Modi’s ‘Selfie with Daughter’ campaign is making news and has had parents from around the world supporting the idea by posting selfies on the Modi’s social media account along with a tagline. There have been similar drives connected to this one, such as #betibachao (save daughters) #educate daughters and other govt. initiatives that seem to strike a cord with Indians. What is striking about this drive is the way PM Modi addressed the topic in his popular radio talk show— ‘Mann ki Baat’.
After tourism, yoga, swacch bharat, rain water harvesting, animal husbandry, fisheries, agriculture and fertilizers and solar energy (and many more initiatives), Modi’s social media initiative encouraging girls and their parents to click a selfie is almost a fairy tale account on the subject. The outpouring of selfies in Sunil Jaglan’s whatsapp (the Sarpanch of Haryana’s Bibipur village whose idea it happens to be) seem to speak volumes about what can happen when a political leader backs a bright idea.
The irony of such a campaign is that the people it is meant for are exactly the ones who are left out. Twitter postings (of selfies) looks like a fine statement coming from families (mostly urban) who do not need education on saving the girl child or educating their girls. India residing in rural areas is a world apart when it comes to communication (mobile phones simply being a mean to talk with friends and relatives unlike application-enabled (twitter and social media) smart phones that flash in most hands when it comes to cities and towns), and it will take some time before a rural family living away in some remote corner of India will post a twitter picture or get inspired to educate a girl: probably they are the ones who do not have double-sided camera phones in first place! The PM’s Digital India campaign is a good one that will provide broadband connectivity to rural India. India only has over 154m internet connections (Source: www.statista.com, 2013) with some of the slowest speeds in the world. The Digital India campaign can not only give bandwidth for taking selfies with daughters but also provide bandwidth for girls in rural areas to learn and get degrees remotely through online education from the most prestigious schools and colleges. This might be the way to get the girl-child to really become independent and strong. So, in my view, before #Selfiewithdaughter and #Betibachaobetipadhao, there should be #DigitalIndia!
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Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.