I was taken aback, a few days ago, when the staff in my office showed me a WhatsApp forward or “post” written by “Julius Rebeiro”, chiding Mr Modi very gently for repeatedly saying that for 60 years the Congress party and the Gandhi family had done nothing for the country, and, it was the BJP and Narendra Modi, in particular, that had achieved all that the people aspired for!
Besides my name being misspelt, the post had described me as the retired director general of police, Maharashtra. I was commissioner of police, Mumbai, and DGP Gujarat for four months. I was also DGP Punjab for two years, but not DGP Maharashtra. The post seemed to have been widely shared, including with my daughters who were not amused by the grammatical errors written in my name. Despite this, however, the writer, whoever he is, made many people believe that it was Julio Ribeiro who had written the post.
In fact, I was amazed at the number of people who met me in the last three days to congratulate me on speaking out for what was they believed was right and correct. They were a trifle disappointed to learn that I was not the author of the post. Regardless, I assured them that I largely agreed with the contents of the post. In fact, I thought that the writer had comprehensively rebutted Modi’s oft-repeated insinuations that the Congress and the Gandhis were not at all interested in the development of the country but were only interested in their personal fortunes. It is true that Modi’s government has accelerated the development agenda in many spheres and has done a lot of good work that could have been done earlier. But it is not true that the earlier governments, including that of Morarji Desai (incidentally my father’s classmate in Wilson College), had nothing to show the people.
So I became in a manner of speaking, the victim of “fake news”, which was factually correct. The writer’s opinion was shared by me and many other right-thinking people. When India gained Independence in 1947, I was in college, and I have seen the country progress since then. Modi’s assertion that there was no progress in 60 years is simply not true.
Modi is right when he says that all villages in India have been successfully electrified under his reign, but he has forgotten to tell the people that the work to that effect had started much earlier — that 85 per cent or more was completed before he took over and that the remaining 15 per cent was done during his time, in the course of natural progression. Modi boasts about the provision of toilets in each village of the country but open defecation continues because of the acute scarcity of water to flush the toilets.
I am the chairman of an NGO which has taken on the task of improving the quality of life of the people living around Rajgurunagar in Khed taluka of Pune district. Electricity is available for not more than two hours a day, prompting my NGO to provide inverters and solar panels to the 150-odd schools in the taluka so that e-learning — which depends on computers — is not suddenly interrupted. And, toilet blocks are being used by individual houses to store excess baggage for the simple reason that they cannot be used without water.
These are practical difficulties for which Modi cannot be blamed. His intentions are good and he certainly is working overtime to see a better India emerge. I also admire the fact that there are many senior leaders in his party who are similarly fired with true nationalist fervour to ensure that their work benefits the people. But their constant chest thumping and exaggerations are becoming embarrassments. They are taking the form of “fake news” which is something that people are beginning to see through.
For instance, the Balakot attack was one bold decision taken by a bold leader to cross the LoC and strike at the terror camps. It would have reaped electoral dividends for the BJP. But the unnecessary exaggerations regarding the number of people killed and the bringing down of an F-16, which has not been really proved, has greatly detracted from the good professional work done by the Indian Air Force. In my opinion, therefore, it is becoming counter-productive.
The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab