Opinion

The RSS idea of India is not just being spread in colleges but among the defence forces too

The RSS version of Bharat Mata made its way to a government event where senior military officers paid homage to it.

It would have been any other government function. The launch of the Vidya Veerta Abhiyan by Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar in the presence of Minister of State for Defence Subhas Bhamre would not have made news in the normal course of events.

Even the presence of Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand along with Rear Admiral Krishen K Pandey and Air marshal HN Bhagwat at a function to launch a programme to honour Indian soldiers would not have caused any flutter.

The presence of Bharatiya Janata Party politician and former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak Tarun Vijay at the function would also have been routine.

But there was a problem.

Image credit: Manvender Vashist/ PTI
Image credit: Manvender Vashist/ PTI

A different idea of India

The Bharat Mata to which charan vandana – salutations at the feet – was offered by the leaders of our armed forces at this function was no ordinary Bharat Mata. For this Bharat Mata, resting on a lion and holding a saffron flag against the backdrop of a map of India, is the RSS version of Bharat Mata. The map she spreads over is also not the usual, ordinary map of India. One can sense that this is the map of Vrihhtattar Bharat, greater India which extends far beyond the internationally recognised boundaries of what is known as India.

This Bharat Mata is not a Hindu deity. Nor a religious figure. She is a creation of the expansionist ideology of Hindutva which exhorts the Hindus to realise the dream of Vrihhttar Bharat Varsh. The idea is to keep the concept of Akhand Bharat, Undivided India, alive in the Hindu minds, filling them with an inferiority complex and a sense of injustice that they have to live with a truncated India. And, of course, Muslims are held responsible for taking away Pakistan (and Bangladesh) from Akhand Bharat. This image is also aimed to keep an anti-Pakistan rage alive in India. Hindus have to prove their worth before this mother figure by restoring her integrity. This remains an ever unfinished task.

This image of Bharat Mata been discussed a lot in the last two years after the call by the chief of the RSS, the parent body of the BJP, to teach every Indian child to chant Bharat Mata Ki jai. [History Lesson: How ‘Bharat Mata’ became the code word for a theocratic Hindu state]

As we know from the century long debate on this issue, this image of Bharat Mata is used to arouse hatred against Muslims and is closely associated with the narrative of Anand Math of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya. Muslims are shown as villains in this novel, and their ethnic cleansing is celebrated.

The Sanyasins in the novel seek strength from goddess Durga by singing Vande Mataram in her praise. And what do they seek strength for? To cleanse their mother land of the evil presence of the Mlecchas, who are none other than Muslims. They also welcome the British who would help them overpower Muslims.

From modesty to militarism

After the charan vandana, in the May 2 programme, Vande Mataram was sung in full, The Telegraph reports, including the references to the goddess Durga. Only the first two stanzas of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s poem have been adopted as the country’s national song – these contain no references to any Hindu god or goddess.

Questions definitely need to be raised about ministers and government servants participating in a ceremony that violates Constitutional propriety. There definitely is a reason why only the first two stanzas of the song were declared the national song. There was certainly no compulsion for the leaders of our armed forces to be part of this highly questionable act of ideological symbolism. They need to be reminded that in this highly divided country, it is still the army that is sought and trusted by hapless minorities in the worst times of violence against them. The partisan complicity of the police forces has often made them seek the protection of the army. But if the leaders and members of the armed forces start aligning with the ideology of the RSS, who would the people turn to?

Parents,teachers and teachers also need to think about the coupling of Vidya with Veerta – education with bravery. In the Indian ethos, knowledge is supposed to lead to modesty. Replacing Vinayam with Veerta is not an innocent act. It is part of the militarist nationalist discourse that the ruling party, with the support of its parent body, is busy promoting for the last three years, in which a benign Bharat Mata has been transformed into a militant goddess.

Abanindranath Tagore/ ‘Banga Mata’ water colour that he later decided to title 'Bharat Mata'. 1905.
Abanindranath Tagore/ ‘Banga Mata’ water colour that he later decided to title 'Bharat Mata'. 1905.

Last year, it was proposed by some retired militarymen that tanks should be installed at the centre of so-called anti-national campuses like the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Then came the infantile order of hoisting giant sized national flags – all 46 centrally-funded universities were asked to install flag masts 207 feet tall to hoist the tricolour at a time when it was struggling to contain the largest nationwide student protests in a quarter of a century. But clearly that was not enough. The campuses are still, apparently, suffering from nationalist-deficiency.

To cure them of this lack, Tarun Vijay, who has a special sense of entitlement over Bharat, where he also allows “black south Indians” to live, mooted an idea of having a “Wall of Heroes” on university and college campuses which would display the portraits of all the 21 Param Vir Chakra winners, recipients of India’s highest gallantry award.

We learn that the vice chancellor of the University of Delhi, the Director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, the rector of the JNU and the vice chancellor of the Central University of Kerala received portraits of these awardees from the minister. It is now incumbent on them to erect this wall of patriotism on their campuses. The minister has made it clear that the government would not be funding this patriotic drive – he wants teachers and students to contribute voluntarily towards this nationalist cause. Would our vice chancellors now issue circulars announcing deduction a day’s salary of their employees at the source itself – and levy patriotic surcharges on the students’ fees?

That our brave and decorated soldiers should be used to further and promote the narrow nationalist politics of the ruling party should be a matter of shame – and concern. More shameful and alarming is the consensual participation of the top leadership of the armed forces in these rituals. The abject surrender of the leaders of the institutions of higher education before this militarism is even more worrisome.

Apoorvanand is a professor of Hindi at the University of Delhi.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.