted fashion. I read the political news of the day and then jump backward in time to read Tamil writings from the 5th-8th centuries. My mind reads modern English words, phrases, and paragraphs at lightning speed as I devour political news, and then slows down as I read and sound out unfamiliar words and verse in classical Tamil.

The psychic reading worlds that I move in could not be more different. And yet, the two worlds collided in a remarkable fashion in my head at the conclusion of the first Presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. At the very end of the debate when asked about voting these were a snapshot of the responses. 

Trump ranted, “As far as the ballot is concerned it is a disaster…they are sending millions of ballots all across the country. There is fraud, they found them in creeks, they found some with the name Trump in a waste paper basket, they are being sent all over the place…this is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen..there are many states all run by Democrats….one percent of ballots cast in 2016 were invalidated. We don’t like ‘em we don’t like ‘em and they throw them out.” 

To this charge on mail-in voting, Joe Biden declared, “There is no fraud.”

I couldn’t believe that a sitting President would in such a cavalier manner dismiss the act of voting. Was he not responsible to ensure that there was indeed no fraud? The next day, the political pundits went after who won and who lost the debate. Trump was a bully, some said. Biden missed points when he could have made a stinging comeback others said. Ping-pong. You hit – I hit back. I was not interested in any of that. 

When I heard that exchange, my mind careened backward all the way to the words of the fictional character Kannagi in the Tamil epic Silappadikaaram.

Candron enkolo? Candron enkolo?”(Wise men, where are you?) she screams in agony on discovering her husband Kovalan is killed by the king’s men.

The Silppadikaram is considered one of the five great Tamil epics written by a Jain Prince Ilando Adigal.  In the story, Kannagi and Kovalan are married with the blessing of the elders in their families. Their young lives are upended rudely when Kovalan falls in love with Madhavi, a courtesan dancer and he soon leaves Kannagi. After spending years with Madhavi, Kovalan realizes the folly of his ways and returns to his dutiful wife Kannagi.

They soon leave the kingdom ruled by the Cholas and travel to the land ruled by the Pandyas and enter its largest city Madurai. Here, Kovalan decides to sell his wife’s silambu (anklet) to make a fresh start in life and takes it to a jeweler in the marketplace. The cunning jeweler who also happens to be the royal jeweler sees the similarities between the Queen’s anklet and that of Kannagi’s. The jeweler had stolen the queen’s anklet and when Kovalan entered his workshop, he saw the perfect opportunity to frame the unsuspecting Kovalan for the theft. The jeweler hurries to the king and accuses Kovalan of theft. Dragged by the king’s men into court, Kovalan’s head is severed with one stroke and when Kannagi finds her husband dead, she screams in anger – “Candron enkolo?” (Wise men, where are you?)

The morning following the debate I wish that there had been 535 messages on social media and in every publication across the country. The 435 members in the House and 100 senators should have signed one statement which had just one sentence. “From now till election day, I will personally work to make sure that your vote is counted, regardless of whether it is a mailed-in ballot or if it is a ballot cast in person.” 

Without the protection that my vote and every other vote will be counted, how can we even say that we live in a democracy? Forget the fact that we want a Republican or a Democrat based on our political beliefs. Where are the checks and balances in action that we read about in civics textbooks? Each one of the 535 representatives has been accorded the power they enjoy because of thousands of votes that have been cast in their favor. I should be able to take the fact that my vote will be counted for granted in a mature Western democracy. 

When a sitting President talks of his own administration and says that they are sending millions of ballots all across the country and that there is massive fraud, where is the massive counter-response from legislators? To a President who relishes in the spectacle of political theater, can I not expect every legislator to stand in dramatic fashion as one to say, “Your vote will be counted. I will work to ensure that basic right for all the people I represent in my district, in my state.”

Candron enkolo?” –  Wise men, where are you? Kannagi howled within the fictional plot. Of course, these words were spoken at a time when only men could be counted amongst the king’s advisors and as those who upheld justice. 

Today, I ask – Candron enkolo? – Wise men and women of both parties, where are you? 


Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a former editor of India Currents magazine. 

US and India Benefit From the Same Democratic Process

Although many feel the democratic urgency of voting this election cycle in the US, it is not uncommon to hear, “My vote won’t count anyway.”

Associate Professor of Political Science at SFSU and Researcher, Jason McDaniel addresses the importance of local elections as a “foundation for democracy” and a “pathway to racial-ethnic equity.” Whether it be, city, county, or state jurisdiction, local law supersedes federal law and can more accurately represent the sentiment of its community. 

However, at the local elections in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Leandro, your vote actually has more bang for its buck. 

Why? Because of their implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

Entrenched in the SF Voting Data, McDaniel cautions that RCV can be a contributor to the confounding nature of ballot response but its results are that of a lower democratic deficit. He finds that complexities within the SF local election and lack of information lowers voter turnout for communities of color.

The US follows the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system, in which you vote for one candidate and the candidate who receives the most votes wins the election. At the Ethnic Media Services briefing on October 6th, McDaniel reviewed Rank Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting. 

When RCV is used, candidates are ranked from 1-10 (depending on the number of candidates). If a candidate immediately has an outright majority (50 percent plus one), then that candidate is declared the winner of the election. However, if none of the candidates have an outright majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed based on their voters’ second choice rankings. The process continues until one candidate’s adjusted vote number hits an outright majority.

