Crowdfunding Countercurrents

Submission Policy

Popularise CC

Join News Letter

Defend Indian Constitution




CC Youtube Channel

Editor's Picks

Press Releases

Action Alert

Feed Burner

Read CC In Your
Own Language

Bradley Manning

India Burning

Mumbai Terror

Financial Crisis


AfPak War

Peak Oil



Alternative Energy

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America









Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom

Kandhamal Violence


India Elections



About Us


Fair Use Notice

Contact Us

Subscribe To Our
News Letter


Search Our Archive

Our Site



Order the book

A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




Modi@365: Let Them Eat PM Modi's Speeches

By Radha Surya

05 June, 2015

In a never ending onslaught of grim news in India (as well as the
international front) there are two stories in particular that should
give observers pause for thought. The new stories happened to appear
in the run up to the completion of the Modi government's first year in
power. One of these has reminded us that India is home to the world's
largest population of illiterates. The country has more than 287
million illiterate adults--37% of the global total ("India has more
illiterates than anywhere in the world--partly because of a preference
for sons," Quartz, May 22, 2015). Then there are the issues of hunger
and undernourishment. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations released its annual report on Thursday May 28.
According to this report India is home to 194.6 million undernourished
people, the highest in the world.

The shocking figures released on an annual basis by UN agencies
typically trigger a certain amount of hand wringing. They are then
remembered only by a small number of concerned individuals and groups
until widespread outrage is temporarily re-ignited the following year.
And so it goes. Past governments have done their share to contribute
to the situation. There is obviously no merit in arguing that it's all
Prime Minister Modi's fault. The UPA (2004-2014) years witnessed a
period of surplus production of grain. Yet vast amounts of grain lay
rotting in godowns because of inadequate delivery systems and the
failure to build storage facilities. So it is nobody's case that the
Modi government should be held responsible for the abysmal state of
primary education in India and the problem of food insecurity and
chronic hunger. It is however legitimate to review the performance of
the Modi government at the conclusion of its first year in office. It
is essential to ask if the policies that have been proposed or
implemented to date will ameliorate or exacerbate the deprivation of
vulnerable sections of society.

What is the likelihood that the achche din promised in the hype and the
hoopla attendant on the coming to power of Prime Minister Modi will
materialise? The answer as given by responsible and informed
commentary is that the future looks bleak. Rights activists like
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Harsh Mander who played a leading role in the
framing and implementation of the UPA government's anti-poverty and
citizen empowerment measures have roundly condemned the current
government's cuts in social spending. In his indictment of PM Modi's
"savage" social spending cuts Harsh Mander has evoked the spectre of a
"dismantling of India's imperfectly realised framework of welfare and
rights" ("Modi government: one year of dismantling the welfare state,"
Hindustan Times, May 30, 2015). In their analysis of the government's
callousness as exhibited in its attitude to social sector spending
Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey have said that much of rural India has found
itself reeling under a loss of social sector entitlements ("One Year
of Modi govt: Bure din for social sector," Indian Express, May 28
2015). It's a damning verdict from those who are best positioned to
evaluate the impact on the ground of the government's funding cuts.

The victimisation of the economically vulnerable and disenfranchised
section of society is only one part of the remaking of India under PM
Modi's auspices. In the larger scheme of things a multi-pronged attack
has been launched on all the norms and institutions that make for a
sane and decent society. As expected there is a vicious drive to tear
apart whatever remains of the pluralist and multi-religious fabric of
Indian society. Although communalism of the bloodthirsty variety
garners most of the headlines, soft communalism is widespread in India.
It's common to encounter remarks like the following--Muslims are
responsible for all of India's problems. Nevertheless despite the
horrific communal episodes and consequent ghettoisation of religious
minorities that have marred India's aspiration to a pluralist ethos
there is at least some anecdotal evidence that indicates pockets of
religious harmony thrive in parts of India. For instance a friend from
the Himalayan region happened to speak to me the other day about the
unselfconscious intermingling of faiths in her native town of Almora
where the valley amplified without discrimination the muezzin's rich
and sonorous call to prayer as well as the chanting in the mandir and
the ringing of bells in the church. If the right wing fanatics have
their way the moral and aesthetic beauty of this everyday coexistence
of religions will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

With the swearing in of PM Modi to the highest office in the land, the
most extreme and bigoted spokespersons for Hindu chauvinism have
crawled out of the woodwork for the purpose of disseminating their
retrograde views. It's been a field day for the purveyors of
anti-minority hate speech and anti-minority campaigns. Religious
minorities find themselves living in an atmosphere of intimidation and
insecurity and their citizenship rights have been undermined. Muslims
have been told that a mosque is not a religious place. It is just a
building and it can be demolished at any time ("Mosque is not a
religious place: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy," Hindustan Times, March
15, 2015). The fact that this is by no means the most abhorrent view
to be aired in recent months says a lot about India under Modi.

