Lead India Contest: Who Do You Want to Win?

Amul’s Take on Lead India Contest

Amul’s Take on Lead India Contest 🙂

Well, to be honest I have not been meticulously following the contest trail till recently.

Nevertheless, Lead India contest gives hopes to incorrigible optimists like me. It is an initiative by Times of India to give opportunity to a honest, enthusiastic citizens within 25-45 age group to dream a leadership project.

The prize? One year leadership programme at Harvard University and a grant of Rs. 50 lakh towards a project of the winner’s choice.

Out of 32, 682 applications received from all over India, now 8 finalists from 8 cities have been selected. The selection is based on 50% jury judgment, 25% audience jury judgment, and rest sms poll. Here is a brief about each of the candidates:

1. Sanjiv Kaura, Delhi: A 42-year-old who was earlier a MNC CEO overseas before he returned to India in 1998. As per him, he discovered India on a bicycle by cycling from Kalka to Kanyakumari, while staying in villages. He lead a nationwide grassroots movement on education (NAFRE) across 26,5000 villages in India. He also served part-time in Territorial army. It was there he was when his friends filed up his entry for Lead India contest. This social entrepreneur is said to be “a perfect blend of experience and idealism.”

2. Abha Singh, Lucknow: 42-year-old Director of Indian Postal Services division at Lucknow. Her dream project is to curb corruption. Other issues she feels strongly about are communalisation and castism, gradual erosion of systems and values, educational backwardness, especially rural areas and particularly women, and terrorism. She believs we can do it.

3. Devang Nanavati, Ahmedabad: 36-year-old top notch lawyer from Gujrat. He is a senior partner in Ahmedabad’s leading law firm of Nanavati & Nanavati, Advocates. Likes of Arun Jaitley and P.Chidambaram have fought cases on behalf of his firm. His interests: Billiards, human rights, and constitutional laws. Plans to embark a political career.

4. Dipayan Dey, Kolkata: 44-year-old environmentalist. He has indisputably won expert jury points, audience jury points and sms polls. He is a biotechnologist trained in sustainable development from the United Nations University in Tokyo. He has founded a NGO called SAFE that aims for poverty alleviation and protection of natural resources (such as water bodies) are judiciously exploited and the local population can earn more money. His take”curb defense budget, first fight hunger and poverty.”

5. Soumya Mishra, Hyderabad: 40-year-old IPS officer at Warangal. Has first hand experience of leadership and counseling at work. Her dream project? To start a community welfare project primarily to help redress the problems faced by people at the grass-root level due to naxalism. Not surprising choice, as she is a police officer from Naxalite-rampaged Warangal.

6. Rajendra K. Misra, Bangalore: 42-year-old entrepreneur. He retired willfully at 40 when he was MD of a successful company to devote time to public policy domain. Writing a book called Retire at 40 And Do What? Inicdentally, more can be found about him at his blog.

7. Ranjit Gadgil, Pune: 36-year-old programme director of Janwani is a technocrat-turned social activist. He returned to serve India quitting his IT consultancy job in US for. He was involved in education of underprivileged children. involved with organisations like the Nagrik Chetna Manch (NCM) and the Pune Traffic and Transportation Forum (PTTF). Talks about solid waste management and ragpickers issue (something you can read more about in this blog.) With his Lead India prize money wants to set up an organisation that can deal with urban planning and act as a source of information and support for slum dwellers.

8. Ujjwal Banerjee, Mumbai: 27-year-old, married to lawyer is an engineer-cum-MBA. Like most of us, started with MNC (in his case, TCS) and then later switched to work in a NGO after a through thoughtfulness. HE is now serving as an HR Manager in a NGO Akansha that shelters and educates street kids. He was involved to protect innocence of kids in a murkly world of brothels. His dream project? Opening internet kiosks in a couple of Indian villages to educate, benefit farmers, schoolchildren and adult learners.