Dr. Jason McDaniel’s example of RCV from the Mayoral Election in SF (red indicates eliminated candidate)

Ranking candidates requires more knowledge of all platforms and of RCV. McDaniels comments, “Reformers who want to change democracy often overestimate what voters care about…The vast majority of voters don’t have strong preferences for more than one or two candidates.” The idea of voters having multiple informed preferences in nonpartisan, local elections is quite novel, unheard of, and is likely a barrier to participation. Research shows that it is possible to recover the loss of voter participation.

Benefits can outweigh the implications of using RCV in a few ways:

  1. This particular method of voting can mitigate “spoiler” candidates, where a candidate that may be a third choice wins an election to a split vote.
  2. The candidate that wins better represents the majority.   
  3. Voters can cast “sincere” votes, unbridled by the burden of a “wasted vote”. Independent third-party candidates can be represented by a genuine vote, but if they are dropped during the process of RCV, then another candidate with a similar platform can receive that vote.
  4. It can reduce negative campaigning because it may lie in the interest of multiple parties with resembling platforms to advocate for one another.
  5. It can reduce polarization by rewarding moderate candidates. There is no research to support this yet.

Why stop at local elections?

India, which generally employs FPTP voting, explored a version of Rank Choice Voting in electing their 14th and current President, Ram Nath Kovind. President Kovind is only the second Dalit president elected in Indian history. RCV secured a notable win for someone like Kovind, who overcame countless adversity in his path to a presidential win, while accounting for the public vote in a substantial way. After his win, Kovind addressed the Indian populace, “My win should prove that even honest people can get ahead in life.”

An ongoing dialogue around voting processes can be beneficial for our communities and for reform. If not to change the process, then to better educate everyone around us. 

Anni Chung, SF resident and CEO of Self Help for the Elderly, “Rank Choice Voting has always been a mystery to me, even now, after all these years.” 

Voting can only be effective if understood. Keep the conversation going and go out and vote this November 3rd!


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Former Mayor Speaks Against Measure RR

The CEO and board of directors of Caltrain are doing a major “dis-service” to the residents of San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties with Measure RR.

Their proposal to address and remedy the Caltrain loss of revenue problem is to place on the backs of the total population another tax initiative, while only a limited few will directly benefit if this measure passes.

One, the tax is regressive and negatively impacts the families with household incomes of $50,000 or less, which is more than two-thirds of families in these 3 counties, significantly harder than the families who are directly benefiting from this measure passing.

Remember Caltrain ridership, 80% of those individuals have a household income greater than $200,000.

Two, the measure is asking the public to commit to this tax for 30 years…..Caltrain, is dying, a dinosaur, even before the pandemic, ridership has been steadily decreasing….now after the pandemic, the world has changed….we work from home, our bay area’s companies will never return to employment levels pre-pandemic, and ridership will never approach yesterday’s numbers.  

The bottom line is, the board and CEO have failed their fiduciary responsibility……they should have foreseen this coming at least 5 years ago ……they did not and did nothing…now with their backs up against the wall, they offer a remedy that lacks any strategic thought, does not consider today’s technology direction, no consideration for the existing and future work patterns,  and chose to ignore the impact another tax has on the lowest wage earners, to name a few. One question I have is why no reduction in headcount, salary expense,  or their fully paid pensions and medical benefits?

We should not suck out of the public another $100,000 million annually,  taxes to provide a service for less than 1% of the population….let me remind you that 1% are the wealthy 1%……and again,  make this law for 30 years!  This board and CEO have not demonstrated they are worthy stewards the public can trust….and the measure has no allowance for independent oversight and reporting back to the public.

Think of the impact these tax dollars could have on improving our school, housing, health care, youth employment training, and programs, etc.

Before I close, let me address the key selling point of this Measure…….”it will result in less traffic on our freeways”.  An empathic No, Caltrain’s impact on reducing traffic congestion is and will be very minimal, less than a 1% reduction may be achieved if this measure passes. It is expensive to ride and inconvenient, for the majority of us to even consider.

In closing, the proponents of this measure were also not transparent in the pre-work/surveys that they used to gauge the level of public support…they did not inform the public they were seeking approval of a measure that will be the law for the next 30 years.  Why place this tax on the backs of our children?

I hereby humbly request the board to have the moral compass to withdraw this request to the public.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Lawrence

Former Mayor, Foster City


Jim Lawrence is the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Expertus Inc. A change agent by definition, is active in his community, having served as Mayor of the city of Foster City, appointed to numerous county & Statewide boards and committees, and elected to the board of several nonprofit organizations. 

Featured image found here and license here.

Is Kamala Harris a Good VP Pick?

Forum – A column where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Is Kamala Harris a Good VP Pick? Yes!

Vice President Biden hit a home run with the brilliant selection of Senator Kamala Harris. I believe Kamala is uniquely positioned to be groomed to be the POTUS in the future. I say this not because she is half Indian but rather based on her experience, talent, and sheer grit to withstand attacks and get the job done. Kamala started her career as the District Attorney of SF, won statewide elections to be the Attorney General before becoming the 1st south Asian origin Senator, and only the 2nd black senator in history. Our nation will be well served having the centrist Senator Harris as our VP.

