1. Admiration at his Eloquence and Brilliance

I did work with him, not too close, but close enough for a while. I met him in 1973-74 the pre-emergency days. I was part of the Manas publications, which the Emergency brutally killed. What I admired about was his brilliant oratory. He was brilliant in five languages. He was logical. He moved hearts and minds. He had his facts. He won the emotions of his audience.


2. Respect for his Struggle

Like me, he was a South Indian. Like me, he was a Catholic. Like me. he was an ex.seminarian. But his struggles after he left the seminary were profound. He survived on platforms before he became a nightmare to unjust employers and dictators alike. He was an incredible Indian.

3. Awe for his dreams for the Young

As s fiery leader and champion of youth, he wanted to create a land army of the young so that every young person would have land, employment, income and prosperity. But when he did become an influential minister he opted for Industry and Defence, the lucrative ministries. He abandoned the youth. He forgot the dreams. He became another politician. His house as defence minister figured in the scandals as a place where deals are fixed.

4. The dilemma at the Enormous Popularity of “Jontis Fandis”

George Fernandes was the heartthrob of Bihar. Many of them could not even pronounce his name. They called him Jontis Fandis. He was the Messiah of Social Justice. So far so good.

I once travelled to Muzaffarpur. I had gone to meet Dr. Margaret Owen, then in her 70s heading the Leprosy Mission Hospital there. She was a world authority on the treatment of leprosy. I was then working on “Better Care in Leprosy’, the simplest book ever written on the subject. Margaret Owen also used to teach “Leprosy” in the Muzzafarpur Medical College. Dr Owen drove me to the medical college for one of her lectures.

At the medical college what we saw was all the students were rushing out because George was in town.  For them,  George was more important than Leprosy.  There were only 7  lectures on leprosy in the entire medical course. They had sacrificed one of those for George. ” Do these popular leaders ever teach values and responsibility to their followers?” asked Dr Owen.  Bihar in those days had the highest prevalence of leprosy. For many years some doctors in Bihar will not know how to treat leprosy. Thanks to George.

I was at a dilemma to explain to Dr Owen, I myself was then a fan of  George, the giant killer.


5. Wow  to a Simple But Straight Talking Minister

The first portfolio George handled was Communications (posts and telegraphs). After swearing in he went to the nearest post office and stood in the queue to buy stamps. As usual, the dealing clerk was very rude to him. Another occasion he took his friends to Kake da Hotel and sat on the footpath for dinner. As the minister, he addressed the captains of Industry. He asked them what makes you behave like rats? No diplomacy. Straight talk. No public relations. He was referring to their behavi0ur during the emergency. George was capable of that.


6. Gratitude for a  Personal Favour

In 1979, I won a British Council scholarship. I was to leave for higher studies to the London University Institute of Education. I applied for my passport. The passport would never come. The date for my travel was imminent. I went to meet George. His P.S. at that time Ravi Nair was quick to act. A special passport was issued to me at the discretion of the then External Affairs Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee within 48 hours.  If Ravi and George had not helped I would have never made it.


7. Amazed at his Capacity for Opportunism

When Morarji Desai as Prime Minister faced his major crisis, George Fernandes was the loyalist who defended him eloquently, logically and with facts. He made an eloquent defence of the Prime Minister on the floor of the House. The next morning he joined the other side.


8. Extreme Sadness at his Untimely Death in 2002

George Fernandes, the leader  I admired died in 2002, when he could not stand up to the genocide in Gujarat. He made many farcical visits to Gujarat. He sold his heart and soul to that vast experiment with untruth. India’s boldest and most daring statesman, the hero of the emergency had fallen. But there are many who surrendered their souls to untruth at that time. For me George died then.


This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change.

International Women’s Day 2019 is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women’s equality.

Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific. Make IWD your day – everyday.



International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme:

The future is exciting. Let’s build a gender-balanced world.

Everyone has a part to play – all the time, everywhere.

From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.

Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter.

Let’s build a gender-balanced world

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sport coverage …

2019 and beyond
The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy.

With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality.

The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements.

IWD is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. Many global corporations actively support IWD by running their own events and campaigns. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google often changes its Google Doodle on its global search pages to honor IWD. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally!
Make everyday International Women’s Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Collectively we can all play a part

Collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance.

The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Motivate others

So put your hands out and STRIKE THE #BalanceforBetter POSE and make International Women’s Day YOUR day – and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women everywhere.

Amplify via social media

Post your #IWD2019 message on social media with your “hands out” pose for a strong call-to-action for others to also help forge a #BalanceforBetter.

Take action

For International Women’s Day 2019 and beyond, how will you #BalanceforBetter?

Get ready for International Women’s Day 2019

Right now is a great and important time in history to do everything possible to help forge a more gender-balanced world. Women have come a long way, yet there’s still more to be achieved.

