Fifth Column: Myths, lies and punditry

Unless the licence raj goes, India will never build the institutions of higher learning that we so desperately need.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:August 31, 2014 12:00 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation on India's 68th Independence Day at  the Red Fort on Friday.  (Source: Express phot by Neeraj Priyadarshi) Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation on India’s 68th Independence Day at the Red Fort on Friday. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

It is no small thing that the Prime Minister used his first address from Red Fort to announce the end of the Planning Commission. In doing this, he indicated not just a complete change in India’s economic direction, but also an end to central planning and thereby an end to Nehruvian socialism. You would think then, would you not, that us political pundits would have analysed why this became necessary and explained that the reason was that Indian bureaucrats had failed spectacularly to make the right economic decisions.

Under the aegis of the highly-educated officials who ran the Planning Commission was created the worst social and physical infrastructure in the developing world. While they planned badly for the average Indian, they planned very well for themselves. Their children went to the best foreign universities while Indian students struggled to get into college even after getting 95 per cent marks. They went to the best foreign hospitals when they got sick, while the average Indian was forced to rely on private doctors because public healthcare was so abysmal. These are things that should have been analysed by us political pundits, but instead we have mostly heard the voices of those who mourn the end of Nehruvian socialism. Why? Could it be because the media continues to treat Narendra Modi as a pariah in Lutyens Delhi — an usurper who does not deserve to spend even 100 days in this exalted space?

The same people who made the Gujarat riots of 2002 sound like the worst communal violence since Independence now perpetrate the lie that incidents of communal violence have gone up since Modi became Prime Minister. Every stupid statement by inconsequential Hindu fanatics is magnified on front pages and every effort is made to find flaws in the Prime Minister’s methods. So the latest whisper campaign, reflected even in the headlines of important foreign newspapers, is that he is running a ‘one-man government’. The irony is that the people who make this charge never noticed that in the past decade Sonia Gandhi had total power without an iota of responsibility.

The truth is the opposite of the whisper campaign. The Prime Minister is not interfering enough. He must do much more to make his ministers understand what he means by ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. Far too many of his ministers are carrying forward the very policies that kept India poor, illiterate and vulnerable in the first place. His Minister of Human Resource Development has so far shown no signs that she understands the need to dismantle the licence raj run by outdated and regressive bodies such as the UGC and AICTE. Unless the licence raj goes, India will never build the institutions of higher learning that we so desperately need.

His Minister of Environment has been giving environmental clearances with alacrity, but has not noticed the importance of laying down measureable and objective norms. As long as every project needs to be individually cleared by the ministry, there will be delays, bribery and corruption. In wiser countries, it is absolutely clear what you need to do if you cut trees to build a road, tunnel or factory. And what you need to do if you pollute the soil to mine for bauxite, coal or iron ore. The ministry’s role should be to interfere only when rules are broken. This is not how things happened in the past, so India paradoxically has the most polluted rivers and degraded living standards along with the strictest laws to protect the environment.

As we approach the sixth horrible anniversary of 26/11, the Prime Minister needs to ask the Home Minister what has been done to prevent future attacks of this kind. Has policing improved? Is there more electronic communication between police stations? Are ordinary policemen better trained in counter-terrorism? These are all areas in which the last government failed to make a difference, so it is very important to know what the new Home Minister’s agenda will be. So far he seems to have been far too preoccupied with defending his son’s reputation.

In these first 100 days of the Modi government, the only person who has clearly indicated a new direction is the Prime Minister himself, and to a lesser extent his Minister for Finance and Defence. This is not enough to make real the dream of ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’ that won the Prime Minister a full majority for the first time in 30 years. Change has to come faster and more fundamentally. And if to achieve this, the Prime Minister has to become a ‘one-man government’, then so be it.  My own humble view is that this cannot happen fast enough. There are far too many ministers in the government who have not understood the mandate that they have been given to make a radical difference.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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    Toyotaa India
    Aug 31, 2014 at 2:13 am
    Excellent view, as usual ma'am. We badly need a few clones of Modi.Also, it appears that there are not enough great-leaders in the BJP at the state level who can implement/share his vision.
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      BigB
      Aug 31, 2014 at 2:53 pm
      Because he is a Muslim. One thing is very clear after the election results, Muslims have gone nuts. They are exposing their anti national face.
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        BigB
        Aug 31, 2014 at 2:48 pm
        Ha ha. I would say Muslims are obsessed with Sonia hi and desperate for a continuation of Muslim appeat. That's one thing very clear after the Modi Govt.
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          BigB
          Aug 31, 2014 at 3:05 pm
          I think if we're like 5 billion people, we would have become the largest economy in the world. Problem is all of them would be eating 2 rupee rice.
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            BigB
            Aug 31, 2014 at 2:50 pm
            Muslim - You are. Tell me I am wrong.
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              BigB
              Aug 31, 2014 at 3:52 am
              Very true. One thing many people didn't notice is when Modi answered a question about how much he works - he said I don't do much. I set the direction and delegate. A captain can only be as good as the team is. And as you rightly said, too many ministers have no clue what to do. They are going to office from 7 AM to 9 PM, but there is no output. It would be the biggest challenge for the PM to setup a team who he can confidently delegate to. Unfortunately, he has to choose from a group of very influential people in BJP, unlike in Gujarat where he had a free hand. And these group of people may not be any different than bigwigs of other parties.
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                BigB
                Aug 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm
                Why only 2. Why not 5.
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                  Anonymous
                  Sep 1, 2014 at 12:38 pm
                  Well said . Lets hope all the dead wood of the past disappears and India will have a government which will empowers it own people at all levels.
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                    velamur
                    Sep 1, 2014 at 10:07 am
                    Is it too much to ask a report card on the achievements of the planning commission? Simple "plan versus actuals" statement will prove the point. In the name of PSUs we have created huge white elephants who consume huge amounts of public money but deliver very little to the people. There should be a gap analysis and Reasons for the gaps should be identified. This will prove once for all that centralized planning is a communist idea and has no place in a market economy. The proposed NDRC will recommend the desired targets for the social sector and for the poor. Rest of the economy should be allowed to grow organically. Ache din....
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                      alok
                      Aug 31, 2014 at 2:55 am
                      Quite true. Election pressure n mandate to Modi n pracharaks. Others basking in glory. Need to do a deep dive in their functions n start working smart. This working hard will vanish!!
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                        ajay joshi
                        Aug 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm
                        Superb, as usual.
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                          Maniac
                          Sep 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm
                          you, you bloody old creep..you cannot even make a political statement without having your sub-conscious frustrated uality peek through..It is elders like you dear sir who we youngsters often see in official positions at private and government offices. You guys preach right and wrong to your families, to girls and your women but casually ping lecherous remarks seems 'oh-so-natural' to you guys..you guys are a shame and so is the w bunch of your likeness of your generation...never really got laid enough ehh...?? or even if you did, couldnt really get over it ehh..??kindly come out of your 'manohar kahaniyan' mindset and help us make this country and world better...we already have enough problems than having to deal with pseudo -offenders like you..
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                            Anil
                            Aug 31, 2014 at 7:30 am
                            No party did more harm to the poor than the Congress party--- this while ruling in the name of the poor! Nehruvian Socialism is a failed experiment which only benefited the people, like Talveen says, who presided over the huge corrupt machinery set up to perpetrate a bad idea. MODI has just got started in distancing himself from the shibboleths of the past and it looks like he will go a long way. It will take a lot of will power and time to make a clean break from bad habits of the past. Talveen needn't be so harsh on Modi's ministers-- they look more businesslike than their Congress predecessors; most of the latter spent their time undermining their own PM, scuttling his ideas and currying favor with Madame! You cannot wish away 60 odd years of madness in 100 days.
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                              Anil
                              Aug 31, 2014 at 7:44 am
                              Sonia hi's b of politics and economics has done incalculable harm to this country and we don't need a Talveen Singh to tell us that. Her renunciation saga, blown apart by Natwar Singh, further tells us of her duplicity and lies ( later she and her daughter rushed to beseech Natwar against spilling the beans?). She nearly destro the insution of the Prime Minister just to perpetrate forever the power and influence of her family. I am not even coming to her famous son-in-law. How much more damage does she need to do for you to sit up and take notice?
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                                Arindam Chakrabarty
                                Sep 4, 2014 at 6:13 am
                                People tend to advise wisdom to the wise.Modi is wise and knows what is best for the country,I wonder where were these advisers when UPA was ruling?
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                                  Brijkhanna
                                  Aug 31, 2014 at 11:12 am
                                  There is no doubt that under Nehruvian State Socialism, it was a license raaj. We had same old Ambador, Fiat cars because license to produce cars was with Birlas and a ex freedom fighter family(sorry I have forgotten the name). The textiles mills cannot increase production because for every new additional loom you have to take permission.Frankly speaking it was only after Shri Narsimha Rao liberal policy during early nineties, we could come out of this menace.But this liberalization opened the doors for mive CORRUPTION SPREE resulting in so many scandalsing to Modi, I believe most of Minister have already taken a cue of his PROGRESSIVE thinking except Home Minister who still has hang over of old system. No matter what he is or what he was, he shall have mend his ways or else in next shuffling he shall be posted as Governor of some State as compensation for his services to the party.
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                                    B.D.SINGH
                                    Aug 31, 2014 at 10:14 am
                                    The persons who are saying all the negative things about Modi are those who were critical earlier also and will remain critical tomorrow also. But people are still with Modi and w heartedly support his actions. The more people will abuse him , the more people will be with Mr Modi. Till persons like Mr Iyer and Mr Digvijay Singh are on scene, there is no problem for Mr. Moddi because they are unable to convince people of their schemes and have got one point program to criticize Modi..
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                                      cj
                                      Aug 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm
                                      To the writer, how much are you getting paid to write this?
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                                        cj
                                        Aug 31, 2014 at 3:44 pm
                                        Very few journalists in India are not paid stooges. They go along with the party who is limey to come to power, or is in power. Tavleen Singh, did you send your kids to ordinary Hindi medium schools like most Delhiites, or they went to the best public schools. If not then you have no moral right to pick on others who have lived the way you have. It is one thing to to to peddle high morals, another to actually follow them yourself.
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                                          SkepticalIndian
                                          Sep 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm
                                          And one more point, as long Indians keep depending on govt to do everything for them,then no matter how much you have progressed,you will remain dependent. So pick up a broom go keep India clean.
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                                            SkepticalIndian
                                            Sep 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm
                                            i voted for him not for millions of people. India is a republic, i voted, i elected, now let my PM work, i (citizen) will rate him after 5 years.
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