I love her tough law and order stance and how she has fought inequality all her adult life. Raised by a single south Indian mother, she has inculcated the strong moral ethics as her mother Shyamala Gopalan. Kamala Harris has said she has visited India many times and was very close to her grandparents and aunts. I resent the parochial argument made by some Indians that she does not wear her Indian origin on her sleeve. She rightfully acknowledges the other half of her heritage and above all is an American.

Her crowning achievement was when she fought with the banks, the administration, and even her fellow attorneys generals and achieved the $25 Billion mortgage settlement.  Her policy proposals on immigration, racial and LJBTQ  equality, health care, the environment, and economy are all indicative of a centrist Democratic leader.

While Biden should be applauded for picking Kamala Harris, he should solidify that with a pledge to serve only one term, given his advanced age, and turn over the reins to Kamala Harris in the 2024 election cycle. She could be the first woman to serve as our president.

Rameysh Ramdas is a resident of the SF Bay Area and has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

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Is Kamala Harris a Good VP Pick? No!

Because of Donald Trump, We have lost 205,000 lives to COVID, lost the trust in our health agencies, lost our judiciary to the radical right-wing. Biden has to win in November to save our democracy.  In order for him to win the Vice Presidential Pick needs to have three essential characteristics. She has to be good at attacking Trump, needs to help win a state or help with the Hispanic voting block, and be an eloquent and strong proponent of his economic plan. 

While Mrs. Harris can be quite the attack dog she falls short in the other two areas.  It may be hard to believe after all the atrocities this thug president has meted out to the Hispanic community, but Biden is doing worse than Hillary with Hispanic voters in the crucial swing state of Florida. While Senator Kamala Harris has a terrific and inspiring personal story, it does not motivate Hispanics to the election booth as Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez could. The most important task facing a Biden administration, should they win, is to rebuild the economy. Amidst all the misinformation and lies about the economy spread by Trump, it would be very helpful to have someone with economic backing, like Senator Warren, to bring truth and gravitas to the situation. 

Senator Harris is a very ambitious and extremely smart person with amazing achievements and I hope to be proven wrong. Let’s hope that there is a new president elected and to borrow Speaker Pelosi’s words the parasite on our democracy currently in the white house is finally fumigated out.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry. He enjoys following politics and economics.


Have ideas for what our Forum columnists should debate? Send a note to editor@indiacurrents.com

Indian-Americans Make An IMPACT

This is a heady time for Indian Americans.  Our immigration story and our growing financial and political power are in the headlines every day, especially with the addition of Senator Kamala Harris to the Democratic Party ticket for President. So what can we do to capitalize on this unique moment in history?  

Many of us want to do something but are not sure what.  This is where The Indian American IMPACT Fund comes in. It’s a bold new initiative whose mission is “to help talented and patriotic Indian Americans who reflect our community’s values run, win, and lead.”  Their goal is to build a pipeline for leadership and to provide a voice for the Indian American community in public affairs. 

IMPACT will be raising $10 million to support candidates they endorse for this election cycle.

Just this week, the IMPACT Fund released their first round of endorsements for the 2020 General Election.  Twenty four candidates have been selected from the  70 Indian Americans running for office up and down the ballot across the country.  IMPACT will put their weight behind these candidates through contributions, volunteering and help with grass roots organization. 

“We are going to do all these things to help elect these 24 candidates and really build an inclusive democracy.” says Neil Makhija, the new Executive Director of the organization. “When you have Donald Trump campaigning on building walls, that is the antithesis of our values and we don’t think about partisan lines.  We value global partnerships to solve issues like climate change, we believe in facts, believe in science.”   

The IMPACT Fund goes through an arduous process to assess the candidates and analyze the competitiveness of the races and where IMPACT can make the most difference.    

What is incredible is that in 2012, there was only one Indian American member of Congress – Ami Bera of California.  But by 2016, that number increased five fold. Joining Bera in Congress were Ro Khanna from California, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Pramila Jayapal from Washington as well Kamala Harris in the Senate. IMPACT supports candidates for public office from Congress to state capitols, school boards and city councils, as well as public leaders like Ravi Sandill who became the first ever District Court Judge in Texas of South Asian descent and who is up for relection in the Texas 127th District Court. in November. The increasing numbers of candidates from the Indian American community running for local and state offices reflect our greater engagement in politics and public affairs.

One of the key endorsements this election cycle is Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an ER physician who is running for Congress in Arizona in a district that has now become competitive but was unthinkable for a Democrat to win until recently.  Makhija believes that scientists or doctors like Dr. Tipirneni will provide different perspectives that will be valuable in helping shape what Congress. “We are excited about building a new generation that is formidable in public service.”

Another pivotal IMPACT-endorsed Senate candidate is Sara Gideon, the speaker of the house in Maine, trying to oust their 4-term Senator Susan CollinsMaine is one of the key races on the 2020 Senate map that will decide which party will have the majority.   This highly contested race is considered a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and has become the most expensive in Maine history. 

