Narendra Modi doing yoga
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi doing yoga. (File photo) Image Credit: PTI

Dear Modi Ji,

I am writing this open letter to congratulate you for coming up with two great ideas in the last days – Fit India and total ban on single use plastic.

Both the ideas are close to my heart (although my fitness level is laughable, I do believe we Indians need to commit ourselves to fitness). If you manage to come up with policies, laws and regulations to support them and create an environment, India will become a role model in the coming years. If implemented well, these two ideas can immensely benefit India socially, economically and on the environment front.

However, I have some doubts and I urge your attention. Actually, not some but I have many concerns and doubt these two ideas would make any meaningful impact given our execution record and due to the prevailing social climate.

Fit India Movement

While launching the Fit India movement, you asked the countrymen: “Even though the government began the Fit India Movement, all of you have to lead it The people of the country will carry forward this campaign and will reach the height of success. I can say from my personal experiences that there is Investment Zero in it, but the returns are unlimited."

190621 yoga day
Indian lawmakers perform yoga in front of the parliament house to mark International Yoga Day in New Delhi Image Credit: AP

You also said: “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.”

And: "If you are in any profession, you have to bring efficiency in your profession, then mental and physical fitness is important. Whether it is Boardroom or Bollywood, whoever is fit touches the sky. "

Great lines and a great motivational speech, Mr Prime Minister!

But let me humbly ask you a pointed question. Can a society which is always tense and fearful be physically fit?

You are a very busy man, Mr Modi, and may not have noticed that a large number of people have been living with fear and anxiety in the last five years. They fear for their limbs, their lives and their property. Every time a blood-thirsty mob targets an innocent, it rattles the nerves of people. When videos of such barbaric attacks go viral on social and mainstream media, it makes people sick. Really sick. And fearful.

That is why, Mr Prime Minister, you can’t expect mentally sick people to be physically fit !

A sick mind cannot deliver a healthy body.

I am not sure if those behind mob lynchings are mentally sick or they carry out murderous attacks with a cool mind. But their acts of violence are definitely making people sick. What makes it worse is the lack of action from police to prevent such attacks or to punish the perpetrators. Moreover, the absence of unequivocal condemnation from you, Sir, emboldens such elements to target people repeatedly.

Lynching in India

So, every episode of mob lynching leaves someone dead and makes thousands sick. These incidents make them sick and fearful. And most of them don’t realise that they are becoming mentally sick. By the way, I am sure you know Sir, that living in a constant state of fearfulness can also cause psychological issues.

Secondly, have you noticed that tens of thousands of battles are being fought on social media every day. They are fighting over ideas, identity, cow and you. Yes, you are a subject of these mini battles in virtual space and in living rooms.

That is why, Sir, your Fit India Movement is unlikely to succeed. First, you have to create an India where people live without fear, where people move around without getting attacked because of their appearance, their religion and because of what they eat or drink. Once we have this environment, we the people would love to go out to parks and playgrounds to do yoga, run or even have group laughter yoga sessions!

Mr Prime Minister, it is not the people who can lead this movement. You have to lead it by applying a balm to our heart, by soothing our mind and making us feel secure.

Once you do that, I am sure, people would be able to climb not just the stairs but mountains too!

Single use plastic

You had raised my hopes when you launched the Swachch Bharat (clean India) campaign immediately after becoming the Prime Minister in 2014. The campaign did make a difference in several parts of the country, especially in rural India where the government built toilets (although these toilets lack running water and remain unused). But this campaign did little to make India cleaner. After five years, our cities remain filthy, garbage collection and disposal remain a major issue, our municipalities don’t have garbage trucks or bins and our cities don’t have sewage network.

On Wednesday, you announced a ban on single use plastic bags, plastic cups, bottles, straws from October 2. This announcement made me so happy that I wrote on my Facebook wall: “I will become your fan if India becomes plastic free.” Trust me, it required some effort from my side to write that.

This ban will only succeed when your government targets the source of this plastic – the manufacturers. Also, alternative to cheap plastic must be made available to people before they make a switch to eco-friendly options. I sincerely want you to succeed in this initiative and make our beautiful cities, rivers, lakes, mountains and villages free from plastic. And I do hope that this ban will be complete and permanent.

Best wishes,

Bobby Naqvi