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?


Dynasty dilemma – Gandhi mystique quizzically unimpressed !

The fabled Congress party is finding that the past just doesn’t sell anymore

It was 1999 when, in the midst of a heated election campaign, the granddaughter of India’s beloved late prime minister Indira Gandhi told international media, “I am very clear in my mind. Politics is not a strong pull. I have said it a thousand times: I am not interested in joining politics.” At the time, Priyanka Gandhi was adamant her presence on the campaign trail was not an introduction to political life. She simply wanted to help the Indian National Congress, then run by her mother, Sonia, regain control of the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament.

Congress, one of the world’s largest and oldest political parties, had lost the house to its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in the 1998 election. It was a chaotic period in Indian politics: from 1996 to 1999, the nation had gone through three general elections and three unstable governments characterized by fractious coalitions and alliances of convenience. For Congress, the 1999 vote was a chance to reclaim its political dominance: since India’s independence from British rule in 1947, it had governed the nation more or less uncontested for three decades. Priyanka Gandhi, then 27, was Congress’s secret weapon, seen as the future of the Gandhi political dynasty. But the strategy didn’t work. Congress lost and the BJP gained a near majority in a defeat that was a sign of things to come. Congress regained control, but only as part of a shaky alliance. Priyanka Gandhi left the public arena, opting instead to work behind the scenes.

Recent crises, though, have brought her back into the spotlight. During last month’s state assembly elections, she took to the campaign trail, joining her brother Rahul in key states like Uttar Pradesh.  Priyanka’s return prompted frenzied speculation among India’s political pundits. Was this a sign of desperation? Internal tensions within Congress inspired talk of impending collapse and a last-ditch effort to bring unity to a party that had previously been the defining symbol of Indian democracy.

The strategy failed again. Among the five states where voters went to the polls, Congress managed a majority in only one—Manipur. In Uttar Pradesh, considered a litmus test for India’s national elections, scheduled for 2014, Congress won a dismal 28 of 403 assembly seats, garnering a meager 11.6 per cent of the vote.

So what went wrong? Congress strategists were lambasted by political observers for relying too heavily on the Gandhi mystique to garner votes. Rather than inspiring people, the return of Priyanka left many quizzically unimpressed. “They tried everything,” says Salma Mirza, a 25-year-old resident of Mumbai. “Priyanka looks like Indira, she talks like Indira, and this time, on the campaign trail, she even dressed like Indira.” But an Indira doppelganger wasn’t what the Indian electorate was looking for. “It was too funny for us,” says Ravindra Patel, a voter in Uttar Pradesh. “We wanted to hear what plans politicians had for improving our lives. Instead, we got Priyanka telling us about how great Congress is.”

Congress’s history may have served the party—and the Gandhis—well at one time, but not today. India is a country of more than 700 million voters, with real GDP growth of around eight per cent annually for the past 10 years and an increasingly robust role in the global economic market. All that has contributed to a more subtle and perceptive electorate. “Change was inevitable,” says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president and chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. “India’s political parties are now operating in an increasingly vibrant democratic environment. But party structures remain closed and reliant on opaque internal decision making.” Mehta faults Congress for not adapting to the new reality. At a time of “India Rising,” the catchphrase for the last decade, a reliance on dynastic nostalgia simply won’t work anymore, he adds.

However, Tom Vadakkan, a spokesperson for Congress, defends the party’s dynastic inclinations, pointing out that state-level elections are not the same as national elections. “People will think about their immediate needs when they vote for the state assembly,” he says. “But when it comes to national elections, they will vote for the party that has a long track record in governance.” Dynasties, he adds, are a natural phenomenon in India. “It’s a system that runs throughout the country,” he says. “A doctor’s son will become a doctor himself. This is the way Indians think.”

Recent studies on the career aspirations of Indian youth tell a different story. “Earlier, there were limited career options available for Indian youth,” says a 2011 report looking at the growth of the Indian IT sector. “Those fell in government/semi-government organizations like civil services, engineering, medical, management, etc.” But during the course of India’s economic surge, “many new career avenues have emerged which are more promising, challenging and rewarding,” the report notes.

India’s youth are increasingly thinking for themselves, weighing their options and deciding on careers best suited for them. That thought process also extends to political choices, adds Mehta. “When choices are available and there are no barriers, these transitions happen,” he says. “Economic diversification opens up options to people; it gives them economic capital, which then translates into political capital.”

But India still has some way to go before its democracy reaches full maturity, he says. Political families will remain a force in Indian politics for the foreseeable future: they have the contacts and the wealth to maintain their positions. Until political parties themselves are democratized, Indian democracy will struggle. Moreover, corruption remains a major problem. In the recent state assembly elections, one-third of the politicians elected to office have pending criminal cases against them, while two-thirds are millionaires, according to a joint analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch.

