Dare to Care for Adolescent Girls Poor Status in India

Ahmedabad :  Fourteen year old, Sejal Baria was beaming with joy to share her story of grit. Baria, a 10th standard student travelled from remotest tribal village of Gujarat to talk about adolescent girls challenges which are affecting thousands of girls like her in their communities.

Baria and her young team, part of “Dare to Care”, a  UNICEF child rights projects, were successful in  rescuing three minor girls from getting married  at an early age in last three years in her village.

DareDevil IPL team member meeting with Dare to Care girls. Credit : Unicef India

DareDevil IPL team member meeting with Dare to Care girls.
Credit : Unicef India

 

 Baria said, “It is common  in our part of village to get the girls married before they attain the legal age of 18 years. They get married by 13-14 years. It was not an easy task to convince parents of minor girls to call off the marriage. We took help & support from the village heads to persuade families not to marry the minor girls. We got success eventually,”

Despite the progress in expanding the access of girls to education, health and social services, millions of adolescent girls still face difficult obstacles in their lives, experiencing various forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse on account of their age and their sex in India. According to National Sample Survey office(NSSO) 2007-2008 report,  almost  40  percent  of adolescent girls in between 14 and 17 years  in India are not attending school. Also, District Level Household & Facility Survey  of year 2007-2008 reveals that around 40 per cent  girls in India marry before the legal age of 18 years.

Baria was among 11 adolescent girls who came from different parts of Gujarat to  share their “Dare to Care” UNICEF  initiative with  popular Delhi Daredevils team of Indian Premier League(IPL). As part of the UNICEF initiative, these girls have been trained on child rights issues. Thy have have been doing exemplary work at the village level to fight against social issues like child marriage, child labour, gender disparities, etc.

DareDevil IPL team greeting Dare to Care girls. Credit: Unicef India

DareDevil IPL team greeting Dare to Care girls.
Credit: Unicef India

This was one of the rare occasion when these girls met with national and international  cricketing icons in real life. They were excited and talking with foreign cricket players despite the language barrier.  

Gopi Boghil, 17 years from rural area from Bhavnagar, said, “Child labour is most rampant in our villages. The families prefer to send their kids to work in fields than in school as it adds  to their family income.Our team of 20 volunteers meet parents and convince them that if their children education is continued, they can earn much more than what they earn today.”

“However, poverty does push many children to leave their village and go to work in farms outside their village”  added she.  Bhogil dreams of becoming an air-hostess.

Moved by the stories of the girls, Jaydev Unadkat, Daredevil IPL players, looking sombre , said. “The confidence among these girls are commendable. They are doing amazing work in empowering other girls. It was a humbling experience to listen to them.”

“As a cricketer our responsibility lies in spreading their message, making people more aware and supportive of adolescent girls situations  in the country.”

The Delhi Daredevils team has been advocating for an overall protective environment for adolescent girls through the IPL platform and various other public forums.

Ross Taylor, New Zealand cricketer and part of Daredevil IPL team still reminisces about the infamous Delhi gangrape case. Taylor said, ” The shocking Delhi incident made headlines in New Zealand newspapers,”

After her interaction with the girls, Taylor said,” The language was a barrier but  girls were confident in asking questions on cricket. It was humbling experience interacting to them on various issues they face as a girl,”

The three key messages of this initiative are investing in girls education as  it is great investment in building her and her family future,  no child marriages as it affects their education, lower economic status, less livelihood opportunities, and they have little say in their home and to encourage girls to express and participate more. 

It is time we all  dare to  care to address grave issues affecting half  of the population in the country.  

Click here to read more on – Date to Care  

Official Hastag : #DaretoCare 

( Communicate Karo was invited by  UNICEF India  to meet Dare to Care girls & Dare Devil IPL team members interaction )

 

India Witnesses First Social Media Prime Minister in Narendra Modi

India got its first social media prime minister in Narendra Modi.  The three time chief minister of Gujarat will soon sworn as the 15th prime minister of India after his landslide victory trouncing the ruling United Progressive Alliance led by Congress. During the general election 2014, Narendra Modi became the second most-liked politician on Facebook behind only  Barack Obama, president of United States of America. Obama is also popularly called “first Social Media President of USA”.

