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HomeMediaUnderstanding Ravish ji ki class: GDP = state budget = 3 months ticket sales?

Understanding Ravish ji ki class: GDP = state budget = 3 months ticket sales?

As yet, the video has over 250,000 views on Youtube, 16,000 likes and 800 comments, almost all of them dripping with admiration. If there is collective suspension of disbelief, it appears to be a cooperative act.

When the government acquires land in order to build an expressway, do they tell people in villages that their bullock carts will not be allowed on the same expressway? Yes, that is an incredibly stupid question. And it makes some incredibly insulting assumptions about the intelligence as well as the standard of living of people in our villages. And yes, Ravish Kumar asked (see from 5:00) this question out aloud on TV the other day, speaking apparently to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

One would imagine there was an editorial team somewhere, and they must have been semi-conscious at the very least. And they must have written and/or approved this.

The cult of Ravish Kumar is no laughing matter. Every night, Ravish takes to television to address his audience. His show is posted not in snippets, but as a single long form video on YouTube, the news show equivalent of a telefilm or single act play. Generally speaking, there is only one topic per night, though sometimes Ravish will spend a few minutes acknowledging all the good that his show is doing in the world. How it is changing lives, making people conscious; how students, workers and farmers are reaching out to him with their hopes and dreams.

I decided to experience one of these ‘classes’ myself, sitting through the whole thing from beginning to end. In particular, this one from Sep 23, on the topic of building statues and memorials for people in our country.

It is mostly a monologue, but cleverly engineered to feel otherwise. Ravish ji speaks in long sentences, with a daze of graphics and newspaper clippings flashing in the background. This gives the viewer the appearance that there are facts and figures to support whatever is being said. And ultimately that the presenter, who is something of a cross between a professor and a preacher, is speaking to you from inside your head. Making you nod.

The trick, however is to stay awake. For instance, about 12 minutes into the video, Ravish ji says that the BJP had criticized Mayawati for building Ambedkar memorials during her term as CM. The claim appears dubious. It seems very doubtful that the BJP or any other party would criticize a memorial for Dr. Ambedkar. Quite tellingly, this claim is not accompanied by a reference on the show itself. If there is a legitimate reference for this claim, I would like to see one. If I remember correctly, there was opposition to Mayawati building statues of herself and her party symbol, not to a memorial for Dr. Ambedkar.

Later in the show, Ravish ji turns his attention to one of the favorite targets of PM Modi’s critics — the Statue of Unity at Kevadia in Gujarat. Ravish ji proceeds to remind the viewer of Piyush Goyal’s words in Jan 2020 that the aim is to have Rs 1 lakh crore of economic output in that area in the next four or five years. In what feels like a dig, he adds that while the annual state budget of Gujarat comes to around Rs 2.25 lakh crore, the minister gave us dreams of Rs 1 lakh crore from a single spot!

Wait! Why would anyone compare the entire economic output of an area to the state budget? The two are very different things. The GDP of the state of Gujarat is around $230 billion or Rs 16.5 lakh crore. Of this, around $80 billion is generated from Amdavad alone. The GDP of Surat is around $60 billion. In his Jan 2020 speech, Piyush Goyal said the aim was to have Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion) of economic output in the area around the Statue of Unity. In other words, in 4-5 years, an economic output comparable to about one quarter of Surat city today. The area is being developed as a big tourist attraction with a massive infrastructure push that should bring in more business activity. While ambitious, a $15 billion target, that too after 4-5 years, does not seem quite so unachievable.

Does Ravish Kumar’s audience know that the GDP is different from the state budget? I cannot say. These comments are made 19 minutes into the video. Was the audience supposed to be awake at this point? I also cannot say.

But Ravish Kumar goes on with the same theme. A little later, he says that in Jan 2019, Union Tourism Minister K G Alphons told Parliament that Rs 19.47 crore had been earned as revenue from the statue between Nov 2018 and Jan 2019. I have not cross checked this, but I can presume that these are the ticket sales from that 3 month period. And Piyush Goyal was speaking about 1 lakh crore, Ravish ji adds…

Huh? Why would somebody compare the GDP to the state budget? And then possibly to ticket sales over some 3 month period? What is the connection?

I realized that at this point, Ravish Kumar could have continued by saying almost anything, as long as it had numbers in it. Perhaps something like saying that a pack of biscuits is only Rs 10. Sachin Tendulkar has scored more than 100 centuries in international cricket. In the Mahabharata, the king Dhritarashtra has 100 sons, so what Rs 1 lakh crore of business is Piyush Goyal talking about? When the government acquires land for building an airport, do the farmers know that bullock carts will not be allowed on the runway?

If Ravish ji had actually said this, would it have made a difference to his viewers? I wonder.

But if you ask such questions, you could miss what appears to be the real vibe of the show. As yet, the video has over 250,000 views on Youtube, 16,000 likes and 800 comments, almost all of them dripping with admiration. If there is collective suspension of disbelief, it appears to be a cooperative act. A bit like sitting down in a circle with friends during a power cut or a storm, with candles, telling each other ghost stories. The sense of community is important, not whether the ghost stories actually make sense. Not thinking critically is part of the fun.

Below the video, one commenter, who goes by the username “Farhan Hashmi,” has commented:

I watch and understand every news and interview of Ravish Kumar. For me Ravish Kumar is also a great man.

I believe you, my friend.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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