Monday, December 21, 2015

Smriti Irani responds, in detail :)

Imagine your thrill when a Cabinet minister responds to your questions! Smriti Irani was gracious enough to respond to my questionnaire published on MyInd Makers. Here are her detailed responses, published on MyInd too. 

Editor’s Note: Recently, MyInd Columnist S. Sudhir Kumar watched the much talked about interview of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani with Barkha Dutt. After watching the interview, he felt dismayed and disappointed. He sent us a set of questions that he felt should have been asked to the Minister that would have helped us understand how HRD Ministry was functioning under Ms. Irani’s leadership.

We published those questions on our website and much to our surprise, the honourable Minister immediately responded that she would be delighted to answer the questions. This sealed our belief that Ministers or Administrators would be more than willing to answer tough policy questions provided someone was willing to ask. We thank the honourable Minister for answering all our questions including those that were sent by our readers.

You have recently claimed that separate toilets for boys and girls have been built in all government schools. All within a year!! How was this achieved?

In response to the clarion call made by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 15th August 2014, the Department of School Education, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development launched the Swachh Vidyalaya initiative in partnership with States & UTs, 64 Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and 11 Private Corporates for the construction and repair of toilets in schools. Under Swachh Vidyalaya, 4,17,796 toilet blocks have been constructed or made functional in 2,61,400 schools. This includes even schools in districts that are facing Left Wing Extremism (LWE), in forests and remote mountainous terrain. With this, all 13.77 crore children in 11.21 lakh government schools all over the country now have access to toilet facilities.

To ensure transparency and enable close monitoring, the Swachh Vidyalaya programme conceptualized and developed a collaborative web portal which provided essential data in real time. The web portal, apart from other features, enabled corporates and partners to easily navigate and identify specific locations and schools they wished to support for construction and repair of toilets. It allowed them to pledge financial and in-kind commitments. The Swachh Vidyalaya portal not only helped forge new partnerships, but also enhanced accountability and improved service delivery. The digital solution meant that we could actually see the progress as it happened. The status was seen in real time through Counters and the Progress Bar on the portal. The solution also empowered citizens to partner and track progress.

Further, over 310 Central Observers from various Ministries of Government of India were deputed to visit districts to review the progress of the Swachh Vidyalaya Initiative. These observers visited schools in 443 districts across India and their feedback was of enormous value as they were able to share details of the actual situation on the ground. However, I attribute the success of this initiative to the collaborative spirit with which education is implemented in this country. It is because of the close partnership between the Centre and States that we were able to achieve this humongous target in such a short period.

Constructing toilets is a big step, a good step, but providing water supply and maintaining cleanliness is also very important. How does the government plan to tackle this problem?

Maintenance of these toilets will be critical for use in schools. Generally, the budget of all schemes of the Government of India has a component for capital expenditure and operation expenses. Similarly, as part of the budget of SSA, a School Maintenance Grant, is being approved regularly through the Annual Work Plan. Further an amount of Rs. 50,000 per school under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is provided as annual school grant for secondary schools. Further, my Ministry is working with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation to explore the possibility of institutionalizing a system for ensuring the cleaning and maintenance of school toilets.
Panchayats are expected to play a critical role in providing funding for repair of old toilets in schools as well as for water supply and drainage. In addition, School Management Committees are being encouraged to devise innovative ways for maintenance and cleanliness of school toilets with cooperation of the local community. States are also workingwith Corporates and PSUs, to leverage their corporate social responsibility funds for this purpose. platform that was specially created to communicate with and receive communication from ordinary citizens has seen tens of thousands of inputs for the proposed New Education Policy. We have also heard that you are seeking opinions right from the village level. Can you explain this process?

Unlike the past where the consultative processes have depended on a top-down approach which involved a few experts, the current NEP consultations is undertaking an extensive, time-bound, participatory bottom-up approach. Celebrating the true spirit of democracy, citizens, parents, teachers, administrators, field practitioners, industry, academicians and experts, from across the country, have been invited to actively engage in the policy development process. While 33 themes have been identified to ensure focused deliberations, states were also empowered to add themes critical to their local needs as they deemed fit. The Government’s citizen engagement platform, MyGov, has played a critical role in enabling the inclusive consultations.

Extensive grassroots consultations, which included deliberations by village education committees across 2.5 lakh gram panchayats along with multi-stakeholder meetings in blocks, districts and urban bodies/municipalities, commenced in June 2015. Parents, students, teachers, elected officials, administrators, members of civil society and citizens have actively participated in these meetings, which addressed issues across the 33 themes. Based on the consultation reports, State teams have held state consultations and are in the final stages of submitting their reports to the Centre.

