It is really interesting that among the 100-odd signatories to the Silicon Valley petition, there was not a single hard core scientist. It proves that truly development-oriented doers don’t care for all these woolly-headed social scientists who now feel left out from the India story.
The Indian political left does not waste a moment when it comes to attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have been restless since Modi’s elevation to the PM post, and devise all sorts of dirty tricks to attack, smear, and run down his government. The latest to join the bandwagon were a bunch of left-leaning Indian academics in the US who petitioned Silicon Valley CEOs to not do business with Modi’s India. They warned the electronic giants of the Valley about the risks of doing business with India under the Modi dispensation by mentioning how insecure the privacy safeguards are, if Modi’s ambition to “digitize” India bears fruit.
They guaranteed that personal and private information of citizens will be misused to increase surveillance, and endanger citizen’s fundamental rights. They cried that Modi’s regime poses risks to academic freedom, religious freedom, will constrict civil society engagement, and curtail judicial freedom and authority. They talked of foreign scholars being denied visas to attend Indian conferences and meetings. They mentioned how Indian institutions of learning are being tampered with, and how many government agency heads have been appointed from among saffronites. They talked about how some non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups have been brought under the scanner.
If all the charges above are indeed true, then there would be cause for worry. But these left-leaning Indian academics in the US are hypocrites who demonstrate unvarnished double standards. They live, work and enjoy all the creature comforts of US academe, and seem to be ignorant of how Big Brother accords all sorts of freedom to its citizens, but reserves the right to snoop on the most private issues in anyone’s life in case of the slightest suspicion. The US government’s ability to surveil its citizens has increased greatly after 9/11. Many of these worthies, for all they know, might be on the US intelligence agencies’ watch (and snoop) list.
All freedoms are not absolute. When there is a threat to the very existence of the State, the State reserves the right to curtail citizen rights to protect the country. They should know that their desktop computers in their universities are monitored by the office of their own Chief Information Officers. That happens in the private sector too. This is pure intelligence gathering or monitoring. That, however, should not preclude India from going ahead with the digitization project, as it would enormously improve the lives of the people. These academics should know how mobile phones have transformed the lives of even people living in the most remote villages. The power of communication, information and knowledge is total empowerment of citizens in a poor country like India. Corruption, a legacy of left-ruled India, can be stymied significantly by digitization.
The quality of life these academics enjoy in the US, is the same quality of life and governance that Modi wants to bring to India. By throwing a monkey’s wrench into the wheel of progress, all that these unworthy academics are doing is to preserve and maintain Indian poverty, the staple of their own fields of research.
Dredging up what is a settled issue like the 2002 Godhra riots seems to be a non-stop obsession for these and many others fighting against the Modi government. The Supreme Court of India has settled it through its Special Investigation Team (SIT). Why don’t the same people rake up the anti-Sikh riots unleashed by the goons of the Congress in 1984? Why don’t they petition all the world governments to prevent Congress leaders from being given travel visas? These academics know that not a single Congress functionary has been convicted in the 1984 riots, and hundreds of others in different parts of India during Congress rule. Today, Trinamool thugs are running wild in West Bengal, and before that Communists were doing the same for three decades. Why don’t these academics protest against them?
It is really interesting to see that among the 100-odd signatories to the Silicon Valley petition, there was not a single hard core scientist. It goes to show that truly development-oriented doers don’t care for all these woolly-headed social scientists who feel left out now from the India story. Modi has been received by Silicon Valley in as grand a manner as any country’s leader can ever hope for, both by the top bosses of the tech industry and by Indian-Americans–18,500 of them filled up the SAP Arena to greet him, cheer with him, and sing the national anthem with him.
Investments to India will flow from there. This petition will not be remembered by anyone in India or elsewhere.
Modi really cares for those who can contribute to growth and development, not some armchair academics who have no track record of contributing anything to India’s economy. What they are all upset about is that there is no longer the National Advisory Council that used to serve as their watering hole. The trough feeding them has gone dry. No more free trips to India and no free hospitality. Now they cannot raise funds for their research in the name of India’s poverty.
Modi recently met with the captains of Indian industry to take stock of the economic situation and assess the impact of his government policies on industrial growth. Industry feedback was that the government is on the right path, but must hasten the speed of policy change. On the other hand, when the Congress won the state election two years ago in Karnataka, the new Chief Minister dropped in to see only poets, drama artists, and other literati, and never bothered to consult industry, which is the only section of the society that can contribute to economic development. This goes to show the priorities of other political parties compared to Modi’s government.
