Dear Prime Minister
I am a 22-year-old final-year student of mass communication at Patna Women’s College, and live in a modest house at Patrakar Nagar on the outskirts of the capital. I had to convince my father, Ashok Kumar, a retired senior accounts officer with the Accountant General’s Office, to let me study journalism, as most parents in Bihar want to see their children become IAS or IPS officers, or doctors, engineers, bank managers.
I secured a first division in Class 10 and Class 12, and had to clear a tough entrance test and interview to get admission to the journalism course. I took the challenging path of photojournalism, which is not preferred by girls because of safety issues. But I am happy and proud that my father gave me the freedom to do so, even though I am his only child. I find photojournalism fascinating because pictures record not just moods and history but also give opportunities to understand life’s variety and challenges in beautiful shades.
On the personal front, 2015 was outstanding as my college trip to Hyderabad gave me an opportunity to see Ramoji Film City and other landmarks. A girl from Bihar, who can hardly move around the state capital, could not have asked for more. But then, my mind moves towards national issues, where I find an overdose of politics and ego clashes. I wish there could have been less bitterness after the personal attacks that we saw during the Bihar assembly elections.
As students, we often discuss the promises you made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, especially that of bringing back “black money”. Now that you have completed one and a half years as prime minister, it is time to deliver. The other thing that disturbs me is the number of your foreign trips. There have been many jokes about them, some not in good taste. We do not doubt your intentions and believe your trips may bring us investment and employment opportunities. But you have to take care of several bitter hometruths, as well. Even as we talk of Digital India, we are still grappling with basic problems of bijli, sadak, pani.
So my wish is you spend more time in your country in 2016, in its jhuggis and among daily-wagers and tea-sellers, an identity you proudly speak about to chants of “Modi, Modi”.
On other issues, I am happy with the recent court verdict in the Salman Khan case in which the actor was acquitted. But my heart goes out to the pavement dwellers. Are there really two sets of laws in India? Although I do not have the legal knowledge to challenge the court, I enjoy my freedom to be sensitive. Parliament recently passed amendments to the Juvenile Justice Bill, but Jyoti Singh did not get justice. One of the perpetrators got away with not-so-severe punishment only because he was a minor at the time. If the impact of an offence committed by a minor is the same as that by someone who has attained majority, where is the difference? It is nice to say that the law will take its own course but it is time our lawmakers defined the right course. Please ensure that a Jyoti Singh-like case is never repeated. That assurance would be the biggest new-year gift for us. When I venture out with my camera, I want you to give me a fear-free India. If I get 10 minutes with you, I will tell you what freedom means to a girl and what a daughter returning home safely means to a father.
In Bihar, one of the things that I found missing in 2015 was job opportunities. Can you ensure campus selection in our college? Our college should also be granted university status. I want to pursue my post-graduation in journalism but Bihar does not have a good university that offers such a course. I am now hoping to pursue my masters from Jamia Millia Islamia. Also, no big investments came to Bihar last year. I would like you to create job opportunities that go beyond gender bias. I have had enough of being called a member of the fairer sex.
Can you also help make my city smart? Patna, which was once the seat of power, is so cluttered and dishevelled. As a sports lover, I would also like to see the renovation of Moinul Haque Stadium. Now that you are at the helm of affairs, I hope you will set aside all political acrimony and work for long-term solutions. As we go into 2016, my other big worry is pollution. I am also worried whether the Bihar government’s plan to ban liquor will be successful. It feels very good to read that milk parlours could be opened instead of liquor shops but can that wish be realised? The new year also comes with hope. My hopes for 2016 include a superfast train from Patna to Delhi, if not a bullet train. I have heard a lot about the Delhi Metro. Can you at least help get the delayed Patna Metro project back on track? Can you also help improve internet speeds and address the problem of call-drops? Finally, I have been trying to get my vehicle registered at the regional transport office but have not been able to do so because of the cumbersome process. There is a lot of corruption at lower levels in government offices. Can you use technology so that we can bypass the chains of babudom and so that government schemes directly reach beneficiaries? Please also agree to the Niti Aayog’s suggestion to spend one per cent of the budget on research and development.
Finally, can you come to my house to taste Bihar’s fabulous litti-chokha? How about Gaya’s tilkut, the flavour of Bihar winters?
***On Monday: A Marathwada farmer