My personal picks:
Abha Singh from Lucknow who aims to fight corruption. Ujjawal Banerjee from Mumbai, who gives up full-time lucrative job at young age to work for NGOs. Ranajit Gadgil for handling solid waste management system and rag picker’s protection.

Source: Check out more about finalists from Lead India contest.

Read more:
Time of India Lead India Intitiative
Lead India: Meet the Best of India

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23 Responses to “Lead India Contest: Who Do You Want to Win?”


  1. 1 vinay October 21, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Really like Ranjit Gadgil- the initiatives that he has are specific!!! They are targeted at the very bottom rung of our society like slum dwellers, rag pickers. People who can take up unglamarous and difficult issues should be encouraged!!

    Poonam: Yes, Vinay…you are right. The issues that Ranjit Gadgil takes up are commendable. I especially like the ragpickers issue. People do not realize how much their protection is important.

  2. 2 vinay October 21, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I agree- what is important torealize on the ragpicker’s issue is that they are doing us a service as we cannot be responsible enough to properly recycle or clean up our own mess!!

    Poonam: My sentiments exactly, you will soon read a post about it on this blog. This is a issue close to my heart.

  3. 3 Nova October 22, 2007 at 2:25 am

    Hey, had not heard of this contest… until i read ur blog… (Have i been living in this world at all 😐 ) This sounds like a great idea… and from what have read, Abha Singh, Soumya Mishra and Ujjwal Banerjee are my favs 🙂

    Poonam: Actually so far, this contest has not been much publicized beyond Times Group (Times now channel, TOI newspaper, and other TOI publications)..but intially they roped in superstars like SRK to kick off the campaign..I like the idea of choosing young leader…it is like other talent search reality shows..only this has more potential. 🙂 And I see that you are all behind the girl power.. 😛 Sure, they all are good. 🙂

  4. 4 Sriskandh October 22, 2007 at 3:00 am

    Working with ragpickers is a part of my job and i know how tough it is for these people. Hospitals dump their waste (illegally as there are separate rules for disposing Biomedical wastes) into the municipal waste stream and these ragpickers get pricked by the infected injections.

    At dunpsites (in places like Chennai, ragpickers actually live in dumpsites), these ragpickers sometimes lose their limbs or die when the trucks coming in with the waste from the city dump them onto these ragpickers. There have been times when they get crushed by some of the equipment like the front end loader also known in Solid Waste jargon as JCB.

    These ragpickers play a vital role in our Solid Waste management network and though we will never be able to integrate this informal system into the municipal process, their importance is there for all to see.

    Poonam: Sriskandh, working for ragpicker is my next goal..but you working with ragpickers already is commendable. I am glad there are others like you who raise sane voice for this cause.

  5. 5 P Iyengar October 23, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Hi,
    I’m a TOI reader from Hyd’bad and follow the Lead India Contest. A google search on Saumya Mishra, Suneel Reddy and Karuna Gopal will show far more achievements by Karuna Gopal than the other two contestents. In fact, there are some negative reports of maid harrassment by Saumya Mishra, IPS.

    Like Prashant Tamang of Indian Idol who won the contest on the strength of the entire police organization backing him, Ms. Mishra too has been leading because of her ability to garner smses as a Police Officer. Will smses really throw up the right
    leader? Or will Lead India be another Indian Idol like “reality” show where quantity of smes rather than the quality of contestents matters? In Hyderabad, Karuna Gopal won hands down in the audience polling during the public debates but lost the race because she could’nt “manage” enough smses, being an independent consultant and not having a huge organization like the police organization backing her. Her credentials too appear the best of the three. So where is the fairness of fight if smes decide the winner?…

    I also wonder whether Abha and Saumya – both government servants, are in order in participating in the Lead India Contest which ultimately is aimed towards throwing up political leaders to lead the country? Can these two women continue in Govt. Service while nurturing political ambitions? Also, do Govt. Service Rules permit them to participate in such a contest?