In February this year, I convened a meeting of representatives of various ministries of the Government of India, inviting suggestions for devising curriculum from their perspective as well as providing inputs in terms of employability and manpower requirements. In March, consultations were held with state education ministers and state education secretaries to discuss the consultation process for the formulation of the NEP, in New Delhi. The NEP consultations were also extensively discussed during the CABE meeting in August. This was followed by six zonal meetings during September and October, which were attended by Education Ministers and officials of the respective States/ UTs. I have also had the opportunity to directly interact with district collectors and public representatives across the Nation through video conferencing.

Additionally, various central and state institutions, including UGC, AICTE, Association of Indian Universities (AIU), NCERT, CBSE, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS)-Shimla, Indira Gandhi Open University, Maulana Azad National Urdu University- Hyderabad, Central University of Gujarat, NLMA, Central University of Rajasthan, NUEPA, Central University of Sikkim and National Council for Teach Education, have held national thematic workshops. Over 200 such thematic workshops have been held across the country.

To further support offline consultations, online comments and suggestions were invited across online platforms. Over 29000 citizens have submitted recommendations on Field practitioners have participated in the online consultation process through UN Solutions Exchange (a knowledge management initiative of the UN). Over 15000 students have submitted their suggestions on education in India through CBSE’s portal. Further, UNESCO and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Education for Peace, Sustainable Development has undertaken a youth survey on the National Education Policy.

How do you plan to coherently accumulate all these inputs and then evolve an entirely new policy? Isn’t it too chaotic?

The mammoth task of engaging with citizens from all corners of the country has required cooperation and coordination across all political parties, state governments, civil society members and institutions. State education ministers, state education secretaries and district collectors have lead the efforts in their jurisdictions. In addition, 2.5+ lakh executive officers of local bodies are also directly involved in the process.

Further, technology is playing a critical role in the implementation. The team at MyGov has created an online consultation module, which has enabled the upload of reports/recommendation after each consultative meeting. As on December 9th2015, 1,07,865villages, 5337 block, 12871 ULB, 612 district and 12 states reports reflecting their aspirations for education in our country, have already been uploaded on the MyGov platform. The platform also allows for assimilation of recommendations from all levels as well as comparisons across themes.

Lastly, a Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy has been formed. This committee comprises of distinguished Administrators-Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary (Chairman); Smt. Shailaja Chandra, former Chief Secretary, NCT of Delhi; Shri Sevaram Sharma, former Home Secretary, NCT of Delhi; Shri Sudhir Mankad, former Chief Secretary, Gujarat, and Prof. J S Rajput, former Director, NCERT. They have been tasked with drafting the National Education Policy along with a Framework for Action (FFA). The National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi will assist the Committee, and perform the functions of a Secretariat to the Committee. I am confident that they have the necessary experience and skills to coherently accumulate all the inputs and draft a representative policy.

For far too long, we have debated only about history and social sciences. There is very little focus on the problems that plague our science education right from school to college levels. What is your view and how are you going to tackle this problem?

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched the Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan(RAA) to motivate and engage children in Science, Mathematics and Technology through observation, experimentation and fructification of ideas through inferences and model-building. Under the Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyaan, we are working towards systematic improvements in the school system by focusing on teacher preparation for Science, Mathematics and Technology, increasing recruitment of Science and Mathematics teachers and strengthening school science and mathematics laboratories. We have made provisions of additional teaching-learning equipment and supplementary books/materials in classrooms and the use of technology in Science and Mathematics teaching. There is work being done to develop resource materials as well as strengthening institutional support for teachers. Further, Higher Education Institutions have been identified to mentor schools.

RTE or Right to Education is another hotly debated topic on the social media. Sadly, it is not debated much on main stream media. In fact, you have even met with a prominent blogger who has done some phenomenal research on RTE. What, in your view, are the short comings of this law? How do you plan to address them? What are the political implications of such moves? Given your mandate, how much risk are you willing to take on modifying this law?

While the Right to Education Act has many merits, it also comes with its sets of challenges. In particular, the no-detention policy has been widely questioned. In fact, in the last Central for Advisory Board on Education (CABE) meeting, the no-detention policy as mandated by the RTE was deliberated in great detail.  During the meeting, a sub-committee to review this specific aspect of the RTE has been setup and all States have been asked to submit their views. Based on the sub-committee decision, I will initiate further appropriate action. In so far as how much risk am I willing to take, let me put on record that for too long HRD was looked upon through a political prism and ever since I have assumed office my resolve is that whatever is in the best interest of students shall be done.

For far too long, we have heard of a lethargic and a stubborn bureaucracy. Could you shed some light on how your work experience has been so far? Is it easy to push new and innovative ideas within the existing system?