IMPACT has also endorsed Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris because of her dual appeal to both the Black and Indian American communities.  “I think Kamala Harris is able to tie together our American stories like no other candidate has before in public, “ says Makhija.  “Her story in terms of growing up both Black and Indian and how she values both of those experiences in distinct ways but also in similar ways. – she can genuinely be a bridge and help us build a broad coalition that is needed to unite the country and get past this era of division with Donald Trump.”

IMPACT is working to make sure that the Indian American story is told. “We are seeing an immense desire to learn about (Kamala Harris) and that is not something that will disappear.  People are going to learn and better understand our community, our issues, our contributions and that will help build this bridge that we are talking about.  When a candidate is running in Texas or Arizona – because Kamala has run and been the first, it will be just a bit easier.  Because people will be more familiar and understand what it means to be Indian American.  So, I think that is one of the biggest impacts of the moment.” 

Neil Makhija, Executive Director             Indian American Impact Fund

Makhija’s own story represents how the Indian American community is coming into its own.  “I am the first person in three generations who has had this chance to come home and build a life where I grew up.” he says.  “My father was born a year and half after partition. My family were refugees from Sindh and then went to Ullas Nigar in Mumbai. My parents left everything and came to the United States. The joy that they feel when they go back and see their friends and family and connection is something I can appreciate. And it is easy to take for granted if you are in the town you grew up in and you have that. I have not left everything behind and gone across the world like many of them had to.  It’s really special and this rootedness gives you the platform to get involved in public affairs.” 

A common thread to the immigrant story is that the first generation works hard to build a new life and does not always  engage in public life . But their commitment allows the second generation to step up and fully participate in the public and political sphere. 

The opportunity to do that is what has Neil Makhija working around the clock at IMPACT.

Other groups like LatinX, LGBTQ, African American “all have a serious presence in terms of organization and you need that if you are going to bring a community that has not traditionally or historically been in power, “ says Makhija “It does not happen automatically.”  

The IMPACT Fund will recruit, train, and then endorse and elect candidates who want to serve and fully represent  diverse communities.  “What we find is that Indian American as well as other immigrant communities are often welcomed when they play narrow roles but receive skepticism when they aspire to leadership.  That’s what we are up against and so, we as a community and organization want to come together to help our candidates get beyond that.”

The Indian American IMPACT Project is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization which helps with building awareness about the political process while the Indian American IMPACT Fund is a political action committee (PAC) that helps candidates get elected to local, state and federal offices.  The IMPACT Fund is committed to the core values of inclusion, civil rights and a belief in science, qualities they seek when vetting candidates they want to endorse.

Makhija explains that “anyone can give $20 to the presidential race and that is fine.  But there are some races where you raise $1000 from a group of people and give it to a Presidential or Senate candidate who is raising multi million dollars, or you can actually help elect a State Senator and that could be the difference between them losing and winning.  What our organization does is that it provides infrastructure to have a more sophisticated analysis and decision making process about where you would make a difference.”

The Indian American community can impact this election cycle by volunteering, contributing or even running for office. We have to come together to amplify our voices and represent our community. 

Find out more about IMPACT at the Indian American Impact Fund,

And always, VOTE.


Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking, and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents

Stay Home And Vote This Election

We encourage Santa Clara County voters to vote safe by voting from home for the upcoming November 3, 2020 Presidential General Election. There is no safer way to vote, than by mail. All voters will be mailed a ballot starting October 5, 2020, this means you can vote early. Vote by mail ballots also come with a free postage paid return envelope for your convenience. Approximately 100 Vote Centers will be open October 31 through November 3, but we encourage you to vote safe, vote from home. For more information on the upcoming election and the voting process, visit www.sccvote.org. Be heard by November 3rd!

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Who Won India Currents’ Presidential Primary Poll?

We have a wonderful reader base that took time out of their day to take our Presidential Primaries Survey! We received 34 responses and from that we tried to gauge the pulse of what our average Indian American reader feels about the current political climate.

94% of participants will be voting in the primaries, however only 72% of those read up before voting.

Surprisingly, despite having male heavy participation, Elizabeth Warren came out as the winner of our Presidential Primary Poll. Unsurprisingly, the winning candidate was a Democrat, as 61.8% of people responding reported Democratic affiliations.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your political affiliation?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Some basic demographics, 70% of our participants were making more than 100k a year and 76% of our participants were older than 30. We had gender distribution of: 55.9% male, 44.1% female, 0% nonbinary respondents.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your annual income?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

The precedent then set for the following information can provide us some insight into what type of people are responding and what their reasoning might be. Our data indicates that the respondents are professionals with high income, skewing towards a male lens.

When asked about who they will be voting for, the responses were diverse – some outdated:

  1. Elizabeth Warren (8) – 23.5%
  2. Bernie Sanders (4), Michael Bloomberg (4), Abstain (4) – 11.8%
  3. Joe Biden (3), Donald Trump (3) – 8.8%
  4. Pete Buttigieg (2), Tulsi Gabbard (2) – 5.9%
  5. Amy Klobuchar (1), Andrew Yang (1), None of the Above (1) – 2.9%

Forms response chart. Question title: Who are you planning on voting for in the Presidential Primaries? . Number of responses: 34 responses.

Top three issues taxpayers would want their money spent on:

  1. Health Care
  2. Education
  3. Environment and Infrastructure

What the information above indicates is that our readers want a female presence in the Oval Office. Upon further investigation, 6/15 women voted for Elizabeth Warren with only 2 votes for Warren being male. The distribution shows that identity politics plays a huge role during election season.

