Ranjona Banerji: Just loads of Big Talk!

04 Oct,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


The Big Talk Government that currently runs India is doing well in the Big Talk stakes. India is open defecation free. Yaay, the prime minister’s got a prize for that! Publish a photograph of open defecation and you won’t win any medals for that. Make fun of the continuing open defecation regardless of medals and you might even lose your job or get trolled or get death threats. Because, you can’t fight Big Talk.

All you need to do to win prizes, even from the Bill Gates Foundation, is just to make promises. Like, India is a signatory to a blah-blah and vows to ban single-use plastic. Even better, let’s do it on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. Good optics and the foreign press will lap it up because for some bizarre reason, foreigners still love that old man. Look, the New York Times even published a piece on Gandhi by Narendra Modi, honourable prime minister of India and part of the larger political family to which the assassin of Gandhi belonged. But, you know, why should facts and history get in the way of optics and publicity and all the rest of it?

Anyway, as you might expect, in keeping with the extreme hypocrisy of Modi praising Gandhi, the Government of India didn’t go very far with its grand plan of banning single use plastic. Like all Big Talk, it was just, well how do I say this politely, big talk? Hot air? Meaningless?

Because, this is what really happened, even if some news channels distract you with something that Imran Khan of Pakistan did or did not say:


And what did happen in India, during the grand celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary (aka Big Talk Government’s Big Publicity Plans at Any Cost to Distract Indians from the Economy)? This happened in Madhya Pradesh.


Shameful and all that some people might say but on the whole only those dubbed “urban naxal” and “anti-national” actually care about Gandhi any more. Fans of Modi are usually fans of Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Gandhi.

Because, Big Talk aside, this is what’s happening in India. Amidst all the various instances of a downward economic slide, the collapse of PMC Bank in Maharashtra has hurt ordinary citizens very badly. And stories emerging suggest that the imminent collapse was not a complete surprise:


You might think some governments would be bothered about the suffering of thousands but come on, this is the second term of a government which introduced demonetisation and then laughed when people struggled. And that first-term government was helped by sections of the media which spread stories about GPS chips and DNA tests inbuilt into currency notes or some such rubbish. Much like the lies that the Clean Indian Mission has really worked.

And why not, you might ask, especially if you are a cowardly media person. Because this is what happens to anyone who does not help our Big Talk Government to promote its various publicity schemes. This assistant director of Doordarshan has been suspended from her job and disciplinary proceedings have started against her. Why? Because she decided not to telecast some hackathon that the prime minister was part of in Chennai.


“Wilful insubordination” is what they’re calling it. R Vasumathi had explicit instructions to make sure the hackathon was telecast.

Now imagine what happens if someone decides to telecast open defecation.

Shhh, why did I even write that?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. Her views here are personal



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