Modi’s tweet proclaiming the victory of the Bharitya Janta Party(BJP) is testament to the fact that people are connecting with political leaders online.  The tweet  has become the most retweeted tweet from India in Twitter’s history. Till May 18, 2014, it has received 68,750  retweets and had been favourited 29,000 times.

 

Maximum RT and Favourited  tweet in India till now.  Pic: Twitter

Maximum RT and Favourited tweet in India till now.
Pic: Twitter

This was the first social media election for 1.2 billion strong India with the advent of Social Media giants in India, namely Facebook and Twitter, whose users run into million from urban areas to rural areas. Modi  from Bhartiya Janta Party gets the credit for first initiator on social media platforms when most of the politicians were busy ridiculing the emerging social media tools as “waste of time” and impersonal way to connect to masses. Even, Lalu Prasad Yadav, former chief minister of Bihar, known for his rustic behaviour fell for Twitter. He is now an active twitter user keeping intact his humour on the micro blogging site.  Earlier, he had criticized the use of social media.  In run up to the elections,  Facebook, the US based social media giant came up with  dedicated  Facebook ELECTION TRACKER to monitor political conversation on elections in India.

According to Facebook, “From the day elections were announced to the day polling ended, 29 million people conducted 227 million interactions (posts, comments, shares, and likes) regarding the elections on Facebook. In addition, 13 million people conducted 75 million interactions regarding  Narendra Modi.”

 Modi has 14.3 million fans — The Fastest-Growing Number on FACEBOOK  and  4,158,031 followers on TWITTER , the micro blogging site

In India,  814 million were eligible voters, and the interest in this year election was palpable — a record breaking 66% voter turn -out.In few of the parliamentary constituencies in Gujarat,  the voter turnout  crossed 70 %.  There is no denying to the fact that people, young & old are  turning to popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to talk  & engage on politics. In India, Facebook already had relatively high penetration in India, with 100 million active users.  According to published article in Quartz “On April 30—the day that 89 of India’s 543 constituencies went to the polls—696,000 election-related tweets were sentSince Jan1, the breakdown of tweets for the various national candidates/parties has been 34% for Narendra Modi or his Bharatiya Janata Party, 27% for Arvind Kejriwal or the Aam Admi Party, 4% for Rahul Gandhi or the Indian National Congress.”

The Facebook Election Tracker sums up the story well for elections in India- BJP and Narendra Modi tops the chart, while congress stood at last behind the newbie Aam Aadmi Party, on the last day of the elections.

BJP and Modi tops the chart, congress at the bottom.  Credit: India Tracker/Facebook India

BJP and Modi tops the chart, congress at the bottom.
Credit: India Tracker/Facebook India

The general elections 2014  reemphasized the fact that do not  underestimate the power of a tweet or a post in this globally wireless connected world! Modi landslide victory has proved all the social media critics wrong, especially his political opponents who we were more critical of his communication strategy of using social media extensively.

Social networking giant #Facebook said “29 million people in India have made 227 million interactions through posts, comments, shares, and likes about the elections from the day they were announced.

General Elections 2014 on Facebook  Credit : FacebookIndia

General Elections 2014 on Facebook
Credit : FacebookIndia

Rahul Gandhi, scion of Gandhi family and the face of Indian National Congress (INC) during general elections has no social media presence. Despite the fact that, he  is the young face of  Congress.

