Now, PM Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ to spur social revolution via book

by Thursday, May 25th, 2017
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unique effort to share ideas through radio conversation with people – many living far away from paved roads and without internet access – has crystallized into a veritable social revolution.

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And, it has happened in a country with billion-plus population where radio seems to have lost the battle to television, especially news and entertainment channels. Worse, radio as a medium is largely ignored by the country’s elite.

But Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme helped the state-run All India Radio (AIR) return to the centre of public imagination. The hour-long show, which started on October 3, 2014, is now a tome of fascinating anecdotal incidents and life-stirring stories, the mainstream media has largely ignored.

modi mann ki baatThe book, which will be on the shelves soon, is dotted with examples of inclusive growth and total transformation, all triggering from the PM’s monthly talks.

One revolved around soccer, the world’s most popular game that is triggering grassroots revolution in India, once Asian champions and Olympic participants. Modi explained why the U17 World Cup football, to be hosted in India this October, could be a game changer for the country. Modi had made his point in March 2016.

Last week, a daily in Kolkata reported how one of the scorers of India’s 2-0 victory over an Italian team in faraway Europe was a boy from a small Bengal town. Abhijit Sarkar’s father is a rickshaw puller and mother, a bidi worker. Still Sarkar dreamt to be a classy footballer, he lived in abject poverty and ate frugal meals.

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In today’s hyper-connected India, the AIR programme of the Prime Minister has helped his ideas travel to hundreds of thousands of miles, where people have limited interaction outside their communities.

Modi has made it clear that mobile technology, long the focus of international development efforts, is not always reliable for spreading information across a country as vast as India, especially if the network coverage is not good.

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The show has triggered many developments, many acts and many reactions. The one revolved around Khadi, the handspun and hand-woven cloth which once helped Mahatma Gandhi trigger a nationalist fervour in British-ruled India. The push from Modi – probably he knew the Khadi cloth considered trendy is expensive in India – on Mann Ki Baat encouraged the production of Khadi Denim designer wear in June, 2015. Then, a host of companies ranging from the Indian Railways to Air India to JK Cements pushed their staff to wear Khadi to work.

The Prime Minister knows lack of infrastructure limits sharing of ideas face-to-face with millions of Indians, he quietly relied on centuries-old communication technology that’s inexpensive, actually free. In the hinterland, many still feel the radio provides information that they can trust, especially if the speaker is the country’s Prime Minister.

The book highlights how the PM’s push for the country’s tourism sector triggered mind blowing responses from across the country, including one from next door Pakistan where one Tahseen Shaukat, country head for Ten Sports, sharing images of Udaipur, a city known for its fascinating forts and lakes.

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No wonder Japanese PM Shinzo Abe wrote in his foreword for the book: “Talking on an hour radio show once a month, while addressing challenging tasks as the Prime Minister, requires tremendous efforts, and I cannot but feel his strong passion for dialogue with his people.”

The Japanese PM was confident that the show is, arguably, one of the best examples of how a top leader can establish serious connection with people of the country.




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