Debating India

A Review Of Shining India

Malvika SINGH

Saturday 10 January 2004, by SINGH*Malvika

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Parvez Musharraf have certainly brought in the new year by saturating the hitherto unpleasant atmosphere with much hope for both India and Pakistan.

The tenor seems to have changed and that is what makes all the difference. If this process continues in an accelerated fashion and the resultant changes on the ground become evident, our sub-continent could, in fact, leap forward onto the world stage, genuinely, and become a region that the world will have to contend with.

Looking at the India Shining campaign, one wonders which India is being referred to. Wherever one travels in this country one is beset with a reality and infrastructure that leaves much to be desired. The burgeoning new generation in their twenties and thirties are looking for employment, and in recent years we find the unemployment figures have risen. How is this going to be checked? What are the professional avenues that have to be created and endorsed to absorb vast numbers of young people in fruitful economic activity? Issues such as these need to be addressed and by merely saying India is shining does not answer the many problems that besiege us.

When the government talks about the ?feel good factor’ and the various policies that are being initiated, they are all things that governments are elected to do. That is why they are there and that is their mandate. That is their ?job’. Why else do we have governments? They are meant to govern, much like painters are meant to paint and writers to write. They are meant to lay the roads, build the metros, add the railway lines, generate the power, provide the water. I often wonder why we make these regular jobs seem extraordinary.

As for dealing with institutional ?scams’, it is the press that has brought scams into the public domain, not governments. The government has not probed itself. It has reacted when caught out. Had the government indicted itself and initiated the anti-corruption ?movement’, there would have been a true ?feel good factor’ at work. So, let’s not get carried away.

There is much talk about restructuring the economy, privatisation, etc. The time has come for the government to lead, with passionate resolve, the restructuring of itself. Correction of rules, regulations, and archaic norms is imperative. Culling government employees and cutting costs is essential. Bringing internal corruption to book must become the daily prayer. Extravagant perks that go with government jobs, including housing, must go. This attitude of depending on the ?dole’ must dissolve forever. These correctives, when in place, will make India shine! And, to do all this is tough.

No government has attempted to change itself because if they succeed, their overarching and repressive powers will diminish rapidly. They too will have to compete. They will have to join our ranks and prove themselves like we have to. Only then will democracy move from being a myth into becoming a reality.

What does ?shine’ in India is people. The population of this country has a vast fund of patience and an ability to absorb the most humiliating assaults from the environment they live in. Inhuman living conditions dominate the lives of millions and that needs to be addressed immediately. Even a minimal improvement will be dramatic. Shining India must provide at least a smattering of medical care in every district and not unmanned dispensaries and PHCs. Maybe the Shining India campaign should get the CII to create a fund of crores of rupees generated from industry - which we gather is on the up, up - for rural hospitals as a start. There are a few examples of such enterprises that are very successful. A little bit of ?giving’, to make India shine a bit brighter!

But the one ?feel sick factor’ that plagues the Capital is the VIP movement on the streets of Delhi, particularly the cavalcade of the PM and the deputy PM. This results in traffic snarls that cannot be described. The disruption remains for hours and throws life out of gear for ordinary commuters who miss appointments and are stuffed in their vehicles for hours. The PM and deputy PM should stop this and present to Delhi a ?feel good factor’.

See online : The Indian Express

P.S.

The Financial Express, Saturday, January 10, 2004.

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