Today youth in India is social media mobile & savvy. They are tweeting, posting, sharing  from everything under the Sun.This time, youths were very much part of this elections and they participated in a big way.  They are vociferously demanding for a better future, jobs and amenities.During Modi’s victory speech in Vadodara, the parliamentary constituency from where Modi won by a margin of over 5 lakh votes, he gave due credit to role of social media in spreading the message  of ab ki baar Modi sarkaar far and wide”

Narendra Modi respecting the power of social media in his victory speech has stated that- “Due to social media, lies & false promises of several leaders could not go beyond the podiums of their rallies! More power to social media ,”

It is yet to be seen how social media euphoria translates into real work on ground level.  This will be watched closely by online & offline !



Global Media Reacts on NARENDRA MODI Landslide Win in Indian Elections

The media reaction to landslide victory of BJP in general elections 2014. Photo  : Siddhanth Suchit

The media reaction to landslide victory of BJP in general elections 2014.
Photo :Reuters

A  Quick analysis of front page headlines from popular newspaper/TV in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, USA & UK’s on verdict given by 1.2 billion strong India. It is interesting to read the tone & tenor in these headlines! The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the main opposition party in India had a landslide victory winning 285 seats out of 543 parliamentary constituencies. The BJP lead National Democratic Alliance won 340 seats. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will be next prime minister of India.

India

BJP Aaandhi Flattens Clan Gandhi- Times of India 

India Places its Faith in Moditva- Times of India

Hunkaar Tally- Hindustan Times 

MODI- Indian Express 

India is Modi. Modi is India- Economic Times

MODI’S Moment – MINT 

Prime Minister Modi – The Hindu

Pakistan

BJP knocks out Congres- The Dawn

Modi wave sweeps India- The Nation 

Modi storms to historic win in Indian elections-Pakistan Observer

Bangladesh

Modi wins landslide victory: The Daily Star,Bangladesh

Landslide win for Modi, BJP- Dhaka Tribune,Bangladesh 

Modi crushes the fort of Congress- The Bangladesh Today

USA

Congress Party Concedes Defeat as India Backs Modi-The

New York Times 

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi heads to victory in Indian

election- Washington Post 

Narenda Modi Is India’s Next Leader-The Wire 

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi claims victory as India’s

next Prime Minister- CNN

India’s Narendra Modi leads conservatives to election day

victory- Chicago Day Tribune 

India’s pro-business Modi storms to historic election win- Reuters 

Landslide win for Indian opposition party- USA Today

England

Congress admits India poll defeat- BBC

Modi wins landslide victory in Indian election- The Daily Star/Reuters

Narendra Modi wins India election with landslide victory- The Telegraph 

Narendra Modi’s landslide victory shatters Congress’s grip on India – The

Guardian

Can Modi Do a Barack Obama in General Elections 2014 ?

Social media in India is an evolving trend, and this general elections result might start a new discourse for elections to come. However, it will be interesting to wait and watch, whether the popular online sentiments, and the millions likes, thousands of share and million tweets can translates into REAL VOTES .

A comparative analysis of USA President Barack Obama and BJP Prime Minister candidate, Narendra Modi in General Elections 2014

 

Ahmedabad celebrates 4th anniversary of Janmarg BRTS

The daily commute of twenty-nine-year-old Ranjit Rao, a professional working for a multinational company based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, has changed for good. Rao is part of new breed of city commuters who has ditched his private vehicle to use the new form of public transport: Janmarg Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Ahmedabad. According to him, it is more economical and comfortable to travel in by BRTS than vehicle. There is no worry of traffic jams and the system is easily accessible. He travels daily from his home in Maninagar, located in the central part of Ahmedabad, to Iskon circle in the Western part. He saves 15-20 minutes on his commute time, a few hundred rupees on fuel, and takes great pride that he is not part of the traffic anymore.

Ahmedabad BRTS celebrates 4th anniversary of Janmarg, synonymous with Ahmedabad, celebrated its fourth anniversary on October 14. In 2009, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, under its special purpose vehicle Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) had launched the BRTS in dedicated corridors in middle of the road as an earnest effort to bring sanity back to roads.

