Geopolitics

Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Modi

With his untruths, bad choice of friends and unwillingness to apologize, India's prime minister is everything our parents taught us not to be.

Supporters during a Modi election rally
Supporters during a Modi election rally
Rohit Kumar*

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — Ask any group of parents what they want their kids to be. You will likely get answers like, "I want my child to be happy," or "successful," or "I want my child to stand on his or her own feet." But the answer you will get the most often will invariably be, "I want my child to grow up to be a good human being."

I have yet to meet parents who did not want their children to grow up to be good human beings. This also includes parents who do not feel they have been shining examples and sterling role models themselves.

Chances are that the things you do not want your kids to do are the same things you were taught not to do as you were growing up. I'm guessing that you, like me, were also expected to keep the following list of dos and don'ts in mind while you were growing up:

  1. Don't lie
  2. Don't keep bad company
  3. Don't harm others.
  4. Take responsibility for your mistakes
  5. Apologize when you hurt somebody.
  6. Do your homework, study for your exams, don't cheat.
  7. Be civil and courteous to others.

One could call that list "morality basics' or "Behavior 101" but it was the very least that was expected of us. In turn, it is the very least we expect from others — including our leaders.

It's a sad commentary on our times that the last place we look for morality is in our political leaders, but even there, we expect at least a modicum of goodness. That's why we find it is so inspiring (and rare) when a public figure actually shows strength of character and is honest even to his or her own hurt. It makes us sit up and take notice.

That's why we revere leaders like, say, Nelson Mandela, who even after spending 27 years in prison, did not take revenge on the white population of South Africa or incite others to do the same. That's why we respect Jacinda Ardern for going the extra mile in reaching out to the Muslim community after the tragic mosque shootings.

The disturbing reality of today's India, however, is that the prime minister of our country, Narendra Modi, has come to exemplify the exact opposite of the values our parents brought us up with, and that we want our children to grow up with. Let's examine the list:

Don't lie: We find it extremely hard to believe what our prime minister says any more. When he says terrorism in India has come to an end and his own government's data proves the opposite, and when he says that demonetization did not cause a rise in unemployment and the data show that 5 million people lost their jobs because of it, we know the man is suffering from a serious lack of credibility.

Don't keep bad company: Despite severe public censure and criticism, Modi continues to follow abusive trolls on Twitter. A man is known by the company he keeps. Modi's choice of online friends is deplorable, to say the least. His choice of ministers and candidates is even more so.​

Modi addressing a campaign rally at Nadia – Photo: Saikat Paul

Don't abuse: By calling a deceased prime minister "Bhrashtachari No. 1" (most corrupt) at the point of his death, the prime minister of India has now dragged public discourse to a new low. Lamenting Modi's remarks on the late Rajiv Gandhi, Rajmohan Gandhi who once stood against Gandhi as a candidate from Amethi, said, "Even if someone then believed that Rajiv had tolerated corruption, would they say to his son 28 years later that "your father ended his life as India's most corrupt man?""

Take responsibility for your mistakes: To this day, the prime minister has not apologized for the trauma that demonetization has caused the people of India. Never mind an apology, he has not even acknowledged that the note ban was a colossal mistake and an unmitigated disaster.

Apologize when you hurt somebody: Humility, it has been said, is the soil in which all human graces grow. The ability to genuinely apologize shows humility. One can thus understand why Modi, who has never been known for his ability to acknowledge wrongdoing, is clearly devoid of such graces.

Do your homework, study for your exams, don't cheat: A prime minister whose own educational abilities and achievements remain shrouded in mystery and controversy can hardly be expected to be a role model for India's children and youth, "Exam Warriors' and nationally televised pariskha pe charcha sessions with school kids notwithstanding.

Be civil and courteous to others: By calling Mamata Banerjee "speed-breaker didi," Sonia Gandhi "Jersey Cow" and Rahul Gandhi "hybrid bacchda," Modi has told the country that civility and courteousness are not his core values.

Aristotle, the 4th-century Greek philosopher, wrote in Rhetoric — his treatise on the art of persuasion — that there are three primary ways to influence people: through logos (logic), pathos (emotion) and ethos (one's own character.) Of these, he believed that ethos, a person's character, communicates the most effectively and powerfully.

Unfortunately, a lack of character also communicates clearly and strongly, and coming from the highest office bearer in the land sends out the unambiguous signal that decency, courtesy and civility no longer matter.

Modi, it is now clear, is the adult version of the kid your mom told you to stay away from and is a living example of all the things she taught you not to be.

It is time we replaced him with someone we are happy to let our children emulate a bit more.



*Rohit Kumar is an educator with a background in positive psychology and psychometrics. He works with high school students on emotional intelligence and adolescent issues to help make schools bullying-free zones.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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