OPED

Dear Madams of FICCI,

From reports in media we have understood that our Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi has impressed you all with his hard-hitting eloquence. On reading and hearing report of the speech, we, the women of Gujarat were wonder-struck ! Was he speaking of women in Gujarat? Was he revealing the whole truth? Certainly not. So we thought that we could enlighten you all about the reality in Gujarat.

In Gujarat's population the number of women has gone down. In 2001 there were 921 women against 1000 men. In 2011, three more were lost per a thousand, 918 were counted in the census. This is the ten year period during which nine other States recorded increase in the number of women, from 45 in Delhi to 4 in Rajastan. Gujarat kept losing.

Mr. Modi was speaking of female foeticide, an old 18th century practice. In Gujarat the sex ratio in the age group of 0 to 6 years in 2001, was 886 girls as against 1000 boys. In 2011 it was 883 girls as against 1000 boys. Difference of only 3 gained over ten years! It was only in late 2011 that the news of the government having closed 101 sonography clinics was heard; thereafter a few were reported closed in 2012. In 2013, so far, no penal action under PCPNDT Act is reported. That is the Governance in Gujarat! Does the Government care?

Latest surveys (2006) concerning married women's health note that 55.5% women were anaemic in the age group of 15 to 49 years of age. In the same age group 60.8% pregnant women were malnourished and anaemic. In 1998-99, 74.5% of dalit and tribal children in the age group of 6 months to 35 months were reported as malnourished. In 2005-2006 the number of such children increased to 79.8%. 49.2% children have not developed to normal height, 41% do not have the weight normally children of their age group could have. During the last election this issue was taken up and the minister in charge had rushed to find out where the fortified food packets had gone! That is Governance in Gujarat! Maternal mortality rate and Infant mortality rate do not come down; mothers and children keep dying in Gujarat or continue to survive as weaklings.

To refer to women as mothers all the time is pretentious. We have noted how young mothers die of malnourishment. Lack of treatment (because no government dispensary, block or district hospital has a gynecologist appointed, large city hospitals provide such facility) is one more obvious reason.. No wonder that many women deliver babies in the ambulance like buses known as 108 service. Governance of Gujarat's government does not seem to follow any policy for saving young women's lives. Even young men's lives. Very recently, a resident doctor died of Dengue fever in Ahmedabad's large Civil Hospital and many more are now dying of Swine flu in Gujarat. The deaths seem to argue absence of good governance.

Education for girls was free. In last couple of years the government has stopped encouraging continuation of such schools and colleges. Now girls have to pay hefty fees if they choose to get 'good' education. That is the Governance in Gujarat.

Mr. Modi spoke of the Bill for 50% women members in Local-Self Government which, the Governor of Gujarat, Dr. Shrimati Kamalaji, despite being a woman herself did not sign. The Governor of Gujarat did not sign it because the provisions in the Bill were mixed up with another issue, that of compulsory voting. The Bill was returned by the Governor asking the Government to separate the issues, get the Bill for 50% reservation for women passed again and then she would be prepared to sign it. The Governor is found fault with which is emphasised by adding 'despite being a women herself'. This is Modistyle. The details of why she did not sign it are not spoken of, so the listeners are led to believe that the Governor of Gujarat is insensitive towards women's rights despite being a woman herself. Half-truth is the hall-mark of Modyism.

Mr Modi had to belittle the Governor of Gujarat because she took steps to appoint the Lokayukta in Gujarat which he did not approve of. So a long drawn battle is being fought in the Supreme Court. If Mr. Modi had only wanted to speak about his contribution for women he could have spoken of village panchayats formed fully by women members. In May, 2012, 422 panchayats were organised through consensus wherein all members were women. Such organising denies democratic election and it is implied that only those who command village level polity can have their say. One of the women attending the State function held to congratulate their becoming important office bearers in their villages, had told a reporter that her husband asked her a few days earlier to be Sarpanch in his place and he asked her to attend the function, so she had come up to Gandhinagar, Gujarat's capital, Mr. Modi could have proudly spoken of women-headed Panchayats but, unmindful of her status, self-respect or sense of decorum he preferred to take a venomous dig at the woman who holds a high constitutional office in Gujarat. A rabble could greet such comments with claps and laughter, but I believe, that you, Madams of FICCI, did not appreciate such remarks. All said and done Dr. Srimati Kamalaji is an octogenerian who commands such respect that she could be rightfully addressed as 'Ma', the mother. But this is how the people are won in Gujarat, by using half-truths and by debunking known persons without caring for their status in public life or without spending a thought on his own personal dignity. As long as the crowds go home laughing he is assured of votes, so why should he care about such silly issues like dignity of the speaker himself. That is how Gujarat is gained. And it is governed to gain accolades for him who got the votes. As long as that is gained, governance in Gujarat does not seem to matter.

