Don't Give Mythological Spin to India's Growth Saga
MAY 02, 2018
By Naresh Minocha, Consulting Editor
TRANSFORMING India initiative has taken wings. Some BJP stalwarts are giving mythological spin to modern science. Recall recent take from a Union Minister that mantras codified Newton's Laws of Motion before they were framed by Isaac Newton.
Other leaders are giving scientific touch to mythology. One BJP Chief Minister has claimed that ancient India had developed technologies such as satellites and internet. Another one claimed that a Vedic sage was like Google.
And some prominent leaders are giving mythological touch to post-Independence history. The first two episodes can be taken as welcome amusement during summer. The third episode, which distorts modern history, should not be taken lightly. It calls for a scrutiny in a scientific manner.
Modi Government's entire Vikas model is based on 5 elements 1) renaming and repackaging existing schemes, 2) blacking out or marginalizing the good work done in the past, 3) presenting facts in distorted manner4) hogging limelight for all positivity & 5) cursing Congress &Nehru-Gandhi family for India's problems.
The Government has smartly deactivated a few servers/weblinks that provided access to treasure trove of archival information. It knows that this is the best way to prevent scribes and analysts from giving historical perspective to India's achievements. The denial of online access is, however, another cup of tea. It can be set aside for another write-up.
The attempt to recreate history for political aggrandizement can be understood by focusing on rural electrification. It should not be construed as an attempt to undermine well-deserved applaud over India electrifying its last powerless village on 28th April 2018.
This milestone deserves appreciation from all the stakeholders of inclusive growth.
There is, however, another side to this achievement: There is nothing to crow about completing target of electrifying 18500 villages in 1000 days three days before the deadline of 1st May 2018. This target was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August 2014.
This target translates into yearly target of 6751.82 villages, which is much below the national average of electrification of 8860.65 villages per year over 67 years beginning 1951-52 & ending 2017-18.
NDA Government's yearly target dwarfs before the record electrification of 18,374 villages by UPA Government in 2019-10 and 18306 villages in 2010-11.
Modi Government also missed very badly the target of electrifying 8360 villages in 2016-17 as did the UPA Government in a few years.
Such ups and downs are normal in a long arduous journey of development spanning over the decades. They should not be banished from official discourse.
Electrification of villages is like a relay race from Kanya Kumari to Mount Everest where the last participant hoists the Indian flag. When the race started with the beginning of first five year plan in 1951, India had only electrified 3800 villages. Today, the country's all the 597,464 census villages are electrified, an official claims that has been disputed by news reports from ground zero.
While thumping its chest, Modi Government has overlooked the fact that electrification of villages was super-marathon, relay race.
In such a race, each participant in the race tries his best and passes on the baton to the next one. At times, the handover of baton is not smooth and it falls down. Sometimes, the participant stumbles.
Several milestones get etched during the decades-long relay race. Some milestones are so important that even mules would not miss them.
If the last participant expropriates credit for success for the entire development saga for his/her last-mile comfortable dart, it is time to be on the guard. The elation turns sour if the ruling party's big shots ridicule the Opposition leaders as has happened in this case.
The electrification of residual villages should not erase previous milestones. Names of visionaries who conceived and toiled for rural electrification should not be consigned to the dustbin. Credit should not be given to ones who were not even remotely connected with electrification of villages.
Almost the entire cabinet and BJP top brass latched on to a story about electrification of India's last village in Senapati district of Manipur. They tagged this story from a pink daily in their tweets about electrification of all the 597,464 census villages.
Ruling Class, its admirers and many other citizens thus sustained Twitter trend #Powerful India by tagging this news. Many prepared special illustrations to laud Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision and ridicule UPA/Congress regimes.
"Realising the dream of PM @narendramodi, every single village in India gets lit up. A tribute to the vision of Antyodaya by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay," tweeted Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha also credited Mr. Modi in his tweet. He wrote: "Dreams of Indians and the vision of Hon PM Sh. @narendramodiji is a reality now".
Tweets from other ministers and others extolled Mr. Modi's vision on rural electrification. No one cared to identify who the original visionary was. No one cared to recall major milestones that created the requisite momentum for electrification of all villages.
Even PM did not care to utter even one word about unforgettable milestones that contributed to building of the Skyscraper, whose roof was completed by NDA Government. Electrification of residual villages (4.5%) over four years can at best be considered as icing on the cake.