Janmarg: Moving People, Not Moving Vehicles
BRTS-4

For all those who complain of the futility of BRTS corridor, here is an interesting fact, revealed by Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited: “Janmarg moved 180 people by just occupying 90 square metres of road space while in the mixed traffic lane on the Janmarg corridor, and 168 people were moved by occupying 550 square metre of road space.” This is very much in line with The National Urban Transport Policy of Ministry of Urban Development which focuses on “Moving People, not Vehicles”. On an average 116,000 passengers travels on BRTS for work (53 per cent), Education (19 per cent ) and Social and Recreation (27 per cent). According to an AJL study for the month of March, 2013, 26 percent of two wheelers have shifted to BRTS. However, the number of car users shifting to BRTS remains around one to two percent. No doubt, driven by the need for an alternative mode of transportation, people are buying vehicles, adding to traffic snarls and pollution. In Ahmedabad alone, the number of vehicles has climbed up to 2.2 million. An estimate suggests that 600 vehicles are getting added daily on city roads in Ahmedabad. So, the pressure on existing road networks increases and insures demand for parking in the city.

Complaints & Suggestions for Ahmedabad BRTS
01-1

Overcrowding in BRTS Buses
The BRTS in Ahmedabad needs to keep the standard high for the confidence of regular users and to attract future commuters. The basic issues like BRTS bus drivers’ rash driving and their involvement in traffic accidents has reached alarming proportion. The increasing number of thefts on the buses is also a matter of concern, as is crowd management at popular BRTS bus stops.

Commuters’ suggestions for improving BRT services ranges from discount rates for students, senior citizens, and women to introducing a monthly pass system. Other suggestions include limits on the number of passengers travelling in a BRTS bus, and better traffic control mechanisms for BRTS buses, especially near traffic cross junctions.

Making BRTS Bus Stops More Pedestrian and Cycle Accessible

Sixty-five percent of BRTS users in Ahmedabad are walking to BRTS bus stops despite the poor pedestrian facilities in the city. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation authorities need to take pedestrian concerns as a top priority to address the growing chaos on city streets. BRTS bus stops should be integrated with better and safer walkways, and cycle corridors to gain more regular bus commuters.

Innovation and Information is Key for the Growth of Ahmedabad BRTS

In the last four years of its operation, the system has received national and international awards for bringing a paradigm shift in the way city moves. BRTS is a great departure from rickety buses running on the roads where passengers can barely hold on, struggling to board or alight from the bus, fighting their way out to reach to bus conductors for tickets, along with the spewing toxic smoke.

But for BRTS to reach the next level and attract car users, BRTS requires a constant innovation in its services and an extensive outreach plan with consistent improvement in infrastructure for pedestrians & cyclists. Social Media needs to be leveraged well by introducing unique campaigns to attract youths to use BRTS. The BRTS authorities have to work on a holistic approach to make the system more popular and acceptable.

Modi woos twitter celebrities to encourage youth for voter registration

Narendra Modi, one of the most popular politician on social media platforms in India has latched on to Twitter & the power of film celebrities, Indian cricketing legends and spiritual heads, to woo & encourage first-time voters to register for voting rights for upcoming general elections 2014. The elections will be litmus test for Modi to prove his popularity can convert into  votes to reach to the magical figure of 272 to form the government at the Centre.

According to Mint- “The first-time voters, estimated from the Census data stacks up to 149.36 million—the Election Commission estimates the total number of voters to be 725 million.”

 Modi in his first tweet mentioned “studies point to several ‘eligible’ voters who are yet unregistered. Are you one of them? Now is the time to get registered ASAP ! and followed by  this tweet ” I request prominent voices on social media to promote voter registration among youngsters & strengthen our democracy.Modi

Later, Modi  in his flurry of tweets mentioned twitter handle of prominent celebrities from Bollywood, like Amitabh Bachchan(6.30million),  Shah Rukh Khan(4.98million), Amir Khan(4.66 million), Salman Khan(4.88 million), Hrithik Roshan(4.08million), Deepika Padukone(4.18million),  cricketing legend, Sachin Tendular(3.66million), and spiritual head his Holiness Dalai Lama (7.71million) among others  and wrote  “lets encourage voter registration among 18-24 yr olds. Large number of them are unregistered. EC drive presently underway.”