My experience of the last 18 months has been that bureaucracy responds to strong leadership. If a clear vision is laid out, they respond with quick and appropriate action to implement policies and initiatives. I have had the opportunity to work with some excellent officers, who are dedicated to improving the systems. It is because of their cooperation & diligence that some of the innovative ideas of this government are being implemented successfully.  However, one must recognise that change takes time.

There seems to be a wide gap in government's communication strategy. Many feel that the pre 2014 momentum in disseminating information and facts is missing. Some even suggest that some amount of complacency has creeped in. Would you agree/ where do you think the government is faltering when it comes to Communication?

This government still has a strong communication strategy and has been effectively leveraging social media to directly engage with citizens. In fact, now most Ministries and Ministers have social media handles which are active and are being used to respond in real time to concerns of citizens. As recently as 2 days ago, the Minister of Railways, Mr. Prabhu helped students and teachers receive food and water in a delayed train, when they communicated their grievance via twitter. I have personally responded to a number of requests received through social media.
While it may seem that the momentum is disseminating, one must acknowledge that the nature of information being shared is now different. Our job now is to talk about the actual initiatives undertaken by the Government and communicate its impact, while ensuring that the voices of the people are heard. My Ministry has a comprehensive website, which provides updated and actionable information for all stakeholders.

I hope that the social media and other online resources are actively used by citizens to engage with my ministry and myself, along with others in the Government.

9. Primary role of HRD Ministry is education in the country. Digital India is a big initiative of the government. How are you planning to incorporate Digital India in education?
The HRD Ministry endeavours to use ICTs to expand educational opportunities, improve access to information and ensure transparency in implementation.

We are creating a National e-library to support learners by making quality learning resources available freely. We are also in the process of developing a robust Indian platform called SWAYAM, which will flow specially designed MOOCs courses- close to 250,000 hours of e-learning for students to learn and absorb inexpensively at their own pace. The Know Your College portal is developed by AICTE with the objective of helping prospective students make informed choices about which colleges to pursue admissions in. The searchable database of all accredited colleges in the country provides detailed profiles for each institution and also allows students to lodge grievances online.

e-Pathshala is a web portal and mobile apps which hosts all school books from grade 1 to 12 free for our students, teachers, parents, researchers and educators. Shaala Darpan enables parents to be kept informed digitally, in real time, about their child’s presence at school, mark sheets and time table. Shaala Siddi is a comprehensive framework which leverages an online platform for evaluation of school performance and standards.Saransh is an online self assessment tool developed by CBSE. It enables schools to look at their performance at an aggregate level and at the level of each student and compare their performance vis-à-vis all CBSE schools at various levels.  The tool includes data for 2.02 crore students, 1.5 lakh teachers across 15,000 schools, for a period of seven years. The Ministry of HRD has also taken an initiative to map elementary and secondary schools across the country on a GIS platform. We are using this GIS mapping for sanction of schools in gap areas for 2015-16 Annual Work Plan of SSA and RMSA.

Himanshu (Question received via Twitter):Education is a state subject, what is Centre’s role in policy and in persuading states to follow national footsteps?
Education is on the concurrent list and is not a state subject alone. In education, the Centre provides the policy and legal framework, funding and monitors the implementation of various schemes. This ensures that quality is maintained and equal access is provided to all. Further, intensive data collection at the national level to monitor progress is also undertaken by the Centre, whether it through UDISE for school’s education or Know Your College portal for higher education. Having said this, it is important to remember that States are responsible for implementing most policies, especially, for school education. Further, in most cases States do have the flexibility to customize the implementation according to regional needs. This is the beauty of the federal structure, which provides uniform direction yet accommodates for diverse needs, a critical requirement for education in India- since there are no one-size fits all solution.

Having said this, for too long this Ministry has been known for political compulsions and friction. However, I am proud to say that in the last 18 months, we have been able to build political consensus, which has ensured successful implementation of major projects in a short time. The Swach Vidyalay initiative is one example of this.
- See more at:

Questions to Smriti Irani

The following article was written for MyIndMakers. Pasting it here for reference. 

There was a lot of buzz on the social media about Smriti Irani’s excellent interview to Barkha Dutt (Watch it here), in which she gave great counters to the questions posed. Much against my wish, I watched the interview, hoping to get some insights into her work. What I heard instead was questions on Madhu Kishwar (yes, I am not kidding. Barkha spent time discussing Madhu Kishwar), Dinanath Batra, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Rahul Gandhi, 2019 elections etc. Even when Smriti Irani was talking about policy and achievements, the topic was being immediately diverted. This is not the first time that the members of the Lutyens media club did a shoddy job interviewing the country's HRD Minister. Rajdeep's drubbing at her hands is still fresh in our memory.

