No thank you, Mr Grinch
The tenure of the current administration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been marked by the appropriation of several ‘special’ days or occasions. Gandhi Jayanthi on 2 October was used to showcase Modi’s Clean India campaign. Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary on 31 October was observed as National Unity Day, used to commemorate freedom fighter and former home minister Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, one of Modi’s heroes. In a bid to shred the legacy for our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his birthday on November 14 was turned into a marker of his Swachh Bharat or Clean India drive. Finally, we’ve come to a point wherein Christmas has been turned into Good Governance Day, to mark the birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is another matter that Vajpayee himself would have never sought the kind of ‘honour’ that Prime Minister Modi is all too desperate to endow. Besides, it is common knowledge that the recent Bharat Ratna recipient has never been too fond of the current incumbent. The common ground beneath all these markers on our calender is that Modi has turned the spotlight onto himself. It is an attempt by Modi to carve out a ubiquitous presence in the public arena. Nothing marks this aspect better than his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address. However, as other authors in the public arena have already stated, the irony of marking a public holiday as Good Governance Day seems to have been lost on this administration. Central government officials have been asked to attend programmes on December 25 as part of Good Governance Day.
In an unfortunate development for our children, however, schools have been asked to encourage participation in an online essay competition to mark the day. Although the Human Resource Development Ministry has stated that participation is voluntary, entries for the competition would be accepted only on Christmas Day. Besides, the voluntary nature of such an exercise has come into further question after the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti sent a directive to all its schools administrators, demanding a compliance report. The ramification of appropriating a sacred holiday, celebrated all over the world by members of many faiths, is the infusion of a deeply political act. The administration has shown a great deal of insensitivity towards the sentiment of religious minority. Given the ideological character of the current administration and its affiliate scoio-religious groups, it is no surprise that such a moment has arrived. However, instead of stirring up one controversy after the another, the present administration could do a lot worse than framing definitive policies in the field of education and alleviating poverty, instead of announcing more schemes and anniversaries. In a recent move, the Modi-led government cut expenditure in the health sector by 20 per cent, even though it takes up only 1 per cent of our GDP. The irony of celebrating Good Governance Day, days after such a report, could not have been greater.