Deepika

Modi has 2.34 million followers till now on Twitter. Recentky, Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP), the main opposition party in India anointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as prime ministerial face for upcoming  election.

Interestingly, he in his tweet mentioned his bete-o-noire Prime Minister Manmohan Singh official PMO twitter handle to encourage young voters to participate in due Parliamentary election. Also, Shashi Tharroor (1.90million), Minister of State for Human Resource Development and one the most vocal critic of Modi on social media platforms was mentioned by Modi to woo youths for voter registration. It would be interesting to see whether,Modi’s MT  gets RTs by the likes of PMO and Shashi Tharror !

PMO

In the recent months, youths & their issues are focal point & recurring theme  of all Modi’s political speeches since his elevation as BJP Election Campaign Committee Chief. Recently during Rewari rally largely of ex-servicemen, Modi made an emotive appeal to  young audience to get themselves registered for voting rights and also encourage other in family, friends and relatives to do it. 

According to recently released report, published on Mint- “Show that the overwhelming demography of India is young. “The population of the country below 35 years of age is 51.8%. Of this 48.2% are women and 51.8% are men, 30.1% reside in urban areas and 69.9% is based in rural India. Significantly, the Census numbers estimate the population in the critical demography category of 18-35 years of age to be 31.3%%. Not only does this demography dominate spending in the rapidly growing consumer economy, it is also likely to be critical in the context of the general election due by May 2014.”

Politics & social media are getting entwined every other day. But , whether twitter RTs, and  MTs,  can translate into VOTE is the moot question !

Links for voter registration in India only :  Election Commission of India (http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/index.aspx)

Rajpath, the Second BRT System in Gujarat, Chugs into Rajkot City.

The Launch Story of Rajpath (In English-Road of the Royal)BRTS : Rajkot, one of the fastest growing cities in India with a population of 1.2 million, has become the second city in Gujarat to launch a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). Modeled on the success of Ahmedabad’s Janmarg BRTS, it began free trial runs on a 10.5km operational pilot blue corridor during October 2012. At present, 11 buses are carrying an average 6,500 passengers daily. The Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), the local municipal body, christened the new public transport service Rajpath, or “Road of the Royal.” The name derives its origin from the history of the princely state of Rajkot prior to Indian independence. The corridor runs parallel to the 150 Feet Ring Road, which is rapidly developing and interspersed with shopping malls and residential construction.Rajkot Rajpath Ltd (RRL), the special purpose vehicle of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), the city’s municipal agency, operate the buses, decide on the fares, maintain bus lanes and maintain bus shelters.

Initial Success :Recently, the city celebrated the BRTS nomination as one of the semi-finalists for 2013 International Transport Forum’s Transport Achievement Award. Since its launch of trial run in October, 2012 more than six lakh (0.6 million) passengers have travelled by the bus. The commercial operation of BRTS started in May 2013.

Growing Dependence on Private Vehicles – City’s nightmare :Rajkot city is spread out into 104.86 square kilometre of area. However, the city is witnessing motor vehicle growth of  9.5 per cent annually2 putting pressure on the existing road network and ever-increasing demand for parking. The highest growth is of two-wheelers, with 9.8 per cent, while public transport in the city is abysmally poor at just 0.5 per cent. Rajpath BRT is a major step toward a formal public transport system in Rajkot, where most public transport demand in the city is served informally by three-wheeled auto rickshaws.

Push for Transit Orient Development:The new system provides an opportunity to achieve a long-term modal shift toward public transport through coordinated land use and transport planning.To allow more residents to live and work near BRT stations, RMC has increased the allowed densities along the corridor. RMC in a bid to encourage transit oriented development has increased the floor space index (FSI) limit from 1.50 FSI to 2.25 FSI along BRTS corridor on the 150-Feet Ring Road. The FSI increase adds 250 meters on both sides of the BRT corridor.

