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Open Reply to PM: Treat Everyone Equitably

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
25 Mar 2024

Dear Shri Narendra Modi Ji,

I was pleasantly surprised to receive your letter dated March 15 in both Hindi and English. You mentioned in your letter how you have received trust and support from 140 crore people. I am glad that you have not left out anyone from the Indian population. While making this claim, I noticed that you could not give the exact population of India. The last decennial census was held in 2011, when Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. You should have held the next census in 2021. True, COVID-19 came in the way. As I write this, the country is not sure when the next census would be held. If you had held the census, it would have revealed how your rule has benefited the people in terms of improving their living standards. You have mentioned how you have been able to transform the lives of poor farmers, youth, and women. I am not able to forget how the farmers who wanted to demonstrate their feelings before you were detained at the Delhi borders and how drones were used to explode tear-gas shells among them. In fact, as a wag mentioned, the Delhi borders looked more fortified than the India-China border. The farmers have not called off their agitation. They have only paused it, perhaps, to facilitate peaceful polling in the country. I do not know on what basis you say that the youth and women stand transformed.

You had promised to create two crore jobs per year. Had that happened, there would have been at least 20 crore people in the age-group 20-40, fully employed in the country. Have you been able to create even a fraction of the jobs you promised? I am sure you included women when you spoke about the youth. Are women really getting jobs? I saw at the Statue of Unity you built in Gujarat, hundreds of women employed as autorickshaw drivers. I talked to some of them and found that they were not at all happy with the job as it was seasonal in nature and it did not yield income that can transform their lives. They would remain autorickshaw drivers all their life, if at all they have the health to carry on after a few years. If this is the condition of the women employed in Gujarat, you can imagine what the condition of the unemployed women would be like. You have made boastful claims about your housing scheme, access to electricity, water, LPG, and free medical care through Ayushmann Bharat. Let me believe that you are truthful, though I want to ask why new schemes were needed when old schemes could have been strengthened.

I visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, which is India's largest medical college. It employs 6,000 nurses. It was already functioning when I first came to Delhi in 1973. The hospital has the best infrastructure, but the poor patients who go there are not assured of free medicines. They have to buy it from the market.

You make the claim that "today every citizen is proud that the nation is marching ahead while also celebrating its rich culture". Soon after I read your letter, I stumbled across the World Happiness Report, which was flashed in newspapers all over the world. Because of your letter, I hoped that India would have improved its position among the happiest nations. I knew that it would take many years to reach the first position, now occupied by Finland. At least, a beginning could have been made in that direction. Instead, I found India at the 126th position, the same position it held last year, too. In comparison, all our neighbouring countries were in a better position. India and China have the same kind of population, though we have pushed it down to the second most populous nation. The Communist Revolution happened in China, and the British left India at around the same time. Is it not amazing that China is in the 60th position while we are at 126th?

Our leaders often make fun of Pakistan as a failed state. At 108, our neighbour was better off than us. The same is true for Nepal and Myanmar, which were at positions 93 and 118, respectively. Forget that; a country like Burkina Faso, where 10,000 people were killed and two million people were displaced recently, was happier than India. People in Ukraine who have been fighting a grim battle with Russia were happier than Indians, as they held the 105th position.

The organisers of the Happiness Report 2024 were forced to publish an explanation why, despite so many claims, India was only slightly better than Afghanistan. It explained why some people felt happy in India and why a vast majority felt unhappy. As the unhappy constitute the vast majority, it is their unhappiness that is counted, not the happiness of the few. When you came to power in 2014 and arrived in Delhi to be sworn in as prime minister by an aircraft that belonged to Adani, what was his position among the industrialists in India? Was he among the first 10? No chance. But for the Hindenburg report, he would have been India's and, perhaps, the world's richest person by now.

Did Adani introduce anything new to the market like Henry Ford, who introduced the concept of assembly-line production of cars; Steve Jobs, who introduced Apple computers, iPhones and iPads; Mark Zuckerberg, who built the Facebook community, which is larger than India's population; Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who showed that he could sell books without a bookshop, and Elon Musk, who introduced a new concept of car? Of course, Adani knew how to invest. The greatest investment he made was when he gave you a helicopter with a full fuel tank to campaign all over the country during the 2014 election. When tens of millions of Indians were struggling to have a square meal a day during the lockdown period, Adani's stock value was increasing by thousands of crores every day. Is it any wonder that 5 per cent of the rich own about 60 per cent of the national wealth? This is not something new. Some of our rulers were very rich, like the Maharaja of Travancore, as can be gauged from the kind of wealth accumulated in the Sri Padmanabha Swami temple. Many of them used the wealth to build temples and palaces and buy Rolls Royce cars while their subjects reeled in poverty.