As the world heads toward International Women’s Day 2019, planning is underway to celebrate women’s achievements and tenaciously challenge bias.

The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. How will you help make a difference?

Some key targets of the 2030 Agenda:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.


This blog  has been contributed by Sreelaxmi  Gururaja and Gautam Banerjee


UNICEF Seniors Check into Ever Ancient Ever Modern Karnataka


XUNICEFers Reunion 2018, November 8-14, 2018


It started in March this 2018.


The organizing team of Padmini, Seenappa and Sree sent out their first invitations. Xunicefers.com received memos and attractive bulletins on the programme.

In response, some 60 XUNICEFers and their families joined the Reunion 2018. They came from 19 countries* and travelled across several time zones.



  • explored Karnataka
  • reconnected with former colleagues,
  • revived friendships from the past,
  • made new friends
  • tasted new foods and
  • created unique memories.

For many it was a dream-come-true to visit and experience India first hand.


We came from Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Senegal, Switzerland, SriLanka , Tanzania, Thailand, UK, USA, India .


The first evening began with the introductions.

Yasmin Haque, took us through the brilliant presentations on the India Country Programme . She also took us through the the priorities set for Karnataka.


Meital Rushdie prepared us for what to expect in our travels. She opened the window to the diversity and paradox that was India.

with the cultural troupe


In many ways it set the trend for the Reunion. We observed the people all around us, the unrelenting traffic, the food, the shopping. .

We visited the new and old monuments. They bear testimony to the past glory and new developments in Karnataka.


Karnataka moves through modernity as a leader in Information technology and Biotechnology. It is replacing old images of adulation and worship with new structures. Yet it respects and preserves the symbols of its past.


The second evening belonged dance, music and culture. It was our exposure to mythology, the legends about the deities and demons and philosophy. Karnataka has a rich and diverse culture.

It alerted us on what to look out for in our visits to the temple monuments and palaces.


Each of the places we visited reflected this rich heritage. Her checkered history comes through. Here is a kingdom conquered and ruled by several dynasties since the sixth century. . It is fascinating.


  • The Bull Temple of Bangalore,
  • the Mysore Palace,
  • Chamundi Hill in Mysore,
  • the temple complexes in Belur,
  • Halebid ,
  • Hampi ,
  • the Badami caves and Pattadkal,
  • the Tipu Sultan Summer Palace

were all living affirmations of this past.



We visit the tribal areas. We observed the work of the NGO, Sri Vivekananda Youth Movement(SVYM). We saw the present realities. The dedication and extent of the voluntary efforts was inspiring.


During our travel to Mysore and beyond, we crossed the venerated Cauvery. We crossed its tributary the Kabini. We passed by the legendary Tungabhadra and Malaprabha rivers. These are the lifelines to green fields of rice, sugarcane, millet and maize that we drove past.


At the famous Krishnaraja Sagar dam, we waited at dusk. The illumination of the fountains in the picturesque Brindavan Gardens came on.


We took boat rides on the Cauvery and explored the Ranganthithu bird sanctuary. Some of us ventured further to the wild life sanctuary at the Jungle Lodges in Kabini. They stayed overnight at the edge of the thick forests and the lake.


Another group travelled north to UNESCO Heritage Site of Hampi, the cave temples of Badami and Pattadkal. to visit the rock-hewn sculptures and temples.


Many of us departed on the seventh day of travel, with much to remember and cherish.


We shared many ‘wow’moments as

  • when 100,000 bulbs of the Mysore Palace came alive at exactly seven o’clock. This transformed the place to fairyland ;
  • when a group of elephants chased our jeep in Kabini ;
  • when we were awestruck with the detailed stone sculptures in Belur and Hampi ;
  • when we shopped frantically in the emporium. Their shelves overflowed with shelves of colourful silk fabric and sarees ;
  • when overwhelmed in the Fabindia stores with 100% cotton readymade garments that we wildly boughtt for all seasons to come ;
  • when fascinated by the overpowering fragrance from sandalwood handicrafts and
  • when drinking fresh tender coconut water on Chamundi Hill avoiding the curious monkeys.


On the whole, it was an amazing experience. The‘India trio’ made it happen with help of an excellent tour operator. We now look forward to the next XUNICEFers Reunion. There are  many positive experiences to carry through from Bangalore. Once again, thank you all in India for this memorable adventure with a difference.


Gautam and Sree

Before you go please lread  to one of the many appreciation emails.

From Mary Racelis


Dear Sree, Padmini, and Seenapa,


“What well-deserved accolades you three together have been receiving. 

Although slightly belated, let me join the waves of Bangalore retirees thanking and praising you for having organized the marvellous 2018 reunion.

