SAN JOSE (CALIFORNIA) It was the quintessential Facebook moment for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, eliciting thousands of likes. In a spirited townhall-style meeting at the Facebook headquarters at the sprawling Menlo Park near San Francisco, the leader of the world’s largest democracy interacted with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and captive listeners as he waxed eloquent on the power of social media to connect people in a wired world.
“For me social media became a very important guide, gave me the tools to make a connect. It changed my thought process”, Mr Modi said on a crisp bright morning. An ardent proponent and practitioner of social media, the Indian leader asked “world leaders not to avoid social media and to connect to it.”
Mr Modi, who deftly harnessed social media for his electoral campaign in the summer of 2014, spoke about his ambitious agenda for transforming India through digital revolution. But the moment that’s going to stay in memories of nearly 500 people present at the Facebook HQ and all those following it on TV is when the Indian prime minister got emotional when talking about his mother, his eyes moist with tears.
“When we were young, what we did to get by: we went to our neighbors’ houses nearby to clean dishes, fill water, do hard chores. So you can imagine what a mother had to do to raise her children. What she must have gone through,” said Modi in an emotion-laden voice. “That’s not just the case with Narendra Modi. In India there are hundreds of thousands of women and mothers who sacrificed their entire lives for their children.”
Mr Modi also lauded Mr Zuckerberg’s parents for raising a child who changed the world through his ingenuity and enterprise.
Women empowerment figured prominently in his speech. “In all cultures, the God is in male form. It is only Indian civilisations that have so many goddesses,” he said in answer to a question. “It is true that there has been diversion in this thought over the years. If our country has to reach its economic goals, it cannot happen with half its population shut behind doors. There has to be 100 per cent partnership and the government has to play a proactive role. In India, the situation is that men need reservations in academics as the women dominant here, like in the health sector too. Now we have reserved 30 percent jobs in police service for women. They will also need a big role in the decision-making process as well,” he added.
Unveiling his vision of refashioning India through enhanced internet connectivity and promoting entrepreneurial culture, Mr Modi spoke eloquently about his dream of seeing India as a USD 20 trillion economy, with villages and remote towns connected in a symphony of national resurgence. “We need both highways and i-ways in India. I want to connect all 6 lakh villages in India via fiber optic cables.”
Underlining India’s three D advantage – Demographic Dividend, Democracy and Demand — the Indian leader added another D: deregulation, a reference to ongoing efforts by his government to fast-track second generation economic reforms to entice more foreign investments for national renewal.
Mr Modi ended his visit to the social media giant’s campus by writing on the legendary real ‘wall’ at the Facebook headquarters. “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma. Satyameva Jayate. Vande Mataram.” It means “non-violence is supreme religion, May truth triumph.”
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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