Pained at claims of enforced silence in India: Vice President

New Delhi:  Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday took a swipe at former Congress president Sonia Gandhi over her “enforced silence” remarks, and said the freedom of expression one enjoys in the country cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Addressing the inaugural session of the ‘Mann Ki Baat @ 100 Conclave’, Dhankhar also hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for keeping politics away from his monthly radio programme, which had come as a “beacon of hope” for a nation that was “losing hope and its world image had nosedived”.

He also slammed “an ostrich-like stance” some people take while touring foreign lands and ignore the rapid development taking place in the country.

In an apparent reference to Sonia Gandhi’s recent article in a newspaper alleging “enforced silence” in the country under the BJP government, Dhankhar said the freedom of expression a person enjoys in the country cannot be found anywhere in the world.

“I am pained and also sometimes feel what has happened to our intelligentsia. Long articles are written on enforced silence. How can there be enforced silence in the country? Such a big freedom of expression you will not find in any other country across the world,” the vice president said.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Apurva Chandra and Prasar Bharati CEO Gaurav Dwivedi were also present at the inaugural session of the conclave.

Dhankhar said when he first became a Member of Parliament in 1989, he felt he had got a lot of power as he could give cooking gas connections to 50 people every year.

“But, the architect of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ has given 150 million connections that too free of cost. This is an achievement the world cannot understand,” Dhankhar said, referring to the Ujjwala scheme of the government.

“But I pity that some of our people, while travelling in the country or abroad, exhibit an ostrich-like stance? Why don’t they see the writing on the wall? I find it strange,” the vice president said in an apparent reference to Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the government during his visit to Britain.

Dhankhar asserted that the “Mann ki Baat” programme had dealt a body blow to negativity and had taken positivity to greater heights. “At a time when the country was losing hope, when our world image had nosedived, everyone was wondering how things would improve. But now these thoughts have ceased to be issues. Now the issue is when will we reach the top,” the vice president said.

‘Mann ki Baat @100’ Conclave celebrates the 100th episode of the prime minister’s monthly radio programme. The 100th episode is scheduled to be aired on coming Sunday.

Dhankhar also released a coffee table book on “Mann Ki Baat@100” and another book “Collective Spirit, Concrete Action” authored by S S Vempati, former CEO of Prasar Bharati.