No, Prime Minister, India has not transformed yet

An open letter to PM Narendra Modi by senior journalist and columnist A.J. Philip

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates the new Parliament, May 2023
PM Narendra Modi inaugurates the new Parliament, May 2023

A.J. Philip

Dear Shri Narendra Modiji,

I was pleasantly surprised to receive your letter dated 15 March in both Hindi and English. You mentioned how you have received trust and support from 140 crore people. I am glad that you have not left out anyone from the Indian population.

You mentioned how you have been able to transform the lives of poor farmers, youth and women. I am, however, not able to forget how the farmers who wanted to demonstrate their feelings were detained at the Delhi border and how drones were used to explode tear gas shells among them. The farmers have not called off their agitation. They have only paused it, perhaps, to facilitate peaceful polling in the country.

I do not know on what basis you say that the youth and women stand transformed. You had promised to create two crore jobs per year. Had that happened, there would have been at least 20 crore fully-employed people in the age-group 20-40. Have you been able to create even a fraction of the jobs you promised? I am sure you included women when you spoke about the youth. Are women really getting jobs?

At the Statue of Unity you built in Gujarat, I saw hundreds of women employed as autorickshaw drivers. I spoke to some of them and found they were not at all happy as the job was seasonal and did not yield income that can transform their lives. They would remain autorickshaw drivers, that too, if their health permitted. If this is the condition of employed women in Gujarat, you can imagine the condition of the unemployed women?

You made boastful claims about your housing scheme, access to electricity, water, LPG and free medical care through Ayushman Bharat. I want to ask: what was the need for new schemes when old schemes could have been strengthened?

I visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which is India’s largest medical college. It employs 6,000 nurses. The hospital has the best infrastructure, but the poor patients who go there are not assured of free medicine. They have to buy it.

File photo of Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat CM, and Gautam Adani (photo: National Herald archives)
File photo of Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat CM, and Gautam Adani (photo: National Herald archives)
National Herald archive

You wrote, "today every citizen is proud that the nation is marching ahead while also celebrating its rich culture". Soon after I read your letter, I stumbled across the World Happiness Report 2024. I knew it would take many years to reach the first position, currently occupied by Finland. I hoped that India would have improved. Instead, I found India ranked 126, the same as last year.

India and China have, by and large, the same kind of population. The British left India and the Communist revolution happened in China around the same time. Is it not amazing that China is today at the 60th position, while we are at 126?

Our leaders often make fun of Pakistan as a failed state. At 108, our neighbour was better off than us. The same is true of Nepal and Myanmar which were ranked 93 and 118 respectively. Even Burkina Faso, where 10,000 people were killed and two million were displaced recently, was happier than India. Ukrainians, who have been fighting a grim battle with Russia, were happier than Indians (seeing that they held the 105th position).


The organisers of the Happiness Report 2024 were forced to publish an explanation as to why India was only slightly better than Afghanistan. They did: the vast majority felt unhappy and that is what counted, not the happiness of a few.

When you came to power in 2014 and arrived in Delhi to be sworn in as prime minister in an aircraft that belonged to Adani, was he among the top 10 industrialists in India? No chance. But for the Hindenburg report, he would have been India’s — perhaps even the world’s — richest person by now.

Did Adani introduce anything new to the market, like Henry Ford who introduced the concept of assembly-line production of cars, Steve Jobs who introduced Apple computers and iPhones, Mark Zuckerberg who built the Facebook community, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who showed he could sell books without a bookshop, or Elon Musk who introduced a new concept of car?

Jamnagar was designated an international airport to facilitate guests at the Ambani wedding
Jamnagar was designated an international airport to facilitate guests at the Ambani wedding
Zahid Biplob

Of course, Adani knows how to invest. The greatest investment he made was when he gave you a helicopter with a full tank of fuel to campaign all over the country in 2014. In 2020, when tens of millions of Indians were struggling to get one square meal a day during the lockdown, Adani’s stock value was increasing by thousands of crores a day.

