|Dhruv Sangari and Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad at a media conference
in Calcutta. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya
Calcutta, Dec. 10: An NGO set up in response to the 2002 carnage in Gujarat has decided to carry out awareness programmes across the country in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to highlight the potential pitfalls of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister.
“A dream of development is being shown to the people of India…. But that is not the reality. There is another side to the story of Gujarat, which people don’t get to know. We are trying to tell the people that story,” said Shabnam Hashmi, who runs the NGO Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad).
Anhad started its campaign two months ago and has visited the four southern states and Uttar Pradesh before coming to Calcutta, she said. It will also take delegations to political parties.
Asked if she would meet Mamata Banerjee, Hashmi said she was yet to draw up any such plan.
Besides presenting a short film on how development in Gujarat has bypassed the marginalised sections, she stressed the state’s performance on key socio-economic indicators was far from satisfactory.
Quoting various government sources, a paper circulated by Anhad claimed that Gujarat ranked 14th among major Indian states in terms of rural infant mortality rate (IMR) and 10th in urban IMR.
IMR — the number of deaths of infants under one year per 1,000 live births — is often used as an indicator of development.
Quoting Planning Commission numbers, the paper also highlighted that Gujarat was lagging behind other states in public expenditure on health and had a poor track record in terms of the proportion of children and women suffering from anaemia.
“These are the realities of Gujarat…. Development is not about giving huge tracts of land to big corporate houses. The development that they are talking about is that of jobless growth,” added Hashmi.
Although the points Anhad raised during its news conference have often cropped up during policy discussions in Delhi, there has been little impact on Modi’s popularity.
“People do not know the reality as the democratic voices in the state have been stifled. The Assembly sits only for 30 days a year, which is among the lowest, and the Opposition can’t even raise any issue without Modi’s permission,” said Dhruv Sangari, Sufi singer and Anhad member.
Anhad has also accused Modi of sowing the seeds of hatred in different parts of the country, especially in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, which recently witnessed riots. “By sending his closest aide Amit Shah, Modi sowed the seeds of hatred in the area, which has never seen communal clashes,” Hashmi said.