PMO steps in to put the shine on new line to push unity in diversity

The government identified a new mission called ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ (EBSB), to foster national unity, and the Prime Minister’s Office has now stepped in to give it a fresh push as it was floundering under the Culture ministry.

Prime Minister Modi took his personal brand to the fore when his government launched the flagship ‘Swachch Bharat’ mission to bring a new culture of hygiene and sanitation in the country. Now, the government has identified another new mission called ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ (EBSB), to foster national unity.

The Prime Minister’s Office has already swung into action to get it moving on a grand scale. A source told ThePrint that the PMO has asked the Human Resource Development ministry to “scale up” the mission, ensure it gets high “publicity” and “visibility” on a “larger platform” right away. Officials have been asked to involve political and administrative leadership across the states and the Centre, and enlist corporate support and celebrity endorsement.

The programme will work to reinforce a sense of “nationhood”, identity and cultural pride among the people.

In a meeting held on 3 July 2017 at the PMO, involvement of Union ministers and state Chief Ministers in the mission was discussed. It was also decided that celebrities should be roped in across states to reinforce the message of ‘unity in diversity’.

The move to scale up this mission comes at a time when the Centre has been criticised for its alleged imposition of Hindi in other states, policies like the controversial cattle market rules and its alleged tacit support for cow vigilantism or beef bans. The government has repeatedly denied these allegations.

ThePrint gets you exclusive details of the Modi government’s next big mission:

PLAN OF ACTION 

The government will involve private corporates to help mobilise resources, assist with cultural, sports and tourism activities, and also take lead roles in generating publicity for the mission.

A media blitz complete with an EBSB theme song, television and digital media messaging, video clips on social media and articles in newspapers are planned. Government-run Doordarshan and All India Radio are also to be involved not just to telecast relevant programmes but also generate mission-specific content and disseminate it across states. The Indian Railways, trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, metro stations and trains will be enlisted to ensure branding and cross-country messaging for EBSB.

The HRD ministry has also been asked to immediately start engaging with ministries of Tourism, Sports, Information & Broadcasting, Railways and Culture to participate actively in EBSB and a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary may soon be in the offing to coordinate the same, sources indicated.

SCHOOL TO UNIVERSITY

On the education front, plans are also afoot to take the message from schools to universities.

The National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) has been tasked with developing a ‘National Integration’ module, a compendium on Indian cultural values and traditions from across every state. This will be offered as a non-credit but probably a compulsory course in classes 9 and 11 and the first year of the undergraduate course. The compendium, tentatively titled ‘Understanding India’, promises to offer a comprehensive and one-stop cultural exposition on every state.

Another exercise to pair states with each other for elaborate cultural exchange programmes is already underway. Twelve pairs of States and Union Territories have signed Memorandums of Understanding for the same. So, Punjab is paired with Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Telangana are together, as are Jammu & Kashmir and Tamil Nadu.

Other plans in the work are holding inter-state cuisine festivals in university canteens, sending varsity students for trekking expeditions in a University in another state, holding elocution contests on cultural practices of other states, book translations on the paired state’s history and fashion shows on various dresses of Indian states. All universities and educational institutes will be asked to “accord priority” to these activities and fit them into their academic calendar this year on, ThePrint has learnt.

THE INCEPTION 

First enunciated as an idea by the PM on 31 October, 2015 – Rashtriya Ekta Diwas to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel – Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat, aims at reinforcing the sense of “nationhood”, Indian identity and cultural pride in the people. It also aims to focus on deepening cultural exchanges across states to replace the sense of “othernesses” to one of “unity in diversity”.

In the works for a while now, this mission towards greater cultural integration and a strong ‘Indian’ identity was floundering while it was with the Ministry of Culture. It was then handed over last year to the HRD ministry. The PMO has, however, stepped in to ensure it picks up pace and scale.

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