Has Narendra Modi really made it large in the ‘Hindutva Laboratory’?

‘Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.’  or  &  ‘tell a lie a thousand times and people will believe it is the truth!’—Joseph Goebbels.

If we just spend sometime, scratch the surface a bit of the Gujarat Shining tag, we would realise that plenty that is being flaunted about the so-called progress and prosperity of the State is merely due to a propaganda blitz – through ‘paid media’ and through a Washington based publicist company ‘Apco Worldwide’ which boasts among its clients several dictators and fascist regimes from across the world. For Indian Diplomat Lalit Mansingh is in the Global Political Strategists list of Apco. Below Narendra Modi‘s “Hindutva’s laboratory” one finds a reality which will make one grimace and even struggle for breath! Has Modi really made it large?

The hard fact is Gujarat has not been able to bag top position for even one of several key socio-economic indicators: life expectancy, infant mortality, nutrition, literacy and investment – although in 2001 when Modi took charge, Gujarat was already a well developed state, holding 4th state rank for per capita net state domestic product in mid-1996. Currently Haryana holds top rank, while Gujarat is at 6th position as it has mostly been since 1970s.

One could be forgiven for mistaking Modi’s new mask to be his real face, for had not ‘Time’ magazine’s Asian edition cover story on Modi last month endorsed him as the new ‘vikas purush.’ Indian media institutions have made it a habit to praise Modi for efficient governance, as have corporate honchos, who hail him as the most investor-friendly of all chief ministers. Modi was the winner of ‘best chief minister’ title in a recent Mood of the Nation survey by India Today-Nielson. He was declared the favourite for the prime ministerial position in 2014.

The Vibrant Gujarat as it is pictured today by media, has the following stars on its shoulder too:

These include:

  • a Government of Gujarat profile of 18,066 villages of the State has revealed that a significant percentage of the villages of the State do not have potable drinking water, toilets or educational facilities.
  • the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider
  • cosmetic development policies help a few but are detrimental to the large majority, very particularly the poor and the marginalized
  • environmental laws are blatantly flouted
  • adivasis, dalits and other sub-alterns are denied basic human rights
  • Muslims and Christians are treated as second-class citizens – many of them do not have access to quality education, good employment and other basic amenities needed for a citizen
  • most of the victim-survivors of the Gujarat Carnage 2002 are still struggling for justice
  • a good percentage of the Muslims are confined to ghettoes in urban and rural Gujarat
  • corruption is highly institutionalized in the State
  • the recent report (March 2012) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Gujarat revealed a Rs. 17,000 crore loss to the State exchequer due to corruption and financial irregularities
  • “encounter” deaths are rampant in Gujarat besides there have been more than 180 other custodial deaths in the last few years in the State
  • salt-pan workers in the Kutch area have to travel 15 to 20 kms away to get potable drinking water
  • the clear nexus between Government and some of the corporate sectors raises serious issues with regard to land acquisition, displacement, tax-payer’s money being used for the purpose of industries, etc.
  • thousands of fishermen all along the coast have lost their livelihood because of certain ports and other mega-projects
  • In the first three Vibrant Gujarat summits: 2003, 2005 and 2007, a total of $186 billion was garnered as MoUs for FDI, the official website claimed. Of these, 84 per cent proposals ‘had been implemented or were under implementation,’ it said. In the next two biannual events, MoUs worth $240 billion and $450 billion were signed taking the total to a staggering $ 876 billion! If 60 per cent MoUs had materialised — not 84 per cent as claimed – Gujarat would have matched China’s FDI inflows of $600 billion plus! Such extravagant claims were punctured by the Reserve Bank of India: a total of $7.3 billion was all that flowed into Gujarat in this period, a mere 5 per cent of total India’s total FDI. As against this, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka cornered 6 per cent of the national pie, while neighbouring Maharashtra garnered a massive 35 per cent.
  • the 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states.  According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujarat are malnourished.  A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest.
  • the 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states.  According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujarat are malnourished.  A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest.
  • in terms of infant and maternal mortality, Gujarat’s record during the decade that Modi has run the State is poorer than that of the country at large.  In 2006-2010, life expectancy in Gujarat was two years shorter than the national average (about 66 years).  Gujarat ranked 17th among all Indian states in terms of literacy in 2001, the year Modi took over.  Now it ranks 18th.
  • child labour is rampant in Gujarat with thousands working in the cotton fields of Sabarkantha, the brick-kilns, in the ‘kitlis’, and in several other areas of the unorganized sector.
  • sex ratio has dipped to a new low with just 918 females to a 1,000 males as against the national average of 940 (female foeticide is rampant)
  • the Sabarmati River “is one of the most toxic rivers” in the country,
  • a recent report ranks Gujarat 18th in the increasing crime graft making it one of the least peaceful States of the country
  • Gujarat ranks a poor 12th in the country in issuing forest land to the tribals.
  • a fairly significant sections of the population is still involved in manual scavenging