There is little value in dissecting the interviews. Instead it is important for us, the people of the country, 
to know the actual working of the HRD Ministry under Smriti Irani.

If I were to get a chance to interview Smriti Irani today, here is what I would ask (not in the order of priority).

1. You have recently claimed that separate toilets for boys and girls have been built in all government schools. All within a year. How was this achieved?

2. Constructing toilets is a big step, a good step, but providing water supply and maintaining cleanliness is also very important. How does the government plan to tackle this problem?

3. has seen tens of thousands of inputs for the proposed New Education Policy. We have also heard that you are seeking opinions right from the village level. Can you explain this process?

4. How do you plan to coherently accumulate all these inputs and then evolve an entirely new policy? Isn’t it too chaotic?

5. Over the past many years, we have heard many heated debates on how our history text books are skewed towards one line of thinking. Your party has also been in the forefront of this debate. How do you plan to address this?

6. For far too long, we have debated only about history and social sciences. There is very little focus on the problems that plague our science education right from school to college levels. What is your view and how are you going to tackle this problem?

7. RTE or Right to Education is another hotly debated topic on the social media. Sadly it is not debated much on main stream media. In fact you have even met with a prominent blogger who has done some phenomenal research on RTE. What, in your view, are the short comings of this law? How do you plan to address them? What are the political implications of such moves? Given your mandate, how much risk are you willing to take on modifying this law?

8. For far too long, we have heard of a lethargic and a stubborn bureaucracy. Could you shed some light on how your work experience has been so far? Is it easy to push new and innovative ideas within the existing system?

9. There seems to be a wide gap in government's communication strategy. Many feel that the pre 2014 momentum in disseminating information and facts is missing. Some even suggest that some amount of complacency has creeped in. Would you agree/ where do you think the government is faltering when it comes to Communication?

10. Primary role of HRD Ministry is education in the country. Digital India is a big initiative of the government. How are you planning to incorporate Digital India in education?

PS: When Smriti Irani asked Barkha Dutt why she doesn't cover the inputs received from villages on the new education policy, Barkha's answer was - that's a fair question. Like I keep telling, we deserve a better media.
- See more at:

Dear RG, Are you serious about India?

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference

“I hear talk about cleaning of the country. I mean, are we serious?” - Rahul Gandhi
In the viral video where students answer in YES, when Rahul was expecting a NO for his question on whether Swachh Bharat was working, there is one important bit that has escaped attention. At the beginning of this clip, Rahul Gandhi says:
“I hear talk about cleaning of the country. I mean, are we serious?”
On a lighter note, this family seems to be obsessed with the question – “Are you serious?”. Coming back to the point, it is a fact that we are one of the worst when it comes to maintaining clean surroundings. Many of our governments are also quite lethargic when it comes to focusing on cleanliness. Cleaning our country is one of the needs of the hour – a need that was recognized by Prime Minister Modi. So yeah, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, we are serious about cleaning.
It beats the daylights out of me that the Vice President of the Congress party has a serious problem with cleaning our own country – is he worried about the rot in his own backyard ?
Look into the mirror, and ask yourself Mr. Rahul Gandhi – why this willful ignorance to acknowledge and solve problems.
Sonia Gandhi stands up in the Lok Sabha, and says,
“People who never had faith in constitution nor had participated in its drafting, are now swearing by it… having a discussion on commitment to it. There can’t be a bigger joke than this.”
If you take the literal meaning of this, by her own logic, even Sonia Gandhi is not eligible to become a lawmaker of this country. But we all know she meant this metaphorically – which means a TDP, a DMK, a NCP, a AGP, a RJD, a SAD, a BJD, a BSP etc are all not eligible to swear by the constitution because they didn’t participate in its drafting. This kind of menial thought process is perhaps a trademark of the Congress party. Is Sonia Gandhi simply unable to digest the crushing defeat her party got under her leadership? She once called Modi a “maut ka saudagar”. She now does not want to respect the mandate of the people and tells him that his idea of discussing the constitution is a joke.
Mallikarjun Kharge stands up in the Lok Sabha, and warns this country that if any attempt is made to change the constitution, there will be bloodshed. He actually used the word bloodshed in the temple of democracy. It is extremely sad that he can’t be prosecuted because of automatic immunity you gain from talking in the Lok Sabha. The party he represents has amended the constitution more than 100 times. The very first amendment was an attack on free speech. There has been no bloodshed because of these amendments – so why is the party now warning of violence? Not a single question has been directed to Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi on this statement. Not a single op-ed in any newspaper that questions this call for violence, from the very temple of democracy.
Sunday’s newspapers were abuzz with how former PM Manmohan Singh played the mediator between Modi and Sonia. The Hindu’s front page report said that when PM asked the former PM to help, Manmohan Singh said that he doesn’t have much say in the floor strategies of the Congress and he would have to talk to Sonia Gandhi about that. Their treatment of the former PM aside, it is amazing how the media has also given Sonia Gandhi a cakewalk when it comes to floor strategy. She has herself asked her MPs to go into the well of the house to disrupt Lok Sabha. She has herself stormed into the well, to disrupt the Lok Sabha. Is this the kind of leadership we expect from the Congress party? Is this the party that holds the highest number of seats in Rajya Sabha and therefore controls many legislations that need to go through?
All of the above examples raise the following questions –
Why is the Congress so averse to change?
Why should there be no attempt to revisit the Constitution and see how it can be improved upon?
Why should those who were not born in 1950 not hold high office today?
Why should the country not be free of bloodshed?
Why should we not look into the mirror and say – we need to clean the country, so let’s buckle up?
Why should an elected government be held to ransom merely to satisfy the ego of one family?
Where will this status quo attitude of the Congress party lead us to?
It is time we ask these questions and demand answers from the Congress’s first family.