Best Practices in  Rajpath BRTS: Rajpath features BRT best practices such as median stations, off-board fare collection, and at-level boarding. Electronic ticketing with smart cards is planned but not yet implemented. Planners also chose to follow Ahmedabad’s approach to contracting and institutional oversight by retaining a private bus operator who receives payment on a per-kilometer basis. The Ahmedabad model has become a successful model for BRT in India.

Accessibility for Non-Motorized Traffic : Rajkot BRTS has a dedicated concrete road, 7.1 meters wide with two lanes, widening to 9.7 meters at junctions, also featuring integrated and well-designed cycle tracks and pedestrian pathways. The cycle tracks are a great first step and can serve as a model for further non-motorized transport improvements in the city.

Rajkot BRTS bus stop in the city.

 The Rajpath BRTS Project in a Nutshell : The Rajpath BRTS project is supported by Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India, Urban Development & Urban Housing Department, Government of Gujarat (UD & UHD), Gujarat Urban Development Mission (GUDM), Rajkot City Traffic Police and Regional Transport Office (RTO) and the implementing agency is RMC. The entire Rajkot system will be implemented in three phases and eventually will cover a length of 63.5 km with three BRT corridors. The first phase was implemented at a cost of INR 175 (USD 29.6 million), of which USD 10.6 million went towards a split flyover along the corridor. The funding came through the Government of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, which contributed half of the total project cost. The remainder came from RMC, the municipal body (30 percent) and the Government of Gujarat (20 percent).

Challenges for Rajpath BRTS : The major issue remains the integration of different modes of travel and the feeder bus system. The pilot corridor is not yet fed by a dedicated city bus service. A robust communications and outreach plan to encourage public transport use and discourage dependence on private vehicles needs to be prioritized and implemented.

 Gujarat, an emerging hub of BRT Projects in India: In addition to Rajkot, two more cities in Gujarat, Surat and Vadodara, are planning BRTS corridors. Surat plans to launch in early 2013. Public Transport like BRTS has the potential to re-define cities in India, which are witnessing an exponential increase in the number of private vehicles, leading to poor air quality and bad health.

 

Sources:

Rajkot Rajapth Limited: http://www.rajkotrajpath.com

Photo Credit: Rajkot Rajpath Limited 

Gandhinagar mayor gets FB likes from Turkey

TOI,AHMEDABAD: For the record, it’s not only Congress biggies like Ajay Maken and Digvijaya Singh who enjoy a strong ‘fan following’ in Turkey. Gandhinagar mayor Mahendrasinh Rana, who recently shifted loyalties to the BJP, also has a huge fan base in Istanbul with more than 50,000 ‘likes’ on his Facebook page from Turkey’s capital city. But one may ask, how come the Gandhinagar mayor has a fan base in that city larger than Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas’ who has just 411 likes and six people talking about his Facebook page?

Rana started his Facebook account, ‘Mayor of Gandhinagar Mahendrasinh Rana’, in June this year and has already garnered 50,274 likes with 10,235 people talking about it. Almost 90% of Rana’s ‘likes’ were garnered in the early weeks of July, after which they declined in August. Rana also maintains another page on Facebook which is believed to be his personal page. Mahendrasinh Rana could not be contacted on phone for his comments, despite several attempts.

Last month, 34% of Maken’s 99,154 likes were from Istanbul and 24 per cent from Russia. In the case of Digvijay Singh, out of 4,636 likes garnered by his Facebook page last month, nearly 53.7% were acquired from Istanbul.

“There are many websites where one can buy ‘likes’ on Facebook and ‘followers’ on Twitter. These firms are called ‘third parties’ in social media terminology, who open email accounts in huge numbers and use them to create Facebook and Twitter accounts. Every like on FB page costs a little less than Rs 4,” said Parthesh Patel, who handles some pages of Gujarat Congress.

