May 31, 2015

Response to Modi 'Open' Letter(s)

DEAR prime minister,

Your 'open letter' on the occasion of the first anniversary of your government was duly delivered to me this morning by my newspaper delivery man.  In fact, two different letters in more than two different languages! I can't help but thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to write not one, but two letters and give a glimpse of your government's achievements and priorities. But the differences in the two letters have left me perplexed.

Your letter to the English readers (urban and elite?) begins with how your government addressed the challenges of 'unabated corruption', 'ever-climbing inflation' and 'economic insecurity' during the UPA regime, 'rejuvenated' a languishing economy and built on ‘stable, policy-driven proactive governance’. Surprisingly, your letter in Hindi and at least one other vernacular language (a translation of the Hindi one), which essentially targets our vast rural (poor and backward?) population, begins with your government's commitment towards 'annadata' and 'antodaya' or 'serving the last man in the queue'.


You devoted the 2nd and 3rd paras in your Hindi letter to discussing about the deprived, the poor, farmers and labourers, their problems, and your government's efforts to mitigate their sufferings. You write, “Antodaya hamare rajnaitik darshan ka mool mantra hain. Pramukh faisle lete samay hamesha vanchit, garib, majdoor aur kisan hamare aankho ke saamne rahte hain” (Antyodaya is the core value of our political philosophy. Important decisions are always taken keeping the deprived, poor, workers and kisans in mind).


Certainly, 'vanchit, garib, majdoor aur kisan' were not first before your eyes (or in thought) while you were writing the letter in English. Because they don't find a mention in it till you finish your long third para, and finally, get tucked into the heavy fourth para which enlists your government's numerous "achievements".  You just write: "Guided by the principle of Antyodaya, our Government is dedicated to the poor, marginalized and those left behind. We are working towards empowering them to become our soldiers in the war against poverty."


Now I'm confused. In your government's priorities, do the 'vanchit, garib, majdoor aur kisan' come first, or second, or third, or fourth, or still remain 'the last man in the queue'? Or do you think the problems of farmers do not have any effect on those speaking in English and living in 'smart' cities? Or is it that you want to give the English-speaking urban elites the message that it is their concern which comes first for your government and not that of the 'vanchit, garib, majdoor aur kisan'?


Secondly, your letter in Hindi, unlike the English one, does not mention your government's initiatives to set up IITs, IIMs, and AIIMS. Don't you want our 'vanchit, garib, majdoor aur kisan' to know about these new 'elite' institutions, send their children there to study, or be treated (in case of AIIMS)? Or are you worried that if the rural folk flock to these elite institutions, certainly based on their merit and hard work, they will pose a great challenge (threat?) to the offspring of the urban elites? Certainly you don't want the rich to suffer, that too for the benefit of the majority of our country, the poor.


Though your letter in English is heavy on your government's economic miracles, it, unlike the Hindi one, is, cryptic about the coal block allocations. It just says: "Discretionary allotment of our precious natural resources to a chosen few was replaced with transparent auctions." Whereas the Hindi one categorically states your "achievement", or should I say "super-achievement", in the matter. You write: "Pahle prakritik sampad, jaise koyla ya spectrum ka abantan manmani se, chahate udgyogpatio se hota tha.... Isliye haamne nirnay liya ki inka abantan nilami se hoga. Koyla ke aab tak huye abantan se lag bag teen lakh crore rupaye aur spectrum se lag bag ek lakh crore rupaye ke aamdani huye" (Under earlier regimes natural wealth like coal or spectrum was arbitrarily distributed to favoured industrialists...That's why we decided that these should be distributed through auction. So far, through allocation of coal around three lakh crore rupees and from spectrum, one lakh crore rupees could be earned.)


Did you forget about the Supreme Court judgement cancelling allocations of over 200 coal blocks and directing the government to auction them? I wonder! Or did you just think that it can be  conveniently passed off as your "achievement" among the rural people who, you might have thought, may not be aware of the Supreme Court and its judgement? Or else what explains you omitting this in your English letter. You don't even mention 'teen lakh crore rupaye aamdani'  in your English letter, in addition to 'ek lakh crore rupaye' from spectrum allocations. Rs four lakh crore is a huge amount -- it can almost write off the burden of the country's fiscal deficit. How could you forget about it while writing the letter in English? This supposedly 'selective amnesia' reminds me of an article in an English-language business daily (and that Arun Shourie interview to an English-language news channel) which questions your government's "teen lakh crore rupaye" claim. Your selective memory is commendable.


Dear Prime Minister, I don't belive space could have been an issue that compelled you to write differently and focus on different aspects. Because newspaper advertisement space, which is bought, in this case using public money, does not have any word limit, as in the case of your favourite platform, Twitter.


The differences in the two letters remind me of your speech at the event to mark the first anniversary of your government yesterday at Nagla Chandrabhan village near Mathura. You hinted at the existence of two Indias. I completely agree. But I am afraid my agreement with you ends there. To my mind, the two Indias are 'Shining India' which comprises 'a chosen few', the rich and the corporate, who 'loot' the country's wealth and natural resources and reap the benefits of government benevolence, and 'Suffering India' where the vast masses of our people toil for their existence and are conveniently ignored by our government.


Yesterday, you said, for "looters" and "pilferers" the 'bure din" (bad days) have come, whereas our farmers, labourers, women and the poor are enjoying "achchhe din" (good days) as promised by you during your 2014 election campaign. I disagree. I think what is happening is just the opposite of what you said yesterday. Or else how do you justify your government's "anti-people" policies as reflected in the attempt to amend labour laws, the land acquisition bill, the attack on NREGA, rising prices and unemployment on the one hand and the massive bonanza being showered on the corporates on the other. Massive cuts in welfare and social sector schemes certainly do not help our 'vanchit, garib, majdoor aur kisan'.


Dear Prime Minister, or should I say 'Pradhan Sevak', when you come out of your 'flight mode' (Do you remember your criticisms of your predecessor Manmohan Singh for always being on 'silent mode'?) and find some time for the poor of our country, do try and explain all that your letters have left unsaid. And, oh yes, I am not on Twitter.



An urban youth who like the majority (nearly 69 percent) did not vote for you.

(May 26, 2015)