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Sunday 26 January 2020

A Day In Modi’s India

[dropcap]K[/dropcap]alu miyan heard the good news from Rameshwar when both were sitting under the peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) near the canal. For early morning rituals, the villagers use this part of the gazing ground. Men come a little late after the sunrise. By then, their women return finishing their physical chores. Neither Kalu miyan nor Ramu bhaiya are aware that their village is among those in the country that have stopped open defecation. They heard that the few broken bricks stacked in the corner of the village will eventually become the toilet for the village. They heard that some babus from the town had come to their village one day before these bricks were piled in that place. That was before the rains came and Ramu helped Kalu till his two bigha land [1 bigha = 20 katha; 1 katha = 720 sq ft (67 m2)].

Both Kalu and Ramu had sat in a charpoi with Pavanji, their village elder, and heard on radio the Pradhan Mantri (Prime Minister) from Delhi mentioning something on Swachchh Bharat. Pavanji, who knows some babus in the town, told them that their village would have toilets. Villagers know that any construction takes time. The bridge on the canal is under construction for some time. Ramu remembers clearly that it started when his youngest son Chhotu was born. Now Chhotu is living in Begusarai, some 50 km away from the village. He is going to school and, when there are no classes to attend, working in a shop. Chhotu is now 10 and is already earning for the family.

Ramu has a radio in his phone. He bought it recently from the money he received in his bank account after the bank babus came and opened their accounts about a year ago. Only the well-off like Kalu or Pavanji had been to banks earlier. Ramu and his family were elated when for the first time they could enter a bank. One year before the bank babus came for account opening, they had gone to the local panchayat, a village just a few kilometers north of theirs, to get themselves photographed and finger-printed. Their eyes were checked, too. The babus told them that all would be printed on a card, which would come from the post office. Pavanji told all of them to keep that card called Aadhar safely. But that was used only once when bank babus came.

Ramu heard on the radio that the badi adalat in Delhi (lit. “big court”, referring to the Supreme Court) has now solved their concern. Unknown to Ramu and his fellow villagers, the card Aadhar was wrong. Wrong because all their information get stored in that card. Ramu could not follow what was wrong in it. The money that helped him buy the radio was stored in that card and he could take it out. Even if it is stored in the card, how does Ramu get affected!

Gagan, son of his elder brother, knows many things. He even goes to towns to walk with political babus. Gagan explained to Ramu chacha what privacy was and how Aadhar was breaching Ramu’s privacy. Not only Ramu but all villagers must thank the badi adalat for saving their right to privacy. This is what Rameshwar explained to Kalu while relieving himself in the field. Maybe Kalu was suffering from constipation and did not seem much thankful to the badi adalat.

When Kalu miyan and Ramu chacha were busy in a remote village in the morning, it was time for the senior sarkari sahib to get ready for his office. He had just returned from his morning walk and barely had any time left to glance through the newspaper. He must reach office now before nine — a trouble that started when Narendra Modi came to New Delhi from Gandhinagar. Not only must he reach office on time, there are new slogans now-a-days — “Make in India” and “Ease of Doing Business”! What hurts the senior babu more is that his boss Mr Burden Remove Boast travels the world, gets photographed with Modi, tweets his achievements and sends all papers to him, the Hump Ahmed. When the well-paid officers from the foreign companies visit him for removing the hump, the poor man has little option but to keep a smiling face. Like the man who laughs, poor Hump can never express his problems to anybody.

yourimage 2On his table is a proposal for a big MNC which is keen to open their store in India. As such there is no issue now that the confusing language kept in the notification has been removed some months ago. The sahib also knows of the brand and uses the same given to him by the franchisee of the company in India. The issue is one of level playing field. If the MNC opens its store, the poor Indian franchisee will lose his revenue. Shouldn’t the government act as a guardian for the Indian businessman? Instead, the Prime Minister is busy going abroad and talking to these MNCs.

But Hump sahib knows well how not to bend so easily. He has to ensure fairness for all. Leaders come and go but Sahibs are constant. What can the leader do without the Sahibs? And what is the incentive Hump Sahib may receive from the MNC? A dry ‘thank you’, not even a note that will help him to shift to a lucrative post. No, Hump Sahib is not interested in easing it any more; let the Prime Minister keep shouting his Mann ki Baat.

By the time Kalu miyan and Ramu chacha were ready to tend to their respective fields and Hump Sahib had finished his second cup of coffee brought by his peon, it was time for anchor Rubbish to call his stringer in Bihar. Rubbish wanted a big breaking story on how Modi’s Swachchh Bharat data on toilets were rigged and how Kalu miyan, Ramu chacha et al were still using the village green. He has also lined up the well known guest who will explain how this government manipulates all information with active support from the highest office. Meanwhile, Rubbish had received a call from his reporter in the capital. The young girl has access to a senior sahib who told her how the government was slowly killing the Indian entrepreneurs to promote MNCs. With two news night top stories frozen, Rubbish went for his lunch at Machan where there is Tunisian food festival to celebrate the Nobel 2015.


Sugato Hazra
Public policy analyst based in Delhi

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