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  Opinion   Columnists  02 May 2023  Aakar Patel | Of ‘sabka saath’ & ‘beti bachao’: The myth and reality in India

Aakar Patel | Of ‘sabka saath’ & ‘beti bachao’: The myth and reality in India

Aakar Patel is a senior journalist and columnist
Published : May 2, 2023, 7:44 am IST
Updated : May 2, 2023, 7:44 am IST

'Beti bachao' is not a convincing phrase in the mouths of those who free convicted rapists for coldly-calculated political benefit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme (Wikimedia)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme (Wikimedia)

'Sabka Saath' is a lie or a delusion. More likely a lie because exclusion is deliberately perpetrated and institutionalised in the BJP. It has no Muslim MP or MLA but says “sabka saath”. Its ministers garland those who are convicted of lynching the minorities, but it says “sabka saath”. Who is it really fooling? Nobody, but it wants to say these words because it is not honest. Or perhaps it was a nice-sounding jumla at the time. Or perhaps that time was not right for the party to openly claim what it really stands for. Whatever we conclude as the reason, it is inescapable that the slogan itself is untrue because the numbers do not lie.

“Beti bachao” is not a convincing phrase in the mouths of those who free convicted rapists for coldly-calculated political benefit. “Beti bachao” is a jumla when BJP supporters, national heroines in their own field, must sit in protest to beg for action against their oppressor. The government is reluctant to act because the man in question is a long-term party MP and it senses there might be political benefit in not acting. This is the only reason it looks away from, and in that sense condones and encourages, the harassment of India’s daughters. And yet it claims to promote “beti bachao”, though in court it is unwilling to reveal the reasons for choosing to release convicted rapists. Again, mark the reluctance to reveal oneself honestly.

In how many democracies is the political rhetoric this disjointed from the reality of the nation? One cannot think of any, really. Of course, it is true that hypocrisy and lies are a part of all political activity, and that is the reason why many people are not attracted to it. But this level of fake piety and pretend virtue while the deception is visible for all to see is likely to be unique to us, and that is why we have to talk about it.

It is quite remarkable that a political party can do this and assume it can get away with it forever, but such is the arrogance of power and this time the delusion is likely real. On the one hand there is a mass media that is feeding at the trough and happy to be seen as a cheerleader for the government, if not aching to be an actual part of the official propaganda machine. From them we can expect no honest survey or assessment. Add to this a set of the world’s most craven celebrities, film stars, musicians and cricketers. Unwilling to stand up even for their own when they are tortured and persecuted. Both are too afraid to speak and too selfish and greedy to put at stake the riches they have gathered through their fame. And so externally, there is no large dissenting, authoritative and popular voice to point out that what is being shown as day is really night.

On the other the leader is shielded by those who line up to say in public the opposite of what is manifest and apparent and what probably even they believe to be true. This works in particular with those leaders who have convinced themselves that they can only ever do the right thing. They want to be shown the evidence of this, and there is no shortage of people available to do this.

If the leader holds gigantic rallies when the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic devastates the land, the aides will prove that his rallies do not spread Covid. The BJP first passed a resolution, just before the second wave started, declaring that the Prime Minister had defeated the Covid pandemic, and  then deleted the resolution from its website.

When religious bigotry is exposed as the fundamental pillar of the BJP’s politics, they will show that in the distribution of entitlements, the party does not discriminate against minorities (as if such a thing were even possible, and as if anyone had ever accused them of doing this, but let us set that aside for now). If joblessness and low wages are being experienced by crores of people and being reported on daily, they will conjure data that show this is not the case and India is in fact not only marching into the “Amrit Kaal”, but is already in it. The government’s own data that shows poverty increasing and consumption, including on food, decreasing between 2012 and 2018, is discarded because it is inconvenient. No reason is given and the findings are not put out in the open for scrutiny. We must accept the government’s word that the data it collected itself is so bad it cannot be revealed. The government’s own finding that joblessness has hit record levels in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, was discredited by the courtiers, till the election was over and then released without change or comment. This is the ethics and morality of those who surround the king and whisper into his ears that all is well. The same people, including women in positions of power, are complicit in what is happening around them, and choose complicity over integrity.

In such a place, perhaps it becomes too easy to believe in what one says though the evidence all points in the other direction. It is a variant of the actions being taken by those three monkeys: See no evil, speak no truth and listen to no criticism. The chant continues: “beti bachao” and “sabka saath”.

Tags: beti bachao beti padhao, beti bachao, sabka saath sabka vikaas