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Why The Revolutionary ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’ Is Not So Revolutionary In India

Posted on August 27, 2014 in Disability Rights, GlobeScope, Specials, Taboos

By Mehul Gala:

What matters is the intention, even if there is a slip of the tongue. For instance, recently, Salman Khan attended a tree plantation program where he made a big goof-up. He said, and I quote, ‘Plant more trees because they give us the nitrogen which we need for survival.’ He obviously meant Oxygen. The underlying message is more important than just the words. With one such good intention, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association initiated the Ice Bucket Challenge, an awareness and charity program to eradicate Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Picture Credits: Anthony Quintano
Picture Credits: Anthony Quintano

Since its inception in July 2014, it has caught the world by a storm. The challenge went viral through social media. The rules were simple, within 24 hours of being challenged, participants are to video record themselves in continuous footage. First, they are to announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by pouring ice into a bucket of water. The bucket is then to be lifted overhead and poured over the participant’s head. Then the participant can call out a challenge to other people. It spread exponentially. Many prominent international celebrities took this challenge. The likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Steven Spielberg, Robert Downey Jr.,Selena Gomez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Cruise, George W. Bush, and many more, posted their videos online and supported this good cause.

After enjoying immense popularity in the western world, this challenge slowly crept into the Indian subcontinent. This was another example of western culture influencing our actions. While I applaud and appreciate everyone who wants to bring a change, the big question is, whether research on ALS will benefit our country in any striking way, when we are gravely plagued by preventable and curable diseases like Tuberculosis, Malaria, Anaemia, malnutrition etc.?

In India, the purpose of fund raising is lost in pouring buckets of potable water over your head. One should rather fill a bottle of cold water and give it to a beggar who has no access to it. Many people in India are accepting this challenge for fun. Half the people don’t even know what ALS is. Imagine how much drinking water is being wasted in this publicity stunt. While we continue to grapple with our water issues with Nepal, China and Bangladesh, it is indeed an example of absurdity that Indians blindly start following a concept that has no relevance in India. It is like trying to grow an orchard in a desert. Rather, we should focus on the many cacti that keep tormenting us.

I’m not against such exotic modes of awareness, they’re fun, innovative, but they help if you make a contribution. Don’t stop the ice bucket challenge. Let’s create one of our own. A challenge to deal with issues more relevant and a challenge that is ecologically and economically viable and keeps fund raising at the fore front.