 The list is endless indeed, and one can go on listing the many human rights violations and injustices which abound in the State of Gujarat…..!

The question is: has he made Gujarat shine? Is Gujarat shining more than Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana or Karnataka? Has Gujarat under Modi achieved something that no other state has? Has Modi really made it large?

Modi-1st Indian OBC leader in TIME

Soon after Narendra Modi was featured on the cover of Time magazine last month, his media managers went into overdrive saying the Gujarat chief minister was the firstIndian OBC leader to get this distinction.

Surprising this from a former poster-boy of Hindutva who has shunned the caste tag for wider acceptance in the majority community.

But as he faces assembly polls later this year – and aspires for a larger national role later – Modi is clearly positioning himself as an OBC leader for two reasons. First, he is wooing the OBCs to offset a deviant Patel vote-bank. At another level, he is pitching himself against two possible NDA contenders for prime ministership – Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan – both OBC leaders. The strategy makes sense. OBCs constitute about 30% and Patels around 20 % of the population in Gujarat.

For me though, nothing beats the ‘alphonso’ mango!

 writes in theguardian blog:

As anyone who’s tasted an Alphonso mango knows, its short season, from now until the end of June, is a major cause for celebration. Often making an appearance on “1,000 things to eat before you die”-type lists, this Indian variety has become more and more popular in UK..

…Alphonso is named after Afonso de Albuquerque, a nobleman and military expert who helped establish the Portuguese colony in India. It was the Portuguese who introduced grafting on mango trees to produce extraordinary varieties like Alphonso. The fruit was then introduced to the Konkan region in Maharashtra, Gujarat and parts of south India.

…A national obsession in India on a par with Bollywood and cricket, the start of the mango season signals the beginning of summer and makes headlines. Newspapers give continuous updates on prices and availability. It’s customary to send boxes of Alphonso mangoes to friends, colleagues and bosses as a mark of love and respect; and many courier companies in India even offer a separate mango delivery service.

Many Indians eat little more than the fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner during its short season. In Mumbai, top restaurants put on mango festivals, and street vendors sell freshly squeezed mango juice. Indians celebrate with “mango parties”, using the fruit in dishes such as pakoras, curries, mango leather, drinks like lassi and falooda, sweetmeats likebarfi and desserts such as shrikhand.

Spring brings many delicious things to eat – rhubarb, asparagus, wild garlic and the first broad beans. For me though, nothing beats the Alphonso mango.

Read the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/apr/27/do-you-know-alphonso-mango

‘Sandesh’ Go Green Campaign

To commemorate Earth Day, Sandesh, a leading gujarati newspaper, initiated a ‘GO-Green Campaign’ from April 22 to June 22.

The objective of this campaign is to explain the importance of green and healthier environment to the people of Gujarat. Over the next two months it will be Sandesh’s endeavour to educate and encourage active participation in this movement to nurture, preserve and protect the planet Earth. A multi-pronged, multimedia campaign is being launched in an effort to provoke thinking and create awareness and also offer convenient means to join in the positive action.

