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What is this unity that the BJP speaks of?

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In this October 17 file photo, protesters run after being chased by police for trying to stop women of menstruating age from going to Sabarimala temple. Since the Supreme Court verdict on the issue, the Sangh Parivar has gone all out to instigate people by appealing to age-old prejudices AP Photo
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Rs 2,989-crore Statue of Unity – the world’s tallest statue – on Wednesday in the Narmada district of Gujarat. On the same day, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated a new housing complex in Thiruvananthapuram for 192 fisher families who lost their homes due to coastal erosion or were under threat of losing their homes as they lived dangerously close to the sea.

The inauguration of the statue and the housing project on the same day were coincidental, of course. But it led to a lively conversation among social media users on the very divergent priorities of the political leaderships of the two states. In a certain sense, the difference in priorities may also arguably be a reflection of two contrasting visions of “unity” itself.

Kerala has had the most advanced human development indicators in India for decades. The top priority given by the governments, particularly those led by the Left, to improving education and health has played a major role in this.

The updated multidimensional poverty index (MPI) released by UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in September once again showed where India’s states stood with regard to living standards, education and health. Kerala turns out to be the state ranked first, with the lowest multidimensional poverty. Gujarat is ranked 23rd among the list of states and Union Territories, with nearly 20 times the incidence of poverty compared to Kerala.

And Kerala has not been resting on its laurels. For instance, the state government has been investing substantial amounts to greatly improve facilities in public schools (government schools and government-aided schools). As a result, enrolment in public schools has increased by 6.3 per cent this year, while enrolment in private unaided schools has fallen. This has happened for the first time in 25 years.

The housing complex for families in the fishing community is a project in the same spirit. It is the first leg of a major rehabilitation project for families whose homes are under threat from coastal erosion as a result of rough seas. It is part of a rubric of policy-making which recognises that ensuring a life of dignity for everyone is the duty of society as a whole, and that the government has to play the leading role in realising this objective. It is in making this collective effort to not let anybody be left out, that the unity of the people is forged.

Such unity was remarkably visible during the recent floods in Kerala which resulted from the heaviest rains in the state in nearly a century. People in the state set aside all kinds of differences to mount rescue and relief efforts on a massive scale.

Young people from all walks of life volunteered for the rescue and relief mission in large numbers. Thousands of fishermen came from far off places, with more than 4,500 boats, to wade into the treacherous waters even at night to rescue stranded people. Temples, churches and mosques opened up their facilities for people from all communities to stay and to pray if needed. Trade unions, student organisations and youth organisations mobilised supporters for relief work. Millions of people around the world were involved in collecting and distributing relief material, and in mobilising funds for the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/what-is-this-unity-that-the-bjp-speaks-of/cid/1673444?ref=opinion_opinion-page

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