    Poonam: Hi Padmaja..you raised a valid point here…if letting sms-es decide the winner is valid or not. Especially when we have witnessed how erroneous results these public votes garner..It is quite possible as you say, Karuna Gopal, a better contestant may have lost due to lack of popularity…but here is one thing I can say about sms polls..if we are looking for leaders in democracy..i think the public votes..but it is the public that needs to be more accountable and aware. In Lead /India contest. it is not only sms poll that decide..it is combination of all jury vote, audience vote, and then sms poll.

    Another thing, I have heard this from several people now..that these lead India contest winners can be future politicians..but the lead India contest official site says only about a year long leadership program and in Harvard and 50 lakhs to fund their dream project as prize money (no mention of future career as politician). Is there some information that I have missed Padmaja? I would be glad if you could fill me about it. I dont think any government rules prohibit someone to participate in a contest. Remember Prashant.

    I liked Abha because of the issue she took up: corruption. I would back anyone who took it up. It would solve so many troubles. I know people who completed theirPHD, yet can not get good jobs at Commission because they ask for huge bribes. Government schools have few teachers, yet unemployed educated youth are not hired as teachers because they do not have money to bribe. 😦

  6. 6 Nishu October 23, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    why do u always write articles i m abt to write 😡

    Poonam: How would I know you wanted too to write! You should have told me, I could have guest-blogged for you and yu could have guest-blogged for me. 😛

  7. 7 Ashish October 24, 2007 at 7:27 am

    Poonam, that RSS button looks sexy on the blog than it did on my desktop! 😀 Try making it to the center of the sidebar so it looks a bit more better. You could use a   multiple times to make it just right [multiple spaces in code]. Also add a blank line between the two buttons so that they appear two different things because some people might think they both do the same thing. 🙂

    Poonam: Ashish, Thanks to you I have this cool button in my blog. 🙂 Well, I will need to try and experiment with the code, then I can tell how it works. Yeah, I think there should be gap between both rss icon and technorati icon. Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

  8. 8 Ashish October 24, 2007 at 7:29 am

    The code that’s missing in the comment is a nbsp with a ‘&’ at the start and a ‘;’ at the end. 😀

  9. 9 Nishu October 24, 2007 at 11:21 am

    wonderful rss button cant stop myself from subscribing 😉

    Poonam: Cool, if I have one more subscriber. But the credit for creating this icon goes to Ashish. I still need to write an acknowledgment post. Btw is there any way, one can find from blogstats how many subscribers you have for your blog?

  10. 10 ish October 24, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    If you didn’t fancy Ashish’s way of centering it, there’s another neat way. You can use the text alignment. If you can’t do it the way Ash said, reply to this comment and I’ll e-mail you the code.

    Poonam: Ish, surely do email the code. I can use all the help I have. Thanks so much! 🙂

  11. 11 Poonam October 30, 2007 at 3:25 am

    I have been diligently following the Lead India contest… and I must say, each of the contestants- those who have been eliminated as well as those who have made it to the finals is there because they deserve to be there. And each of the cause for which they stand is important…and why not…after all every effort counts.

    But my personal vote would go to SANJIV KAURA.. for his holistic grassroot experience combined with an indian and international academic and work exposure. He brings back the best to us Indians… a beautiful balance of both the worlds. And he talks real when he says that Education…(which incidentally is his main fight also) can root out many inherent social problems that exist in our society.

    We should feel happy and proud of the fact that he chose to come back home to India…and that too with the will to give something back to his country.

    Poonam: Well, this is another Poonam commenting in my blog. 🙂 Welcome!

    Well. Sanjiv Kaura is nice too. He is from Delhi, my city, so I have voted for him. As for my personal picks from finalists from different cities go, I just selected them for the issues they speak out. Some of them like corruption and solid waste management are close to my heart.

    I think each of the issues of corruption, naxalism, waste management,slum dwellers, street children etc can be linked to illiteracy and poverty. And he is right when he says that lets create vocational educational opportunities for all ! Eradicating poverty by making everyone self reliant… that gets my vote..and therefore I think SANJIV KAURA would be my vote choice for the Lead India contest.