Indian weddings are always referred to as "fat Indian weddings". The celebrations are so lavish that they are the stuff of TV serials and celluloid stories. This extravaganza isn't just about tying the knot; it's a whirlwind of opulence, from palatial venues to sumptuous feasts.

India set a new benchmark in this regard when your friend Mukesh Ambani organised a lavish pre-wedding function at Jamnagar, where a mind-boggling 2,000 dishes were made. I did not know that our cuisine was so vast. A singer was brought from the US at a cost of Rs 70 crore to entertain the assembled. All this was passé as Ambani has the money to spend. What I could not understand was why the Government of India converted the Jamnagar airport, which is close to the Pakistan border, into an international airport to facilitate the arrival and departure of the likes of Zuckerberg. Would the heavens have fallen if the private jets were asked to land at Ahmedabad or any other international airport? Of course, your liberal approach would have pleased the rich who attended the pre-wedding function. I have no idea how much money would be spent when the marriage actually takes place three months from now. I have seen some videos describing the gifts the young couple received. What came to my mind was how the Maharajas from all over India assembled at what is now the Coronation Park when Queen Victoria was declared the Empress of India in 1877.

To return to the present, the bottom 50 per cent of India's population owns only 3 per cent of the national wealth. The gap has been widening, and they are the ones who are unhappy in this country. India will remain at the bottom of the happiness index until this problem is sorted out.

Also, please give a thought. Would the people of Manipur have reported that they were happy? They have been expecting you to visit the state ever since a section of the people were thrown out from the Valley there only because they worshipped the Triune God. As I write this, you are in Bhutan, where the people are happier than Indians. You have all the time in the world to visit exotic places but no time to visit the Manipuris who have been eking out a miserable existence.

You have mentioned the abolition of Article 370 as a great achievement. I expected it because your party had been promising it in successive election manifestos. Pray, did you take the people into confidence when you reduced Jammu Kashmir into two Union Territories, ruled directly by you? J&K was the only Muslim-majority state in India. The truth of the matter is that you did not want such a state in India. Why is it that there is no Muslim or, for that matter, Christian in your Cabinet or ministry? Do you have any Muslims among the BJP MPs? There was a time when Muslims and Hindus were considered the two eyes of the nation. Recently, a policeman in Delhi had the temerity to kick a Muslim youth praying on the roadside. This does not happen in a civilised country. True, he was suspended as the video went viral on social media. Muslims are scared of praying even in designated places like in Gurugram. Earlier, mosques were seldom destroyed even during riots. Now, they are bulldozed. For want of space, I am not able to enumerate instances where Muslims were lynched, shot in trains because they looked like Muslims, or their properties were destroyed.

You claim credit for enacting the Triple Talaq law. I am sorry that you do not know anything about Triple Talaq. Under Muslim law, a person cannot utter Talaq three times to get the marriage nullified. The man has to say Talaq three times over a certain period. Then only it has validity. Your law was totally useless. In any case, divorce, triple or single, is a better option than desertion of wife. Can you give the nation the number of cases registered under the new law? I did not find your concern for the Muslim women when gang rapists and murderers who destroyed the life and peace of Bilkis Bano were released, and they were treated as if they had planted the national flag on the moon? One of your MLAs in Gujarat called them "cultured people". Raping a pregnant woman and smashing the head of her three-year-old daughter is considered "culture". You have boasted about the new Parliament building. I wish you had brought 75 elected panchayat members from around the country instead of some swamis from Tamil Nadu, many of whom never voted in an election, to the inauguration of the new building. Parliament security was breached by persons recommended by your own party MP. Thank goodness they were not Muslims!

I am glad that you are happy that you succeeded in controlling "left-wing extremism." Why are you silent about right-wing extremism? Do you know that things have deteriorated to such an extent that even a small group can barge into a prayer hall and attack the faithful? The police will conveniently look the other way. That is why there has been an increase in anti-Christian activities in the country. In many villages, it has become impossible to profess one's faith. You will always remain silent when people belonging to minority communities suffer at the hands of right-wing extremists. Thirty-five Doordarshan camera units were deployed when you consecrated the Ram temple. I wish the minorities in states like Chhattisgarh had the right to worship the god of their choice like you are able to worship Ram.

I do not support corruption of any kind. If Arvind Kejriwal extracted money from businessmen in the name of his liquor policy, let him go to jail. But what about your party, which extracted thousands of crores of rupees from businessmen, including liquor barons involved in the Delhi case, by way of electoral bonds? I am sorry, but I can only quote the Bible when it asks, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

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