Debate with Mahesh Murthy - Part 2

Mahesh Murthy responded to my earlier article. His response can be found here: 
Here is my rebuttal, published in Niti Central. 
You wrote – “What he’s done in 18 months is bring back around Rs. 3,770 crores.” And you gave a live-mint link. Now, I opened the link. There is no mention of the number 3770. What I found is this – “India brought in about Rs.2,500 crore from a three-month window that ended last month.” Incase you didn’t read the whole line, let me paste the operative part for you. “Rs. 2500 crore from a three month window”. THREE MONTHS. Not Eighteen months. So, yet another statistic that has no basis.
Another lie – “It’s the BJP in Maharashtra and elsewhere that asked for a few days of “pure veg” to pander to the “sentiments of the Gujarati Jains”.” The “ban” has been in force in some areas since the year 1964. But please, don’t allow me to get facts in the way of your argument.
I clearly mentioned, and have also added a graphic that gave you the amounts of money recovered or generated (both relate to black money and corruption). The amounts add up to nearly 3 lakh crores. My source is the Prime Minister of India’s speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. If anyone has factual retorts to what he claimed – I (and hundreds of “bhakts”) are ready to listen and debate. Perhaps you can take this up as a challenge?
You then write – “Apparently, corruption is gone.” You didn’t stop there – “Apparently, BJP’s vote share in Bihar hasn’t gone down”. “Apparently, Modi had nothing to do with the anti-beef or pro-pure-veg movement.” And more.
Did I claim so? Why should everything be an either/or argument? I gave two examples of how corruption is being tackled at lower levels. If you had specific complaints, you could have elaborated it in your first piece itself. But instead you continue to resort to same sweeping generalisations – “nothing was done in Vyapam” – If more than 2000 arrests, case being handled under the direct supervision of the courts etc amounts to “nothing being done”, then so be it. The media noise over the deaths related to this turned out to be another fiasco. I have a detailed article on Niti, with facts, but looks like you might not be interested anyway. And what is this corruption case about Gadkari? The same case that was struck down?

The initial rant of this rebuttal means nothing – because as you surely would know, I am not responsible for the kind of reactions an article will generate. So as much as you love deriding the “bhakts” (and the silly reference to Rupa Subramanya), it doesn’t add any value to your current argument.
On twitter, you also mentioned that “BJP’s mouthpiece” responded to your piece without talking about why Bihar was lost. Even here, you start your rebuttal with “The BJP rebuts my piece on its loss in Bihar”. 1 – My piece was in response to *your* article. To rue that I didn’t talk about the Bihar loss instead is a self-defeating argument. 2. Niti Central has published many pieces that talk about the loss, and the way ahead for the party. So your contention that the “mouthpiece” is not discussing the loss flies in the face of this fact. But given the tendency to ignore key facts, I see no point in furthering this line of argument.
Next let’s come to some more specific points of rebuttal of my rebuttal. You find it funny that I linked charts available on Niti Central. If you had bothered to read my article carefully, I also asked if you or your ilk has counter arguments for these. People on social media are willing to debate if you have those. But there are no counters available. Even in your rebuttal, all you claim is that this is “funny”.
My point was that we need specifics in the argument. Your claim was sweeping – “reforms are not happening”. And now, you tell us that *your* understanding of the reforms is this – Land Acquisition, GST and OROP (It’s another thing that I find it weird that you consider OROP as a reform). OROP has been delivered – so I don’t know what you mean when you say – “Even what’s happened so far on OROP is a shame compared to what was promised.” Can you please share to care a document where we can all read in detail “what was promised”?
I have made the point about GST earlier – the Congress is opposing exactly what it proposed earlier. It wants to dilute a perfectly reasonable version of GST – and then people will pounce saying the BJP got a bad version of the GST. It would be imprudent not to see through this game and give in to the Congress – a party that has been given 44 seats by the people of this country.
Land Acquisition Bill should have been handled better – a fact that the government itself agreed.