Furthermore, I initially thought that our high income base would be concerned with tax cuts, yet the survey shows that they are not. Most respondents genuinely care about future generations living in a sustainable world with good education and (hopefully) affordable health care.

Happy Super Tuesday and get out the vote!

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Presidential Primary Poll: Make Your Voice Count

The U.S. Presidential Primary Election cycle starts with Iowa on February 3rd, 2020. This marks the nascence of the election year and an exciting time for politics. What is the average Indian American thinking during the elections? Are you politically engaged or are you tired of the non stop political talk? Please help us find out by completing this two minute survey and have your voice heard!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE OUR SURVEY

Decoding Modi’s Resounding Victory

Prime Minister Narendra Modi achieved a super-sized victory in the recently held Lok Sabha elections in India. This is his second consecutive term in office and he won it by a whopping majority. His party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has crossed the 300-seat mark in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Let’s begin by looking at the state of the economy in which people have voted for PM Modi. During his election campaign in 2013-14, Modi raised expectations of a great economic revival, high growth and tens of millions of new jobs for the ever-growing workforce. The new government hit the ground running and the first two years were action-packed with new programs and plans.  But, at the end of his five-year term, the economic slowdown is visible even through the fog of official statistics. Exports, barring a modest recent pickup, have been stagnant for the last five years, creating pressure on the economy, and reflecting growing lack of global competitiveness. Manufacturing is sluggish. Banking and the power sectors require urgent reform. Further, India’s unemployment rate hit 6.1% in the fiscal year ending 2018; reportedly the country’s highest in over four decades. An estimated 12 million young Indians join the workforce every year, and the country needs to grow much faster in order to provide jobs for all of them. Another set of figures released by the government showed that gross domestic product expanded 5.8% in the quarter ending March, 2019. That’s a sharp decline from 6.6% growth in the previous quarter and the weakest rate in last five years.

As a result, the state of the economy is sharply diminishing living conditions of millions of people in India, a country that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people. More than half of India’s population (around 700 million) is still living under ‘multi-dimensional poverty’ compared to 5.2 per cent in China.

But, Modi, who first swept to power in 2014 on promises to revive India’s economy and boost growth and job market, won election again by even bigger margin.  

Why did the people repose faith in him?  Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

There were no serious corruption charges against the government and inflation was managed well during the first term (but faces upward pressure now). Further, one could attribute BJP’s success to better administration of welfare schemes/projects, and the Balakot strikes just before the election which retaliated against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror groups and that pushed   the spirit of nationalism. While all these factors may have played a role they do not, even in combination, satisfactorily account for the magnitude of BJP’s sweeping victory in the frustrating job market and skidding economy.

What may have worked for BJP is that it succeeded to a large extent in turning this election into a referendum on PM Modi. Opposition parties appear to have helped in this process as their campaigns have primarily been about ousting Modi, rather than offering positive alternative visions of what they will do if elected to power. As the opposition was fragmented and offered no obvious PM candidate, this cemented the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor in favor of Modi.

But that is not the only reason behind his whopping success.  It’s possible some deep structural shifts are taking place in the Indian polity and Modi was smart enough to comprehend these in his favor. Indians, especially the young ones, are in a hurry to move away from ‘Third World’ space it currently occupies. And, they sensed that Modi can do it. India could be second ‘China’ under his leadership!  The BJP’s election manifesto, which was released just three days before the general election, aimed to make India a ‘developed’ nation by 2047, on completion of 100 years of Independence. “Our aim (is) to change India from a developing country to a developed country. We want to fight poverty rather than sit inside air conditioned rooms. Nationalism is our inspiration and inclusion and good governance is our mantra”.

Despite many problems people are confident that India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ could be achieved under Modi’s leadership. They consider him as a ‘messiah’ or expected deliverer of achieving the goal of developed and prosperous India.  Here, the media played a very active and vital role in promoting that image. In fact, Modi was in virtual reality due to digital excesses. Possibly, voters might have thought that Modi would do wonders in his second term.  We have to remember that Indians generally have hope when the situation appears to be hopeless. And, five years later in 2019, India has again placed high hopes in Narendra Modi. Will he deliver?

In 2014, Modi asked the Indians to give him 10 years to transform India. Well, here is his chance. So what should PM Modi do? A top American corporate leader, John Chambers, has asserted, while   congratulating him on his election victory that “in the next five years, PM Modi will lay the groundwork for India’s economic growth and prosperity for the next quarter century.”  And, there is no reason to doubt his observations.

First of all, two issues need urgent attention: agrarian unrest and the related job crisis. Any durable solution to agrarian crises requires non-farm jobs. The agrarian sector generates less than 15% of GDP but employed around 45% of the workers. It means that output per worker in this sector is less than one-fourth of that in industry and services combined. “With output per worker in industry and services itself low, per-worker output in agriculture is truly tiny”, noted by the economist Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University. One cannot resolve agrarian unrest without absorbing at least two-thirds of those dependent on the farm in non-farm jobs. So, generating non-agrarian jobs that provide adequate wages is the biggest issue.   