Increase in crimes in Gujarat is phenomenal during last decade. Robberies and murders of old people, including women are reported every other day. 235 rapes were registered in 2001, in 2011 the number is 413. Kidnappings have increased from 731 in 2001 to 1329 in 2011. All other crimes appear to have gone down. The police stations do not want to register crimes because they are reprimanded if the number of crimes increases. Gujarat has to be shown as Crime Free State so less registration is better from governance point of view. We are aware of circulars that ask the policemen down the line not to register women's complaints in the first instance, they take 'applications'. Reduced crime rate could vouch for good governance in Gujarat. It is followed by possibilities of less punishment / justice and freedom to commit crimes.

Business is in the blood of Gujarat's people. Many women run their own business, not only in food items but also as designers, boutique owners etc and are doing very well. Many women are employed as retailers in various markets. But 'Lijjat' papads are not produced by tribal women. That is misinformation. Business by women has flourished for a long time in Gujarat, despite Mr. Modi.

Yours sincerely,

Ila Pathak

(Dr. Ila Pathak is a founder President of Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG). After seeing media reports and speech of Mr. Narendra Modi CM of Gujarat, as he was addressing 29th session of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Ladies’ organisation, FICCI, New Delhi. Dr. Pathak had written a letter to Madams of FICCI.)

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Modi, the man and the message

HARISH KHARE
05-04-2013

Democratic voices have so far allowed the Gujarat Chief Minister to get away with the invocation of his “development” mantra. India needs to know more about him

During a recent three-week stay in the United States, I was often asked to explain the Indian media’s current obsession with Narendra Modi. The only reasonably cogent answer to give was the convergence between the corporate ownership of the electronic media and Mr. Modi’s corporate bank-rollers. The Gujarat Chief Minister’s induction in the Bharatiya Janata Party central set-up has been celebrated as if he has already been invited by the Rashtrapati to form the next government at the Centre.

Like most Indian political leaders, Mr. Modi is a non-biodegradable entity. He will not disappear. Machinations by the BJP central leadership may delay his storming the party headquarters, but he is not going to be talked out of his national ambitions. It is only the voters who can knock the stuffing out of him and his outsized pretensions.

Mr. Modi promises to do things differently and better than what is being done in New Delhi or even in the other BJP ruled States. Not only is he contemptuous of the Manmohan Singh style of consensus approach to resolving contentious issues, he is also derisive of his own party and its leadership. He believes the BJP has become too flabby as an organisation and that most of its impresarios are compromised and tired.

That is between him and the BJP. It is another year before the country goes to the national polls, and 12 months is a long enough a time to smoke Mr. Modi out of the comfort zone of the so-called Gujarat model. Democratic India is now obliged to look beyond and beneath the veneer of the Gujarat model.

Leaders like Nitish Kumar may or may not be able to reconcile to the Narenda Modi-Amit Shah approach to the fundamental secular nature of our constitutional and political design. The vast majority of the decent majority will find it difficult to put aside the Gujarat Chief Minister’s unreconstructed stance to what happened to the minorities under his watch in 2002. What is more, Mr. Modi remains unapologetic and unrepentant, even as a gaggle of public relations experts has been deployed to put a gloss over the massacre and its narrative of cultivated intolerance. Just as Mr. Modi remains unbent, Decent India will remain unimpressed and unconvinced.

But the 2002 violence is only a small part of the Modi offer. Apart from a tough, designedly anti-Muslim line, the country would want to know what he stands for. So far the Gujarat Chief Minister has trafficked in the “development” slogan. He has half-heartedly sought to revive Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s shout of “Indian century”.

HEADY PROPOSITION

The bottom line is that Mr. Modi is supposed to be endowed with such outstanding leadership qualities that he would transform India in the same decisive manner as Gujarat presumably stands transformed. A heady proposition, especially for the upper middle class consumers of the “national” media discourse.

