New Delhi: In tune with a worrying recent tradition of bashing India’s success story, The Guardian chose a dangerously one-sided editorial stance on April 24, 2023. Relying on anecdotal nuggets, befitting a kitty party conversation, it casts a lofty judgement on our democratic process.
After 75 years of liberation, it still refers to India’s ‘experiment’ with multi-ethnic secular democracy, as if still at a laboratory stage. It does need a timely reminder that this ‘experiment’ is indeed the world’s fifth largest economy, recently outnumbering a certain entity called the United Kingdom, which is better known as the invader of the now world's largest democracy.
Also read: Partition anniversary? 'The Guardian', you must be joking!
In its narrative, The Guardian refers lovingly to our general state of poverty and that only 5% of the population is in the consumption bracket that interests businesses and is comparable to the average Briton.
What the erstwhile journalistic institution must know is that our active internet penetration is around 50% of the population and rural internet users are outnumbering urban counterparts by 44% – smartphone penetration is well on its way towards 90% levels, from its current base of above 60%.
On the subject of interested corporations, the resounding verdict is out in the pink papers and every other measurable index.
Our development model is certainly not focussed on external customers like the G20 but has a sharp inner directed angle, else quite naturally the electorate will not be delighted, amongst every other business consideration.
Apparently, 350 million Indians went ‘hungry’ in 2022, yet another recklessly insufficient analysis that is being contested by the Indian Government. Firstly, the GHI uses “an erroneous measure of hunger”, that 3 out of the 4 variables used are related to children and cannot be representative of the entire population.
Further, the fourth indicator of the GHI, the proportion of the undernourished population is based on a meagre sample size of 3000.
To any balanced citizen, it is plainly apparent that ground needs to be covered, especially in the post-pandemic era. But the Government is obsessive about this agenda and the Union Cabinet’s decision of December 23, 2022, that the “Central government will provide free foodgrains to about 81.35 crore beneficiaries” under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013 for a year from January 1, 2023, is just one piece of evidence.
Perhaps 'The Guardian' would be well advised to refer to its own piece on poverty, by Patrick Butler, Social policy editor, dated October 6, 2022, which clearly says that Black and Minority ethnic people in the UK are more than twice as likely as white people to experience ‘deep poverty’, struggling to manage everyday needs like food and energy and this on a modest population base of 67 million.
I am making this point for one simple reason - in every society, there are laggards in developmental metrics and it is challenging to restore parity.
In India, it is largely due to education and historical income while in the UK it is plain old racism, make no mistakes. Also, this ‘historical’ legacy is a gift of the British Raj which treated rural areas as agrarian gold mines, with scant regard for real development.
The article then moves on to the evergreen martyr boy of modern India, the utterly unproven Rahul Gandhi. What 'The Guardian' must be gently reminded of is that his conviction is as per established strictures of the law, the Criminal Procedure Code crafted originally by Macaulay, and not some kangaroo court marshalled by rogue lawmakers.
Certainly more kosher than say, the latest Gary Linekar - BBC issue wherein he was taken off air for criticising the language used by ministers when discussing the government’s asylum policy, inspired graciously by the best practices of Deng Xiaoping.
Incidentally, China is liberally reflected in the article as an economic success without pretensions of democracy, as if a deserving trajectory for the Indian state.
On the suppression of media, the fangs are out as ever and this time, in tandem with other democratic institutions.
All over the world, media owners make a choice in terms of political and policy-based alignment and India is no exception.
If the jury in London needs evidence that we have a free press, then they simply need to subscribe to 'The Telegraph', Calcutta, and pay attention to their editorial pattern. Clearly designed to dismiss the achievements of the BJP Government and the Indian state, a voracious and unrelenting campaign of dissent.
While I have clearly differing views on this stance, the paper’s continued prosperity proves that freedom of speech is alive and well and there is sufficient mainstream lebensraum for such irrationally critical worldviews.
No renunciation of India’s growth track is ever complete without a reference to the 200 million Muslim population and how it is constantly being deprioritised.
Perhaps The Guardian should look back at Dr Zakir Hussain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and APJ Abdul Kalam - three illustrious Heads of State standing out amongst a formidable lineup of successful Muslims in public office.
Any Indian who has worked in the private sector will consider any hint of religion-based discrimination at the workplace to be a laughable allegation - modern Indians thrive on merit and do not care about origins, the choice between Wipro and Infosys is never influenced by religion of the founder.
Remarkably, a fine example is the multi-billion-dollar Bollywood film industry, where the Khans still dominate, with an undeniably secular fan base.
On developmental indices, the core issues are historical poverty and education (as already discussed) and it applies to every religious denomination, thanks originally to the exploitative empire.
Therefore, picking up paltry anecdotes and highlighting them from a prejudiced perspective is SOP for Western Media, to cloak their own terrible strains of racial discrimination.
In tune with the underwhelming thought process, the article sagely suggests that the route to sustaining democracy must be economic prosperity for all, such earth-shattering wisdom.
Somewhere, mid-course, it talks of PM Modi’s quest for a Hindu national identity which is plainly bunkum as it betrays an ignorance of an unshakeable national agenda, driven by the Constitution.
The writer fears that we will end up like China on freedom parameters and this is purely based on selfish Western thinking, to cling to the high ground of democracy in spite of pathetic colonial records.
'The Guardian' must be wisely advised to focus on the coronation of King Charles and perhaps apply its intellectual acumen to analyse the loot that will reside on his crown and indeed in places and museums.
In India, we are doing fine, thank you, and have not lost the good graces to thank a few good Brits who provided the foundation for governance.
Next time, please do your homework properly and for Rishi’s sake, spend some time in real India before blurting your ignorance.