Secondly, there needs to be a concurrent increase in productivity. India became the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2018 but still it has a very-very low per capita GDP, as per IMF. It is placed at 122nd position among 187 countries.

What is needed now is a new generation of economic reforms which will unleash productive forces and generate jobs.

Modi has to recognize that the export-oriented, low-skill, large-scale manufacturing jobs that developing economies have relied upon (and that was the key to much of China’s success) are on the wane around the world. Automation and AI are reducing the amount of low-skill work that the manufacturing sector requires and is adversely affecting the job market.  Thus, there are many reforms that India is required to carry out to attain competitive strength in manufacturing and reducing the level of unemployment and underemployment. These would require changes in labor and land laws, cutting corporate and general taxes, and improving basic infrastructure especially uninterrupted cheap power supply. The availability of the water is another crucial issue.

Most importantly, unlocking the human potential to enhance productivity is a must and it should be India’s priority, since India’s Unique Selling Point (USP) is its people.

Let us consider some facts. India has done well over the past decade or so to get most of its children into school. It has done less well at getting them to learn anything. Analysts are, therefore, already worrying that India’s demographic dividend — its vast pool of young people — will become a curse: Without jobs, all those young people could drag down the country instead of pushing it towards upper-middle income status. The problem is that they are desperately short of preparation for both the old economy and the new. In addition, the population growth is also a worrying factor.  The current population growth in India is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them which    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 445 million people out of 1,350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building?   

What India does in the next five years will determine not only the destiny of the country but also of PM Modi? A person like Modi knows about it that the people elected him with immense hope that he will change their lives for better. Investments in education, health, living environment and its determinants – the social sector – therefore, should be made a priority in the next five years to lay the foundation for a developed India by 100th birth anniversary of India. For this, PM Modi must use unmatched political capital to make it happen today!  

After obtaining formal degrees from Harvard and Australian National universities, Dr. Devendra Kothari has been working on issues pertaining to population and development. He can be contacted at: dkothari42@gmail.c9om or 09829119868.   Last year, his comments on “Population and Climate Change” appeared in the New York Times (Sept. 11, 2018). Also see his Blog at: kotharionindia.blogspot.com

Overseas Friends Of BJP congratulates Modi

Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP)-USA congratulates Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, Party President Shri Amit Shah, BJP leaders, millions of BJP volunteers, and volunteers of OFBJP and NRIs4Modi across the globe who have toiled hard for this stupendous victory. Millions of voters including first time voters have participated enthusiastically in this world’s largest democratic elections to elect an able and proven leader, Shri Narendra Modi.
Indian voters have stamped their approval for continuing the all-round development with pro-poor, pro-farmer, and pro-business policies of Modi government. The voters have rejected the unholy alliance of selfish regional leaders and the Congress party mostly led by dynastic families.
NRIs4Modi and OFBJP teams have organized more than one hundred programs in the USA during the last 4 months across the nation, from coast-to-coast. Every single week from February through May, various programs were organized around the country. The programs include Chai Pe Charchas, Call-A-Thons, “Chowkidar” Marches, Car Rallies, Yagnas, Flash Mob Dance shows, Snow Mobile Rally, “Ghar Ghar Modi”, Sampark Abhiyan programs and more. Also, the teams have made approximately one million calls to voters in India.
OFBJP is planning to organize victory celebrations in more than 20 cities around the country, including Boston, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Tampa, Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle, and other cities.
OFBJP president Shri Krishna Reddy Anugula Said, “I would like to congratulate BJP and Shri Narendra Modi ji, Shri Amit Shah ji for the massive victory. Prime Minister Modi ji will transform the country and improve the livelihood of the people. NDA government has provided basic amenities like toilets, electricity, gas cylinders etc. in the last 5 years. During the next 5 years, NDA govt is going to take India to the next level with the proposed investments in infrastructure, health care, and farming sectors.”
OFBJP Vice President Shri Adapa Prasad has said that the people of India have chosen a strong and incorruptible leader Modi and his vision of New India even as they rejected divisive caste and dynastic politics of the self-indulging “Maha-Milavat” opposition. OFBJP Organizational Secretary Shri Vasudev Patel Said “These results support the policies of Shri Narendra Modi led NDA govt. Based on the experience I had on the ground, I was expecting this massive victory”

SF Mayoral Candidate Angela Alioto Talks to India Currents

Angela Alioto, mayoral candidate, was born and raised in San Francisco. Her parents are former San Francisco Mayor Joseph L. Alioto and Angelina Genaro Alioto. During her service on the Board of Supervisors, Angela was elected President of the Board. She served as Vice-Chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, Chair of the Health, Public Safety and Environment Committee, and Chair of the Select Committee on Municipal Public Power, a committee she created as President. On January 8, 1997, Alioto left the Board of Supervisors due to term limits.

Her campaign reached out to India Currents and we the opportunity to talk to her one on one. Here is a transcript of the interview:

Vandana Kumar (VK):  I publish India Currents magazine. We’ve been around for thirty-two years. India Currents is devoted to the exploration of Indian culture as it exists in the United States, as well all issues of interest to the Indian community. Also on this call is my partner, Vijay Rajvaidya.

Vijay Rajvaidya (VR): Angela, hi. I am a thirty-five year tech veteran from the Bay Area. I joined India Currents five years ago to actively engage with the Indian community.