Indian weddings are referred to as ‘big fat Indian weddings’, the stuff of TV serials and celluloid tales. India set a new benchmark when your friend Mukesh Ambani organised a lavish pre-wedding function at Jamnagar, where a mindboggling 2,000 dishes were made. I did not know that our cuisine was so vast. A singer was brought from the US at a cost of Rs 70 crore to entertain those assembled.

What I could not understand was why the government of India converted Jamnagar airport — which is close to the Pakistan border — into an international airport to facilitate the arrival and departure of the likes of Zuckerberg. Would the heavens have fallen if the private jets were asked to land at Ahmedabad or any other international airport? Of course, your liberal approach pleased the rich who attended the function.

What came to my mind was 1877, when Queen Victoria was declared the Empress of India and maharajas from all over India assembled in Delhi at Coronation Park.


To return to the present, the bottom 50 per cent of India’s population owns only 3 per cent of the national wealth. The gap has been widening, and they are the ones who are unhappy. India will remain at the bottom of the happiness index until this problem is sorted out.

Also, would the people of Manipur have reported that they were happy? They have been expecting you to visit the state ever since a section of the people were thrown out from the valley only because they worshipped the triune god.

As I write this, you are in Bhutan where the people are happier than Indians. You have all the time in the world to visit exotic places but no time to visit the Manipuris who have been eking out a miserable existence.

You mentioned the abolition of Article 370 as a great achievement. I expected that because your party had been promising it in successive election manifestos. Pray, did you take the people into confidence when you reduced Jammu and Kashmir to two Union Territories, ruled directly by you? J&K was the only Muslim-majority state in India. The truth of the matter is that you did not want such a state in India.

Why is it that there is no Muslim or, for that matter, Christian, in your cabinet or ministry? There was a time when Muslims and Hindus were considered the two eyes of the nation. Recently, a policeman in Delhi had the temerity to kick a Muslim youth praying by the road. This does not happen in a civilised country. True, he was suspended as the video went viral on social media. In Gurugram, Muslims are scared of praying even in designated places. Earlier, mosques were seldom destroyed even during riots. Now, they are bulldozed.

I did not see your concern for Muslim women when the gang-rapists and murderers who destroyed the life and peace of Bilkis Bano were released and treated as if they had planted the national flag on the moon. One of your MLAs in Gujarat called them “cultured people”. Raping a pregnant woman and smashing the head of her three-year-old daughter is considered “cultured”?

You boasted about the new Parliament building. For the inauguration, I wish you had brought 75 elected panchayat members from around the country, instead of some swamis from Tamil Nadu, many of whom never voted in an election. Parliament’s security was breached by persons recommended by your own party MP. Thank goodness they were not Muslims!

I am glad that you are happy you succeeded in controlling ‘left-wing extremism’. Why are you silent about right-wing extremism? Do you know that things have deteriorated to such an extent that even a small group can barge into a prayer hall and attack the faithful? The police will conveniently look the other way.

That is why there has been an increase in anti-Christian activities. In many villages, it has become impossible to profess one’s faith. You will always remain silent when people belonging to minority communities suffer at the hands of right-wing extremists. Thirty-five Doordarshan camera units were deployed when you consecrated the Ram temple. I wish minorities in states like Chhattisgarh had the right to worship the god of their choice, like you are able to worship Ram.

I do not support corruption of any kind. If Arvind Kejriwal extracted money from businessmen in the name of his liquor policy, let him go to jail. But what about your party which extracted thousands of crores of rupees from businessmen, including liquor barons involved in the Delhi case, by way of electoral bonds?

I am sorry I can only quote the Bible here: ‘You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’

Yours etc

A.J. Philip

The writer is a senior journalist and columnist. This piece appears courtesy Indian Currents

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Published: 05 Apr 2024, 7:15 AM