Now – my view of “reforms” differs from “your” view of reforms. Which is central to the argument I made – be specific in the arguments. Also strange if you think GST mattered to the people of Bihar when they were voting for the local elections!
And your vague understanding of Foreign policy continues to baffle me. A fellow “bhakt” Chaitanya, has explained in detail what India (and not Modi) has gained from the visits to the countries you mention. Perhaps you can read get enlightened?
Once the election commission announces elections, no policy decisions can be announced. This is basics of election – 101. You really think a big decision like allowing FDI would have been taken in 2 days, and would have received the approval of the Cabinet?
Your grouse about points I have not rebutted holds little value – others have talked about the debacle. My article was to rebut the lack of facts in yours. It might sound weird to you, but it’s entirely possible that the tone of an article can be positive and also packed with lies.
PS: You still haven’t corrected the basic mathematical mistake in your initial piece.

Mahesh Murthy's liberty with facts

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.

Since it was the season where everyone was dissing Modi, I didn’t pay much attention to a post by Mahesh Murthy that was making rounds on Facebook. And then I saw it was gaining traction, and read it. I was aghast to see a post that was filled with so many lies, gaining so much traction. But that’s what perhaps happens when one is defeated and therefore all and sundry can give advice. And today, after I saw this same post on Huffington Post, I realized that this lie (no actually, this post with multiple lies in it) has gone too far, with no one countering it at all.

