The Modi magic

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Jain seems to have instilled a dose of Modism in his kids too. His son Akash took it forward and used a family occasion, his sister Pratiksha’s marriage, to publicize the Modi-magic.

Kantilal Jain is called the Modi of Mysore. This is a title he carries on his sleeve because he is an ardent fan of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Jain earned this title because of his uncanny resemblance to India’s Prime Minister. To take this a bit further, he also adorns a headgear that Modi often adorns in his home state. It is a colorful bandhej, tie and die. His clipped beard also resembles Modi’s salt and pepper one. Jain seems to have instilled a dose of Modism in his kids too. His son Akash took it forward and used a family occasion, his sister Pratiksha’s marriage, to publicize the Modi-magic. So when her marriage was fixed, the family went ahead and publicly embraced Modi’s message of clean India.

Kantilal entrusted 28 year old Akash with the job. Like his father, Akash said that he was inspired by Prime Minister Modi’s Swachh Bharat, Clean India initiative. It was, Akash said, his father’s desire to see the logo on the wedding invite and therefore Akash took it on himself to see it done. Instead of printing religious slogans that is usually the norm, the Jains went for social messaging on the wedding card: something unprecedented. Consequently, the wedding card by Jains carried the Swachh Bharat logo: a stirring image of Mahatma Gandhi’s pair of round glasses with the Swachh Bharat written on each. The Jains did not stop at the wedding card. They took it a step further by instructing the caterer to provide dustbins at every corner of the venue and ensure that the use of plastic is kept to the minimum. The Jains thought-process: why should it be solely the government’s responsibility to clean India? Or only the Prime Minister’s? The Jains who have sent out some 3000-odd wedding cards, hope the message will remind people of a national duty. Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi has also been invited to the wedding. Akash took this step after the Prime Minister retweeted the wedding card much to the surprise and excitement of the Jains.

The tables, they concluded, have surely turned because from Akash following the Prime Minister, it is Modi who is now following Akash. This is how it panned out: Akash Jain, who is an entrepreneur, took to micro-blogging platform Twitter and tweeted a photo of the marriage card. He also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to it. In less than 24 hours, there was an unexpected response. It was from no less than the Prime Minister of India. Modi not only retweeted the wedding card but also followed Akash back on Twitter. It was, Akash tweeted, the “best day” of his life. To be followed by Prime Minister Modi is more than what he had expected. Too good to be true, Akash confessed that he checked his notifications over and over again just to be sure that it wasn’t fake. After the PM retweeted the wedding card, it has been viewed 10 lakh times. So it helped multiply the original 3000-invite mark. Today the siblings have their dad and his obsession with Swachh Bharat, to thank. Interestingly, Pratiksha and her sister Apeksha” education was also inspired by Modi’s girl child education programme when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

The Jains lived in Gujrat for 8 years before they shifted to Karnataka. Jain educated his daughter after being inspired by the state’s programme for the girl child. Gujarat under Modi had adopted the Kanya Kelavani Yojna Beti Padao, a prototype of the Beti Padao, Beti Bachao Andolan, save daughters and educate daughters.

The latter is now a national programme. Jains are not the sole propagators to this idea. Others have too used innovation to incorporate Modi’s social messages on wedding cards. M Mariswami, a resident of Hubballi, printed his wedding cards with a 4-page literature on the importance of constructing toilets in houses. In another case a panchayat official in Rajasthan, too, got a wedding card for his nephew’s marriage with the campaign slogans and logo. It also advocated to people to keep their environment clean and construct toilets at home along with the campaign logo. Another wedding card put in more than one social message namely about constructing toilets, keeping the environment clean, educating girls and more importantly banning child marriages.

In a slogan that was prominent on the card, it said that besides child marriages being a social evil they are also illegal. The Swachh Bharat Mission was launched on October 2, 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had then said that a clean India would be the best tribute to Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary which falls in 2019.

The objectives of Swachh Bharat are to reduce or eliminate open defecation through the construction of individual, cluster, and community toilets. The campaign had widespread support, with politicians and celebrities joining in. Cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, industrialist Anil Ambani, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, cine star Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan are the popular faces associated with the campaign. Given that this initiative is close to Modi’s heart, his government is hell bent on making it a reality: transferring it from paper to the ground. With two years gone and a little over the other two to go, the government commissioned a survey to see the impact of the campaign. Its findings, it said, indicated that the campaign is going strong and making, what it called an effective difference on ground. Dubbing the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh as “the movers and shakers” of the ongoing drive, the government said that a “remarkable improvement” in the cities of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh was visible. India’s cleanest city is Indore in Madhya Pradesh and the runner up, Bhopal, is also from the same state. As against this the dirtiest city is in Uttar Pradesh – Gonda. This was followed by Bhusawal in Maharashtra: ranked the dirtiest after Gonda. The third best is the coastal port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Surat in Gujarat has placed fourth and last year’s winner Mysuru in Karnataka has dropped to the fifth spot.

This is the second survey of the Clean India mission in 434 cities across India. The survey was conducted by the Quality Council of India, in association with the central government. The cities surveyed were ranked on criteria which included solid waste management, open defecation-free status, citizen participation and independent observation. They were assessed on a total of 2000 marks. According to the government, these 434 cities and towns account for 60% of the country’s urban population. According to the government, around 80 per cent people have said that there is an improvement in cleanliness over the past two years in their cities. However encouraging survey findings may be, the government cannot sit smug. Equally it cannot clean India on its own. A clean India has to transform into a people’s movement and one that the common man must take forward. The government will and has given the necessary push and the Prime Minister has heralded the move but from here on, the average citizen must take on. Akash and others like him have contributed immensely and it goes to the credit of the Prime Minister that he has positively responded to their effort. To use wedding cards to push a social campaign is indeed innovative.

Akash may have made a beginning but a vast country like India needs many such ideas and initiatives. Of course critics will damn this as populist and a sycophant’s aim at sucking up to the Prime Minister but those who want India to be green and clean need to ignore such barbs and support and second initiatives that contribute to social good. More importantly, this cannot be restricted to a clean India campaign alone but also need to extend to other issues like freeing India of social evils like child marriages. Also this has to be in the spirit of we in it together than limiting it to a them and us move. Modi sure is the initiator and in that sense its face but the push is and must be the Indian people.