Some of the mediums being used for this ambitious campaign include: print, web, OOH, special contents in newspapers. The first step is the ‘Plant a Tree’ activity. This is being organized over a week- from 25th of Apr to 1st of May. For this, Individuals, Corporates, educational institutions, societies and NGO’s have come together to give an overwhelming response with more than 200,000 saplings expected to be planted across Gujarat.

Parthiv Patel, Managing Director of Sandesh Group, says

“At Sandesh we have always believed in empowering our readers with cutting edge news along with a wealth of entertainment, information and indepth analysis. Our Go Green Campaign is a part of this- giving our readers and people of Gujarat the power to make a difference to our environment”.

Incredible India: A mini HYD in Kutch,Tirupati Balaji temple & Kutch-AP seva samaj !!!

A theatre in Gujarat’s Gandhidham village is showing the Telugu film Rachcha. The house is packed. Surprising? Kutch, India’s largest district, is home to a large number of people from Andhra Pradesh. At 60,000, Andhraites are the single largest non-local community in the Kutch. Most of these 60,000 Andhraites have migrated to Gujarat from the West Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam.

A majority of the Andhraites here are second generation Telugu-speaking people whose ancestors had emigrated in the 1950s in search of employment. Trivia holds it that since there was no direct route to Kutch back then, they had to make a five- to six-stage journey and finally reached Jamnagar by sea.

“From the illiterate population working in the small scale industries, our people have come a long way,” said Mr Abis Jesudas, a local businessman. Primarily engaged in shipping and export sectors, Andhraites in Kutch are a thriving community accounting for a bulk of engineers and workers in the Kandla and Mundra ports.

“We try to preserve our social way of life,” said Mr Bokha Srinivas. “There is an Andhra Pradesh Vidyalaya School catering to our people, a Tirupati Balaji temple and Sai Baba temple as well.” N.T. Rayudu, who has his roots in West Godavari, said that theatres play latest Telugu films and local newspaper vendors supply Telugu newspapers.

The Andhraites have formed an umbrella organisation – Kutch Andhra Abhuydya Seva Samaj — to look after the social well being of the community. The Samaj organises a weekly Annadanam for the poor and also celebrates festivals like Ugadi with pomp. With no direct rail connectivity, going back to their roots in Andhra Pradesh is a nightmare for most. The Samaj has launched a campaign to petition the authorities concerned to establish a rail link with Andhra Pradesh. courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

Vibrant Gujarat has 14 % undisclosed income of India

Gujarat accounts for 14% of the total undisclosed income generated in the country., says DNA

This was revealed in the recent all-India figures for unaccounted income for the financial year 2011-12. The state accounted for Rs1,250 crore of the Rs9,200 crore disclosed. The Income Tax (I-T) department carried out 24 searches on 30 groups in the state, which resulted in Rs72.05 crore worth of seizures.
I-T sleuths also zeroed in on four foreign accounts of two groups in Baroda and Rajkot. Details of these accounts with HSBC Bank were provided by the Centre. According to sources in the department, these foreign accounts resulted in disclosure of Rs135 crore of income and they are likely to get Rs40 crore by way of tax on the same. These groups told I-T officials that the income was earned abroad but they failed to explain the source of the income. Assets worth Rs30 crore were also seized from the two groups.

Incredible Indian – Nose-dive into colour

Born in 1978 in the town of Regivada, near Eluru, Andra Pradesh, Satyavolu Rambabu always had a keen interest in art. Unfortunately, due to lack of facilities and encouragement he could not nurture the natural talent that he possessed.

As a child, he used to turn the walls of his house into a canvas and often adorn them with temple drawings. In class VIII, he sat in his first real art class and learned the technical methods of art under the guidance of his guru — Nejuri Israel garu.

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He was greatly inspired by the drawings of ‘Baapu’ that used to appear in newspapers and wanted to develop his skills further. While exploring various forms of art and seeing new methods such as nail drawing and finger painting, he came up with the idea of nose painting 10 years ago. He specialises in making portraits with his nose and says, “It is very difficult to get a painting right when your vision gets blurred. And even a layman can see the tiniest of errors in a portrait. I like the challenge when I’m painting.”

