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An Hour For The Photoshoot, And Modi’s TIME Interview Tells Us This

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By Abhishek Jha:

Nothing sells like a TIME cover, and our photogenic prime minister sure knows that. “I had a full hour with him, which is very unusual because most of the time I only have 10 minutes for a portrait session,” says Peter Hapak, the photographer who shot the cover for the TIME 100 issue. The PM also sat through a two hour long interview with the magazine and faced a few tough questions. There is, however, hardly anything new to be learnt from the interview . The answers, more or less, to both international relations and domestic troubles are centred around the old ‘world is a family‘ rhetoric.

modi TIME
Photo Credit: Peter Hepak/TIME

On being quizzed about the roadblocks to the land acquisition bill and whether he wished to have more power, he said, “India by its very nature is a democracy. It is not just as per our Constitution that we are a democratic country; it is in our DNA. In so far as different political parties of India are concerned, I firmly believe that they have the maturity and wisdom to make decisions that are in the best interests of the nation. I firmly believe that for us, democracy and belief in democratic values, are a matter of faith, which are spread across all political parties in the country.” This was in line with his view of a federal government working as “an organic entity” where each state helps the other and works in tandem with the centre. TIME in its cover story refers back to this point.

Modi’s government, which needed to approve the state changes, should get credit for allowing Rajasthan to press on with such reforms,” says Milan Vaishnav, an associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But it’s one thing, he adds, to say we’ll let the states make these changes and another to say that “the Prime Minister is going to use his bully pulpit to actually advocate for these types of changes across states, and particularly in the BJP states.”’

What is surprising though is his somewhat tacit (and perhaps unwitting) admission of his government’s popularity being a product of an anti-incumbency wave and not a genuine wave for a real leader. He was asked whether the Indian economy’s rise was due to the falling oil prices and not new reforms and whether the pace of reform is fast enough and in answer he said, “If you were to pick up the newspapers for the period March-May 2014 last year and read them, you will actually get the context and key aspects of the context in which we were approaching the elections at that time. One of which was that nothing seemed to be happening in the Government. There seemed to be a complete policy paralysis at that time. Two, corruption had spread throughout the system. Three, there was no leadership; it was a weak government at the centre. That was the context and the background in which I was elected.” Of course, this was then later used to pit his government’s 10 months of achievements against the rudderless regime of UPA.

With Barack Obama vouching for Narendra Modi on the TIME 100, it was only natural that the camaraderie was reciprocated and USA become India’s natural ally. He was caught off guard though when he was asked to name other countries that he considered to be India’s natural allies. “I think this is an expected question from a journalistic point of view! I think each country has its own importance and each relationship has to be viewed in its own perspective. There are several countries of the world with which India has strategic partnerships. There are several other countries with which we have a relationship that is comprehensive in some other respects. There are some which are perhaps born to be there as natural allies, but there are still gaps to be covered in order for us to become natural allies,” he replied.

On terrorism he was guarded even when prodded and refused to link it with any religion. On being asked how he interpreted President Obama’s apprehensions about India splintering along religious lines, he sidestepped the question to emphasize the “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” slogan of his party and government and talked about India’s centuries old practice of religious tolerance.

TIME’s list of 100 most influential people, although by its own admission, is not reflective of the kind (whether good or bad) of influence the people enlisted have, does put people on the global mindscape. Narendra Modi, who has already had a scoop of international fame with Wolverine and what not, will definitely enjoy this TIME issue.

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  1. B

    While no one questions how many men Mr. Modi has murdered to climb the ladder in the political arena, questions, however, are raised about how 4,000 Gujarati Muslims lost their lives in the 2002 Gujarat riots, with brutal killings of men, women’s wombs cut open with trishuls, children burnt alive, girls raped in front of their families, homes torched down, shops looted, livelihood destroyed – just to shed a little light on the heinous terror inflicted on innocent Muslims by Bajrang Dal, formed largely by Mr. Modi’s goons. 26th May should have been a day of mourning in India, as an uneducated, illiterate, mass murderer and rapist was elected to lead the largest democracy in the world. If India had to select a tea vendor to run the country, at least they could have chosen one who did not perpetrate crime in the most horrendous fashion.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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