Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Fifth column: A misconception
by Tavleen Singh |
"I continue to support the Prime Minister fully because I believe that he could be India’s only hope for a better tomorrow."
The last days of last year I appear to have created the wrong impression with people whose political views I loathe. So I am going to correct this in the first column of 2015. The same Lefties and dynasty devotees who spent months deriding me on Twitter and in letters to this newspaper for being a ‘Modi bhakt’ have lately been greeting this column with howls of delight. Oho, oho, they tweet and write, another one disappointed with her ‘sahib’. As usual they are completely wrong. I have never been anybody’s ‘bhakt’, but I continue to support the Prime Minister fully because I believe that he could be India’s only hope for a better tomorrow.
After decades of stagnant, festering Nehruvian socialism that benefited only officials, politicians and povertarians, Narendra Modi has dared to speak a new economic language. In speech after speech during the election campaign and in speech after speech since he became prime minister he has talked of the ‘elimination’ of poverty and not its ‘alleviation’. And this appeals to me deeply because I believe that India has no right to be poor.
Tourism alone could have made the people of some of our poorest, most backward states very rich. This was never considered an economic tool by the Leftist economists who have controlled India’s economy for nearly all our years as an independent nation. The reason why investment in tourism has helped many countries lift themselves out of poverty is because the infrastructure needed to attract tourists is exactly the infrastructure ordinary people benefit most from. Good roads, good telecommunications, good transport facilities and a clean and healthy environment. Modi is the first prime minister to emphasise the importance of investing in tourism.
Modi has also been the first prime minister to question the relevance of the Planning Commission and central planning. Before killing this redundant institution he consulted chief ministers, indicating that he believes in decentralising economic power. May he discover quickly that decentralisation should go right down to the panchayat level so that schools and hospitals can come under elected representatives and not the ‘collector’. The post itself reeks of colonial governance and as long as it exists there will be poverty, filth and disease in rural India.
These are things our political leaders have never even talked about because by the rules of central planning, a handful of people in the Planning Commission have been allowed to make all major economic decisions. We need not shed a single tear for the demise of this relic from Soviet times and the Prime Minister would do well to ensure that the NITI Aayog functions as no more than a think tank. Chief ministers must be given more right to control their resources and more right to decide welfare programmes.
The opposite happened in the past decade because the muddleheaded NGOs who guided Sonia Gandhi told her that giving people legal rights to jobs, food, education and healthcare was the need of the hour. Since there were few among them with administrative experience, they did not know how hard it is to impose these rights. With a justice system that takes decades to deliver justice in cases of murder and rape, will any sane person go to court to demand the right to education?
India has been impoverished only because of bad economic policies and since the first political leader to have noticed the urgent need for ‘parivartan’ was Modi, I supported him then and I support him now. If I have opposed the Hindutva fanatics who have occupied far too much time and media space lately, it is because I detest fanatics and believe religion has to be a private matter. It has no place at all in the public arena and so the Prime Minister must ensure that in 2015, the sadhus and sadhvis go back to their caves in the Himalayas and that the RSS returns to being a ‘cultural’ organisation. There is much they need to learn about Indian culture, so they better get started. At the moment they would not know Indian culture if it walked right into them. May I suggest that the first field trip they send their pracharaks on is to Khajuraho. This might make them notice how their ideas of sex are in conflict with our ancient culture. But that is a different subject.