It is no secret that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat is today a part of public discourse. It has become ingrained in public and political discourse, as Narendra Modi inverted the conventional wisdom of public discourse in such a way that each individual citizen is able to connect to Mann Ki Baat. This radio show is not merely a show; it has become a medium to institute mass movements for change. There are several instances to quote from the past seven years that prove this; we present to you seven such instances when Mann ki Baat truly became Jann ki Baat.
When PM Modi Took on the Drug Addiction Problem
During a ‘Mann Ki Baat’ episode aired in November 2014, Narendra Modi remarked that the next episode would cover issues pertaining to the drug problem. He asked parents, teachers, and those who have been prone to substance abuse and others, in general, to share their experiences with this crisis that plagues the youth of India today. PM Modi was emphatic when he said ‘I did not want it to be a monologue. Yes, everybody knows drugs are bad, so merely repeating that would not have made much of a difference. Sharing real life experiences is what would make a real impact.’ Subsequently, the next episode saw PM Modi systemically demolish the fast-growing perception among sections of our youth that drugs are ‘cool’. He categorically affirmed that drugs are not cool. Very often children, particularly in bigger cities, consider drugs as a mark of being in sync with modern times, but instead they end up affecting their own lives and careers. This argument was forcefully put forward by Narendra Modi, and resonated with the masses like never before.
Seva and Sanskar, Reflected in PM Modi’s Mann ki Baat
Having emerged from a background of service, PM Modi has repeatedly emphasized on helping the needy, even if it is only about simple steps. The power of one small gesture to change humanity is a core belief of PM Modi. This was reflected in an instance from March 2016. A small child, Abhi Chaturvedi, from Gurugram had called Narendra Modi to remind him to convey a small but important message for the upcoming summer. That youngster’s message was broadcast on the airwaves along with a letter from Mysuru’s Shilpa. Both children had urged the Prime Minister to ask people through his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ to offer water to their milkmen, postmen, hawkers, vegetable sellers and such people who frequent their homes during the day in peak summer. Fulfiling their request, Narendra Modi urged people to ensure compassion and dignity of labour with a small but powerful gesture such as this. Serving water to the thirsty in ingrained in our culture, and PM Modi gladly reflected the voice of today’s young children who uphold many such values.
Broadcasting a Powerful Social Message to the World
PM Modi has used the power of the radio to not just motivate people in India; ideas have in fact travelled across the world thanks to his appeals. In the small village of Bibipur in Haryana, Sunil Jaglan, the village sarpanch, or headman, had initiated a #SelfieWithDaughter campaign to give an impetus to the movement for women empowerment. PM Modi was impressed with the initiative, and decided to voice this idea to unleash a movement. He narrated the incident to listeners during his July 2015 episode, and asked the audience to do the same on social media, creating a worldwide buzz. People from across the world took to Twitter and Facebook to share selfies with their daughters, thus underscoring the universal nature of the theme, as it struck a note with all proud parents of daughters, India or abroad.
Road Safety is About Saving Lives, Said PM Modi
Once, while surfing the television on a rare occasion, PM Modi saw horrifying news of a road accident on one of the news channels. What was even more horrific was the neglect of the victim, who lay injured on the road for a good ten minutes, unattended. PM Modi found it too important to ignore, and chose to speak about it on the radio during the next episode of Mann Ki Baat in July 2015. However, he did not deliver a sermon loaded with only advice and criticism; instead, he initiated the show by talking about what the government can do and then went on to expand on what citizens can do to minimise road mishaps. He urged parents to speak more often at home about road safety and create the right atmosphere to make our roads safer. He observed that if the atmosphere at home is one of awareness of road safety, accidents can be avoided. He further floated the idea of ‘cashless treatment’ for accident victims and examples of places where it was implemented (Gurgaon, Jaipur, Vadodara to Mumbai, Ranchi, Rangaon and Mundiya National Highway), which was widely appreciated. Even then, PM Modi qualified it by saying that ‘These services are for post accidents. One must strive to avoid accidents in the first place, and it is also important for us to understand this from the perspective that each and every soul, each and every life is precious.’