So far, he has made more than 170 paintings with his nose and won the Global World Record in 2011 for this accomplishment. He also won the Rajiv Gandhi National Award in 2005 and the Chitrakalaratna award in 2006 for nose painting.

His work has been displayed across Indian in places like Delhi, Kerala, Gujarat, Lucknow, Kolkata, Kanuku, Vijayawada and Hyderabad.

“As a child, I never had help or support to pursue my interests. Hence, I would like to teach as many as possible and expand the scope of art. I would like to introduce people to this beautiful form of expression,” he says.

Today, he has his own art school called Sadguru School of Arts where he nurtures raw talent and provides help to anyone interested in art.

The Parsis, Once India’s Curators, Now Shrug as History Rots !


In the course of over one year of archival research in India, I have been heartened to see how, in a few institutions like the National Archives, the country’s rotting history now has a fighting chance of survival. However, I have been deeply dismayed by one observation: the inability of my own community, the Parsis, to properly protect our own history and heritage. In many ways, the Parsi experience reflects a colossal stumbling block toward proper historical preservation in India: a dearth of public activism, support and interest, even amongst the educated and affluent.

The Parsis, long considered the most progressive and socioeconomically advanced community in India, were once at the forefront of establishing and patronizing cultural institutions in Mumbai and Gujarat. We utilized our commercial wealth to help set up libraries, colleges and educational societies in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The leading savants of Europe trained our scholars and priests, who in turn maintained meticulous collections of manuscripts and voluminous libraries.

Elizabeth Dalziel/Associated Press
A Parsi woman and a man pray at a fire temple in Mumbai on the Parsi new year, in this Aug. 21, 2002, file photo.

With some notable exceptions, we have since fallen on hard times. Our institutions did not keep up with new scholarship and preservation techniques. Many old libraries with Parsi connections would qualify as excellent research centers — if it were still 1910. Piles of 100-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannicas, along with popular English literature from the late Victorian era, gather dust in Godrej steel cabinets. Many staff members have a limited idea about what their collections hold, and trustees have looked the other way while irreplaceable runs of 19th century newspapers have been sold off for scrap. I have been in one library where I was told I was the first visitor in four years.

The case of Mumbai’s J.N. Petit Institute illustrates what has happened due to gross neglect and mismanagement. It was founded by one of the community’s most aristocratic families, one that still boasts a Raj-era baronetcy. According to Murali Ranganathan, the Petit Institute has been throwing away “entire cabinets” of valuable books. He found one such item being sold in the premises: a copy of John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding published in 1746. The Petit Institute, he recalled, was nice enough to issue a receipt for the 40 rupees (less than $1) he paid to purchase this priceless antique volume.

parsis.net.in website
The façade of the old, two-story, Jamsetjee Nesserwanjee Petit Institute building, Bombay, 1938.

According to one “sadly disappointed” Parsi who was briefly affiliated with the library, and who wanted to remain anonymous, the Petit Institute suffers from ailments afflicting countless other libraries across the country: a lack of imagination, ambition and open-mindedness amongst trustees, as well as a complete disconnect with what actually goes on inside the premises. Tellingly, when I contacted library staff, they were unwilling to furnish details on the institute’s trustees, saying that they did not play a very important role (I eventually found contact information for one trustee, who did not return my calls). One library administrator simply acknowledged that the selling and trashing of books “happens everywhere” in India.

Why has all of this happened in a supposedly educated, advanced community? There are many possible reasons. Parsis have steadily been losing command over their native language, Gujarati, rendering an entire corpus of knowledge inaccessible — and therefore less valuable (elderly Parsis have offered me several precious volumes, telling me that they know their children will throw them out). Community institutions have failed to recruit younger Parsis as trustees and patrons, leave alone interest them in their activities.

But the most glaring problem is the hands-off approach most Parsis take toward these institutions. Within a community otherwise known for its philanthropy, there is little sense that ordinary individuals can themselves make positive contributions, financial or otherwise; there is a limited sense of public ownership and collective responsibility. When I tell Parsi audiences about rotting books and decaying collections, individuals in this wealthiest of Indian communities will, more often than not, elicit a sanctimonious “tsk, tsk” — and then promptly forget about the matter altogether. When I broach the subject of fund-raising, someone will invariably say, “Why don’t the Tatas help?,” as if this philanthropic multinational is the only actor capable of helping out.

parsis.net.in website
The reading room and library housed inside the old building of Jamsetjee Nesserwanjee Petit Institute, Bombay, 1938.

