International development academics condemn Gates Foundation award for Modi

A number of eminent academics have denounced the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) decision to confer an award on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The horrible Gujarat riots, in which over 2,000 Muslims were killed, happened when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat (PTI file photo)
The horrible Gujarat riots, in which over 2,000 Muslims were killed, happened when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat (PTI file photo)
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NH Web Desk

A number of eminent academics have denounced the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) decision to confer an award on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pointing out that under his watch as Gujarat Chief Minister and Prime Minister of India, instances of “inflammatory hate speech, vigilante nationalism and violent acts against Christians, Muslims and women” have been widespread.

“What is most worrying is Modi’s human rights record and divisive politics, which prevent the realisation of the global goals that BMGF promotes. During his time as Gujarat chief minister and India’s prime minister, inflammatory hate speech, vigilante nationalism and violent acts against Christians, Muslims and women have been widespread. Freedom of speech and the right to dissent is under fire. Activists and critics have been jailed, killed and accused of being anti-national,” a statement signed by 37 academics read.

The statement reads:

As international development academics and practitioners we are dismayed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) intends to give its Goalkeepers Global Goals award to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on 24 September despite widespread global condemnation.

We recognise the considerable efforts made by the Indian government in tackling India’s sanitation crisis. Yet while Modi has brought the issue into mainstream political discourse, evidence suggests there remains a massive gap between the rhetoric and reality of the achievement of universal sanitation under his watch. Open defecation still prevails, alongside problems concerning sustainability and equity, especially for sanitation workers, and rights-based access.

But what is most worrying is Modi’s human rights record and divisive politics, which prevent the realisation of the global goals that BMGF promotes. During his time as Gujarat chief minister and India’s prime minister, inflammatory hate speech, vigilante nationalism and violent acts against Christians, Muslims and women have been widespread. Freedom of speech and the right to dissent is under fire. Activists and critics have been jailed, killed and accused of being anti-national.

Although imperfections exist in any democracy, the attitude of leaders is crucial when faced with such events. Mr Modi has generally reacted with either silence or a delayed and weak response. More recently, the Modi government’s repressive communication blockade and militarised actions in Kashmir and the crisis of detention camps that is unfolding due to the national register of citizens in Assam have undermined democratic process, and the health, security and rights of Indian citizens in these states.

The BMGF award, along with the Seoul peace prize and UNEP’s Champions of Earth prize, serves to legitimise and embolden Modi and his supporters to intensify their divisive politics in a way that is in complete contradiction with the spirit and soul of sustainable, equitable and fair development.

Prof. Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Dr Kamal Kar, Honorary Associate, Institute of Development Studies, UK and Community-Led Total Sanitation Foundation

Dr Shilpi Srivastava, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Mr Deepak Sanan, Sanitation activist, India

Shibaji Bose, Independent media consultant, India

Dr Arnab Acharya, Economics and statistical consultant, USA

Prof. Vinita Damodaran, University of Sussex, UK

Dr Anuradha Joshi, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Prof. Sanjay Reddy, New School for Social Research, USA

Dr Deepta Chopra, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Dr Pauline Oosterhoff, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Dr Subir Sinha, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

Dr Prarit Agarwal, Department of physics and astronomy, Seoul National University, South Korea

Prof. Ian Bryceson, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway

Dr Dolf te Lintelo, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Prof. Ben Rogaly, University of Sussex, UK

Dr Gavin Collins, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland

Dr Lars Otto Naess, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Dr Synne Movik, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway

Dr Suchi Pande, Research scholar, USA

Prof. Emeritus Bill Derman, Norwegian University of the Life Sciences

Dr Nicholas Nisbett, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Prof. Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, The Australian National University

Dr Rosemary Collard, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Prof. Ian Scoones, IDS, University of Sussex, UK

Dr Rohan D’Souza, Kyoto University, Japan

Dr Syed Abbas, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Seema Kulkarni, Feminist, water and sanitation advocate, India

Dr James Ebdon, University of Brighton, UK

Dr Pragya Srivatsava, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Prof. Khalid Nadvi, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK

Prof. Bridget Byrne, University of Manchester, UK

Dr Vera Mehta, Senior advisor, Intergovernmental consultations, New York, US

Prof. Sanae Ito, Nagoya University, Japan

Dr Amrita Saha, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Shruti Ajit, Researcher, India

Dr Andrés Hueso, Sanitation specialist, UK

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