A Mandate Strong: Growth, Grief or Gong?

Dr Navniit Gandhi
Tuesday, August 6, 2019

We have a new Prime Minister and a new team in office to govern India.

The euphoria in millions of hearts over the results of the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha has died down, and so has the despair which prevailed in many other hearts, even as half the nation clung desperately and the other half confidently to the tightrope as this maha-tyohaar gripped the psyche of more than a billion of us.

Whether we love it or we hate it, the nations is Modified. The mandate is strong and overwhelming.

The coming five years will, therefore, matter quite a lot. We might swing in the direction of greater growth or towards grief. Or, all of the promises and hopes may turn out to be empty sounds of a gong.

Even the Modi-detractors secretly admit that anticipation prevails in their hearts as well. Everyone seems to be looking forward to some developments; some changes; and some things happening. The nation is opinionated and excited—whether the opinions are for or against the PM and his party. This, in itself, is a great sign. A couple of years ago, we seemed to be sliding dangerously towards political apathy and cynicism. Nothing and no one mattered to most people in the country; expectations from the political leaders were non-existent and the excitement over elections and governments was off our minds. That was a dangerous sign which reeked of a collapse of the electoral system in the long run. Fortunately, that phase has passed. The excitement during elections this time was sky-rocketing. It is perfectly alright if opinions are divided. What matters more is that people have opinions about and take interest in political affairs.

We have won against the symptoms of political dis-interestedness. It is a small victory, though. The next five years shall decide if this victory is here to stay or is short-lived and therefore replaced by an even more overwhelming sense of dejection. If this government fritters away the second chance given to it by a majority of citizens, disillusionment will run high in those millions of hearts. Even those who hate the PM are likely to be disappointed if the government fails to deliver. They may scream and shout that they were right in criticising the PM, but if the country does not grow and prosper, how will anyone be happy about it? If the next five years turn out to be bleak, our democracy may never become this participative again. Hence, hopes will have to be prevented from being crushed. The onus is on the new government to keep the spirits alive. Sustaining the continued interest and involvement of the masses in governance is one of the few imperative responsibilities that this government and the PM must shoulder.

What will the next five years bring in their wake? Reasons to cheer? Reasons to sneer? Or, opportunities to steer? What ought to be the agenda? What ought to be the priorities? Most of us would swear by economy, technology and defence. Of course, these are crucial areas and undoubtedly, it is economics that rules the roost. We live in a highly competitive world, and there is not a minute to lose with the stakes being quite gigantic. It is the economy which, the majority would opine, needs to be restored to health and vigour. However, there is another priority which is more critical; a priority which, if not attended to, could negate the gains in all other walks of life.

Which is that one priority which can impact the overall state of affairs in our nation, like none other, in magnitude and comprehensiveness? It is to set our house in order. After 72 years of having a sovereign existence, it is high time that a sense of discipline and national ethos is emphatically and invariably built and insisted upon in the country. All these years, we focussed on making and then amending the Constitution, while also drafting other legal codes and procedures. Laws are in abundance in our country; our Constitution is the longest written document in the world that spells what is and what is not to be done and we have scores of legislations, ordinances and policy decisions too. What is ardently missing though is their effective implementation!

During the just concluded five years of the Modi government, an additional impetus was put on bilateral ties, diplomacy and foreign policy. However, bilateral or multilateral ties can be cultivated and meaningfully lived in letter and spirit only if we truly mean business; if we show that we are what we claim; and if there is order and consistency in policies and conduct. Whatever little standing that India claims today in the circle of nations, is almost entirely because we are the largest market in the world. Nations which express their desire to cultivate deeper ties with India do so not because Indians are liked and respected for their values and ethos or because those in charge of governance in India can be trusted upon for honouring commitments. Our ways of doing business are not held much in high esteem by other countries and their major corporations and nor is it easy to do business with India. Though India has improved its rank in the Ease of Doing Business List by 23 positions (from 100 in 2017 to 77 in 2019), the fact remains that potential investors have 76 countries ahead of us when they decide to do business in other countries. The transparency, the action-orientedness and the zeal to stay firm on laws and policies must trickle down from the political masters down to the bureaucrats and then on to the people.

