By Ashish Mishra*
Though he has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi only thrice in the last 13 years, Prahlad Modi enjoys a healthy relationship with his elder brother. He is hoping the Narendra Modi government will sort out the problems dogging Public Distribution System (PDS) shopowners like him in India.
Prahlad, two years younger than Narendra Modi, who is 64, was in the national capital to participate in a protest organised to highlight the woes of ration shop keepers under the aegis of All India Fair Price Shop Dealers Federation (AIFPSDF).
Prahlad, who is vice president of AIFPSDF, says he visits Delhi often as part of his business or to lead the protest of fair price shop owners. But he does not drop by at 7, RCR, the prime minister’s official residence, to say hello.
“We do not meet or talk on phone frequently, but we are on good terms. In the last 13 years I have met my elder brother only thrice as he has renounced the family life in the 70’s. He has dedicated his life to the welfare of the nation. We did not meet even when he came to Gandhinagar to seek the blessings of our mother after his swearing in last year,” Prahlad told IANS in an interview.
“I am a shopkeeper. I do not enjoy any special rights or privileges being the prime minister’s sibling. Yes, as a protocol I have been provided security,” he said when asked if he enjoys any perks as the prime minister’s brother.
“I do not hanker after any personal gains or seek the advantage of being the brother of Narendra Modi. My parents have given me and other family members such cultural values that we believe in our strengths,” said Prahlad, who owns a fair price shop in Ahmedabad.
Asked if he keeps in touch with the prime minister’s wife, Jashodaben, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Unjha town of Mehsana district, he said they meet “off and on”.
“Our family enjoys a healthy relationship with Narendra Modi’s wife Jashodaden who lives in Unjha with her brother. We meet her off and on,” said Prahlad.
Narendra Modi is the third of six siblings, with five of them being boys. Three brothers stay in Ahmedabad and one in Gandhinagar.
Explaining the reasons for which he has come to Delhi, Prahlad said that Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister had helped mitigate the problems of fair price shop owners in the state. The AIFPSDF is keen that Prime Minister Modi solve the problem of ration shop owners in the country.
The ration shop owners are demanding that the government now equate them with government servants, and are seeking a “respectable” monthly wages of Rs.25,000.
“We demand that the government consider us as government employees and fix a salary so that we can look after our family. At least they should give us Rs.25,000 per month as salary. PDS dealers have to bear losses every month. I have to suffer a loss of Rs.6,000 every month at my shop in Ahmedabad,” he said, adding that he had written to the Gujarat government in 2010 in this regard. “The government should sit with us and chalk out a plan so that we are not left behind,” he said.
“We have strong hopes from the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra-bhai Modi that they will give an ear to our problems. Narendra Modi had done a lot for people in the PDS sector while he was chief minister of Gujarat,” he said.
He also said that his visit to Delhi “should not be treated as a fight against his elder brother”. “I respect him a lot; he is like a father to me. I am not against my elder brother but I am raising the woes of the PDS dealers which should be sorted out,” he added.
(Ashish Mishra can be reached at [email protected])