A Prime Minister, a reformer

Narendra Modi’s social reform agenda sets him apart and above the political class

Written by Madhur Bhandarkar | Updated: January 18, 2018 11:25 am
Swachh Bharat Mission, Swachh Bharat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi, PM Modi, Indian Express, Indian Express News PM Narendra Modi

“Papa, why do people litter on streets? Have they not heard our prime minister talk about making India a ‘swachh’ nation? Is it that hard to change a habit?” These were the questions posed to me by my 11-year-old daughter, Siddhi, the other day. Such questions by an innocent mind left me thinking. They also made me realise how socially aware today’s children are about the nation’s current narrative. But what impacted me the most was the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi is able to connect with ease, even with a child.

Siddhi’s keen observations are just one aspect of sweeping social reforms that are taking place in India. Amidst the political din that keeps engulfing our nation, it is heartening to see how the PM is using his positive energies and charismatic persona to bring about social change that Indians, particularly the youth, have been longing for.

India has seen many popular prime ministers but Modi is a class apart. Some call him a mass leader, some an astute politician and for some he is a leader who believes in the politics of development. For me he is the social reformer of the 21st century — a leader who is destined to transform Indian society.

Since Modi took office, over 5.92 crore toilets have been constructed, while 3 lakh villages and 300 districts have been made open defecation free. India’s sanitation coverage under the Swachh Bharat Mission in the last three years has gone up from 38 per cent to an impressive 76 per cent. It took 70 years for a prime minister to effectively address the basic issue of sanitation and cleanliness.

I remember how Modi, armed with a broom, had taken to the streets to launch the Swachh Bharat Mission. A PM sweeping streets was unimaginable in the Indian political discourse. It captured the imagination of the nation. And the results are here to see.

There are several examples which show how our society is undergoing a major transformation. Initiatives like taking yoga to the masses, banning the use of red beacons to end VIP culture, special schemes for divyangs and sensitising people to their needs, ending the formality of getting forms/certificates attested by gazetted officers, exhorting people to prepare their own manure through composting — these may look like small initiatives but their impact is massive.

As head of the government, a prime minister needs to take strong economic, political and strategic decisions. But it is rare to see a PM connecting with masses through Mann Ki Baat, where the talk is about changing the nation. Or for that matter, the ramparts of Red Fort have always been used to deliver messages to the nation and the world, but never for making a connect with the masses and motivate them for societal transformation.

The PM’s call to revive the khadi industry has led to a revolution of sorts. The party which always claims the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, who made khadi the mainstay of Independence movement, did nothing to help poor farmers and artisans. It was Modi who thought differently.

Programmes like “beti bachao, beti padhao” have achieved the unimaginable in states like Haryana, besides changing the mindset of the masses towards the girl child and women. Giving over 3.2 crore LPG connections in over 700 districts to poor women and providing LED bulbs to people are other commendable steps. Providing cheap medicines through “Jan Aushadhi” stores and Amrit pharmacy stores, and putting a price ceiling on coronary stents and knee implants are some revolutionary steps in healthcare.

An issue close to my heart is that of triple talaq. For ages, Muslim women have always been at the receiving end due to inhuman divorce custom. For political parties they remained a mere vote bank. In a progressive society, such cruel customs have no place. Kudos to the prime minister, who stood resolutely for the rights and dignity of Muslim women.

I am not a politician. I am an artiste, a filmmaker, a creative person who makes socially relevant cinema. But yes, I am a keen observer of the society. I see Indian society changing in a manner we never thought achievable. People are now reacting to a leader’s call not for any political reason but to bring about social changes that are going to transform India’s psyche forever.

I write this because I see India’s future being shaped by a strong, decisive leader who cares about poorest of the poor. I see Modi more as a social reformer than a political person. I can confidently tell Siddhi and others like her that India’s destiny lies in safe hands. Their tomorrow will be better than ours.

The writer is a filmmaker

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