Angela Alioto (AA): Hello.

VK: One of the things that interested me was that you have really deep ties to San Francisco. You were born here, raised here, educated here, you’ve done years of public service here. Your father was the mayor of San Francisco. So, you must have been influenced by his service. Can you tell us of any incident that may have left an indelible mark on you or something that prompted you down this same path of public service?

AA: I think that the fact that my father was a coalition builder really impressed me in my youth. One of the most important things that stands out to me is when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, we were there with the black Baptist ministers and the other cultures and they all stood together on the steps of city hall and made it very clear to the public that wanted to riot that it was much better to do a peaceful march. So as a consequence of the coalition building that my father did with different communities, we were the only city that did not riot. I think that’s one of the best talents any mayor can have: being able to put communities together so they work for the betterment of the people. That is absolutely essential and that is something that is totally missing today in today’s government.

VR: That’s true.

VK: What year was this?

AA: 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr, was assassinated. Two months later Bobby Kennedy was… those were very tumultuous times.

VR: Angela, I have a question a little bit more to the ground here. I was looking at the last Census numbers and according to the 2010 Census one-third of the population in San Francisco is Asian and there is a growing population of Indian-Americans there, largely young, highly educated, second-generation Indians who have made San Francisco their home. Their main concern is adequate and affordable housing. Can you tell them how this is going to happen in your administration? In particular, if you could elaborate on your idea of prioritizing “density over raising height limits?”

AA: Well, first of all, affordable housing is the top priority problem in San Francisco. And it’s because we have so many new employees that have come to San Francisco who can afford higher prices and, as a consequence, so many people were worked out of the available housing that we have.

VR: Correct.

AA: The only way we’re going to be able to do anything about this affordable housing crisis in San Francisco is by building more density. We absolutely need to build the 5,000 units that Mayor Ed Lee suggested and along with that we have 17,000 units that are in the pipeline. But as far as it ever being really affordable, depending upon someone’s salary, that’s going to be the problem of the future, trying to figure out what is affordable. Right now, they’re calling affordable housing for any one project that’s done, let’s say they do 25 percent or 30 percent affordable housing, well affordable housing is $130,000 a year salary. That’s not affordable for a lot of people.

VR: Correct.

AA: The question is where are the people who make $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 where are they going to live? I believe that you have to do dedicated buildings and developments for them. It’s just terrible what’s happened in San Francisco. We have young kids that are making so much money that the price of an apartment, it goes up three to four thousand dollars for a single bedroom, I mean, people can’t afford that.

VK: That is very true. You know, in the last few weeks, there has been much conversation around the issue of San Francisco as a sanctuary city. Can you explain to our readers what is different about your position on this versus the other candidates and why.

AA: I am very surprised that the other candidates came out against me on this. I wrote the original sanctuary city law. I never included dangerous felons. So, in 2016, they amended it and they added dangerous felons. So what my ordinance does is it takes the protection of the sanctuary law away from dangerous felons. In other words, if you’re going to kill somebody, if you’re going to rape somebody, if you’re…going to create mayhem, then you are not going to be covered by San Francisco’s sanctuary law, as you are not covered in the State of California. So, I was very surprised to see my opponents come out against it. Why they want to protect dangerous felons I do not understand.

VR: Yes, that can be of quite a bit of interest to a younger generation as I believe because they also take a certain kind of pride in this position. It’s a good thing to explain the difference and we’ll try to do that. I am going to move onto a different subject matter here.

You know, the Indian-American community is now getting involved in the political process all over the country, as a matter of fact. Currently, we have five Indian-Americans serving in the U.S. Congress. And, this year alone, eighty-eight people are running for various public offices and yet there is no Indian-American county supervisor. You have been one, so I thought I would ask you, how does one become a county supervisor?

AA: Well, first of all, San Francisco is a city and county, so we don’t have a city council, so you’d be a supervisor for the whole city. What one has to do is get involved with the grassroots organizations. Get involved. Go out and register people to vote. Go out and get involved in the community and help with the homeless. Help with the drug abuse situation and the dirty streets. You have to organize and get involved and then put your name on the ballot and run in a district. It should be absolutely foreseeable that a person of Indian descent would be able to be able to be a supervisor in San Francisco. I know that as mayor of San Francisco I will appoint a large diversity of supervisors when an opening comes because I totally believe in the cultural diversity of our city.

VR: That would be of great interest to our readers, yes.

VK: So, Angela, you have run for mayor twice before, but not succeeded.

AA: I just missed it in 2010. I just missed it.

VK: So, what made you decide to run again? I imagine it was not an easy decision?

AA: No, as a matter of fact I have a wonderful life. I am a civil rights trial lawyer, I have four children and five grandchildren, I live in Italy during the summer. I have a wonderful, wonderful life.

I decided to run for mayor because first of all I know how to take care of the situation with our homeless population and it’s so totally out of control that I can only imagine it getting worse and worse and worse. And I know I am the one person that has the experience to actually get the job done. As you can see with all the tent cities throughout the city, you desperately need someone who knows what they’re doing. Same goes for the drug and alcohol abuse that’s occurring in our city, and our dirty streets. That’s why I decided to get into the race. There’s no question homelessness was the key for me.

