January 17, 2009 1:00:23 am
•THURSDAY 15 JANUARY,2009
In India – Second Update
We arrived at 10:30 for a meeting with the women leaders of one of Amethi districts 1200 villages. They told a remarkable story of genuine empowerment right down to threatening to beat up the corrupt local police. These were the poorest of the poor,but came from all castes,5 out of 40 had mobile phones,and none could conceive of Britain even Delhi was a long stretch. There was real appreciation for the programmes of self-help,micro-finance and education that have been introduced.
Amethi was the last place I would have expected to watch my first cataract operation. But the drive to end blindness from cataract disease is real. 12,000 cataract operations per year are being done in state of the art facilities,for the equivalent of just $10 for the operation. The operation projected onto a TV screen was a stomach-turner,but the change in peoples lives was real.
We stopped at an internet café in the middle of nowhere – I wanted to do a blog but the dial-up was not fast enough. But the mobile phone revolution is reaching here – the shop was selling 5 – 10 mobile phones a day,and although there are 850 million people on less than $2 a day,8.5 million new subscriptions per month is eating in to the backlog.
HilLary Clinton spoke on Tuesday about smart power diplomatic,economic,political,legal,and cultural as well as military. That is exactly what my speech is about.
•n WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY,2009
In India: An Update
I am at the airport on the way to Amethi district in Uttar Pradash. 800m Indians live on less than 2 dollars a day,450m on less than 1 dollar. Today I will get a chance to see some of the gap that exists between metropolitan middle class India and the rest.
The Anguish of Mumbai
I think that many in Britain do not realise the scale and depth of Indian anguish over the Mumbai attacks. The Prime Minister came to India in December to show his solidarity and sympathy,and I will be at the the Taj Hotel tomorrow. But India has been struck to its core: its people want a hearing,and they want action from Pakistan against those involved. The anguish is doubled because of the efforts India has made to work with Pakistan. Those need to continue. The support by the Indian government for the Pakistani IMF loan is real leadership and real vision.
Sunny Gavaskar or Kapil Dev?
I recorded for New Delhi TV a question time session with Indian students this morning. We talked terrorism but also climate change – a shift in attitudes since 2007 – and cricket. I was lucky: the High Commission residence had a copy of Mihir Boses book on the history of Indian cricket and I had a look last night – so I was refreshed on Dilip Doshis time out of the side while Bishan Bedi reigned (he played 33 tests and took 114 wickets after BB retired). I confessed that I am a fan of Test rather than one-day cricket.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines