2014 election campaign

Why Sri Sri Ravi Shankar wants your voter ID card number

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar wants to know everything about your voting preferences, even your voter ID card number. But why?

What does your happiness have to do with elections? Evidently, a lot – according to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the man in white robes and a flowing beard who leads the Art of Living foundation. Art of Living calls itself an educational and humanitarian organisation, but is best known for its expensive yoga classes.

Gurudev, as Sri Sri is called by his followers, has asked the foundation's teachers and volunteers to survey a hundred people each using a 'Happiness Survey’. The survey starts with a profound question: 'Are you happy in life?' But it soon moves to mundane ones on corruption and price rise. It asks you to rate the economic situation in the country, reveal the single most important criteria for you when you vote in 2014, and share what do you believe could bring in the maximum change in the country: existing ruling party, another national party, or a newly formed party?

After finding out your political preferences, the survey asks you to share your voter ID card number. Since it has already taken down your location, email and mobile number, any political party that gets hold of the survey would find it easy to track you down to influence your voting decision before elections, which might be the least worrying possibility of what such data could be used for.

The survey is being carried out as part of the Art of Living foundation’s campaign called ‘I Vote for a Better India’, which was launched in February 2013 with the declared aim of “increasing the awareness and importance of voting in our civil society, especially the youth.”

What does gathering data on people’s political preferences have to do increasing voter awareness? What does the Art of Living foundation intend to do with the data it collects? Does it assure people that their data would be kept confidential and not be shared? Questions emailed to the campaign office went unanswered.

Scroll.in filled a survey online and found no declaration of data protection at the end of the survey. India lacks a comprehensive data protection law and public awareness on data privacy is fairly low.

The Art of Living foundation has more than 500 centres across the length and breadth of India, from Arunachal Pradesh to the Andamans. If every teacher and volunteer were to survey a hundred people each, the foundation would be able to gather a mountain of political information.

In the absence of any assurance given on data confidentiality, the foundation could easily share the data with any political party. While Sri Sri Ravi Shankar claims to harbour no political affiliations, he was seen at Ramlila Maidan in the summer of 2011 supporting the India Against Corruption movement, and in January, he praised Narendra Modi, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate. Addressing his followers in Samastipur in Bihar most recently, he said that India needed a single-party government rather than a "khichdi".

An email circulating in Art of Living circles with instructions on how to carry out the survey offers further insight. “The aim is not to tell people who to vote for but educate and inspire,” it says. Yet it quickly follows up with what people should be inspired to think. “Kindle the feeling that a stable, experienced government is required in today’s situation and that it is a good practice to rotate power to prevent corruption and increase responsibility… An inexperienced party will not provide confidence to investors and further erode the value of our currency. When you are driving on mountainous roads, will you prefer an experienced driver or a family member who has a learner’s License?”

If you should vote for neither the party in power, nor the inexperienced newbie, then it is quite apparent who Sri Sri wants you to vote for. And who he might be sharing your data with.

 
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The incredible engineering that can save your life in a car crash

Indian roads are among the world’s most dangerous. We take a look at the essential car safety features for our road conditions.

Over 200,000 people die on India’s roads every year. While many of these accidents can be prevented by following road safety rules, car manufacturers are also devising innovative new technology to make vehicles safer than ever before. To understand how crucial this technology is to your safety, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a car accident.

Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.
Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.

A car crash typically has three stages. The first stage is where the car collides with an object. At the point of collision, the velocity with which the car is travelling gets absorbed within the car, which brings it to a halt. Car manufacturers have incorporated many advanced features in their cars to prevent their occupants from ever encountering this stage.

Sixth sense on wheels

To begin with, some state-of-the-art vehicles have fatigue detection systems that evaluate steering wheel movements along with other signals in the vehicle to indicate possible driver fatigue–one of the biggest causes of accidents. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is the other big innovation that can prevent collisions. ESP typically encompasses two safety systems–ABS (anti-lock braking system), and TCS (traction control system). Both work in tandem to help the driver control the car on tricky surfaces and in near-collision situations. ABS prevents wheels from locking during an emergency stop or on a slippery surface, and TCS prevents the wheels from spinning when accelerating by constantly monitoring the speed of the wheels.

Smarter bodies, safer passengers

In the event of an actual car crash, manufacturers have been redesigning the car body to offer optimal protection to passengers. A key element of newer car designs includes better crumple zones. These are regions which deform and absorb the impact of the crash before it reaches the occupants. Crumple zones are located in the front and rear of vehicles and some car manufacturers have also incorporated side impact bars that increase the stiffness of the doors and provide tougher resistance to crashes.

CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.
CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.

Post-collision technology

While engineers try to mitigate the effects of a crash in the first stage itself, there are also safe guards for the second stage, when after a collision the passengers are in danger of hitting the interiors of the car as it rapidly comes to a halt. The most effective of these post-crash safety engineering solutions is the seat belt that can reduce the risk of death by 50%.

In the third stage of an actual crash, the rapid deceleration and shock caused by the colliding vehicle can cause internal organ damage. Manufacturers have created airbags to reduce this risk. Airbags are installed in the front of the car and have crash sensors that activate and inflate it within 40 milliseconds. Many cars also have airbags integrated in the sides of the vehicles to protect from side impacts.

SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.
SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.

Safety first

In the West as well as in emerging markets like China, car accident related fatalities are much lower than in India. Following traffic rules and driving while fully alert remain the biggest insurance against mishaps, however it is also worthwhile to fully understand the new technologies that afford additional safety.

So the next time you’re out looking for a car, it may be a wise choice to pick an extra airbag over custom leather seats or a swanky music system. It may just save your life.

Equipped with state-of-the-art passenger protection systems like ESP and fatigue detection systems, along with high-quality airbags and seatbelts, all Volkswagen cars have the safety of passengers at the heart of their design. Watch Volkswagen customer stories and driver experiences that testify its superior German engineering, here.

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This article was produced on behalf of Volkswagen by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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