Shernaz Cama, a professor in the University of Delhi, realized the devastating consequences of public apathy when she became involved with a Unesco project to save one Parsi institution, the Meherjirana Library, in the Gujarati town of Navsari. When she arrived at the library in 1999, Ms. Cama found a Mughal sanad (property deed) on the wall covered in dust, correspondence with the court of Akbar lying on the floor and windowsills, and DDT being used on books to keep the bugs away. She quickly realized that this was not the fault of the library’s staff — preoccupied with salvaging priceless manuscripts and family trees that Parsis in Navsari were selling to scrap-paper dealers — but rather that of the wider Parsi community that was providing neither funds nor patronage.

With support from Unesco and the National Archives, Ms. Cama and her foundation, Parzor, have fire-proofed and restored the library’s 19th-century building, repaired books and manuscripts, and microfilmed important collections. Scholars from India and across the world have, consequently, descended on this sleepy Gujarati town, discovering new treasures in the library. This January, for example, one doctoral candidate from Harvard, Dan Sheffield, reported having found a portion of a 14th-century Zoroastrian manuscript, the rest of which is in the British Library, that had been missing for centuries.

In spite of the Meherjirana Library’s revival, Ms. Cama remains ambivalent as to whether even the Parsis can better preserve their heritage. “The Parsis definitely have the finances,” she commented, “but they also need the will and the interest to want to keep their history.” The same goes for the rest of the Indian public. I sincerely hope that, as Indians become wealthier and more educated, the Parsi experience proves to be the exception, rather than the rule, to how the past is treated.

(courtesy: Dinyar Patel & Firstpost)

Dinyar Patel is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University, currently working on a dissertation on Dadabhai Naoroji and early Indian nationalism. He can be reached at dpatel@fas.harvard.edu.

With the controversy surrounding porn, coal and exams, isn’t it time we dumped ‘gate’ once and for all?

The law finally caught up with the corrupt public functionary who masterminded a ‘gate’, so goes the story! Sounds funny? It shouldn’t.

Haven’t you noticed some of the recent headlines? There has been an Examgate (an education minister helping his son cheat), Porngate (Karnataka ministers caught watching porn), Porngate Returns (Gujarat legislators watching porn), Memogate (leaked diplomatic memo in Pakistan).

The list is long. Our media added another gem to this list last week with its ‘Coalgate’ (CAG’s draft report over the ‘flawed’ allocation of coal blocks).

The reporter alleged that the MLAs were reportedly watching porn on Chaudhary's iPad while panchayat minister Narottam Patel was answering questions (pictured)So what if such nomenclature makes a potential scam sound like a toothpaste brand!

Wonder why there is this laziness when it comes to newspersons attaching labels to events. Or maybe it is pure and simple aping of the Americans.

Haven’t you also noticed the use of 26/11 or 13/7 to refer to terror incidents in India after the 9/11 attacks on America? Wikipedia has dedicated a whole webpage to the problem – suffixgate!

It lists at least 105 big and small news stories that carried the suffix, ‘gate’.

Coalgate: People carry baskets of coal scavenged illegally at an open-cast mine in the village of Bokapahari in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand To cite an instance of the truly bizzare, a chess grandmaster’s repeated visits to the toilet came to be referred as Toiletgate!

In this age of 24×7 news, when mediapersons are hungry for audiences, they perhaps harbour the hope that attaching ‘gate’ to a scandal will make it hog attention.

Maybe, they await their Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein moment – the duo had broken the original ‘gate’ (Watergate) story.

But it is a blessing that this concerned the Watergate hotel in Washington. Had it taken place at the Ufuk Hotel (in Turkey), French Lick Hotel (US) or Wang Thong Hotel (Thailand), it sure would have made for a risque headline.