PS: The Article sourced from Times of India, Ahmedabad written by Paul John (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Gandhinagar-mayor-gets-FB-likes-from-Turkey/articleshow/22176897.cms)

Can #NaMo do a Barack Obama in 2014 Generation Elections in India ?

Posts, tags, views, shares on popular social media platforms are fuelling the political debate in the country today. Not a single day gone by, when a  tweet from politician has not become trending topic, even controlling the day agenda whether it is newspapers or in TV debates.The politicians jumped to the bandwagon of Social Media in the last one  year after the hype created by Narendra Modi’s (NaMo) social media campaign and the mainstream media highlighting it. Most of the politicians still have no clue on how to make the maximum use of power of Social Media except few likes of  union minister Shashi Tharoor, among the first to be active on social media platforms & former central minister Ajay Maken who is now spearheading Congress response to Modi on social media platforms.The only thing that most of the politicians understand is the number of likes that they have on their Facebook  page or the number  of followers on twitter, etc. For them it’s just a number game, but in reality its counter productive as most of the numbers that you see for politicians are the numbers that are bought through countless sites selling you fans & followers.

Modi’s Social Media Foot Prints

Modi’s  social media setup was done in May 2009 when FB just started penetrating in India and he and his team had the vision to build it from that instance. The major spurt in NaMo social media has come in last 9-10 months, where from a million fans in November 2012, he is now at nearly 3.2 million fans on FB alone. Twitter has 2.16 million followers which has again increased by nearly 1.2 million in last one year.

His social media footprints are omnipresent- Be it Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, Stumbleupon and also specially designed downloadable android, iphone & ipad application. His official promotional website video in succinct tone invites users to have a ‘direct connect’ with him through social media platforms.

Modi’s social media strategy?  Personalized & engaging tweets. He tweets in English & Hindi and in 12  other different languages including Urdu. Regular Face book post updates. Connecting on Google Hangouts. And his very own YouTube channel with over 17 million views. Today, Modi  is aiming for the highest office in one of the largest democracy. And  he is leaving no stone unturned to connect to billion plus India, majority comprising of young population. More than half of  1.2 billion people are under the age of 25, and two-thirds are below 35. According to an estimate, 85 percent of young India is connected through social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

The Politics of Tweets & FB Posts

Youths & their issues are focal point & recurring theme  of all Modi’s political speeches  since his elevation as BJP Election Campaign Committee Chief. For example, Modi for his  Pune speech requested through Social Media  platforms for ideas and suggestions for that speech.Modi is  utilizing & exploiting social network platform  as a means of encouraging youth engagement, direct feedback system  —has allowed him to create a conversation, and often times an open dialogue, with the public. However, whether this click of mouse for ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ on Modi’s popular post or tweets will translate into crucial vote for him or BJP during upcoming General elections is yet to be seen.

Juggernaut of the Political cyber Warriors

According to sources-The NaMo Social Media campaign is headed by an Officer on Special Duty(OSD) under direct & close supervision of Narendra Modi and an entire team is set up at Chief Minister Office in Gandhinagar for creating content, tracking responses, selecting the best responses, ideas, etc. and sharing with Narendra Modi. The team uses latest tools to shuffle through the enormous responses generated to Narendra Modi’s posts and tweets and tracks each and every moment that is happening online related to Narendra Modi.

Apart from the in-house team, NaMo has thousands of dedicated volunteers spread across India, who spearhead his campaign and make it go viral or if there is an attack on him, then create the counter attack and spread it across the Social Media Channels. One of the young volunteers who is part of clandestine social media gatherings apart from core team who wished not to be named stated it is more to do with “emotions than monetary benefits”.

As one of the close associates quips that the next phase for NaMo is taking the likes to convert into votes through major interaction online. Others are still juggling with numbers forget about the interactions. To support the claim, there is a clear comparison between the comments that each post or tweet receives and no other politician in India is even remotely close to Narendra Modi’s interaction level.

