Modi goes high tech here in California

Quick little side note. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in California this weekend — Silicon Valley, to be precise. It is the first time in decades an Indian PM has been to the state, so we’ll make some note of it. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“People are now saying that the 21st century is India’s,” said the prime minister to an estimated crowd of 18,000. “The world is now believing this.”

Modi, who is bullish on Twitter and adamant about boosting the nation’s tech economy through a campaign he’s called Digital India, generated adoration and near giddiness Sunday, at the tail end of a diplomatic mission that included meetings with Gov. Jerry Brown, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, among others.


But not every Indian in Silicon Valley is enamored of the prime minister.

Karthik Ramanathan, a software engineer who also grew up in India but immigrated to San Jose 13 years ago, arrived at the SAP Center parking lot with a poster denouncing Modi as the country’s “Prime Murderer.”

Ramanathan was among scores of protesters — including the activist group Sikhs for Justice — who gathered outside the building to accuse the prime minister of human rights violations, including a religious campaign to turn India into a Hindu nation.

“We can’t talk about tech without talking about its impact on humanity,” said Ramanathan, who worries that India’s political leadership could use new technology to crack down on protesters.

Additional coverage is here. He made some pretty strong promises involving tech advances for India.

Posted by Steve

India may make yoga mandatory for its police

Here’s another piece to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on yoga: the country’s police may have to start doing yoga.

Here’s the report from the Economic Times:

Sripad Yesso Naik, minister of state with independent charge of AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga& naturopathy, unani , siddha and homoeopathy), said the government in January launched an ambitious exercise under which will all defence and police departments will gradually take to practicing yoga everyday over the next three to five years. The move is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on yoga promotion.

“As part of preparations for grand celebrations of the International Yoga Day on June 21, we plan to ready at least 1,000-1,500 yoga trainers who will, in turn, train people across the country in yoga. We have decided to start with the police and paramilitary personnel, among other defence staff, to first undergo this training,” Naik tod ET. The country’s first minister for traditional medicine said all policemen should do yoga for at least half an hour every day.

It’s worth clicking through to check the cartoon that goes with it.

Half an hour a day doesn’t sound too taxing, right?

Posted by Steve

India gets a “minister” for yoga, but it’s way more complicated than that

The easy version of this story is just this: India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has shaken up his cabinet and elevating to it a position dedicated to both yoga and ayurveda. Here’s a pretty good rundown:

The government has set up a ministry to promote alternative therapies such as yoga and traditional ayurveda medicine, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a mission to raise awareness and the appeal of home-grown health treatments.

Modi has repeatedly called for greater use of India’s health remedies and exercises, part of a push to promote traditional learning. During his first address at the United Nations in September, he encouraged more people to take up yoga and called for an International Yoga Day.

“This is our system and it has not received enough prominence. We will take it to the masses,” said Shripad Naik, who took charge of the ministry on Tuesday.

Previously, these topics fell under the purview of the health minister. (If you want to get technical, here’s a further rundown: “Among the portfolios designated was that of Aayush, whose minister will be charged with promoting the traditional medicines and practices of Ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homeopathy. “)

Sounds good, right? Well, as the headline says, it’s a bit more complicated than that:

Attempted murder, waging war on the state, criminal intimidation and fraud are some of the charges on the rap sheets of ministers Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed to his cabinet, jarring with his pledge to clean up politics.

Seven of 21 new ministers appointed on Sunday face prosecution, taking the total in the 66-member cabinet to almost one third, a higher proportion than before the weekend expansion.

At least five people in the cabinet have been charged with serious offences such as rape and rioting. But Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said any suggestions there were criminals in the cabinet were “completely baseless”.

“These are cases arising out of criminal accusations, not cases out of a crime,” Jaitley said, adding that Modi had personally vetted the new ministers.

Beyond those seemingly cut-and-dry issues, there’s also questions about whether this expansion — with its focus on such things as yoga — is really just part of a nationalist step-up by Modi, which brings with it a whole ton of issues including, but not limited to, internal relations between Hindus and Muslims; relations with Pakistan; and growing relations with nationalists in Japan.

Posted by Steve

Yoga classes could be coming to all Indian universities

I’m not totally familiar with all the levels of government in India nor with how its university system is set up, but this story from Economic Times suggests that all the emphasis Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is putting on yoga is having a big impact:

Just a few days after he urged world leaders at the United Nations to adopt an International Yoga Day, the University Grants Commission (UGC), under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, has asked all recognised universities to start offering yoga and meditation lessons on campus to promote “holistic well being” of students.

It’s unclear at this point whether these lessons would be compulsory for students. Universities will have to employ qualified yoga instructors for this purpose and are also free to charge a small fee from participants.


“A clean and healthy mind is as important as clean environment. Students these days are stressed and do not lead a healthy lifestyle. Health clusters in universities are the need of the hour. This idea might be new to India, but abroad it’s the norm,” said a senior UGC official, who did not wish to be identified.

Apart from yoga, universities and affiliated colleges are also expected to generate awareness about healthy diets, drugs and substance abuse, benefits of exercise and also promote communal harmony. Although the circular hasn’t made implementation of ‘Swachh Bharat, Swasthya Bharat’ compulsory, UGC officials told ET that they expect that most educational institutions dependent on grants will comply.

According to the ET, this isn’t the first time the government has tried to promote yoga at the university level — but it wasn’t successful before. Strangely enough, this may be an instance when the West’s appropriation of another culture’s practice may boomerang back with positive results. I wonder if it will be a more “Western,” exercise-oriented asana; it sounds like it from what little we have to go on here.

Posted by Steve

India’s prime minister calls for International Yoga Day

During his speech this weekend to the United Nations General Assembly, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an “International Yoga Day.”

Here’s how the Times of India summed it up:

Modi’s unexpected reference to yoga during in his UN General Assembly speech came when he was talking about climate change and going back to basics. Yoga is not just about fitness or exercise, it is about changing one’s lifestyle, Modi said, plugging for ancient practice that was introduced to the west by Modi’s spiritual inspiration, Swami Vivekananda.

And here’s the thing. It turns out it wasn’t just a toss-off remark that went unnoticed. It is getting some support from India’s neighbors:

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, addressing a press conference on Saturday said, “The leaders of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal congratulated Prime Minister Modi on his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and all of them indicated their support for the Prime Minister’s proposal for an ‘International Yoga Day’. All three nations have said that they would support this initiative of designating a day in the United Nations as an International Yoga Day.”

“Sri Lanka was the first country to formally give in writing support for Prime Minister’s initiative on the International Day of Yoga,” he added.

Akbaruddin also said that Prime Minister Modi had thanked Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa for this prompt response to his proposal.

That, from ABP Live, also contained a fuller quote from Modi: “Yoga embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; the harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

We know there’s yoga done on the White House lawn, so maybe this can be a piece to the puzzle as India and the U.S. try to play nice these next few days.

Posted by Steve