Almost all NGOs around the world are left-of-centre organizations. Anyone who doubts this must take a look at the World Social Forum made up of these NGOs, and what it is ranged against. What Modi’s government has done is to go after those NGOs that import funds from abroad, and not comply with the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA). It must be noted that then Union Home Minister L.K. Advani had asked many international donors to stop their activities in India, and several of them left India. The then Vajpayee government did so on the basis of India’s improved economic status, and thus prevented any mischief making by the international donor agencies. It is the duty of any responsible government that believes in good governance to look into the functioning and funding of these organizations.
Modi’s government has cancelled the FCRA registration of Greenpeace for failing to comply with FCRA. NGOs had a free run under the UPA government. Greenpeace has done tremendous damage to agricultural development around the world by preventing the use of perfectly safe modern biotechnologies. Greenpeace is in the forefront of stopping Vitamin A-enriched golden rice in all rice growing areas of the world, a criminal act against poor women and children who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.
These US academics have been consuming GM food since 1996. Have they heard of a single catastrophe in the US? If GM food is safe for US citizens, why is it not safe for the poor people of India and other rice growing countries of the world? If these academics are really sincere about India’s growth, they should be strongly campaigning for modern biotechnologies in Indian agriculture. That they won’t do, but shed crocodile tears for NGOs. It was an open secret that Sonia Gandhi presided over a super-cabinet filled with NGO types that used to dictate public policies to Manmohan Singh’s government.
Now these lefties feel terribly left out of policy making in India, as Modi has no time for these addled-mind NGOs who always come up with policy prescriptions that retard growth and sustain India’s poverty. That is the only kind of sustainable development that leftists dream of in the entire developing world. They are, quite simply, anti-progress and anti-national. India is home to about two and a half million NGOs, and all that many of them have done is to choke development in the name of “inclusive development”.
Throughout human history, there have been haves and have-nots. No economic system can enrich every person. In all systems, some will be left behind and others left out. But, if an overwhelming majority of the people are enjoying a good life, it attests to the fidelity of the system. If you follow what the NGOs prescribe, no one will ever rise from poverty. These are simple market realities.
These academics should know better. Even in the US, the world’s leading economy, there are a very large number of poor and homeless people. Governments can only help a little bit here and there, but it is up to the poor to really pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make use of opportunities available to take them out of poverty.
India has a multitude of poverty alleviation programmes started in the decades past by socialists, and the question to ask is why poverty continues to afflict India and hamper economic progress. Socialists and leftists never understand that one must create wealth first to distribute it. Creating wealth is an art form that is alien to these worthies. But they will never keep quiet if others try new ideas, and complain and moan about alternate forms of development. It is time for India to try something that has not been tried before. That is what Modi is here to do.
The kind of visceral hatred towards Modi is the same that is shown by white supremacists, crass conservative Republicans, and Tea Party members against President Obama. No one can forget what US Senate Majority Leader Mike Mitchell famously said, that his personal goal was to limit Obama to just a one-term presidency. The revulsion Obama has faced in the US for being the first black person occupying the White House is abominable, and it is the same hatred for Modi.
The Indian left and other political opposition parties are baiting Modi for his support to industry. Industry and profits are bad words for the left, and that is the reason they will not allow any land reform and labour reform laws in India.
What the Indian left needs to get it into their thick skulls is that the people of India have voted Modi with a mandate to govern the way he promised to do during his election campaign. Today, it is not the left, but Modi’s right that is at the helm of governance, and his policies must be allowed to prevail and prevail they will. If the left continues to block Modi’s rule, it should remember that the people are watching, and they will re-elect Modi with another thumping majority.
If these academics detest the Modi rule so much, they should get ready by 2019, and dive into the heat and dust of India’s next Lok Sabha elections, and try to defeat him. It is always nice to sit in the cozy comforts of US academe and propagate their ideology, but it is quite another thing to get into governance and create jobs.
Modi is on the right track, and he needs another couple of terms in office to set up India as a leading economic power on the world stage.
These academics and India’s bleeding hearts must realize that Modi has the people’s mandate to change India’s economic path, and he has a duty to do it. The Indian left must realize that their policies have been tried for 60-odd years and it is now the turn of economic right to be tested. It is time for them to tuck in their tails and head for the hills. Modi is the tallest political leader in India today, with no one of any stature to challenge him. If he prevails for another couple of terms, India’s economic condition will be on a completely different trajectory.
And now that he has received a grand reception and welcome by industry captains of Silicon valley, lefty academics in the US, eat your hearts out.
Dr Shantharam is an Adjunct Professor of Biotechnology, University of Maryland—Eastern Shore, Princess Anne. A former biotechnology regulator with the United States Department of Agriculture, served as a biotechnology consultant with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNIDO and UN-FAO. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Seed science Center at Iowa State University, Ames.