Addressing the recent 'Chintan Shivir' of Home Ministers of States attended by Home Secretaries and Director General of Police (DGPs) of the States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a few devastating statements. First, he said that "the Laws enacted by the central government displayed a will to strongly handle corruption, terrorism and Hawala. Laws like UAPA have given strength to the system in a decisive battle against terrorism." Truth is that the conviction rate is a dismal 3% and by no stretch of imagination this can be called a decisive battle against terrorism.

Then he dealt the knockout punch: "Every form of Naxalism, be it the one with guns or the one with pens, they have to be uprooted to prevent them from misleading the youth of the country." The Prime Minister warned that such forces are increasing their intellectual sphere to pervert the minds of coming generations. "For the sake of the unity and integrity of the nation and with the inspiration of Sardar Patel, we cannot allow any such forces to flourish in our country," he said.

The message is clear and is in line with the doctrine expounded by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval some months ago at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, "the new frontiers of war, what you call the fourth-generation warfare, is the civil society." Sum and substance of the Doval Doctrine and the Modi Diktat is that Indians should live by the lies and fake news of the official/party machinery and cannot breathe the fresh air of truth. Anyone trying to attempt this runs the risk of being branded Naxals and detained under UAPA.

The litmus test came within two days, on October 30, when an "Act of Terror by corruption and commission" befell on the 140-year-old British-era swinging suspension bridge in Gujarat's Morbi killing over 140 men, women and children and maiming many more. This was due to a series of lapses, such as no safety audit of the metal bridge, no audit of the structure's load bearing capacity and the contractor (the clock making company OREVA) not qualified for the job.

Many of the cables of the bridge were rusty and yet not replaced, while the material used for the renovation was substandard, leaving the bridge vulnerable when it was hurriedly reopened without any approvals. Forensic experts believe that the main cable of the bridge snapped because of the weight of the new flooring. This horrific incident would not have happened had the cables been replaced and adequate safety measures taken. What is more, no life-saving equipment and evacuation plan were put in place when the bridge was reopened amid the festive season.

The Morbi horror is a lethal combination of horrendous corruption and humongous human tragedy and in that sense could be among the worst in Indian history. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited the site two days later casually mentioned the need for a "detailed, impartial and extensive" inquiry to identify all aspects relating to the bridge collapse.

The bare fact staring at everyone is that even the unqualified corporate-crony OREVA Group had time till December to complete the repairs and renovation, but it opened the bridge much earlier and loaded it with more than 500 tourists, like cattle. This was only to make some quick money treating the bridge as family property.

Despite this none of the owners of the OREVA Group are even mentioned in the FIR registered so far. As if to rub it in, the OREVA name board displayed on the collapsed bridge was covered with a plastic sheet during Modi's site visit indicating that this will be the fate of the "detailed, impartial and extensive" inquiry!

Another glaring fact is that while some 'loyal' TV channels were busy spinning lies that the bridge collapsed due to people resorting to swinging, the factual coverage of the catastrophe in the media has been unusually subdued and suppressed. As per a Wall Street Journal report even Facebook's Gujarat hashtag was pulled out on the day after the tragedy to prevent people from seeing the gory pictures. It was as if everyone was afraid of telling the truth.

This brings us to the 'New India' reality that while peddling lies is kosher, and telling the truth is 'Naxal'!

The race between lie and truth is eternal. Mark Twain had famously said: "A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots." Yet, India adopted the opposite and almost impossible motto of "Satyameva Jayate" (Truth alone shall triumph). Now, things have come to such a pass that the mighty state may prevent the truth from even lacing up its boots by clamping UAPA or Sedition law!

What is Truth? Dictionary meaning of truth is the actuality of things or events, fact, or spiritual reality. Other definitions of truth have to do with sincerity in action or character, while others literally refer to God.

The opposite of truth, then, is lies, falsity, fiction, and falsehood. No matter how it is viewed, truth bears the fruit of trust, and many of us spend our entire lives looking for it. In the Bhagavad-Gita, when Arjuna asks what impels us to act self-destructively (03.36), Krishna identifies our own desires for sensual indulgence as the culprits (03.37).

If we are to liberate ourselves from self-destructive behaviour, we have to begin by acknowledging our vulnerability and gullibility. It is in this context that the Biblical dictum "the truth will set you free" becomes relevant.

Such dictum notwithstanding, throughout human history truth has been a rarity. As noted by writer Rohit Kumar, the 'Parable of the Sower' narrated by Jesus in the Bible describes this. A parable is a short story that teaches a lesson and the 'Parable of the Sower' is a case in point and this is how it goes: "A sower (farmer) went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the road, and the birds came and devoured it.

"Other seed fell on rocky earth, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up, but since it had no depth of soil or roots, when the sun rose, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. But other seed fell into good soil and grew, yielding grain thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." (Mark, Chapter 4, verses 3–9)

"Jesus goes on to explain that the four kinds of ground that the farmer sowed seeds in are symbolic of four kinds of people and their reactions to the truth that is shared with them. There are those who are like the road on which the seed fell. Like the birds, Satan immediately comes and takes away the truth that is presented in them.

"Then there are those who are like the rocky earth: the ones who, when they hear the truth, receive it with joy, but because they don't have much depth, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the truth, immediately they fall away.

"Then there are those who hear the truth, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in like thorns and choke the truth, and it proves unfruitful. But there are also those who, like fertile ground, when they hear the truth with a good and honest heart, accept it and the truth bears a great harvest in their lives."

Moral of the story is that even in normal times penetration and adherence to truth among the people is minimal. In 'New India' even this is under assault to ensure that "Truth shall never Triumph." As the space for truth is shrinking, the infamous oracle of Adolf Hitler appears to be coming true: "The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."

Recently the Ashoka Lions in the National Emblem were severely distorted by making them look ferocious. It is time that the national motto inscribed on the emblem is altered to "Asatyameva Jayate" (Untruth alone shall triumph). This will benefit "New India" and would at least save us from the brazen hypocrisy that is being practiced.

M.G.Devasahayam retired from the Indian Administrative Service. He also served in the Indian Army.