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Dyslexia — Out of syllabus question for PM Modi

In his habit of being always in Election mood, targeting Opposition from any forum has landed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in searing criticism and attacks. He might not have intended to offend the Dyslexic children, but his attack was on Congress President Rahul Gandhi, which misfired. Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced burning criticism on social media as a video clip showing him cracking a joke on Dyslexia was widely shared on Facebook and Twitter. The Prime Minister made the joke during an interaction that was beamed live to thousands of students participating in a competition to find technology-driven solutions to tackle issues related to women and children. During the video conference for ‘Smart India Hackathon 2019’ at IIT Kharagpur, an engineering student from Dehradun told the Prime Minister about a program that could help Dyslexic children who face reading and writing difficulties; however, unfortunately, this was out of the syllabus subject for our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The exchange was severely criticised by the netizens including by members of the Opposition.

Once a dyslexic kid and now a teacher, on the condition of anonymity told Afternoon Voice, “It seems that our Prime Minister is hitting new lows every day. These leaders have lost their mind in their lust for power. The PM must not think that he can get away with any crap he says. Please understand that mocking Dyslexia is not cool; it is insensitive and shameful.”

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi expressed, “It is an extremely insensitive comment from PM Modi. It is not a forum to crack jokes. Showing his shallow personality, he has sent a wrong message to the young generation that it is absolutely alright to joke and mock people with disabilities.”

“It is unfortunate that we are still trying to create awareness and remove the stigma around the syndrome. The PM should be aware of crores of children who suffer from Dyslexia and struggling with learning disabilities. On one hand, he talks of caring for all and on the other hand, he is insensible. We need a Prime Minister who will consider this nation first than politics,” she added.

The student from the ‘Smart India Hackathon 2019’ said, “We have an idea to help the Dyslexic children, whose pace of learning and writing is very slow. Nevertheless, these children have a high intelligence and creativity level as you have seen in the movie Taare Zameen Par”. At this point, the Prime Minister interrupted the student and asked a question. “Will this program work for a 40-50-year-old child too?” PM Modi’s question drew laughter from the students. As he took a step back to let the punch line sink in, many broke into guffaws and applause. Prompted by her peers, the student with the microphone replied: “Yes sir, it will work.”

However, PM Modi wasn’t done yet.

“Then, that will make the mothers of such children very happy,” he said, that led to another round of laughter. This exchange was very low and cheap to a people of the PM status. He would have forgotten his election grudge while dealing with such subjects. Turning this around to being a comment on Dyslexic children is something only a desperate leader will do. The BJP leaders have frequently attacked Congress President Rahul Gandhi over his faux pas and often painted him as an immature and slow person. The Prime Minister has himself lashed out at the Congress Chief for being “childish” after he hugged him in the Parliament at the end of an impassioned debate last year. This level of politics has not gone well with the section of society.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Sharma Menon spoke to Afternoon Voice and said, “I think it is appalling and shocking that our PM thinks that Dyslexia is a condition that has to be made fun of. A lot of successful people in the world were grappled with Dyslexia in their childhood. The PM making fun of Dyslexic children has never happened in the history of the world before while PM Modi was supposed to teach those students what humanity is and how to help their country at large. Instead of that, he is encouraging children to make fun of other Dyslexic children.”

Targeting opposition for their attempt to take political mileage out of this issue, BJP spokesperson Shweta Shalini said, “PM Modi’s statement on Dyslexia is being made a political issue by Congress as the party lacks other issues to speak about. It seems that Congress workers and their leadership themselves notice Dyslexia in Rahul Gandhi. In his speech, the PM has not mentioned Rahul Gandhi’s name. PM Modi has always supported the children with disabilities during his tenure and this is well-known to both the children as well as their parents.”

Dr. Aniruddh Ambekar commented, “Dyslexia is a reading and writing disorder caused both by genetic and environmental factors. This sarcastic response from the PM trying to target a specific personality does not sound good, especially for those kids, who are suffering from this syndrome, and their families. It can also demotivate them. Our PM should be more kind and try to help these kids without targeting anyone.”

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