Bollywood thespian Amitabh Bachchan recently appeared in Ahmedabad to promote his film Paa, rubbed shoulders with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and promptly declared his availibility to be the “brand ambassador” of the State of Mahatma Gandhi and the Somnath Temple.
This, on top of his already onerous responsibilities of spreading the good word for brand such as BPL, ICICI, Parker, Luxor, Maruti Versa, Cadbury chocolates, Nerolac Paints, Dabur, Emami, Eveready, Sahara City Homes, D’damas, Binani Cement and Reliance.
Dancer, activist, 2010 Padma Bhushan and Gujarati, Mallika Sarabhai has penned an open letter to the BBC’s “star of the millennium”.
“My dear Bachchanji
“Everyone knows of our vibrancy, of the billions and trillions pouring into our State through the two yearly jamborees called Vibrant Gujarat. Did you know that by the government’s own admission no more than 23% of these have actually moved beyond the MOU stage?
“That while huge subsidies are being granted to our richest business houses, over 75,000 small and medium businesses have shut down rendering one million more people jobless? That while theAll-India reduction in poverty between ’93 and 2005 is 8.5%, in Gujarat it is a mere 2.8%? That we have entire farmer families committing suicide, not just the male head of the household?
“That in the 49 years since the Narmada project was started, and in spite of the Rs.29,000 crore spent on it, only 29% of the work is complete. That whereas in 1999, 4,743 of Gujarat’s villages were without drinking water, within two years that figure had gone up to 11,390 villages?
“That in 2001 the State debt was Rs.14000 crores. This was before the State became a multinational company. Today it stands at Rs.1,05,000 crores. And to service this debt we pay a whopping Rs7000 crores a year, 25% of our annual budget.
“One rape a day, 17 cases of violence against women, and, over the last ten years, 8802 suicides and 18152 “accidental ” deaths of women are officially reported. You have said that you are our Ambassador because we have Somnath and Gandhi. Somnath was built for people. Gandhiji was a man of the people. Do the people of this State matter to you?”
Read the full letter: Can I believe in your endorsements, Bachchanji?