Who’s anti-women, Modi or the media?

As per Modi's claim, that project would have saved the Centre Rs 15,000 crore worth of cooking gas subsidy and spared three crore gas cylinders for use elsewhere, but it was sabotaged because the Congress felt threatened by the growing support for Modi among the women of Gujarat. He then declared that he had filed a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge this needless encroachment on the powers of the state government.

Modi also talked of perennial power shortages and blackouts in the rest of the country while Gujarat had succeeded in providing uninterrupted electricity to every single village and household. Access to affordable and efficient forms of cooking is an issue of utmost importance for virtually every woman in India. It is a life and death issue for poor rural households where women have to spend hours walking miles on rough terrains scrounging for fuel wood, cutting thorny bushes and trees and carrying loads of firewood for cooking on smoky chulhas that further endanger their health. Deforestation is also a life and death issue for people who live in hilly regions, especially women, because with disappearing forests, fuel, water and fodder become scarce and landslides become a common occurrence. Absence and/ or shortages of electricity have kept our villages impoverished by crushing the emergence of small enterprises and industries in villages.

Finally, Modi critiqued Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi for bragging in election rallies that the Congress party was the one facilitating development by giving money grants to state governments while state governments ignored or mismanaged development works. Modi echoed Nitish Kumar, saying that the Congress talks as if the money coming from the Centre is its personal wealth, which it is distributing as charity.

Neither print nor electronic media chose to investigate and discuss whether the claims made by Modi regarding the piped gas project and universal rural electrification in Gujarat are accurate or exaggerated. Similarly, the Congress party's use of Central funds to arm-twist chief ministers undermines federalism and vitiates Centre-state relations, impairing the health of our democracy. The Centre's near-total monopoly over key sources of taxation leaves state governments at the mercy of the Delhi durbar, distorts state policies and development programmes. For example, most state governments end up pushing liquor sales because that is one of the few sources of revenue they can impose directly. Villages that lack clean drinking water have a plentiful supply of government-patronised liquor shops. This drains out incomes of poor households, leads to greater domestic violence and strengthens the hold of political goondas who own these liquor thekas in villages.

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