Nonetheless, Mehta, for one, is hopeful. A variety of Indian institutions, from the family to the bulwarks of a democratic system—judicial, political, and economic—are undergoing rapid change. The political parties cannot ignore this trend, he says. They do so at their peril. (courtesy: Adnan R. Khan & macleans.com)

3.5 crore toilets are missing in India, 1.1 in U.P.

Govt and census figures show disparity of 3.5 crore latrines

If this doesn’t raise a national stink, little else will.

Around 3.5 crore toilets are missing in India, if official statistics are not meant to be flushed down the drain.

The Union rural development ministry claims its Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) has delivered more than 8.7 crore latrines to households across villages over the past decade. But household data from the population census shows that only around 5.1 crore households had latrines in 2011. (See chart) Such a wide gap need not be a proverbial slip but anything is possible in a country where industrial production has been miscalculated by as many as 5 percentage points a few months ago.

Toilets are missing from Bengal, too. The sanitation campaign figure for Bengal was 80.7 lakh, 16.6 lakh more than the census figure of 64.1 lakh. The state was sixth on the list of those where the discrepancy was high.

Uttar Pradesh was on the top, with over 1.1 crore missing toilets.

The rural development ministry had launched the sanitation campaign in 1999 under which Rs 2,200 was to be provided to every household below the poverty line to build a latrine. Installing a toilet costs about Rs 2,500 and the houses were expected to bear the balance.

The plan was intended to make India free of open defecation by 2017. The ministry claims that by erecting 8.7 crore latrines,i t has achieved 70 per cent of the sanitation campaign’s target of 12.5 crore. But the census data challenges the claim.

“This discrepancy in the number of latrines hints at over-reporting and pilferage in the implementation of the scheme,” said Naresh Saxena, a member of the National Advisory Council.

“The actual number of missing latrines is much higher than 35 million because when the TSC began in 1999, many households would already have had latrines,” Saxena said.

Saxena also said many villages projected to have complete sanitation facilities and accorded the Nirmal Gram Puraskar certification did not have latrines in even 50 per cent homes.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh,w ho last year said open defecation was a blot and a shame,admitted that the TSC data projected an inflated picture on rural sanitation.

“I believe the census data more than the TSC data. The TSC data is reported by state governments based on financial expenditure.This is unreliable,”he added.

Sources said calculations of state governments were based on how much money had been released and no inspections were usually carried out to verify if the intended beneficiaries had spent the amount for the purpose it had been given.

Till April 2011, the Centre’s total expenditure on the campaign was Rs 19,626.43 crore.

The scheme is being implemented in 607 districts across the country.S tate governments give a matching grant. (courtesy: The Telegraph)

India News to launch in MP, Chhattisgarh

India News, the 24×7 Hindi news channel run by Information TV Pvt Ltd (ITV), is planning to expand rapidly. Launched in 2009 in Haryana, the news and current affairs satellite channel is all set to launch in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in April 2012.

Confirming the news, Rakesh Sharma, CEO, India News, said, “We will shortly be launching India News – Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.”

Owned by Piccadilly Group, which has multiple interests in media (print and electronic), ITV currently offers a vast bouquet of  channels including India News, India News (Haryana), India News (Bihar & Jharkhand), India News (Rajasthan), India News (Punjab), India News (Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand).

Sharma informed, “We are pleased to share with you that India News (Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) have attained the No. 1 position in TAM Week 12. This outstanding achievement says a lot about our dedication and commitment towards our viewers. The most important point which reflects this achievement is the age of our channel – it is only two-months young! The market was already flooded with numerous national and regional news makers and to leave our footprint in such a fierce marketplace was only possible because of our belief in impartial journalism.”

(courtesy: Ananya Saha & http://www.bestmediainfo.com)

After Mid Day, Jagran group to buy Nai Dunia

The Jagran group that publishes the country’s most widely read Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran, is close to buying out Nai Dunia, the Indore-based Hindi daily promoted by Vinay Chhajlani.

According to sources familiar with the development, the talks have been on for a while and the deal size is expected to be around Rs 300 crore.

Nai Dunia was started in 1947 and is published from Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh and from Bilaspur and Raipur in Chhattisgarh. If the deal goes through, Dainik Jagran would get an avenue to expand in Madhya Pradesh and central India. Currently, the Kanpur-based newspaper group has two editions in Madhya Pradesh, at Bhopal and Rewa. It is published from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan. It has 37 editions.

In 2010, Jagran bought Mid Day, the afternoon tabloid based in Mumbai, from Tariq Ansari for Rs 200 crore in an all-stock transaction. The deal also included Sunday Mid-Day, Gujarati Mid-Day and the Urdu newspaper Inquilab, along with its website, mid-day.com.