For decades, we have heard prime ministers lie to us about India’s ‘greatness’ on Independence Day. This August 15, for the first time, we heard a prime minister remind us that although we are capable of being a great country, we are not there yet. We have a long, long way to go. Narendra Modi reminded us of things we usually ignore or lie to ourselves about. We like to excuse our most obvious shortcomings on the hollow justification that as a ‘poor country’, we can hope for no better. In our hearts we know the truth, but have got used to pretending on occasions like Independence Day that our Bharat is truly ‘mahaan’.
So it came as music to my jaded ears to hear the Prime Minister remind us of all the things we like to disregard. He reminded us of how shamefully we treat our women, of the sickening squalor of our cities and towns, of our inability to compete with other countries because of bad governance, and of our shameful failure to eliminate poverty. When he finished speaking, I found myself more moved than I have been by any other speech given from the ramparts of Red Fort. And I have heard many.
When I sat down to analyse why I was so moved, I realised it was because it was the first time ever that I have heard a prime minister tell Indians what they can and must do for India. The first time that a national leader has not told us that he will bestow upon us everything we need, and that all we have to do is sit back and receive.
As an implacable opponent of Nehruvian socialism, it pleased me to hear the sound of its death knell. And to hear that the ultimate bastion of central planning, the Planning Commission, was also seeing the end of its days.
Since there are many of you out there who believe that criticising anything Nehruvian is tantamount to treason, let me explain why I despise the economic ideas on which independent India was founded. I believe Nehruvian socialism created a mindset that continues to make the average Indian believe that the government must do everything for him. Nowhere is this mindset more evident than in rural India where people would rather rot in filth than lift a finger to improve their unsanitary surroundings. And, I believe it created in our officials the sense of being masters instead of servants. Kudos to Mr Modi for reminding them that the word service had become meaningless.
Last week in this column, I described Modi as the first Indian Prime Minister who was not a …continued »