So I am making this humble attempt. In his own words – Dear Mahesh Murthy – here’s why your analysis is flawed to the core.
“Reforms haven’t happened.”
A sweeping statement like this, with zero data points, has now become a norm amongst those criticizing Modi government. Not a single commentator writes what exact reforms were they hoping will be done, and why they haven’t been done yet. “Reforms” have been initiated through various financial inclusion schemeslike Jan Dhan and Insurance schemes; reforms have been initiated through various changes in the banking sector – MUDRA bank, Gold monetization schemes etc; reforms have been announced recently on FDI in various sectors; reforms have been initiated and implemented in the Infrastructure sector; some commentators have even called many steps as “small big reforms”. I can go on and on – but maybe you can take a detailed look of various graphics in this link. And then maybe, maybe you can rebut the facts in these graphics?
Reforms are yet to be initiated in the tax structure; there are still bureaucratic road blocks that at times become major hurdles; reforms are yet to be fully implemented in ease of doing businesses – these have to be focus areas and therefore would have been good if “experts” like you dwell on these. Instead what do we get? A sweeping statement – “Reforms haven’t happened”.
Corruption may have come down a bit but hasn’t disappeared.
Again, zero data points. What does “may have come down a bit” even mean? There are multiple avenues of corruption – right from the lowest levels of government to the highest. The anger amongst people during the 2011-2013 phase was primarily because of the massive corruption at the highest levels.
Narendra Modi has also attempted to curb corruption at the lower levels, which is what affects you and me. Ever tried getting signatures of gazette officers for your certificates? Ever tried attending an interview for lower rung posts in the government? You think all these were not hotbeds of corruption? Modi has made a good beginning by starting to identify these issues and removing them from the system. Digital India, once it begins to become a reality, will help curb this corruption too.
Modi also the enormous task of filling the bureaucracy with confidence – that any decision taken in the right spirit will not be enquired upon. Post the UPA debacle, we know the bureaucracy was afraid to take critical decision, fearing backlash. There has not been a single case of corruption that has senior levels of the establishment involved. And wherever there was a whiff of such corruption, officers were transferred promptly.
There is considerable anger amongst people that the wrong-doers of the UPA era are still at large. This in no way implies that no action is being taken against corruption.
“Your promises about black money have largely proven to be a joke.”
I had an argument with an editor in The Hindu on this too. But as usual, the cabal likes to spread as much lies as possible on this. The promise was to initiate the process to start retrieving black money within 100 days. It started within 3 days of government formation. In his Independence day address, the PM has claimed that they have retrieved 11,000 crores of black money so far. And through various other initiatives, the government has generated nearly 3 lakh rupees of revenue. The below graphic explains it better.
Now, do you or your ilk have any answers to this? Have you or your ilk countered this information by the PM with counter-statistics? The answer I have so far is a resounding No.
Banning beef
This was countered earlier too. But maybe the ilk is lazy to read, so let’s paste a graphic.
The slaughter of cattle is banned in many states in India – some from as far back as 1955. Narendra Modi was 5 years old then.
After coming to power, Modi did not pass a single order for “banning beef” – then why does the ilk shamelessly peddle this lie?
Having pure veg days
Whoa – where did this come from? Modi actually announced something like this?! What is this fetish to spread lies, and then lecture Modi on avoiding doing such things? I mean, how does one undo things that one has not done in the first place?
Shutting down International NGOs 
I think you are referring to Greenpeace. Greenpeace was found to be violating the law. They have shown a typographical error to be the basis of missing 6 crore rupees. How exactly does one write 0 instead of 60,000,000? If you have a specific grouse, why don’t you mention it? Are you and your ilk advocating the government go easy on those who violate the law?
Spending more time visiting places outside India than being in India itself. Stop the bloody foreign tours except when it’s part of the economic agenda.
I am not surprised that you haven’t bothered to explain which foreign tour of his was not related to an economic agenda? Some statistics I want to throw at you. In 2009 – 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled for 47 days. In 2014-2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled for 53 days.
I saw another statistic that said that the Chinese President Hu Jintao travelled for 63 days in the first 16 months of his office. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spent 66 days in the same period.
So far, the statistic available is that nearly 20 billion worth of FDI inflows have happened from the countries that the Prime Minister has visited.
Leave all this aside – the Prime Minister of the country *needs to travel* if we want to make a global impact. Every single trip of his will be associated with economy and security related stuff only. And plus there are many unique aspects to his visits too. Your flawed understanding of foreign policy doesn’t give you the right to ask the PM to stop the “bloody foreign” tours.
“Deal with the opposition nicely”
I am pretty sure you haven’t watched a single hour of any parliament session in Modi’s term. If you have, you would have also seen how baselessly the opposition has been trying to stone-wall the government’s agenda. You would also have seen how leaders like Sitaram Yechury and Anand Sharma stand up every single day, and bring in lofty rhetoric to stone wall bills. In spite of this, Modi government has passed many landmark bills. The only bills on which there has been an impasse was the GST and the LAB. LAB has been retracted. Congress is being adamant on GST and is opposing the exact same things they proposed earlier. But hey – let’s ask Modi to be more humble. Sonia Gandhi can continue to be arrogant, but Modi must show humility.
Whether it was you not condemning the Dadri Murder, or looking-the-other-way when orange-clad swami-type idiots in your party made ridiculous statements
The Prime Minister has spoken up against loose statements by political leaders earlier. He has spoken about the caste and communal poison that affects our country – yet, your ilk has never bothered to talk then.
I am still trying to figure out how another statement by the PM when the Dadri violence has happened, would have helped matters. Caste and religion based violence is a bane of this country. These exist in almost every single state of this country. But Modi’s opponents only focus on religion based violence and try to spread canards regarding this. Unfortunate that such agenda has been allowed to peddle.
Lastly, Mr. Mahesh Murthy – please learn some simple mathematics. Here is your statement –“your national vote share in 2014 was 31%, and it’s dropped to 24% in Bihar. So primarily you’ve lost a quarter of your earlier fan base in just 18 months.” I am still trying to figure out how you linked a 24% share in Bihar and 31% share in India as a drop of “quarter of your fan base”. I mean, did you really think your readers are so ignorant?
The “bhakts” are a derided lot. Yet, most articles that critique Modi government based on facts and give policy based advice, come from them. It is a matter of serious concern that the BJP has totally messed up its messaging and communication – that is one of the things Prime Minister Modi has to fix. Else, we will have the likes of Mahesh Murthy spread more lies and get away with them.

Real India lies beyond TV studios

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference. 

She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.”

While Aamir Khan is drawing lot of flak for his statement that his wife wondered if they have to leave India, this other statement of his has largely gone un-noticed. Why does she “feel scared to open the newspapers every day”?

You and I would be scared too, if we pick up the newspaper and see this on the front page.

For the record, this is front page of The Hindu, in its Hyderabad edition, on June 7 2015. I read this and will feel sad that this had to happen in Mumbai, the “maximum city”. Then I will go about talking to my friends that day and tell that something undesirable is happening in our country; that we should all live in harmony etc. We will get bored of that discussion, and then be like “Chalo, let’s lighten up, and have some chai”. And by the end of the day, we move on. But the thought lingers.

I am a lazy person, so all I see is front page of the newspaper everyday. And maybe perhaps the movie page. And therefore, I will never, never know that the following is the true story:

The front page story of The Hindu turns out to be a bogus one. 3 different newspapers/websites have confirmed that it is a bogus story. Police enquiry has confirmed that it is a bogus story. The Hindu, did not even care to publish this news in its newspaper. Instead, they let the thought linger on. Their faithful readers would have never known that the story is bogus.