Since 1991, the need for foreign investment has been acutely felt and we have rightly so, drafted policies and devised measures to allure the foreign direct foreign institutional investors to India. From the times of Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh right up to Narendra Modi, programs have been conceived and slogans crafted to make India appear an attractive destination for manufacturers and investors. However, have we secured investment as our potential warrants? Or, rather, have we secured investments and technology transfers in areas and sectors as our national interest warrants? Corporations want to just come and sell in India or some of them want to make in India because they can use our resources at cheap prices or even pollute or abuse our resources without worries of hefty penalty. The MNCs set up manufacturing plants in countries where can they can have it all cheap and also get away with almost everything--- depletion and pollution of ground water and other resources, violation of labour rights, sale of goods laced with dangerous chemicals, use of pesticides and diversion of scarce resources for the production of raw materials they need for their plants. There have been many instances of protests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the use of water by Coca Cola and Pepsi. Both these giants were using 1.9 litres of water to make one small bottle of Coca-Cola and because they use sugar too (Coca-Cola is the number one buyer of sugarcane in India), if one takes into account the water used for sugarcane cultivation, the companies were using about 400 litres of water to make a bottle of Cola. Almost all of the companies that sell fizzy drinks and bottled water are accused of dehydrating communities worldwide, and why do they need to set up plants in countries such as India, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and others, can be anybody’s guess. It is a much-dreaded fear that wars will be fought over dwindling water resources in the coming decades. How well-geared are we for the difficult times ahead, ought to be an important concern of our government.

In our country, a plethora of instances prevail when forests have been wiped off, the ground water polluted and dried up and hazardous emissions have choked up the air and chemicals dumped into water bodies, with no stringent action. A Bhopal kind of a disaster and the subsequent mockery that happened in the name of punishment, fine, and compensation is possible only in India. Is it not time to accept that we do not get healthy, value-based and clean investment probably because our house is not in order? If our government does not care about ecology, why will the investors do? If we bend rules for small bribes, they too shall operate by bending the rules.

Also, because the company laws, the capital market laws and the banking laws are not strictly enforced, that some of our investors are already turning weary. We have already been there and seen that. How many global entities have expressed unequivocal and long-term interest and confidence after operating in India for some time? Probably, not many. Or, not any? Our labour laws were streamlined and modernised during the first five years of the Modi government but what about the implementation? Even the number of economic offenders will keep increasing, unless there is visible, strong and effective action taken against those few who are somehow caught in the first place. By setting our house in order, we make an unsaid statement before the world that we mean business and we are here to stay! Corruption, haphazardness and knee-jerk decisions and actions seriously distort our image in the world.

The state of our municipal and civic affairs is in disarray almost all throughout the country. Atrocities in the name of caste or religion or gender have not much subsided. Taking people for a ride unabashedly has not been curbed. Corruption and dishonesty still plague our nation at every stage and in every sphere. The notion that ‘sab chalta hai’ looms large and echoes confidently even today. We have legislations against crimes ranging from spitting to raping; laws on non-repayment of bank dues to laws on negligence of duties by our sarkaari babus; we have laws against the harassment of women, children, tourists and animals and yet the violations galore in every walk of life. People commit the ugliest and bizarrest of crimes, with total confidence and conviction that nothing much shall happen beyond a little investigation or a little formal action. Those who are paid to clean sewage systems or to sweep the streets often take their jobs as lightly as the police inspectors or income tax inspectors do. Self-interest solely guides their performance or lack of it. This is that one area which, I feel should be the unflinching priority of this new government. There should develop somewhat clear a conception of what is right and what is wrong for the nation; a clear conception of what are our compulsory duties towards the nation and what shall be tolerated and what shall not be tolerated in this country. Whether it is the shortage of water or the suicides by the farmers or the rising mercury levels---the concerns may seem to be economic or ecological but it is indiscipline that is at the root cause of most of our ills. The systems have turned lax and purposeless over the years. Nation’s well-being has not often been reiterated as the priority.

There was a keen focus on the infrastructure during the earlier stint of the Modi government and rightly so! However, discipline eludes us and negates the gains. New trains were introduced with pride because they offered us speed, luxury and standards in service but were ransacked and damaged on their maiden run, as would happen in a society full of perverts. The most overwhelming campaign which reverberated all around was the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and yet, the brazen spitting and the shameless littering continue unabated. The offenders do not care because there is none to fear. We spend millions on infrastructure so that we succeed in attracting tourists, and yet those who do visit may, in most probability, swear never to visit again. There are touts, beggars, rogues, fraudsters, and even perverts who molest without fear, despite the existence of laws to curb all of the menaces.

