By Aishwarya Mukhopadhyay
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement and the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence Day, the Government of India plans to launch a citizen’s campaign, “I stand by my country”. The announcement came in a brief released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The aim of the campaign is to reinvigorate feelings of patriotism among the people.
What is happening?
This campaign is specifically aimed at the youth, as half of the population of India is below the age of 25. The campaign will be launched even on social media platforms and people will be encouraged to upload selfies with the tricolour. Twitter polls and quizzes on MyGov platform will also be held during the weeklong celebrations.
The brief also spoke about the next five years and the vision of a ‘New India’, free from corruption and black money. According to the Times of India, it will be an era of determinism, will and struggle to fulfil the aspirations of the ‘teeming millions’. It will aim at reminding people of the progress that has been made in science and technology, sports, spirituality, art, space exploration, economy and defence. It will drive home the message that India is on the threshold of becoming a globally dominant power. In a nutshell, the campaign wants to portray that India is “bold and decisive, can secure its future, (and) is on the path of reforms” as mentioned in the brief.
A matter of history
The Modi government lives up to its tradition of encouraging people’s participation on state occasions. The focus on social media may transform this campaign into a successful one.
However, the problem may arise from the government’s take on the history of the country. Much has been written on the saffronisation of India’s history, especially in school textbooks. Some state boards have been criticised for ignoring key personalities like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh, whose contributions are no less than those of Vir Sarvakar. Noted historians like Romila Thapar and B P Sahu among others have criticised these textbooks for being biased. Now that a Dalit President is running the country, it would be interesting to note the focus shed on matters of Dalit oppression.
A bleak ‘New India’?
The Modi government came to power with the promise of development and had heavily pointed out the widespread presence of scams and corruption in the UPA II government. However, three years down the line, unemployment rates remain 39% lower than those of the previous government. Job-creation in the micro-industry level has been cited by the government, but the exact numbers are unclear. The drop in the GDP rates has negatively impacted the small and medium businesses, while the ban on cattle trade has hit the people of the low socioeconomic strata. Though the trust levels of the people towards the government are as high as 73%, economically the idea of a ‘New India’ in the coming five years seems bleak.
The power of a narrative
The efforts of the government to improve foreign relations continue to be lauded in spite of the low job growth and unemployment. Modi’s regular tweeting seems to ensure his reach and popularity among the tech-savvy public. His ‘Maan ki Baat’ programmes take his message to the remote parts of the country where his voice is recognised. He has been portrayed as an icon of development and his vocal stance on sanitation makes him a much-admired figure in the country. Much of his popularity is due to the power of a narrative which the government has adopted.
Thus, having programmes like a citizen’s campaign keeps the image of the government as being a representative one, and one which constantly needs the help of its citizens to flourish.
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