Using Suggestion to Initiate Participatory Governance
In July, 2015 for the first time in the history of Independent India, the Prime Minister’s 15th August speech mentioned that governance would be crowd-sourced through the citizen engagement platform MyGov. This idea though was first shared on the radio after receiving a suggestion of Dr Suchitra Raghavachari, a radiologist from Chennai, which was acknowledged by PM during Mann Ki Baat. That it makes governance responsive is known to all; however, a small example to that end demonstrates the power of this idea.
Akhilesh Bajpai, hailing from Kanpur, lives in the National Capital Region of Delhi. Divyang due to an accident, Akhilesh noted how the IRCTC web portal, while allowing for booking tickets under various quotas—like the quota for senior citizens— had no provision for booking tickets under the Divyang quota. The only option to get such tickets booked was from the ticketing counter at the railway stations, which presented its own set of challenges. This was a simple provision that could be worked out in the IRCTC portal, which had probably earlier escaped the attention of the railway management. When the Ministry of Railways launched its consultation on MyGov, Akhilesh used this opportunity to float the idea. Within a month, the Ministry of Railways issued a notification incorporating this provision in the IRCTC website, thus easing lives of millions.
Encouraging and Lauding the People’s Movement of Swacch Bharat
The importance of PM Modi’s pet project of Swachh Bharat can never be underestimated, as his words and actions have resulted in cleanliness becoming a much-discussed topic everywhere, including on ‘Mann Ki Baat’. There were several instances that PM Modi highlighted to continually emphasize on the need for cleanliness, resulting in social change on unprecedented scale.
In June 2016, Narendra Modi shared the story of Chandrakant Kulkarni, a retired government teacher who donated almost a third of his pension for fifty-two months through post-dated cheques for the Swachh Bharat Mission. Narendra Modi met Chandrakant Kulkarni in Pune and even lauded him on ‘Mann Ki Baat’, saying that people like him are an inspiration for the entire nation. Similarly, in June 2017, Prime Minister Modi shared an inspiring incident that took place in Mubarakpur village of Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, when three and a half thousand Muslim families of the village returned the government’s financial assistance of seventeen lakh rupees to construct toilets. Instead, the villagers decided to get together and construct toilets themselves. Prime Minister Modi felicitated the residents of Mubarakpur for transforming the pious occasion of Ramzan into an opportunity for the welfare of society.
Promoting Indianness through Mann ki Baat
PM Modi has used Mann ki baat to highlight the unique historical linkages Indians shared. During his February 2019 Mann Ki Baat, PM Modi recounted the letter of Atish Mukhopadhyay who reminded PM Modi of the significance of 3rd of March, 1900. On that date, the British had arrested Birsa Munda, when he was just 25 years old. Coincidentally, the date also marked the birth anniversary of Jamsetji Tata. PM Modi stated that despite hailing from diverse family backgrounds, both the personalities had deeply enriched the legacy and the history of Jharkhand. Paying tributes to Birsa Munda and Jamsetji Tata became a way to salute the glorious legacy and history of Jharkhand.
Similarly, in August 2020, PM Modi surprised everyone by pushing for Indian breed dogs and indigenous toys in the vein of promoting all things Indian. He quoted Rabindranath Tagore, who had said that a toy should be imperfect, so that a child can exercise creativity to plug the gap and asked start-ups to work towards making India a global hub for toy production. He also mentioned places in India Like, Channapatna in Ramnagaram in Karnataka, Kondaplli in Krishna in Andhra Pradesh, Thanjavur in Tamilnadu, Dhubari in Assam, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh where many such toys are made.
These are just a glimpse into the power of transformation unleashed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through his Mann ki Baat radio show. Many have compared it to other such instances in history including President Franklin Roosevelt’s Fireside chats during the Great Depression; however, the difference in circumstances in these two occasions highlights the differences in the intentions and the expected outcomes. PM Modi is seeking to address New India that is transforming itself, and through this show is reflecting his desire to be a facilitator to this change.