Daughter/granddaughter Susi and Ramona were similarly thrilled with the sights and sounds of Karnataka and deeply impressed by the participants’ accounts of life in and after UNICEF.

They marvelled, as did I, as to how each one had a different set of stories, yet underlying all of them was the caring and determination to act for children and women that is UNICEF. “


Are you ready for Armenia, the next destination?

2019 is here. This is our first issue of the year. 

Passion One: Elections

2019 is the election year.  Elections, like charity, begin at home. We have our UPGI  elections. Our Returning Officer Kamal Thadani has sent out the announcement.  The Link has reprinted it for you.
UPGI needs more leaders. Manifest your leadership qualities and your enormous talents. Do please stand up and be counted. Send in your nominations without any further delay.
Come April and we will have the general elections. We will have our political favourites and Link is not the place we will discuss them. But there are two areas where we all can agree–the old and the young. 

A Senior Manifesto

We are senior citizens. It is natural we would like the nation’s attention to the rights and needs of the older generation. 
Elections are the time we should increase the conversation. What do the senior citizens need? What are their rights? What are their priorities? It is the right time that we raise these issues.
As in the case of children, Article 39 F can be a great guide for our discussions. What does Article 39 F promise to Indian citizens?
  • Opportunities
  • Facilities
  • Freedom
  • Dignity
  • Protection from abandonment.
Do please tell the world around you
  • in conversations,
  • through social media and
  • media
about the needs, rights and priorities of the aged.
In the months leading to the election, let us do three things for the elderly.
  1. start a conversation around you, 
  2. join the ongoing conversation and
  3. work on a senior manifesto.
Being former UNICEFers,   we will be often asked to speak about children. In many constituencies, interested people will be drafting children’s manifestos. Do become part of such initiatives.  (We will discuss children’s needs, rights and priorities later in this issue.)

Passion Two: Reunions

Come February, the fortunate among us will assemble in Kochi, the Queen of Arabian Sea.
More countries in the world use the port in Cochin than there are members in the United Nations.
Kochi is also the commercial and judicial capital of Kerala.
We are visiting a flood-ravaged and faith ravaged God’s own country.  Resilience is the theme of the state.
Kochi is also hosting the Kochi Muziris Biennale, Asia’s biggest art show at that time.
There are 70 national and international artists participating the in the Biennale.
The theme is women. The Lucknow born curator, Anita Dube has become for a lot of appreciation from the world across.
You are so close there and so don’t miss it.

Tatvam Asi, the Land of Advaita

Kochi is also a great meeting point for world religions.
We will be visiting a Jewish synagogue which is 2500 years old.
Kochi also has the first ever Mosque built outside Arabia. The Holy Prophet was alive when this mosque was built.
Kochi has not one four basilicas. One at Vallarpadam, the Basilica of Our Lady of Ransome,. Beautiful as it is steeped in stories and beliefs. 
Adi  Shankaracharya, the greatest Indian ever lived, was born within a few kilometres from Kochi.
Both his own village Kalady and his maternal home near Piravam are very inspiring places.
There are many famous temples in and around Kochi. These include the temples of goddesses of Kodungalloor and Chottanikkara. These are Kerala’s most fascinating places of worship.


As a UNICEFer, if you are lookiing for UNICEF impact you do not have to go very far.
Have a look at the ration card in Kerala. It has ten points from Facts for Life. Kerala has been devoting a page of its ration card for child survival messages since 1987.
In a literate state, these messages would have had their impact. Child survival indicators  should make us beilive so.
You will not miss the ubiquitous Kutumbsree women. There are 400,000 women’s self-help groups in the state.
Half the Kerala women are members of SHGs. Any given working  hour, walk into any branch of any bank. One third of the women banking would be  Kutmbsree women.
Those old enough  in UNICEF  would remember  that SHGs started in Kerala as part of Urban Basic Services. Alleppey and Malappuram were the pioneering districts.
The Alleppey women went on to win  a UN award and went to New York. They spoke the language empowerment in Malayalam to the world. The rest as they is history. A humble UNICEF  initiative. The people and government of Kerala  did the rest.

Armenia: Gautam Sharnam Gachami

But please do not forget another reunion is coming in Armenia in November  and our good old Gautam Bannerjee is hosting it.  I look forward to this global reunion too.
We have another article here on the just finished global reunion in Karnataka.

Passion Three: CRC 30



1989 was a watershed year in history. The world community adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. All member countries voted. There were no exceptions.
1990 was another year of significance. The world saw the largest gathering heads of states and governments in one place. They put in place a plan of action.
In the CRC, the article 45 made UNICEF, the organization to go to in matters of implementation.
For us in UNICEF,  CRC became the Bible, the Geeta and Quoran.
Thirty years have gone by. Some distance covered, still miles to go and promises to keep.
2019 is the year to return to children first. Let us once again remind the world. “To a child, you cannot say tomorrow. Her name is today.
The world is still busy buying weapons.
Adults go to war. Children pay the price, in Yemen, in Syria and everywhere else in the world.