Honestly, who amongst us lives in blissful confidence that if we respect the nation, its flag, its heritage, its symbols, it history and its character---we shall live in peace and those who insult all of the above shall be punished? Those who raise slogans against the nation; those who cheat the nation; those who spread vulgarity and those who slander and abuse and kill and rape—are all roaming and living amongst us only. Even if they are caught, they look amused. They know that wriggling out of anything is so very easily possible in our country. The perpetuators of horrific crimes---whether economic or civic or criminal do not all languish in jails and if a handful do, it is certainly not for long enough so as to deter those who are in the offing. Sometimes, our society and media shamelessly malign the few who fearlessly discharge duties. We brazenly question their credentials and punish the few honest law-enforcers. We say and do what we ought not to, and do it brazenly because ‘sab kuch chalta hai’ is the underlined attitude in our country. Moreover, sections of the media and the other elites comprising the civil society stand with and cry hoarse in favour of such elements and create a false alarm of intolerance if at all an action is contemplated. Well, there are rules and codes of conduct for the media players as well. Will enforcing such rules and codes be on the priority list of this government? Will taking action against those who unscrupulously violate laws—be they capital market laws or environmental laws or civil laws or criminal laws, be this government’s priority? Even if new laws which are in tune with the present-day realities such as strong cyber laws etc need to be enacted, the government has the necessary majority in the Parliament (in the Lok Sabha, for now) and enjoys our hopes and our confidence. Its promises about making India a strong and powerful nation should all not be empty rhetoric, made with a bang and which die with the sound of the next gong of elections! The years ahead shall tell us whether any visible Modification takes place.

Effectively implementing the laws in letter and spirit and to transform us all into a law-abiding citizenry is not going to be a matter of a day or a month or a year, but it is time that these priorities at least adorn the agenda of this government, which has secured such a strong mandate of the people. It is also time to focus on the quality of food, water, education and health in this country. We brag about having a large percentage of young population in our country. Human resources are precious, and we may be the envy of many other nations. However, if only this young citizenry is well nourished, well-educated, and well-disciplined, that it shall be an asset to the nation.

The desire is ardent for much modification. If at all we learn to behave and the government learns to govern, we shall have an economy that works on principles of merit and equity; our resources shall be safeguarded; our fears shall vanish; our children shall smile; our trees shall breathe in relief; our farmers shall perspire not in vain; our tigers shall roam unafraid; our water and food shall nourish our bodies and our heroes and heritage shall be respected.

The Modi government is capable of planning, strategizing and of executing the plans-of-action strategically. The past five years and the recent electoral success now have reiterated its strengths. Change is certain over the next five years. Something, somewhere in us and in this country shall be Modified!!! What exactly it shall be, and in which direction it shall be, remains to be seen…

Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, a feature writer and an author. Her publications include several academic papers presented at National and International conferences/seminars, nearly 250 feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and on web portals, two e-booklets and seven Books. Presently, she teaches at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and counsels and conducts training workshops at Gurukul, Kuwait.
View full profile
Read this article online at

Express your comment on this article

 
Hrishikesh
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Intricate Meticulously Well structured thought provoking Article. It seamlessly covers an array of elements that are directly or indirectly crafting the Growth Story of a Nation.
Above article allows you to look through various facets of Indian economy. Vantage Point to be more precise.
Modified it’s just the beginning

Submit your comments...
     
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are strictly personal and IndiansinKuwait.com does not hold any responsibility on them. We shall endeavour to upload/publish as many of the comments that are submitted as possible within a reasonable span of time, but we do not guarantee that all comments that are submitted will be uploaded/published. Messages that harass, abuse or threaten other members; have obscene, unlawful, defamatory, libellous, hateful, or otherwise objectionable content; or have spam, commercial or advertising content or links are liable to be removed by the editors. We also reserve the right to edit the comments that do get published. Please do not post any private information unless you want it to be available publicly.

Community News
 

A Memorial Service in remembrance of Mr Wilson Varghese will be held at Lighthouse Church NECK, Kuwait City on Monday, 16th ...

National Forum (NAFO) Kuwait conducted a preparatory meeting for the formal releasing the Festival Coupon of Onam Celebratio...

The Children Circle of Indian Muslim Association (IMA), as a part of its monthly educational program, conducted Children C...

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India-Kuwait chapter conducted a workshop on “Data Analysis and Data Visualization...

Kuwait Canara Welfare Association (KCWA), along with the Konkani Community of the Holy Family Cathedral celebrated the Nativ...