The Most mentioned politician

In the recently released  June edition of ‘Blogworks India’s Most Mentioned Political Leaders’ -Narendra Modi continues to be at the top with contrasting conversations happening on having  ‘maintained law and order in Gujarat since 2003 resulting in the state remaining riot-free’, and ‘about his alleged role in the 2002 riots and criticized his communal  image’.  Blogworks analyses online mentions of  the top 20 political leaders in India. Modi comes across as a polarizing figure on social media platforms too. There are only two kinds of people exists online who debates on & around Modi- One die-hard Modi Fans and other Modi bashers. There is no middle ground.

Whether Like & Share Converts into Crucial Votes

20-social-media-icons

India’s large population and increasing tele-density, especially in urban pockets, has spurred an impressive jump in the number of people online. Moreover, a recent report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IRIS Knowledge Foundation has revealed that of India’s 543 parliamentary constituencies, 160 can be termed as ‘high impact’ — that is, they will most likely be influenced by social media in the next general elections. As the report explains, high impact constituencies are those where the numbers of Facebook users are more than the margin of victory of the winner in the last Lok Sabha election, or where Facebook users account for over 10 per cent  of the voting population. The study then goes onto declares 67 constituencies as medium-impact, 60 as low-impact and 256 as no-impact constituencies.

The fastest growing market for FB is India and currently there are around 88 Million users in India and out of that nearly 76 Million users who are eligible to vote. These figures are what is pushing Indian politicians to the frenzy and everyone wants a big piece out of the Social Media cake.

The major focus of the NaMo team is to generate offline activism from the online interaction and nudge the online community to start offline campaigns too. The focus is to generate buzz for maximum youth participation in the coming election as that is what can be a big game changer. As on online front, Narendra Modi has clear edge over all the politicians in India. In fact his online fan base on FB is more than the combined strength of top 10 opposition leaders in the country. His messages generate response, his messages are shared, discussed, interacted and this is helping him to add to his fan following in big way. There is also a strategy going on where lots of popular Narendra Modi pages are getting merged with the official page of Narendra Modi, which is also resulting in increase of fans and also it helps in consolidation of the online structure.

Internet, a Rarity & Privilege in 1.2 billion Strong India

However, in  a 21-nation survey conducted by the US-based nonpartisan fact tank- Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project in 2012, quote – ‘India ranked near the bottom in use of social networking sites, along with its neighbor,Pakistan. Just six percent of respondents in India said they use social networking sites. An overwhelming 89 per cent  said they do not use the internet at all. Notably, a majority of Indians who use the internet are using social networking sites. Just 13 per cent of Indians use the internet, according to International Telecommunication Union. The internet still remains a rarity in India’. The same study says, that 65 per cent American adult has an access to internet.

Apart from Social Media, Narendra Modi is also setting trends in use of digital technology to the maximum. His own mobile app is getting regular downloads now and it’s a clear case that he is leading the way in use of technology while the rest are trying to replicate what he is doing.

Another team member of Narendra Modi said, “I think with traditional media you used to get just one message out to the public and it didn’t have that feedback response; with the social web you can see how those conversations are actually happening and it’s an opportunity for them to engage. Social media has a great potential in bringing democracy to every citizen’s home, but we first need to motivate people to participate.”

NaMo has given a clarion call during his Hyderabad speech, with co-opted lines of US President Barack Obama- ‘Yes we can. Yes we will’. Can NaMo do a Barack Obama ? Only 2014 parliamentary election results will tell. Till then enjoy the social media political war games !

Featured in Sunday Spotlight Section of Deccan Herald- August 25, 2013

Featured in Sunday Spotlight Section of Deccan Herald- August 25, 2013

By -Kumar Manish(@kumarmanish9),  Communications & Social Media Strategist & Co -initiator of Open Hours.co.in, a social initiative to bring diverse views on future of social media and Akshay Sethia Chief Executive Officer  of  a digital marketing firm based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat .