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Sushma Swaraj’s vigilance helps Indian diaspora receive prompt rescue

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New Delhi: When overseas Indians are in trouble, they contact India’s External Affairs Ministry Sushma Swaraj on mobile or the net for urgent rescue.

by Kul Bushan

Every night, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj checks her Twitter and other social media accounts for about an hour. That is how she has proved to be an action oriented minister to solve urgent problems of the Indian diaspora members in distress.

The latest is the homecoming of a young Sikh woman and her eight-year-old daughter stuck in a refugee camp in Germany after her in-laws duped her into going abroad. The woman made a video plea for urgent help on 2 February and Sushma Swaraj sprung into instant action so she landed in Delhi within 48 hours.

This is the latest rescue mission in a long list of emergency evacuations, both individual and en masse. During a recent speech, the minister said that she gets regular appeals for help from overseas Indians including women in the Gulf. Many women workers have their passports impounded by their employers and are mistreated. The minister’s first response is to inform the nearest Indian mission to fly her to India after an emergency certificate is issued by the mission in lieu of a passport to enable travel to India.

She keeps in touch with the distressed Indians on social media giving information on the progress of the rescue operation and with their family in India. During this, she gets details, starting with the mobile number of ‘the agent’ who sent the worker abroad. In most cases, these are fly-by-night operators not registered with the government. So she informs the state government about this ‘agent’ to check the registration. If the agent is not registered, then legal action is started.

When a person pleads for urgent help, the Minister takes up the matter with the nearest mission to gear into action. A deadline is set and if the matter is not resolved, the complaint moves to a higher level with colour coding until it becomes red. With social media, mobile app and a site, the ministry responds to distress pleas from anywhere and at all times.

Another site, www.emigrate.gov.in  provides full information to workers who want to emigrate.

Soon after Prime Minister Modi took office in May 2014, the first rescue mission for around 100,000 Indians started from Ukraine in June 2014. Another 7,500 were rescued from Iraq within a few days. The mission in Yemen for 7,500 Indians and 2,000 others was more dramatic and dangerous.

The big problem is when overseas Indians do not follow advisories from the Indian government to leave their countries of residence in turmoil. Even after 3,500 had been brought back, Indians in Libya ignored repeated advisories and a few landed in dire straits.

Overseas Indians can count on prompt and effective help from India when in dire straits.

This article was first published at mauritiustimes.com

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Facebook Birthday Feature Raises Money For Charity

Stan Jensen, retired from working in sales at a Silicon Valley firm, received a message from Facebook asking if he wanted to mark the occasion of his birthday by dedicating the day to a cause. He did.

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration. VOA

When Behnoush Babzani turned 35, she threw a party. She also used her birthday to ask friends to donate to a cause she cares about deeply: helping people who need bone marrow transplants.

She herself received a bone marrow transplant from her brother.

“It’s not that my body was making cancerous cells, it was that my body was making no cells,” she said. “So think about the boy in the bubble. I had to be isolated. I didn’t have an immune system to protect me.”

Using a new feature on Facebook, Babzani in a few clicks posted a photo of herself in a hospital gown when she was receiving treatment and she asked her friends to help raise $350.

New way to raise money for causes

Facebook has always been a convenient way to send birthday wishes to friends. Now users have started taking advantage of a new feature introduced a year ago by the popular social networking site to turn birthday wishes into donations to help a favorite cause.

It’s turned into a huge success for charities. In its first year, Facebook’s birthday fundraiser feature raised more than $300 million for charities around the world. With a new revenue source, some charities are rethinking some of their standard fundraising activities.

The success of the Facebook birthday feature comes as social media users have begun to question how internet services connecting friends and family around the world have also become a mechanism for some to spread hate or influence foreign elections.

Facebook
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, left, accompanied by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are sworn in before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on ‘Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms’ on Capitol Hill. VOA

Networks used to spread hate

Along with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, testified in the U.S. Senate recently about steps the company has taken to identify and remove posts that violate the company’s terms of service.

“We were too slow to spot this, and too slow to act. That is on us,” Sandberg told the Senate committee.

Yet, the birthday fundraiser feature shows the power of using social media for good, says Facebook spokeswoman, Roya Winner.

“It gives people who are celebrating a birthday, a chance to turn that day into something that’s bigger than themselves,” she said.

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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is one of the biggest receivers

Some of the biggest recipients have been St. Jude, the children’s hospital, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, No Kid Hungry, which focuses on child hunger in the U.S., and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In the days that followed, Behnoush surpassed her goal, raising more than $1,700. Her social network became an army pulling together to do good.

Rescuing sea lions

Two weeks before his 65th birthday, Stan Jensen, retired from working in sales at a Silicon Valley firm, received a message from Facebook asking if he wanted to mark the occasion of his birthday by dedicating the day to a cause. He did.

He turned to 1,400 Facebook friends to help raise money for the Marine Mammal Center in Northern California, where he volunteers once a week helping injured sea lions.

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He turned to 1,400 Facebook friends to help raise money for the Marine Mammal Center in Northern California. Flickr

He raised $2,300.

“It surpassed my wildest dreams,” he said, and he let his friends know they made a difference.

“You’ve bought a ton of fish,” he told them. “You are feeding all the animals we have on site for several days.”

Also Read: At St. Teresa Charity Home, Out of 450 Births only 170 are in Record

His birthday is coming up again, and the sea lions are always hungry. He’s perfecting his pitch: “I know I’m special to you, but I’d like just the cost of a Starbucks coffee. Just $5. Please.” (VOA)