Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck to the script and appeared to ignore a woman’s plea for release of payments held up due to the lockdown, during an online interaction on Tuesday where moments later he would wax eloquent on how “fortunate” he was to have “got the opportunity to serve our mothers and sisters”.
Speaking during a videoconference with beneficiaries of the Ujjwala Yojana under which free gas connections are given, Modi had asked Kiran Devi from Gorakhpur about her occupation and the self-help group she was part of when she broached the pandemic-induced lockdown and its economic fallout on small traders like her.
Modi: Have you told the other women in your self-help group about the (Ujjwala) scheme? Have they too benefited?
Kiran: Yes, I have. All of them are involved in some trade or the other and do whatever they can.
Yahi lockdown lag gaya, thoda paisa phans gaya. Iske liye aapse anurodh hai ki aap nazariya unke upar… (after the lockdown, some payments got stuck. I request you to look into…)”
Modi (interjecting): “Unko bhi gas connection mil gaya (they too have got gas connection)?”
Kiran (completing her sentence): “Jo hamne karz liya hai (the loans that we have taken).”
Kiran: Yes, yes, they too have got gas connections….
Modi: Abhi jo main gareebon ke liye anaj muft mein bhejta hun, woh bhi kya milta hai unlogo ko (The free food grain that I send to the poor, do they get that too?)”
Kiran: Yes, they receive it. They receive twice a month.
Earlier during the conversation, Kiran, accompanied by her daughter Sadhana, had told the Prime Minister that she made bamboo articles and also did sewing. She said she was part of a self-help group too.
Kiran agreed with Modi that a lot of time could be saved by cooking on gas ovens and added that she no longer needed to dry firewood when it rained. She informed the beaming Prime Minister that her daughter now refused to cook without a gas oven.
Modi claimed that before 2014 (when he came to power), people had to keep making rounds of government offices, often over minor matters.
The conversations with the rest of the beneficiaries did not deviate from the congratulatory tone that is the hallmark of such interactions of Modi.
At the online event where Modi launched Ujjwala Yojana-2, the Prime Minister told a gathering at Mahoba in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh: “…We have to increase capacity-building manifold. Together, we have to fulfil the commitment to a competent and capable India. Our sisters are going to play a major role in it.”
Modi said he had received the blessings of women before Raksha Bandhan on August 22. “I am feeling fortunate that I got the opportunity to serve our mothers and sisters before Raksha Bandhan. Your blessings would remain with us so that we continue serving Maa Bharati with new energy,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, joining in from Mahoba, clapped.