  12. 12 Chikki November 27, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Why I would vote for Ranjit………….
    *looks you in the eye and honestly tells you you are talking nonsense, no folded hands and false promises here, what you see is what you get.
    *did not wait for the carrot of 50 lakhs to do what he believed in. He gave up a promising career and pursuit of the all American dream to fight for another dream–equity and social justice.
    *walks into a formal public meeting in a pair of shorts without apology. who is concerned about the rights of slum dwellers and ragpickers than the dress code.
    *leads by example, preferring to cycle wherever possible to promote cycling and the use of public transport.
    *is a man of integrity and does not believe that politics should be a career that provides a seven eight nine figure annual salary!

    Poonam: Chikki, you are right it takes a lot to give up your lucrative job and work full-time for the causes you believe in. Yours reasons for supporting Ranajit Gadgil are logical. He is in my personal picks as well. 🙂

    Which city are you from, Chikki?

  13. 13 Nita December 8, 2007 at 8:46 am

    It’s interesting that you have written about this. This contest caught my imagination too, and I thought, well why not! A nice idea, someone’s at least trying…until I saw the name of the finalists.
    I would not like to name names here (I will not accuse anyone without proof) but I know that one of these contestants is mentally unstable. I know this person personally. And several people I know also know this person, people who have worked with the person. By mentally unstable I don’t mean ‘raving mad’ or someone who needs to be institutionalised, but someone who is a bigot and an extremist. Someone who is completely irrational and also incapable of concentrating on anything for long and has violent tendencies. Such a person can only harm our country.
    After I found this person’s name in the list of finalists I lost interest in this contest. Obviously no one really knows anyone they are voting for. It’s all a farce.

  14. 14 praneshachar December 8, 2007 at 9:55 am

    poonam: Nita has put her thought straight and the sms polls are really play a negative role and result entry of such persons as mentioned by NITA. This has been seen in many cases
    mad following making it a issue of pride for the city, district, state and using all pranks like caste creed region optly to to respective groups. so the real talent gets lost because of lack of support they are genuine

  15. 15 Poonam Sharma December 10, 2007 at 5:15 am

    @Nita and praneshachar: As Nita pointed out this unnamed person, this could be a case of corrupt man misusing the system than a the entire system being corrupt. This contest is only 25% based on sms polls, rest depends on jury, their debates, studio audience poll.

    I am an optimist, I hope something good comes out of it. Their win depends on the project they want to be funded with the prize money.

    Nita, but we should know the name of the guy. If he is bad, he should go no further. I am very sure of that.

    @praneshachar: You have not commented for long at BaB. Didn’t you like the recent interviews?

  16. 16 coolvyakti December 12, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Lead India is a good initiative – to try and highlight the critical need of able leadership in India. It is pretty evident that our political process has failed in identifying, grooming or mentoring the kind of leadership that we need in India, to step outside our “shell” of the “developing nation” or a “third world country”.

    However, I am very concerned about the overall approach of making a “tamasha” out of this whole process of identifying leadership.

    Is this something in our culture, to make a competition out of everything?

    Why do we want to know who is the “best” leader in the “times of india – lead india contest”? OK so after a lot of tamasha they will declare one leader to be the “best” – so what? How does it help solve our intractable problems?

    Do you think Gandhiji would have even qualified within your top 25 – by your metrics?

    Why is it that you feel today’s leadership needs to be “glib” or “smooth” when answering questions posed by so called judges?

    We need people who can act..we have enough who can “talk”…if you need the ones that can talk, go to the nearest political party.

    And I believe the top “leaders” will get a budget of 50 lacs or a 100 lacs to implement their pet project!

    Wow, and do you know the Govt’s budget for the social sector alone is 64000 crores?

    So you expect that a paltry 50 or 100 lacs will make a dent, when 64000 crores does not budge the social indices of India?