BJP President Amit Shah tweeted: "Today, the entire nation is celebrating power for every single village while the Congress is mourning the loss of power for one family. Before their rally I hope the Congress leaders read this".
Thousands of such tweets appear daily on one scheme or other, eulogizing Modiji for different achievements. They bury the concept of brick-by-brick building of India's growth story. Thousands of foul mouths spew lies and abuses about the contribution of previous regimes. Modern history today faces risk of being bludgeoned out of shape.
Refer to Mr. Goyal's tweet. He attributes the electrification of all villages to the vision of Pandit Deen Dayal, a BJP leader of Bharatiya Jana Sanghvintage, who passed away in 1968.
What was Panditji's role in electrification of hamlets? There is nothing in the public domain to show that he worked for provision of electricity in rural areas.
When Mr. Goyal held the power portfolio, the Government revised rural electrification scheme and named it as Deen Dayal Upadhayay Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) during November 2014. Simultaneously, it merged existing scheme named Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuti karan Yojana (RGGVY) into it.
This is fair enough. BJP has every right to match Congress' short-sighted politics of tagging names from Nehru-Gandhi family to many schemes and projects.
Modi Government has, however, erred by not uttering even once the name of rural electrification visionary, who was not part of this tainted family.
The undisputed visionary was Dr. K.L. Rao, an engineer-turned-minister who was associated with several big dam projects including Bhakra dam. He is often identified as father of irrigation in India.
Late Dr. Rao left no stone unturned to push for rural electrification with focus on power as the energizer of irrigation pumps. It was he who laid a statement in Parliament on 29th July 1969, announcing Government's decision to set up Rural Electrification Corporation (REC). Rest is history as they say.
To quote Dr. Rao, "There was persistent demand from the Members of Parliament for rural electrification and rightly so as it meant more food since the energy is principally required for pumping. The State Governments were meeting this demand only partially mainly due to financial stringencies. Also the emphasis placed by the different States varied. During my visit to USA I saw the extensive rural electrification and the great prosperity it had bestowed even on the remotest parts".
He wrote: "It was clear to me that unless a Central agency was created it was not possible to give rural electrification a fillip, I mooted the idea of setting up a Rural Electrification Corporation which was established in 1969. With the strong support of Dr. Gadgil then Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission, the idea was approved in spite of opposition. The funds from PL 480 provided by USA helped in implementing the scheme expeditiously. I was also very keen that by the time of the Gandhi centenary at least one lakh villages in the country and all the villages around Delhi should be electrified".
To set the history straight, the first major milestone in the quest for removing darkness from villages was articulated in 1955. A seminar at Roorkeere commended Rural Electrification schemes, a topic that figured in Parliament.
While thumping chest on how it has electrified remotest villages with painstaking efforts, it should spare a thought to how similar initiatives were made in past when there was no social media. There were then no decentralized solar power systems. The use of helicopters for transporting parts of electrical system to remote villages was not even a remote thought.
Heavens would not have crashed if Mr. Modi had tweeted a quote from Parliament debates on rural electrification or from Dr. Rao's 1978 book captioned 'Cusecs Candidate -Memoirs of an Engineer.'
He cited the case of electrification of 20 villages in Nandigama Taluk in Andhra Pradesh. These hamlets, located between two rivers with no bridge, had fertile land but no source of irrigation. He thought if electricity were provided to villagers, they could use ground water to irrigate dry areas and for cultivating second crops.
As put by Dr. Rao, "I convinced villagers of the importance of their contribution, and a rural electrification scheme was sanctioned on the understanding that the local people would contribute the manual labour for the scheme. We supplied the villagers the basic construction materials like steel, moulds for casting poles etc. The people cast the poles themselves. After curing, they transported them in their bullock carts to the locations, erected them, stretched the wires and cooperated in all possible ways".
He continued: "In six months, all the villages in that area were electrified and these villages are now prosperous. This has convinced me that many more similar programmes should be undertaken and necessary enthusiasm generated by the respected leaders of the people".
The book has a few more interesting anecdotes. One should read them to understand that vikas is much more than ego trip sustained by daily dose of positive twitter trends.
There are many fascinating stories of rural electrification that happened during each successive regime. BJP leaders need statesmanship to give credit to such events by eschewing hatred towards departed souls from rival parties. Above all, we all Indians need a break from dirty politics.