The Modi Wave - A common Indian’s Perspective
Now that the epochal UP elections are over and the euphoria and celebrations and the colours of Holi will soon be behind us, I pen down some important issues to consider for our Prime Minister and the ruling BJP.
A brief bit about myself; as invariably, views are often seen through the prism of who it is coming from. Firstly, I choose to remain anonymous as the message is more important than the messenger. I have no political leanings, I care neither less, nor more, for any of our political parties. Being in the Indian Army for 27 years I have reasons to stay clear of any political affiliations. My affiliation is clearly to the Constitution of India which I believe is a remarkable document of how a great nation should be; sovereign, secular, socialist, and democratic. My father was a political scientist from the time of India’s Independence, and his last assignment was as head of the department of political science, Delhi University. He was an atheist and had no party leanings till his death. I have served 10 years of my military life in Kashmir on its borders and in fighting terrorists, including a stint at the highest battlefield in the world – Siachen. After three years at the Army HQs in Delhi, I chose to retire early to work with young children - India’s future.
For the last ten years, I teach at a school - what matters to me now is the India we leave for the young.
It is this India that I wish to write to you and your party about. What can we do, over the next ten years, to leave a great country our children can be proud of? Now that you have this colossal mandate, which gives your party enough powers in both houses of India’s Parliament to be able to effect important changes, you and the BJP have the opportunity to make a real difference.
I shall make only four points that I beseech you to consider.
Education and Health care
No nation can aspire for greatness if its public health care and primary education is in shambles. Ours desperately is. The UK has 97% of its schools run by the state, Finland and Singapore, 98% . India has receded quickly to 60% . It is soon going to be 50%. The state has lost its oversight function in education and has let the system fail. Even the poorest of the poor have lost faith in government schools, and they are the best judge of what is good for their children.
Our public health care is absent in most states. Debt due to medical treatment of near and dear ones, outside the free government health care system, is what prevents the poor from ever getting out of the cycle of poverty. (To illustrate the point, a young laborer I know, took a loan two years ago, of Re 50,000 from a local money lender to save his father’s life, from a liver disorder, at an interest rate of Re 5 per day, per thousand. Having returned Re 70,000, he still owes him Re 90,000).
This is the tale of every poor Indian, without medical insurance or a government health care system to go to. One illness in the family sets them back for life. This is the most elementary of state services, health care and education. For me, this is what “socialist” means in my Constitution. And we have so far failed to live up to this guarantee in our constitution for over 60 years - see what this massive majority can help you do.
Sovereignty from Corruption
Sovereign means independent - and while it means not being influenced in the affairs of our nation by external powers, we have been eaten from within by corruption of the state. One of the targets of the recent demonetization drive was corruption, but all public statements suggested that the rich were the only corrupt. No measures seemed to be in place to target the root of corruption, government officials and political parties. If private companies need to create black money it is to pay off officials - from the lowest to the highest in government to often do what they are expected to do. The rich who pay taxes, and abide by the law, don’t need to be treated as villains, they create wealth, generate employment and are the engines of our fast growing economy. What they could do with, is easier laws to help them generate more wealth legally – so that the state can build schools, hospitals, roads, and other things that the state should do for its citizens.
Our nation knows that our Prime Minister is personally honest, but so did we know was the last Prime Minister. It means nothing, if you can’t root out corruption from the police, civic bodies, and municipalities, and from those who control corporate affairs. ( Isn’t it a deep irony – and reflective of the Indian’s resignation, - that a long dead queen’s purported dream sequence in a Bollywood movie meets with much anger and dented pride, but the depiction of corruption by government officials and police in virtually every movie, never does?) .
Let’s hope this majority will help you address the malaise of corruption that has eaten India from within.
Our democracy survives because of elections, because of state legislative assemblies and the national parliament. Our democracies work also because of the opposition. The opposition is like the auditors, while we hate them, they keep us in check. Respect them. What we see in India’s parliament is not worthy of the informed public discourse I would want my students to learn from and emulate. The nature of public debate by all elements of our national parties; in parliament, public functions, election rallies and TV studios, is deeply embarrassing to a teacher of young Indians. It is often juvenile, coarse, and repulsive. I hope this majority mandate from the people of India will help your party’s public behavior improve. Let it be a bit more, statesmen-like, witty, lofty and worthy of emulation by the minor opposition that you have.
In-spite of this strong mandate, we still have a divided nation. A country with 200 million people of faiths other than the majority one, needs to be deeply conscious of this essential imprint in our constitution. Some of the utterings of our so called leaders have no place in a nation that professes secularism. The many years in the Indian Army has shown me first-hand what true secularism is. Every soldier, regardless of his faith, before he climbs up the Siachen glacier, from the base camp, bows his head, in front of a single house of prayer, a simple tent. Inside that one tent is a Bhagavat Gita, a Koran, a Guru Granth Sahib and a Bible. Each soldier prays to his maker to help him do his duty towards his nation in the tough months ahead, at an altitude of over 17000 feet and with temperatures below minus 30 degrees C. Being patriotic, we soldiers know, is not confined to a faith, but to a love for the country, its ideals and the willingness to die defending those ideals, if need be.
My father, the political scientist used to say, it is the responsibility of the majority religion to be more tolerant, balanced and big hearted. Let’s hope this verdict will allow your party to show that magnanimity.
As someone who reflects the aspirations of the young, let me say that the youth have great hopes from you in building this India and showing us the way.
– A school Teacher