    Sorry to say, but unless TOI can justify the reason to make this into a tamasha, their overall motives seem suspect. It looks more like building buzz and furthering their brand identity by spending few hundred lacs…and actually getting a lot more via advertisement revenues and SMS charges, from Indians who get duped by this scheme.

    Ultimately the poor Indians, the malnutrished Indians, the suicidal farmers, will stay where they are, while tamasha goes on…and a few leaders bask in the glow and get one more line to add in their resume.

  17. 17 Prashant December 19, 2007 at 4:10 am

    Absolutely shocked not to see Karuna Gopal on the TV and in the final list. I happened to be in Hyderabad in early october and accompanied my colleague to one of the lead India debates . Karuna was outstanding and had no competition whatsoever .

    I was 100% sure that i would see this brilliant and gorgeous girl on tv . My friends from the IT sector agree that she was the best from the pack
    Ms Passionate , Lead India or no you will go places !!

    Prashant

  18. 18 Rupa December 19, 2007 at 4:15 am

    Loved the sincerity of Gadgil

    R

  19. 19 Poonam Sharma December 19, 2007 at 6:45 am

    @coovyakti: you made a valid point when you say, “Why is it that you feel today’s leadership needs to be “glib” or “smooth” when answering questions posed by so called judges?”

    Yes, a good leader need not be glib. Having said that, why do you call Lead India a Tamasha? It will perhaps help me understand your concern better.

    I am sure the social sector budget is never utilized for the actual beneficiaries. As for the amount of money you have pointed out for the contest, I feel every penny spent for a good cause is worth lakhs that go is corrupt deals.

    I like the way Lead India provided a platform. I am pretty optimistic, I think if handled correctly, it could inspire more people. And it should be more action-based than debate-based. Also, in Lead India, all the contestants have a dream social project in mind. If they win, they get prize money to bring their dream project alive. If this execution happens, it is worthwhile. That is what I am waiting for.

    @Prashant: I have had lot of people writing about Karuna Gopal. I wish I had read more about her. But among the current finalists, who do you vouch for?

    @Rupa: Just a curious question, what convinces you that he is sincere and not a glib talker? What makes you confident about his sincerity?

  20. 20 Observer December 19, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Have been following the Lead India campaign for a while now. All the final 8 are WINNERS since they have won from their own cities (read constituencies). However, if you go by the experience of handling the hard-core issues with a practical approach that can bring in major change in the way India functions, my vote will go for Mr Rajendra Misra since he seems to be the person who has handled it really well.

    We have been having many NGOs for quite sometime now and while they have been doing good work, we couldnt find any MAHANAYAK coming out of them…

    Best Wishes..

    Poonam: We have been having many NGOs for quite sometime now and while they have been doing good work, we couldnt find any MAHANAYAK coming out of them…

    Are you being optimist now or do you already think it is a lost cause? Just curious to know. 🙂

  21. 21 Think Again February 7, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Why the hell are they charging money for sms votes. Why the heck they are putting lots of advertisements inbetween the whole episode. The whole purpose & morale of the intiative is defeated if TOI uses this as another way of earning revenues through advertisements & sms revenue.

    I felt very proud when TOI started this initiative. But now when I see it becoming another reality game show with all masala & not real action happening. I feel very dejected.

    Please TOI stop charging for the SMS & then see people’s result.Even if you want to charge charge somewhere like 1Rs or less. They are making 3rs per sms & nearly 7 to 10Rs per call if you call to vote. This is ridiculous.

    Poonam: You are so right. I started watching it with so much expectation. It has been kind of dampener when it comes to results. Also, why the heck do they call actors promoting their movies on their judge panel?

    Certainly, it is another reality game show publicised in name of leadership. 😦

  22. 22 E L October 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Where is the winner of the first LEAD INDIA contest? Did he changed his nationality ???


  1. 1 7-12-2007: News That Caught My Attention Today « Visceral Observations Trackback on December 7, 2007 at 11:59 am

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