November 24 Message

"Maan ki Baat"


As usual PM Modi's monthly 'Maan ki Baat' on the Radio on November 24, 2019, was meant to sidetrack the real issues facing the people of the country and hide his own Government's failures.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's heart did not seem to move when the people learned of the UNICEF report revealing half of India's children were suffering from malnutrition. They are stunted, wasted or underweight. Every second child is affected by some form of malnutrition. The report stated that 35% of Indian children suffered from stunting due to lack of nutrition, 17% suffered from wasting, 33% are underweight and 2% are overweight. Every second women in the country is anaemic, as are 40.5% children. An alarmingly high number of children are suffering the consequences of poor diets. Almost two in three children between 6 months and 2 years old are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies, and brains. Thus the latest Global Hunger Index (GHI) has ranked India a lowly 102 among the 117 countries that have been mapped. India, thus, is one of the 47 countries that have serious levels of hunger.

The pathetic state of health care system of the country, too, did not seem to have touched the Prime Minister's heart. The poor people are forced to travel in rural and tribal areas more than 10 miles to reach a hospital, carrying the patient on their backs or on cot. Medicines are often not available in these far-flung hospitals even for common ailments. The condition is equally worse in community health centres where there is always a shortfall of specialists by over 80 percent. India is, according to a US Study, short of 6 lakh doctors and 2 million nurses. The hospitals such as even Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences at Chandigarh, are choked with a patient overload of 9,500 patient's visit in its outpatient department everyday. Patients come from as far as Manipur, Bihar, Leh-Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. In 2018, as many as, 10,87,420 patients were from Punjab alone, while Haryana stood at 5,42,768 and Chandigarh at 5,46,468 OPD patients. A study by its Psychiatry Department found a large number of doctors suffering from depression, stress, and burnout.

As if this is not enough, the latest UNICEF Report on the state of World's Children, lists India with the highest number of deaths among children below 5 years accounting for 8,82,000 dying in 2018.

Education, a basic necessity, that is in shambles, has escaped the Prime Minister's consciousness and in his 'Mann ki Baat'. According to the 2011 Census, India's literacy rate stands at 74 percent. But the quality of education has remained extremely low with just 51 percent of students being able to read a Grade Two Level test after 5 years of schooling. In a test organised by the Programme for International Assesment (PISA) in which India participated only once in 2009, India ranked 72nd out of 73 countries outranking only Kyrigistan. Since, then, India has stayed away from the test. But now India has decided to participate and is preparing approximately 1.75 Lakh students from government schools in Chandigarh and from 600 Navodaya Vidalayas for a PISA Test in 2021.

India's schools, colleges and universities are in a disastrous condition as compared to the educational institutions in UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Europe etc. That is why the number of Indian students studying abroad has gone up to 3,01,406 in 2016. This translates into 2,34,693 more students than in 2000. This also means a robust average annual growth rate of 22 percent. This is based on the analysis of data from UNESCO Institute of Statistics.

The worsening law and order situation, one may say, everyday, has not been, it seems, a concern of the Prime Minister's voice of heart. India has been called the most dangerous country for sexual violence against women according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation 2018. India's National Crime Records Bureau reported 3,38,954 crimes against women including 38,947 rapes in 2016. That's up from 3,09,516 reported incidents of violence against women in 2013. High-profile attacks on Indian women have shocked this nation of 1.3 billions in recent years. In India, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes according to the latest government figures. The National Crime Records Bureau shows a steady rise in number of offences against children.

The Prime Minister in his' Maan ki Baat' had prayed that the 'Constitution Day' then being observed on 26th of November "would reinforce the obligation towards upholding the Constitutional Ideals and values, thus, contributing to nation building. After all, this was the dream of the makers of our Constitution". The soul of the Constitution was, however, seriously violated, when recently 'the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Act received the President's assent on November.5,2019,16 years after the Gujarat Assembly had passed the first version of the Bill. It comes into effect from December 1, 2019. Under this Law, confession before a police officer not below the rank of Superindent of Police (SP) would be admissible in Court. (That means the police just needs to torture an alleged criminal, and promptly get confession out of his mouth). Currently, only statement before a Magistrate was admitted. Also the State Government and its officers for action "done or intended to be done in good faith" in pursuance of the Act have been given immunity. The definition of terrorist Act has been widened and includes "an act committed with the intention to disturb public order".

Already the Maharasthra's Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is being used to arrest and detain in prisons, intellectuals, poets, advocates, university professors, journalists etc. who used to raise their voice against police atrocities on tribals, dalits and other poor sections of the people. Recently a One Member Judicial Commission set up to probe an alleged encounter in which 17 people including 6 minors were killed in Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh in June,2012, has noted that there was no firing by the villagers and there was no evidence to suggest they were Maoists, yet the villagers were assaulted and killed by the security forces, thereby, the spirit of the India's constitution was severely violated by the Government's security force.

The Criminal Defamanation under Section 499 and the Sedition Law, which are British-Colonial Laws, are still in existence even after 72 years of Independence. These colonial laws are often used by the present Government to silence voices which it considers to be inconvenient. Preventive arrests are in essence the total removal of fundamental rights. It is a use of the state power to stifle dissent. The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi should ask his 'Mann', (heart's voice) if these draconian colonial laws don't violate the spirit and soul of the Constitution. He is urged to abrogate these anti-constitutional laws immediately.

It is hoped, the Prime Minister, in his next monthly Radio 'Mann ki Baat', would touch the above mentioned urgent issues which concerned the most to the people in their day-to-day life.

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Vol. 52, No. 38, Mar 22 - 28, 2020