Perhaps I am exaggerating and dramatizing a one-off incident by a reputed newspaper? Let’s move away from this newspaper for a while then.

But Siddarth Siddarth ….. We also have to accept we didn't do full reporting.”
What is this full reporting about? “Media did not do due diligence before presenting the church attacks as an example of some Hindutva backlash.

Hey – I didn’t say this. Neither did the BJP. Barkha Dutt said this to Siddarth Varadarajan. Yes – you are reading this right. In this 55 minute video, where they were supposed to interview the Environment minister of the country, at around 23:50, Barkha Dutt reminds Siddarth Varadarajan that they “didn’t do full reporting and due diligence”.

Do I need to remind you, the informed reader, on how the “Church attacks” were played up during the campaign of the Delhi election? Do I need to remind you, the informed reader, on the number of editorials, op-eds, blogs that extolled us on the need for being tolerant and how this was all expected because the BJP government came to power (never mind that one attack was in West Bengal)?

There was only one article that showed the facts and the truth, during that time-frame itself, and quite conveniently the article was ignored by the entire main stream media. And months after the damage was fully done; months after the agenda to spread communal fear was successfully accomplished, we the people, get to hear in a commotion-filled discussion – “We also have to accept we didn't do full reporting”. Not in the form of an apology, not in any article. But somewhere in a commotion, I had to pick it up. What did we do to deserve this kind of a mainstream media?

Perhaps I am still dramatizing, given the frustration on how the “intolerance” debate is being framed? Let’s move away from this whole communal angle for a bit.

On the same day, June 28, two journalists of repute wrote something very disturbing:

Journalist 1: 23 witnesses and an accused dead in the Vyapam scam. Who is behind it, why isnt it getting more media attention?

Journalist 2: 51 dead, almost 1800 in jail across India, the #VyapamScam is surely a fit case for much more media coverage than it has so far got?

The Journalists in question were Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose. How can your numbers be so far off? How many died? 23 or 51? Or do bodies don’t matter to the media at all? Or was this in a fit of anger against the BJP? Maybe we the people should wait for a detailed report that gives better numbers?

NDTV published a report and I had this query about their report – “report says 29 deaths. Byline says 35. Can you please clarify”.  The responses I got in the conversations here and here are so revealing. Our media is not even able to get the number of dead people right!

Then there’s of course the dramatics. The coverage of the Vyapam Scam in the English media began when a journalist of Aaj Tak died under mysterious circumstances. The fraternity was up in the arms that this was a murder. And then we were told there was a simple demand – “Simple Demand of all journalist orgns in Akshay Singh death. MP govt must forthwith send viscera report to AIIMS.”
The MP government sent the visceral samples (and not just the report) to AIIMS. Have you heard back from the “journalists orgns” on what happened since? Are you familiar with what AIIMS told in their report? Is your answer a resounding NO? I leave it you, the informed reader, to see the pattern of their coverage.

Let’s now come back to The Hindu and the communal intolerance debate. When Rupa Subramanya again gave us facts on the number of communal incidents in the country pretty much were the same since 3-4 years, what the associate editor of The Hindu tweeted (a series of 7 tweets) is very revealing. 

While I paste all of them here, I wish to highlight a few portions:

Nitwits who argue that outrage against lynching/ communal polarisation & communal mobilisation during present regime is unjustified.. because there were riots & communal polarisation before as well, are basically being nitwits. Of course, riots & communal polarisation happened bf4This regime is qualitatively different is because of its ideological persuasion which encourages & supports the basis for communal poison. And in the many other riots/ incidents in the past, the party in power as part of the #Parivar played a role in inciting many of those incidents. The outrage is therefore only justified.Nothing of what is happening today in terms of the lynching, the uber-stupid #beef controversy etc is surprising. Little else was expected when the unapologetic BJP, associated with the #Sangh whose ideology is seeped in communalism, came to power”.

They are openly admitting that facts do not play a role. They are telling us, the readers that they will report more about communal polarization only when the BJP is in power and not when the Congress is in power. But then what are the facts? Last week, The Hindu itself published a front page report:

The statistics are quite telling. More communal incidents happened under UPA’s watch. The media chose not to highlight them. The editors are now open about it – the communal incidents under Modi will be highlighted till saturation, irrespective of whether it will affect the nation or not.

Prime Minister Modi recently very aptly said – “There is an India beyond what TV and newspapers are showing”. I hope the likes of Kiran Rao wake up to go see that India. I have no hope though that the English media will wake up to go see that India. Like I have been saying from a long time – we deserve a better media.