People will ask why PM not doing more: Appadurai

Reflecting upon India’s growth underpinned by technological innovation Mr. Pichai said the Prime Minister’s vision was “central to this revolution.”

Even as a sense of anticipation mounted here over the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially his highly-anticipated talks on Digital India with top-tech CEOs and the 20,000-strong community reception on Sunday, a New York University Professor who signed the letter from U.S. academics last month criticising some of the Indian administration’s policies said the government’s “interference in at least 15 major educational institutions does not bode well” for the success of such policies.

In a conversation with The Hindu Arjun Appadurai, New York University’s Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, said that it was unsurprising that there was an exuberant welcome for Mr. Modi in Silicon Valley this upcoming weekend given that a large proportion of the Indian diaspora in the area were involved in IT directly, including well-known venture capitalists, tech entrepreneurs, and so on.

However, Professor Appadurai said, he had noted “with disappointment about the message from the CEO of Google, which was an upbeat, warm welcome to Mr. Modi, and praising the Digital India initiative, a statement suggesting there was no issue of any kind.”

In a video message posted days ago Chennai-born Sundar Pichai had said there was “tremendous excitement,” among all Googlers and the tech community more broadly regarding Mr. Modi’s visit, adding that the bond between India and Silicon Valley was strong and built on many years of India exporting talent to this part of the U.S.

Reflecting upon India’s growth underpinned by technological innovation and entrepreneurship Mr. Pichai said the Prime Minister’s vision was “central to this revolution.”

However Professor Appadurai said it was “fair and accurate to say that if you take the Indian diaspora population for the U.S. as a whole, or even for its highly educated qualified sector, those of us who raised those concerns in the letter are probably numerically smaller than those who are pro-Modi.”

He emphasised that regardless of this numerical disproportion, the letter that he and 124 other academics wrote had faced a “heated” reaction both here and in India.

While the professor expressed dismay at the vitriol, abuse and threats that he said the signatories to the letter, including noted India specialist Wendy Doniger, had received from many readers, he said that this second visit of Mr. Modi’s to the U.S. was “going to be more complicated [because] people are not just greeting him as the Messiah and are instead are looking at his one year in office and asking why he has not done more.”