Two key ingredients in this Gujarat leadership business need to be underlined. First, the Chief Minister has enthralled the Gujarat voters as the mascot of “Gujarati asmita.” In other words, a gentle stoking of Gujarati sub-nationalism. This foray into parochialism is a perfect fit for a parochial leader. But the rest of India is not entirely without its pride; and, it remains to be seen whether the Modi project has the capacity to plough the asmita message in the vastness of a plural and diverse India. It is a minor detail but a significant one: for all his alleged charismatic gifts, outside of Gujarat Mr. Modi has not been able to make any difference to the BJP’s electoral fortunes.

So far Mr. Modi has marketed himself as the uncompromising custodian of an uncompromising Gujarati pride, but now he is being advised to reposition himself as an “India First” salesman. Perhaps his media consultants mistakenly believe that the India of 2013 suffers from some kind of national identity crisis and that slogan would help position Mr. Modi as the new national shaman. Unless the country finds itself in a catastrophic situation before the next general election, it is difficult to appreciate what vulnerabilities and fears Mr. Modi can be made to be seen as addressing. No doubt, there is anger and anxiety which manifest spectacularly from time to time but India is also strangely at peace with itself; there is no sense of national fragility, no sense of national ignominy whereas the rest of our neighbourhood continues to flirt with anarchy and instability.

PERSONALITY CULT

The second element of the Modi leadership is the unmistaken personality cult. Admittedly, all Chief Ministers get to dominate their State governments. Strong personalities like Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Navin Patnaik in Orissa or, earlier, Ms Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh define the tone and tenor of the State government and its working habits and practices.

Authoritarianism in different shades and colours can be felt in all State capitals. But Mr. Modi is the first Chief Minister to make a virtue out of it. Now that Mr. Modi and his cheer-leaders have decided to field him in the national arena, questions would need to be asked about his commitment to democratic values. The Chief Minister has given sufficient indications that his model of leadership means absence of institutional restraints and accountability. The new edition of the Lok Ayukta passed in Gujarat is only a curtain-raiser. A “strong” leader will not countenance any checks on his powers.

Politically, he has already made his friends and rivals irrelevant in Gujarat. What is amusing is that the BJP’s assorted spokespersons, who otherwise very articulately and passionately demand accountability, transparency and answers from all and sundry, find themselves having to rationalise the Gujarat Chief Minister’s authoritarian proclivities and record. The other day, Uma Bharti, the newly anointed general-secretary in the BJP, allowed herself to recall on a Hindi television channel that even Subhash Chandra Bose had said that after Independence India could do with a spot of dictatorship. These are early days but the Modi group-think is already performing its tricks.

SELF-STYLED AUTOCRAT

A party that has for the last three decades — from the time of the Emergency in 1975 — taken pride in its opposition to anti-democratic manifestations and claims is now saddled with a self-styled petty autocrat. Mr. Modi has cultivated for himself an image of a leader who does not believe in routine civilities. Nor is he averse to taking offence or giving offence. Very much like Nana Patekar, the comic criminal in the movie, Welcome, telling a frightened Anil Kapoor that his men could “shed blood, as well as spill blood.”

And, lastly, Mr. Modi’s leadership model simply means an unalloyed corporate raj. The “economic miracle” that Mr. Modi has performed in Gujarat is predicated on the working assumption that it is the primary duty of the administration to make it possible for the corporate houses to make profit, whatever the social dislocation or cost. And much to the delight of all his corporate admirers, he has done an admirable job of silencing all dissent.

The message is clear: he will encounter no trade unionism, no adivasis’ protest, no civil society voice. The vast majority of the Indian electorate will want to know which elements of the social welfare architecture, put in place by the UPA regime, he would dismantle.

Let us make no mistake. The much-touted Modi leadership is a maximalist proposition, uncompromising in the pursuit of what he believes is to be done in order to achieve India’s destiny. The middle classes, which have suffered because of the recent economic down-turn, are prepared to lend a particularly attentive ear to this meretricious blunt straight-forwardness. It is the task of democratic, progressive, liberal and secular voices across the political spectrum to make Mr. Modi spell out the essentials of his leadership offer in all its un-pretty details.

(Harish Khare is a senior journalist, a former media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and currently a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow)

courtesy : "The Hindu", 04.04.2013

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED