Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mitron, before me, the deluge - Sankarshan Thakur

If I don’t beat my own drum, who will?
George Bernard Shaw

For 67 long years, we made a tryst with darkness, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the sunset hour on May 26, 2014, India awoke to life and freedom
Subtext of the message on Modi Sarkar at two (with apologies to J.L. Nehru)

New Delhi, May 28: A weekend evening picked to perfection. Between the final knockout game of the IPL and the final itself, in a convenient trough between one television blockbuster and another. It meant the celebratory gala for two years of Modi Sarkar mounted the box two days after the anniversary, but it also meant it aired insulated from any threat from eyeball-grabbers.

It grabbed at eyeballs so exclusively and so long this evening, it left them a little sore. Ek Nayi Subah, Doordarshan's five-hour live effort - obligingly streamed by a slew of private news channels - became a serial scintillation at the hands of the longest ever press release any Indian government has ever lavished on the citizenry. The pageant, a profligate panegyric, came to viewers beamed simultaneously from many and far corners of India. Another first added to the many firsts this government has scored in its short and sterling run thus far.

To those old and bothered enough to recall, the evening resurrected all the exhilaration of Krishi Darshan - the same chaupal setting, the same scripted parlour chat, the same recourse to contrived quasi-folk twists as entertainment, the same bursts of studio-canned congratulation: " Pradhan Mantri ke vision se suryast suryoday mein badal gaya hai, raat ho rahi hai lekin hum dekh rahe hain Ek Nayi Subah (The Prime Minister's vision has turned sunset into sunrise, night is falling but we are watching Ek Nayi Subah)...."

It seemed almost a travesty that thunderous applause didn't follow the pronouncement of such copywriting brilliance. The evening's architects had missed out on locating a troupe primed to clap on cue in some corner of the titanic pre-fab central studios pitched behind India Gate. But perhaps that was a good and kindly thing, after all; the trot of gifts was so wondrous and interminable, they'd have ended up applauding till their palms fell off.

"Historic" was very oft heard, so oft it almost rivalled the number of mentions for "because of Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modiji". Historic unveiling of schemes and programmes, historic creation of government departments, historic impact at home, historic emboss upon the globe, historic thought, historic vision, historic achievement since the historic advent of Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modiji. It was resonant of the news bulletins of the Emergency era which would forever begin with "Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has said..." or "Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has announced..." or "Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has called upon...."

The throwback to a propagandist discourse was no less historic. Senior and junior ministers of government, chief ministers, social workers and thought leaders, megastars and starlets, minstrels and market managers, communication gurus and admen, all lined up to play their bit parts in an orchestral eulogy that would have done the Kim clan proud.

The impending arrival of the star of the evening was teased all evening by a host of anchors, as if to keep the audience snared - "Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modiji hamare beech aane hi waale hain!" "The accounting for my last two years in power have generated a new energy and enthusiasm not only in the government but among the people at large," the Prime Minister said.

"I have to say with great satisfaction that with such minute scrutiny, my government and my people have become positive and hopeful. I can't talk about people who will oppose me for political reasons, that is their compulsion. But I can say there is development on one side and obstructionism on the other. "The people will choose which side to choose, that I firmly believe. There should be tough scrutiny in a democracy, but I fear sometimes that some people can derail the country for their selfish reasons. This is a cause of concern to me."

Modi said all governments should be measured against the record of past governments. "But I can proudly say we are different. The previous government was riddled with scandal and corruption: the coal scam, for instance. That is not happening any more. I am not making an empty claim: the coal allotments were abrogated by the Supreme Court; now the money from the open auction is going into the public exchequer.

"Nobody can deny that corruption had hollowed out our nation like a termite. If you look deeply into this issue, you will be shocked. Daughters never even born became beneficiaries of government funds; they were never born but they also received benefits as widows, such was the depth of corruption. The entire system was riddled with fraud and leakage of funds. We have stopped that. That will not happen under me."

When he spoke, unabashedly self-congratulatory, about the "grand success" of his "give-it-up" call on gas subsidy yet again, his cabinet sat obediently applauding. The gas subsidy is not a brag the Prime Minister has made for the first time. Very likely, it is also not the last time his colleagues in government and the party have zealously risen in applause for verily the same claim. But that would still probably fall short of the PM's expectations. "There are so many achievements of my government," Modi said, "that Doordarshan will have to telecast me live for a whole week." It was, not unusually for the Prime Minister, an I, Me, Myself address.

Even less unusually, Modi's celebrants through the evening spoke from a classic courtier's script. It was as if an epiphany had descended and turned audio-visual, the nation was nudged awake, at the twilight hour, from its Rip Van Winkle slumber amidst a myriad insufficiencies. What unprecedented wonders has Prime Minister Narendra Modi's India woken up to witness? Aadhar cards and passport forms can now be filled over the Internet. Never happened before May 26, 2014. Train tickets can be bought on the Internet. Never happened before May 26, 2014. PAN cards can be had. Not so before May 26, 2014. Certificates of births and deaths can be acquired. Not so before May 26, 2014.

Crores of bank accounts have been opened and public coffers are pouring into them. Never before had so much been done to retrieve and restrict black money as now, in the two years since Modiji arrived at the helm. Lost and found complaints for missing persons can be filed. Not so before May 26, 2014. Indians lost before that couldn't ever be found.

Electricity has arrived. Roads are being made, hospitals are being built, teachers have begun to teach in schools and students are going to class. We now know women live in India and have become acquainted with " nari shakti". We now know there is filth littered all over our geography but there is Swachh Bharat for a cure. It has dawned on us that the Ganga is unclean but by 2018, it will rank amongst the cleanest rivers in the world. Since the advent of this enlightened era and Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, we have begun to care for the girl child and send her to school.

Amitabh Bachchan walked onto the sets late in the afternoon - ushered in by the fawning show host and actor Madhavan - spoke about " betis" and "naris", recited a regulation stanza from father Harivansh Rai Bachchan's Madhushala and departed making promises to schoolgirls we shall be elated to see him keep. He told a student he would visit her school in Delhi's Malviya Nagar. "Just send me an invitation," Bachchan helpfully suggested.

Later, we were told children were now being vaccinated. Earlier, there were only plans to vaccinate them. The India before May 26, 2014, expired from epidemics, unlit and uncared for. Now, ladies and gentlemen, the sun has begun to shine, " sooraj chamak raha hai, desh badal raha hai", India has, courtesy the vision of Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modiji, entered an eternal morning, " ek nayi subah". Good morning, India, wake up and live the dream you've given yourselves. It's IPL final night, rub your eyeballs fresh.