Now that a hard-won election is behind Narendra Modi and he has a clear mandate, the hard work of nation building begins now and it includes reaching out to all those who haven’t voted for him
Chhodo kal ki baaten, kal ki baat purani
Naye daur me likhenge hum milkar nai kahani
Hum Hindustani, Hum Hindustani.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his iconic song from the 1960s Hindi film Hum Hindustani sums up the mood of a majority of Indians today as Narendra Modi is all set to step into the Prime Minister’s Office after his mind-boggling victory in the General Elections – the biggest since Rajiv Gandhi’s in 1984, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
The staggering scale of the victory is and will be the subject of several newspaper and magazine articles in India and elsewhere, but what is certain is that the new prime minister could not have managed this stupendous win without a broad-based support of all sections of society – the youth, women, middle-classes, dalits and OBCs, businessmen, professionals, and minorities too.
While caste and community consolidation could not be brushed aside completely, especially in the larger, politically significant states of UP and Bihar, let there be no mistake that this was mainly an aspirational mandate, provided in large measure by 150 million voters in the 18-21 age group, who saw in the new PM the determination to junk moribund ideas and convert liabilities into assets.
For far too long has the nation treaded the beaten-to-death tracks on a ‘play-safe’ mode, rather than venturing out to explore new horizons, taking the necessary risks that come along the way. Narendra Modi – with the typical Gujarati business acumen in his bloodstream – is not averse to some adventurism and bold new moves that will jump the roadblocks to propel India forward.
But what are the steps he must take to get India back India into the growth curve of above seven per cent? Mainly, three steps – ECONOMY, ECONOMY, ECONOMY. And how does he get to revive the flagging Indian economy that was slipping back into the much-derided Hindu growth rate? (The Sensex and Nifty breaking new records is a good beginning). It goes without saying that job creation has to be his topmost priority.
But, what are the sectors he can concentrate on to deliver those much-needed jobs to Indian youth? I feel the focus should remain on three prime areas – Infrastructure, Manufacturing, and Tourism. These are three areas that can generate employment to the optimum levels. Let’s deal with them individually.
Infrastructure: This should be the biggest employment generator in India, as large numbers of people can be employed in the big projects that India needs to take on. There are a number of expressways and highways to be built, plenty of shining new airport terminals, bullet train tracks, new railway lines, tunnels and bridges that can be engineering marvels like the Jammu-Srinagar and India-Sri Lanka links.
The previous NDA government under Vajpayee’s premiership had begun the Golden Quadrilateral Project, linking the four big metros in India – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai – along with the North-South (Kashmir-Kerala) and East-West (Assam-Gujarat) corridors. Some of the expressways under this are already built like the Yamuna Expressway from Delhi to Agra, Mumbai-Pune, Ahmedabad-Surat etc.
This task should be speeded up and completed in the next five years with the whole nation getting linked by all-weather, smooth and motorable roads. Work on this project under the UPA-2 government was painfully slow and mired in corruption, probably because it was not their baby.
Many of our airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore are already gleaming – new ones need to be built in Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kochi etc. Delhi Metro is a stupendous success, connecting the neighbouring cities in Haryana and UP too. The news metros in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai need to be fast-tracked.
The Northeast also should be connected by rail, along with the Kashmir Valley. Then, the India-Sri Lanka rail link over the sea can strengthen ties with our southern neighbour and also check China’s expansionism in the Indian Ocean region. All these projects can generate a good number of jobs.
Manufacturing: India has been lagging ages behind China in the manufacturing sector. While all our energies were directed towards the service and IT industries in the last decade of the past century and the first decade of the new century, China raced ahead in manufacturing. It’s time to correct that imbalance now.
The automobiles industry can be a big employment pool in our country. Cars, scooters, vans, jeeps, buses – we need them all to be built and assembled not just around Delhi, Pune, Chennai, and Ahmedabad, but across the country. We should get into several tie-ups with Indian and foreign auto-makers to provide the job push to thousands of young Indians.