VR: You touched on homelessness, so that prompts me to ask you this: you know this is related to the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco. This statistic was interesting to me – a minimum wage worker would have to work 4.7 or approximately 5 full time jobs to be able to rent a two-bedroom apartment. San Francisco has several thousand homeless residents despite extensive efforts by the city government to address this issue.

AA: Right.

VR: And you know, this thing is still there. I have read your position and little bit on the homelessness, how you want to do it, but can you elaborate a little more to address this, because this impacts people living over there and also the tourists. It directly affects the tourists also.

AA: I’m sorry, that question is, the first one is about being able to afford to live here?*

VR: How do you plan to address homelessness?

AA: My homeless plan is phenomenal. My homeless plan worked. From 2004 to 2012, we housed more than 4,600 chronically homeless people. It absolutely worked. And they’re still in those apartments. But when things started changing in 2012 and they moved the homeless buildings to affordable housing buildings and then they moved the money around, that’s when we started picking people off the street and we had nowhere to take them. So, that’s the major problem. My plan is on the city website. Just put in the key word “Alioto” or “chronic homelessness”. It’s there, it’s extremely extensive and it absolutely works. It’s a huge success story. I have no idea why they stopped, no idea.

VR: Well, that’s why they have to elect you again, so you can…

AA: I’m telling you, I know how to do it.

VR: Yes…

AA: I’ll do it again, you’re absolutely right. It’s a matter of taking people off the street, which in 78 hours you know exactly where to put them because you can tell what kind of category they go in, whether it’s drug abuse, substance abuse, or whether it’s mental health, or whether it’s just someone who couldn’t pay the rent for two months and is down on their luck.

VR: Yes, that’s right.

AA: There are very different types of homeless people. And you have to decide what type they are before you start moving them.

VR: I was discussing exactly this with Vandana this morning!  Homeless people, they have to spend full-time of the day to just satisfy their basic needs, and it doesn’t leave them any time to think about how to get out of this situation.

AA: Right, right…

VR: You know, the basic requirements can be focused somehow, for taking care of basic needs…

I think being homeless is like…a full-time job.

AA: Oh, it absolutely is.

VK: Angela, so are you saying that the plan you had implemented and suggested earlier as something that worked and then they stopped it? Who stopped it?

AA: The city. When tech started moving into town, the city stopped everything we were doing. And moved the money and moved the buildings.

VR: Okay, we hope we can get control of this problem soon because it’s a beautiful city.

AA: I think working together we can, because, you know, you said something nobody ever says, and that is homeless people are working all day long just to survive, not to get out of homelessness. That’s an excellent observation.

VR: That’s true. That’s why I was telling if we could provide them with basic facilities like where to take showers or where to do things, that itself will leave some time so that they don’t have run around and look for the place…

AA: Right, right, right…

VK: People say, “get off the street, get a job.” Well…

VR: How do you get a job? You don’t have time to look for that.

AA: Right…

VR: So coming to the end, I have a kind of capping question. Many candidates for public offices have made special efforts to connect with our community, the Indian-American community, by going to their events, engaging with them culturally and socially, so I was going to ask you, do you have any specific message for our readers and do you have any plans to go and engage with this community in San Francisco?

AA: Oh, absolutely I do. First of all, I’m a third generation San Franciscan. San Francisco has always been an iconic cultural city. We need to cultivate all of our different cultures. So, I have actively, throughout my life, been going to the individual cultures to see how we can get them involved in government, to see how their small businesses are, to see how the quality of life is for them in San Francisco. I have always been actively involved in the Indian community in San Francisco, going back years and years and years. The Indian community has always been very supportive of me, especially the restaurant businesses.

VR: Yes.

AA: Always, always wonderful, wonderful. And, of course, we have commissioners. We have many Indian commissioners, not enough, but we have many that have been there for quite awhile that are my very, very good friends, so I have always interacted with the Indian community and I will do that as mayor…

VR and VK: Very good to know that.

VK: My sons actually live in San Francisco and I was asking them, “Are you going to vote?” Of course, they are my kids, so they are registered to vote, but when I mentioned your name, they said “well, there’s a restaurant by that name, …”

AA: Yes, that’s my cousin’s. Those are my rich cousins.

VK and VR: [laughter]

VK: So, that’s what they knew! … but I think it’s worth you doing an outreach to a lot of younger demographic as well.

AA: Absolutely. I hope your sons vote for me. It’s very important.

VK: I will tell them.

AA: This is a very crucial election. Crucial. All throughout the last five months, the other opponents have been saying they wouldn’t take money from outside sources, and now, the last three days they’ve all taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside sources. It’s just really been a terrible experience of dishonesty.

VK: What do you think is the difference between you (the candidates)? I see London Breed as polling higher, but we know a thing or two about polls!  In what way has your campaign been different from hers?

AA: I’m a very people person. I haven’t missed one panel, one debate, one interview. I have been everywhere. London is a very nice person, but she hasn’t participated very much in the election because she has so much money.

She has millions of dollars, over two million dollars they’re spending. Our campaign doesn’t have that. As a matter of fact, we didn’t get the public money that they all got. But having said that, we’re very, very different and I think you can see that in our platforms.

VK: Okay, sounds great. Thank you for spending this time with us.

AA: Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. Thank you.