The images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi consoling ISRO chairman with a comforting embrace soon after Chandrayaan-2 failed to make a soft landing on the moon will be etched in the public memory for a long time. People on social media and in other conversations have emotionally reacted to say that this is how a leader should inspire and recognize hard work. On a closer look, it becomes evident that this is not a one-off event but is a pattern with PM Modi. Being sensitive and encouraging towards honest efforts made in the service of society is an important quality for a leader to have.
Giving Credit for Swachh Bharat
Swachh Bharat has garnered a lot of praise for the government and the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, in April 2018, PM Modi had publicly praised Parameswaran Iyer, the then secretary in the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, for his contribution to the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”. He actually asked the TV cameras to focus on the official who sat among the audience. He said,
“Government officials are usually supposed to work in anonymity. We do not get to know the names of the bureaucrats whose deeds may have won our admiration. But here, I would like to breach the protocol and introduce Parameswaran Iyer to all.”
Making an Icon Out of Common People
PM Modi’s adulation is not just for the officers. Whenever a common person does a remarkable service to a social cause, PM comes out with all adulation. In August 2016, in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ he praised a village girl from Karnataka’s Koppal district for her fight for access to safe sanitation. Soon, Mallmma, a 16-year old student had become a poster girl Swachh Bharat. PM Modi had said in his Mann Ki Baat,
“In Karnataka’s Koppal district, a 16-year-old resorted to a hunger strike for a toilet in her house. As the family did not have the money, GP president Mohammed Shafi provided the fund and got the toilet built. See how the girl and Mr. Shafi found a solution to the problem.”
Applauding the Youth
When a few youngsters started teaching some street children in New Delhi’s public parks, not many may have known their effort. Again, PM Modi applauded them in one of his Mann Ki Baat addresses in 2018 and the world came to know about such youth and their initiatives.
One may argue that it is not uncommon for political rivals to exchange pleasantries on various forum and have a word of praise for each other in normal circumstances. But in the election months, naturally, all are busy in criticizing the opponents. It was in the election month of May that Odisha came under cyclone Fani. When PM Modi took an aerial survey, he immediately praised Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the excellent planning in containing the damage.
Recognizing Selfless Service and Hard Work
The defining image of the Prime Minister consoling the ISRO chief is not just one moment but it reflects the culture at the helm which appreciates service and hard work irrespective who is doing it and what the outcome is. In fact, after assuming the power for the second time, in its first interaction with secretaries, he said “Think yourself as PM and bring radical changes to India and the lives of the poor. If you make a genuine mistake, it will be my mistake.” You can read more about this new approach in our previous article Making Sense of Modified Bureaucracy.
Ex-ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who was wrongly framed under the Congress rule has earned back his due under the new government and Narendra Modi had been very vocal in condemning the injustice done to the scientist even before he became PM.
Ever since the Modi government came to power, Padma awards were given to unsung heroes who selflessly serve society away from the gaze of media publicity.
So, one heartwarming hug of PM Modi to ISRO chairman K Sivan is an embrace of a culture that respects hard work and service of society.