You know Sultan, I'm just beginning to understand why they say you are the cleverest man in the world' -Tughlaq, by Girish Karnad
A few weeks ago, the Honorable Railway Minister announced that soft drinks including Pepsi and Coke would not be served in the Railways throughout India. Instead buttermilk was to be made available from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Not too long ago, after he was anointed, the Minister had instituted that tea be served in 'kullhars' (earthen pots) at Railway stations.
In another bizarre move, the Minister had ordered that all vegetables from Bihar be transported via the Indian Railways to be sold in Delhi and other metros. The idea was to benefit farmers in Bihar who could fetch a higher price for their produce in the metros. The minister is reported to have said, 'Buyers in Delhi will get vegetables grown on the sacred land by the Ganga. The price of vegetables in Delhi will go down and our poor farmers will get a higher value for their produce' (IE Jun 2004). The biggest problem with this magnificent idea was that as soon as it was executed, the vegetables are reported to have arrived at their destination rotten and stinking, and worse, there were no takers after the first trip. Brilliant! Another fodder scandal in the making! The Railways have never been in such capable hands before!
Why not mandate that all trains be made to pass via Bihar no matter what the origin and destination of the train might be, similar to, say an airline hub in the US? This would also provide a boost to the Tourism industry and what better way of discovering the country than by train! The frequent rail miles (or kilometers) that one accumulates could then be used to get 'free' cold buttermilk on the next trip! Buttermilk fests can be held at major Railway Junctions to generate more revenue. Starbucks may be tempted to carry it and then buttermilk can be marketed in different flavors and colors throughout the globe. There is no better milk than buttermilk!
Maybe the policies of the Railways now being implemented should be extended to other services as well. How about issuing all currency notes in Bihar for the entire nation? Maybe a new currency could be adopted and the rupee replaced with some other form of currency printed on palm leaves.
Khadi could replace polyester, neem sticks in lieu of toothbrush and cowdung can be used instead of natural gas. Bullock carts could eventually take over the Skoda Octavia and the TATA Sumo. Why, this would completely alleviate pollution and actually be a trendsetter in reducing greenhouse gas emissions thereby curbing global warming! The world would become a much better place to live in for the coming generations and India could be the poster boy for the Kyoto protocol. We could then leverage our position and hope to win a permanent seat in the UN Security Council! Now you see how a nation achieves greatness by adopting simple concepts.
Whatever happened to the land of the great king Ashoka, Chandragupta Maurya, and the Bodhi Tree? Nalanda once used to be a thriving cultural center that has seen better times. Maybe the answer can be found in Jared Diamond's, 'Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed'. Maybe soon the capital of India might be shifted from Delhi to Pataliputra, ' la Tughlaq!