On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Twitter that he was looking for “thoughts and ideas” for his Independence Day speech. Well, how could we not oblige? Here is a list of ten questions, thoughts and ideas that we hope find a place in his Red Fort address this 15 August.
1. Political Backing to Lynch Mobs?
Once every few months, you say that “Killing in the name of Gau Bhakti is not acceptable”. Recently, you also said, “We have only one agenda and that is vikas.” But just in the last few weeks, your Union Minister Jayant Sinha garlanded murder convicts, your MP Nishikant Dubey promised to pay legal fees for lynching accused and your party’s youth workers beat up social activist Swami Agnivesh.
Do you approve of these actions and statements by your leaders? If you don’t, what action have you taken against them?
2. No Means No, Unless She’s Your Wife?
Why does your government feel that marital rape is integral to Indian “social customs and values”?
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc.”
Even in the Delhi High Court, the government is seemingly defending the right of a husband to rape his wife. Why?
3. Kis Aadhaar pe?
Why did the government make Aadhaar mandatory for private services like bank accounts and mobile phones when objectives like KYC could be achieved through other documents and ID proofs? Why did the government also falsely claim that the Supreme Court had mandated this in the case of mobile phone connections?
4. Misinformation: Deliberate or Conveniently Accidental?
You were, well, not really very truthful, when you said on the campaign trail that two military icons – General Thimayya and Field Marshall Cariappa – were humiliated by the Nehru government. You got fact-checked.
You were, well, even further from the truth, when you campaigned on the plank that Nehru had not met Bhagat Singh in jail. You got fact-checked again.
And not to forget, the time when you campaigned alleging that former PM Manmohan Singh and former VP Hamid Ansari were conspiring with Pakistan to make you lose the Gujarat polls. Afterwards, your Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had to inform the Parliament that you had not intended to question the commitment of either of them.
If your claim was true, prime minister, then why would the government not probe such a serious conspiracy, especially one involving Pakistan allegedly meddling in an Indian election? Or was it another case of misinformation on the campaign trail?
And are these slip-ups by design or by accident?
5. Electoral Funding Ki Daal Hi Kaali Hai
The Finance Bill 2018 (which was passed without debate) has a curious amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that exempts foreign funding of political parties from scrutiny, with retrospective effect going back all the way to 1976.
In 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed an amendment to the RBI Act that enabled anonymous funding to political parties through electoral bonds.
Why has donation to political parties from home or abroad been made anonymous and beyond scrutiny? How will this lead to the promise of transparency?
An investigation by The Quint revealed that electoral bonds have hidden alphanumeric numbers printed on them, ostensibly to track down the link between donors and political parties. RTIs have also shown that the Election Commission, the Law Ministry and even a wing of the Finance Ministry criticised the introduction of electoral bonds.
Despite all of this, why has your government maintained a deafening silence on the issue and why are no efforts being made to repeal the electoral bonds?
6. The Absconding Modi
How did diamond merchant Nirav Modi and his aide Mehul Choksi manage to defraud Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 10,000 crore without tripping regulatory agencies? On top of that, how did they manage to leave the country from right under the noses of our investigation agencies? Does the government not consider this to be one of its big failures?
7. Non-Performing Assets
Gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of listed banks have grown 44 percent in the past one year to more than Rs 10 trillion, with public sector banks accounting for close to 90 percent of the amount. Why has your government not been able to keep the NPAs in check?
8. The Promised Jobs
At your election rallies in the run-up to the 2014 polls, you promised 1 crore jobs a year. But the 2016-17 Economic Survey, based on data from the labour ministry, stated: “Employment growth has been sluggish.” And now, four years into your tenure, you say that “more than a lack of jobs, the issue is a lack of data on jobs.” Is this an attempt to make the goalposts disappear on the yardstick of jobs?
9. “Followed by the PM”: Your Relationship With Vicious Trolls
In February 2017, TMC MP Derek O’ Brien told the Rajya Sabha, “Twenty-six Twitter handles that give out rape threats, communal threats, are followed by the prime minister of India”. Furthermore, following the murder of Gauri Lankesh, Nikhil Dadhich, an individual you follow on Twitter, abused the slain journalist. Why do you continue to follow such individuals on Twitter?
10. “Dunno” Demonetisation?
You have repeatedly claimed that demonetisation hurt those who possessed black money. Yet, the RBI itself says that 99 percent of demonetised notes were returned to the banks. How then did the move hurt those with black money? And when will the RBI finish counting the demonetised money? It’s been twenty months since you announced the note ban!
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