On Saturday, all the newspapers carried bright and beautiful advertisements of the Make in India Week to be inaugurated that evening by the Prime Minister in Mumbai. ‘India is Open for Business’ proclaimed one proudly, heralding the gigantic PR exercise for Modi’s pet economic project. Over 2,500 foreign delegates, including a few prime ministers – the Swedish PM, for instance – and up to 10,000 Indian delegates including the glitterati
of Indian industry were invitees. Amitabh Bachchan was there. Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif were there too.
On Sunday evening, the only bright sparks at the function came from the flames that engulfed the grand stage by the sea at Girgaum Chowpatty and suddenly, the great Modi dream seemed to have gone up smoke. Maharashtra Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis who was present at the grounds when the stage caught fire during a dance performance to celebrate Maharashtra night, was left red-faced. Literally.
Modi had given a rousing speech on Saturday, inviting all comers to invest, make in India. On Sunday evening, the world saw what we are made of as news channels interrupted regular programming to bring viewers footage of incident: it spread life wildfire across the screen. On Monday morning it was the lead picture on most newspapers. Had it not been so sad, it would have been a beautiful spectacle — the orange yellow flames swaying against the backdrop of black sky.
The impact of the fire for those present at the venue, and for those watching it at home cannot be underestimated. A showpiece event to attract foreign investment catches fire, raising questions immediately about the quality of the workmanship, the materials used – and infrastructure – for the event, the very things the Prime Minister is trying to promote.
The fire showed us up for what we are: a nation of makeshifts – jugaad is the best way to describe it – where professionalism and excellence are often absent as we simply muddle along. If you cannot make a stage properly, what will you make good?
The fire on Sunday at Girgaum Chowpatty showed the world why not to Make in India.