Children of India Still Need You as their Spokesperson

In India, we fool children in the name of more autonomy to states and more untied transfers.
Investment in social sectors have declined. Child budgeting has taken a hit.
2019 is the year you should speak up, louder and more frequently.

Passion Four: Gandhis 150

This year we celebrate the 150th year of the birth Ba and Bapu.
Both Kasturba and Mohandas were 13 years old when they got married.
The Government has come out with a very useful website to mark this year. I would invite all of you to go through this website: https://www.gandhi.gov.in/lesson-for-society.html
You can even download his major works here.

Mahatma Gandhi’s five pillars of nonviolence:

  • respect,
  • understanding,
  • acceptance,
  • appreciation and
  • compassion
are basic to our existence.
These are simple habits and if we all start trying to nurture these, we could make a difference in the world. By inculcating these habits we can not only be happy ourselves but also make others happy.
This year we celebrate the 150th year of the birth Ba and Bapu.
Both Kasturba and Mohandas were 13 years old when they got married.
The Government has come out with a very useful website to mark this year. I would invite all of you to go through this website: https://www.gandhi.gov.in/lesson-for-society.html
You can even download his major works here.

Mahatma Gandhi’s five pillars of nonviolence:

  • respect,
  • understanding,
  • acceptance,
  • appreciation and
  • compassion
are basic to our existence.
These are simple habits and if we all start trying to nurture these, we could make a difference in the world. By inculcating these habits we can not only be happy ourselves but also make others happy.

Nonviolence First Article of Faith

“Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.” He said.
For contemporary society, following the ideals of truthfulness is another important challenge.
On the essence of truth, Gandhi said.
“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation. Nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”
Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.” In this era of fake news and post truth this conviction Gandhi is important.
Remember his strong belief in humanity: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

Cosmocentric Faith

The world is grappling with the challenges of nature and climate change. It is time to revisit Gandhi’s “cosmocentric”  approach to human beings.
For Gandhi, we are interconnected to all facets of the universe and cannot live in isolation.
He stressed that all lives were sacred and gave immense importance to limit one’s greed.
He said,
“The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.”

26th Annual General Body Meeting of the UNICEF Pensioners’ Group of India (UPGI) was a significant one. We did 26 things on that day.

Here is a report with great pictures by LT Rajan.  Link August 2018

 Kerala is devastated. People of Kerala are now rebuilding the new God’s own Country. We are Chipping in with the New Kerala Garden of Innovations.

We are inviting the eco-innovators of the world to Kerala.  Come with an innovation that is affordable, resilient and value for money for the women of Kerala, for the farmers of Kerala.

the land where the innovation garden will be set up

 The Project

The New Kerala Garden of Innovation is in the heart of devastated Kerala, where landslides and cloudbursts played havoc with the people and their land.

What is the project, and why are we doing it?

Kerala is scripting one of the greatest comebacks in history. Fishermen lead the rescue operations. Now the women of the 400,000 self-help groups will lead this comeback. The new bread of agricultural entrepreneurs will back these women. What they need are tools, resources, technologies.

We are creating this innovation garden, because  Kerala, God’s own country deserves the best. We need affordable and most sustainable technologies. we need green technologies, organic technologies. We are creating a garden of innovation right here in the hills of Kerala.

  • a garden of innovation and sustainability,
  • a garden about people, planet, peace, prosperity, and partnership.

What is its purpose? What are the goals?

The purpose is to assemble all optimal innovations together. We help farmers to walk into these technologies and around them, touch them and feel them. We will help them to take home whichever technology they want. We will give it to them at the least possible price.

The expected outcomes are the following

  1. A confluence of innovators, in a garden full of workable technologies.
  2. A constant pursuit of acquiring new, green and sustainable technologies. A place to learn, experiment, watch, touch and feel and carry home.
  3. A community of practitioners around these technologies. They will come under the banner of the New Kerala Chamber of Commerce.




Want to read more about sustainability




Youth leadership in Bihar is taking some mighty steps against violence.

  1. 25 youth leaders will be trained as peace trainers by the Nonviolence Project Foundation, Geneva.
  2. These trainers  will in turn 100 young people each in conflict resolution, self esteem, self confidence  and prevention of violence in homes, schools and the community.
  3. NYKS in Bihar is appealing to local MLAs and MPs and district collectors to train 2500 people in each of their constituencies  to mark the 150th anniversary of
  4. Each training will conclude with a Shanti mahotsav where each child will release a peace plan and also upload the same on social media.