Besides, the previous government had proposed to create 100 million skilled jobs in the manufacturing sector, to take forward its contribution to India’s GDP from 16 to 25 per cent, through the creation of industrial clusters like the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, and the Amritsar-Delhi-Kolkata Industrial Corridor. There is also a proposal to create 100 new cities along the corridors. The new government, in all probability, will take this process forward as it will help in the creation of plenty of jobs.
Tourism: Lastly, the biggest game-changer can be the tourism industry, as it is a phenomenal employment generator, which is still largely untapped and unexploited for reasons beyond comprehension. India has some of the most beautiful natural spots in the world – from the mighty, snow-clad Himalayas, to the numerous beaches on its vast shoreline, to the magnificent Thar Desert and Rann of Kutch (which the Gujarat government has converted into a prime attraction for its white, shimmering sands), to the deep jungles in India’s heartland, and the undulating landscape of rolling hills in the Northeast.
Then, there are several heritage sites beginning with India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. Numerous forts, palaces and museums, temples, mosques and churches add to India’s multi-coloured charms.
With all this natural and historical abundance, how do we manage to get less tourists than the tiny island city-state of Singapore and the Gulf desert sheikhdoms of the UAE? According to the Government of India’s Ministry of Tourism statistics for 2011, India was 38th in the world in terms of tourist arrivals, and its share in the world tourism pie is just 0.64 per cent. Now, isn’t that a shame? What could be better than showcasing our natural, historical and cultural wonders to the world?
Some of our hotels, like Udaipur’s Oberoi Udaivilas Hotel, have been rated among the best in the world, with exceptional services and facilities (Source: Conde Nast Traveller). Imagine the number of jobs that will open up in the travel and hospitality sectors if we decide to go full steam in developing our vast tourism potential! So, why are we holding ourselves back? There’s no plausible explanation for it.
Coming back to the political centrestage, it is abundantly clear now that the nation is in a ravenous mood for overwhelming change, going by its mandate. The NaMo government must take it as a great responsibility on its shoulders to carry everyone along, even those who have opposed it vociferously during campaigning and earlier. The beginnings have been good, as witnessed by the PM-designate’s speech in parliament on May 20, where he vowed to carry everyone along in this development path, particularly assuring the poor and marginalised sections that this was their government, by highlighting his own past as the son of a tea-seller who could reach the highest temple of democracy through the sheer dint of hard work and a steely determination to succeed.
However, there are still some sections of India’s population who have not warmed up to Modi’s ascendance to power. It is Modi’s task to see that they too share in the national optimism of a positive future for India and its role in the world.
Though the BJP swept in large parts of India, including the Northeast, there are still some states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha, and West Bengal, where the response hasn’t been too enthusiastic, though the party has made inroads there too. It should be the PM’s task to see that those states are not discriminated against for their political choice. He has assured them that they will be treated like all other states.
Finally, a large section of minorities – mainly Muslims – have been kept out of the national mainstream, antagonized by the events of 2002 in Gujarat. Though Modi has been cleared by the Supreme Court’s SIT, the taint remains – for better or worse. It would be wise of Modi to say ‘sorry’ for the past (even if it was beyond his control), and he can very well afford to do now from a position of strength than he could earlier. Though he has expressed regret, somehow it hasn’t been heard by everyone. It’s the right time to reach out now.
On the other hand – though a significant number of Muslims have voted for the BJP, as evidenced in Gujarat, and even UP and Bihar – there is still a vast proportion of minorities, who should now give up their strong anti-Modi stance, now that he is PM, as it would be self-defeating. They must at least begin to share in the national vision of a better future for all Indians, without any discrimination.
Going by the ‘peace record’ in Gujarat since 2002, they have nothing to fear. India is a multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, even though Hindus form a sizeable majority. India’s pluralistic, essentially tolerant ethos, will not permit brute and intolerant majoritarianism, as feared by those who rake up memories of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, not realising they are two very different worlds.
So, it is time for all Indians to participate in this gigantic, mammoth exercise of building and participating in a new India that has its eyes firmly fixed on the future, instead of the past. To conclude, it would be apt to quote the BJP campaign phrase here: ‘Acche din aane waale hain’.
All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan