Fifth Column: Trysts that remain broken

Has that promise of ‘parivartan’ that won Modi the first full majority for a prime minister in 30 years been met?

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:August 13, 2017 12:00 am
independence day, independence day india, indian independence day, august 15, 70 independence day, 70 indian independence day, pm narendra modi, narendra modi, tryst with destiny, india, indian express news Next week Narendra Modi will make his fourth speech to the nation from the Red Fort and next year the last one of his first tenure. (Source: PTI)

Every time Independence Day comes, I find myself in reflective mood. Trysts and broken trysts fill my head, and when I sort through them, I find that broken trysts squash the other pile down in seconds. Next week Narendra Modi will make his fourth speech to the nation from the Red Fort and next year the last one of his first tenure. So should we be talking of broken trysts or a shining list of unbroken promises? Has that promise of ‘parivartan’ that won him the first full majority for a prime minister in 30 years been met? What have been Modi’s real achievements in his tenure so far? On the political front he has gone from strength to massive strength. BJP governments control nearly all our major states and the spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh confirmed that ‘the people’ still believe that the Prime Minister will fulfill his promises of change and prosperity. His worst enemies concede that if a general election were called tomorrow, Modi would win again with a full majority. So why does it feel to even a ‘Modi bhakt’ like me that there is a mood of broken trysts in the air?

When I pondered over this, I realised that my disappointments relate entirely to the Prime Minister’s apparent inability to see that his greatest achievements can come in education and healthcare. It is in these two areas that Congress governments failed India again and again and again. Education is more important because better public health services will come as soon as Indians are educated enough to demand them as insistently as they demand waivers of farm loans. But there will be no improvement in the abysmal standard of our schools and colleges unless the Prime Minister and his chief ministers work as a team. BJP chief ministers have so far shown that they have no idea what to do so they tinker stupidly with history books and change Akbar’s victory in the battle of Haldighati to defeat in Rajasthan, and erase the Mughals from history books in Maharashtra.

They do not notice that there is almost no village in India that has a library or a bookshop. How can children really learn to read if there are no books? How can children understand what it means to be Indian or Bengali or Marathi or Telugu if they do not read literature in their own languages? Why has the Modi government done nothing to change a colonial school system that creates deracinated Indians in our finest schools, and semi-literate, unemployable ones lower down the ladder? Why are BJP governments perpetuating the worst failures of the Congress?

When I took my questions to Modi’s Minister of HRD not long ago, he said they were unable to change the useless Right to Education law for fear of being seen as “anti-poor”, but that they were “bringing amendments”. Is there anything more ‘anti-poor’ than forcing our poorest citizens to send their children to very bad private schools only because state schools are worse?

So here is my humble suggestion for August 15. Since Modi has chosen to continue with the leaky, corrupt MNREGA (he publicly denigrated), let him order his chief ministers to use these funds to build village libraries and bookshops. Order them to give panchayats more funds to run schools and local hospitals. Speaking of panchayats, when is the Prime Minister going to realise that India no longer needs collectors? This colonial post should have ceased to exist decades ago and is today a major stumbling block in ‘vikas’ and ‘parivartan’ in rural parts. No village council can build anything without first seeking funds and permission from this little despot. On the watch of these omnipotent autocrats, small towns today resemble filthy shanties and villages resemble cesspools. Are we seriously worried that elected officials could do worse?

On the higher education front, all that needs to be done is to end the licence raj. Abolish the University Grants Commission, the AICTE and the vast maze of regulations and regulators that operates under them and we could see instant improvement in higher education. If they are reluctant to relinquish their enormous powers, let them spend their time controlling only government colleges and universities. While we are about it, what about setting up a committee to consider the abolition of all reservations in educational institutions? There are hard choices and hard decisions to be made, but if the Prime Minister really wants to see major ‘parivartan’ by the time he makes his next speech from the Red Fort, he must make them. As someone who believes that cultivating a love for books solves the learning difficulties of the most backward children, may I end by suggesting a campaign on Swachch Bharat lines to build libraries in every village by next August 15. Meanwhile, Happy Independence Day.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @tavleen_singh

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    Vinay Tandon
    Aug 15, 2017 at 9:03 am
    I am happy that Tavleen, though not saying it, is beginning to acknowledge that key issues like education and health and a host of others, need a TEAM to deliver. In 70 years we have never really had this team. Politics especially the type that gets votes is too short sighted to let teams work, (remember the AAP story?). There is one person at the Centre and one in each state who really matters. So whether it is negotiating a nuclear deal or transferring a humble peon in the education department one looks up to the PM / CM for deliverance. The MLAs are merely money milking conduits. We need a great leader, no many thousands of great leaders (if they let that happen), to bring in basic reforms like making government teachers and doctors accountable, but by honest superiors! Oxymoron?
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      lb
      Aug 15, 2017 at 1:39 am
      according to a international poll Modi govy has 74 approval. Modi has 81 popularity- I doubt the intelligence of the Modi critics- Writeing absolute rot, ofcource Mulims hate him- how many are willing to leave India- none at all. all they do is and moan on a daily basis. Frankly they would do a great sevive by moveing else where anywhere-
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        Victor Price
        Aug 15, 2017 at 10:05 am
        Why would muslim leave India? It is their country as much as anybody else and if they don't like a communal prime minister like Modi they have every right to complain or criticize. So deal with it!
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          lb
          Aug 18, 2017 at 4:09 am
          after the London train bombing in 2005 tony Blair said that the rules of the game will change- the same is true now under pm modi- muslims can not say they are muslims first and indians next- they will not abide Laws made by parliament- will to with such people- deal with it
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        Gagan
        Aug 14, 2017 at 5:03 am
        Although I agree with with your good intentions, but you take solutions in too easy manner. You have to understand that not only govt officials are corrupt but the village panchayats are worse and that is why they spent more than 50 lakhs in Pradhan election. First of all our moral character needs to be changed which has slowly degenerated in last 50 years. It will take time but slowly we again need to become patriotic( not pseudo patriotic like Gau rakshak) and love our country and awaken the feeling to serve our country. Instead of libraries digital libraries would be preferable with internet facilities.
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          Raj
          Aug 14, 2017 at 4:13 am
          MADAM YOU HOPE A PERSON WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHERE TAXILA WAS,THAT ALEXANDER NEVER CAME TO THE BANKS OF THE GANGES,WHERE WAS BHAGAT SINGH KEPT IN CAPTIVITY BEFORE HIS EXECUTION AND TO CAP IT ALL WHO DOES NOT KNOW THE CORRECT NAME OF THE FATHER OF THE NATION WILL REFORM THE EDUCATION SYSTEM OF THIS GREAT NATION.HIEGHTS OF OPTIMISM.
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            Sachin
            Aug 14, 2017 at 3:18 am
            Good post. Agree change is needed to our education system which is just minting out babus (that's what the British wanted). We need our schools nurturing leaders, entrepreneurs, independent thinkers. That is when true prosperity and India as global power will emerge, till then all the political talk is a pipe dream. And totally agree on access to libraries and internet (to add). The real question is if there is a political will, they have nothing to gain from a electoral that can think independently.
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              Ramesh Nittoor
              Aug 14, 2017 at 1:04 am
              परिवर्तन -- Like Cassata ice cream , parivartan is a layered change process. The first step was to change the political charachter of BJP. The strident Pakistan focused and anti-Pakistan Hindutva of BJP, won thanks to terror onslaught and historically Pakistan focused but assimilative of Pakistan Hindustaniyat of Congress lost miserably. Having won, think BJP central leaders knew that India had become very vulnerable to external forces, and PM Modi began an aggressive campaign to build bridges with West. This has so far not brought required support, instead China threat became overt. This is threat fast changing the politics of BJP to Bharatiyata, even in states. The second layer of change is to strengthen legal machinery for proper working of market economy. Here the enabling measures are very significant, though more needs to be done. The next layer, specifics at ground level, gestation period for impact is 3-10 years. It may not be fair basis to assess on this count alone.
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                Ramesh Nittoor
                Aug 14, 2017 at 1:08 am
                The traditionally Pak-centric polity to Sino-centric polity is perhaps the biggest parivartan in grassroots level politics of India. It is likely that splintered parties shall coalesce to fewer national formations.
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                shahid khan
                Aug 14, 2017 at 12:57 am
                Education and health care systems are a scandal. These two or even three tier systems have perpetuated inequality. Rich parents send their children to English schools (set up by colonizers) and to good colleges or USA and U.K. for higher education. They find lucrative jobs in private sector and Indian civil service. How many high level officials in MNCs and civil services come from schools or colleges in small towns? Not many. Govt hospitals are a disaster in delivering right kind of health care. Private hospitals are few and expensive. The gap is filled by the quakes in rural India who not only fail to provide good treatment but are many times dangerous. Modi seems to undertake initiatives with an eye on election. He gives impression of being hungry for power. Economy is not creating jobs. Even those who read books are having hard time finding jobs appropriate for the degrees they have earned.
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                  lb
                  Aug 18, 2017 at 4:15 am
                  compare India with pakistan- and make your choice- muslims complain about modi- what is your contribution to India. triople talak, nikka halala, women in burqa, men with beards and skull caps- unedcated and bigoted.
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                  Rakesh
                  Aug 13, 2017 at 11:38 pm
                  Tavleen has rightly pointed out two top priorities health n education . Each Mla should use his fund given by govt to improve schools . Each temple should have a dispensary and a clinic run from donations . That's the start only . Rest can follow . Modi is giving only slogans no action . It's good Tavleen has started seeing the other side of Modi . Modi will win again , no doubt but to make a difference , he should change education and health delivery .
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                    Victor Price
                    Aug 15, 2017 at 11:02 am
                    Modi should not win, he does not deserve to win. It responsibility of Indian citizen to vote out these communal hindutva goons.
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