Dissent in every form is being outlawed. There has been a crackdown on
NGOs working on minority rights and environmental issues. Their bank
accounts have been frozen and their representatives have been barred
from traveling abroad. The high profile NGO Greenpeace India was
brought to the brink of closing its operation in India ("Awaiting
court's word, Greenpeace says it was a humiliating year," Tribune, May
21, 2015). Then there is the question of upcoming changes in the
structure and functioning of central universities. The effort to
impose a common curriculum on central universities has been received
with particular alarm by stakeholders, teachers as well as students.
JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) historian Zoya Hassan has said that
the common syllabi system has to be seen in the context of attempts to
saffronise the education sector ("No achche din for higher education,"
Hindu, May 20, 2015). Critiquing the changes proposed by the HRD
(Human Resources Development) ministry, eminent historian Romilla
Thapar has asked in anguish if politicians fear an educated citizenry
("From universities to coaching shops," Hindu May 29, 2015).

A recent incident on the campus of IIT (Indian Institute of technology)
Madras seems to exemplify Romilla Thapar's worst fears as to the
strangulation of critical thought in Modi's India. Under pressure from
the HRD ministry the dean has derecognised the Ambedkar Periyar study
circle ("As rationalist forum is derecognised by IIT Madras, students
claim Hindutva groups thrive unhindered," Scroll.in, May 30, 2013).
Clearly the citizenry of India will be only allowed to entertain the
officially sanctioned, Hindu nationalist view of Hinduism as a
glorious, enlightened, benign and tolerant religion. Criticism of the
injustice and intolerance of caste based discrimination such as that
articulated by Dalit intellectuals like Ambedkar and Periyar must be
suppressed at all costs. Civil society must be taken to task. In the
Modi era Indians must not be allowed to think in an analytical or
critical way. Those who defy the official diktat must be lobotomised.

PM Modi's year in power has indeed opened up a terrifying vista of the
period that lies ahead. The electoral humiliation that the citizens of
Delhi inflicted on the Modi sarkar just eight months after the BJP's
landslide victory in national elections was heartening. So too has
been the unexpected resistance that the revised land acquisition act
encountered in Parliament. Nevertheless the PM's brute majority in the
Lok Sabha guarantees that he will remain in power for four more years.
This inescapable fact ensures that the wrecking crew will be able to
accomplish a lot more in a four year period. They have after all full
license for taking the immiseration of the vulnerable sections of
society to new levels. Who cares if MGNREGA the UPA's flagship
anti-poverty program for mitigating rural distress and creating
infrastructural assets is defunded and discontinued? Certainly not the
constituency that inflicted Modi Raj on India.

Still grounds for hope remain. They can be found for instance in IIT
Madras in the spirited response of the Ambedkar Periyar study circle to
the administration's effort to throttle their activities. In the
nation at large the triumph of the Modi juggernaut a year ago had a
numbing effect on rational, left-wing or liberal and anti-communal
sections of Indian society. Since then the obscene Hindutva assault on
values and institutions linked with decency and social justice has led
to reinvigorated resistance on the part of public intellectuals and
civil society groups. It is now clear that in India the PM is not
going to get a free ride even though he commands a brute majority in
the Lok Sabha. Already the Modi halo is losing its lustre and reality
is percolating through. Recently Chief Economic Advisor Arvind
Subramaniam said that the rate of poverty reduction achieved in the UPA
years from 2005-06 to 2011-12 was the fastest in the history of the
country ("Rate of poverty reduction fastest under UPA," Hindu, May 27,

Despite being in thrall to Modi mania even the BJP's spinmeisters seem
to have some inkling that it's not going to be all smooth sailing in
coming years. But in a classic display of hubris they appear to have
determined that they should reinforce the sloganeering that brought PM
Modi to power in the first place. To celebrate the completion of its
first year in power the Modi government has launched a publicity blitz
touting its policy initiatives and achievements. The month long
exercise will comprise multimedia exhibitions in 60 cities and 345
mobile publicity vans. The latter will travel across districts of the
country covering them in a phased manner. ("One year of Modi
government: 60 cities to showcase achievements" DNA May 25, 2005).

This theatre of the grotesque is beyond belief. It captures like
nothing else the widening divide between the cloud cuckoo land of the
multimedia onslaught with its endless replaying of PM Narendra Modi's
boastful, shamelessly self promoting oratorial hits and the grim
realities that the majority of Indians live with or die from. If he
lived in modern times Nero too would go globe trotting when Rome was in
flames. He would slather on the hype and the self-advertisement for
the benefit of the well heeled diasporic Romans before whom he
performed one of his blockbuster speeches. The glittering occasion
would be compèred by the reigning diasporic beauty of the day. In its
own interests the Modi regime should embark on a course correction.
Apparently the BJP has now set its sights on gaining a majority of 370
seats in the Lok Sabha. Unless radical changes are made in the current
trajectory not all the monogrammed suits in the world and not all the
bandhini in Gujarat and Rajasthan will take the Prime Minister to the
pinnacle that he covets.

Radha Surya is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared on Znet
and Countercurrents.


Radha Surya

Narendra Modi








Share on Tumblr



Comments are moderated