Fifth column: Parivartan of the wrong kind

One of the reasons this column supported Modi was because he seemed to understand well the possibilities of creating millions of jobs through investment in tourism.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: April 16, 2017 5:28 am
mother of all bombs, MOAB, MOAB Afghanistan, beef ban, anti-romeo squad, india news, indian express editorial India has much more to offer because, luckily, many of our beautiful old monuments survived the depredations of socialist rule, but a measly eight million foreign tourists came last year.

Went to my favourite sushi restaurant for lunch last week and ordered a portion of spicy salmon, a portion of tuna and a glass of white wine. As I sipped my deliciously chilled wine I mulled over the Americans dropping a MOAB (mother of all bombs) on ISIS bases in Afghanistan, until I noticed that the waiter was still hovering. When I asked why, he muttered nervously that perhaps one portion of sushi was sufficient. His reason for hovering became clear. And are we more than 500 metres from a highway, I asked, or should I throw away the wine? Even as we spoke, an old friend wandered up and gave me a hug and kissed me on both cheeks. By now I was as nervous as the waiter and disengaged hastily, whispering to my friend that an anti-Romeo squad might be waiting to pounce.

Saying this filled me with nostalgia for the days before beef bans and liquor bans and morality policing. I remembered Pakistani friends coming across the border and revelling in the ‘freedoms’ of India. It was these they missed most at home. I knew exactly what they meant. Before learning of the un-freedom of Pakistan, I once went to Lahore wearing leather pants and a military jacket. It was January and very cold. When I landed at the airport I noticed people staring and wondered why, until an old Pakistani hand, who had travelled from Delhi on the same flight, said it would be wise to go straight to my hotel and change into a salwar-kameez.

As the first Prime Minister to say tourism could be a vital economic tool, has Narendra Modi noticed that the ugly atmosphere being created by his food and wine inspectors will drive all foreign travellers away? As it is all of India attracts less tourists than Venice does. Even fewer will come if officials lurk in the shadows of bars and restaurants and if couples can be arrested for being affectionate. Surely the Prime Minister understands this?

Surely he has noticed on his foreign tours that tourists avoid going to countries where bars are considered dens of vice and restaurants policed for food wastage? If he has not, then it is time that he did because there is no hope of India expanding its tourist industry otherwise. Tourism was disdained as an economic tool in days of yore because our high-minded Leftist rulers thought of it as something that was much too elitist. Meanwhile, Marxist China invested in tourism and today attracts more than 130 million visitors a year.

India has much more to offer because, luckily, many of our beautiful old monuments survived the depredations of socialist rule, but a measly eight million foreign tourists came last year. Many countries, much poorer than India, are today much richer just from investing in tourism. This investment pays dividends in many ways. It helps preserve old monuments, ancient cities and the environment. It creates jobs in a long list of ancillary industries. And foreign tourists require almost exactly the same infrastructure that Indians desperately need — good roads, reliable electricity and telecommunications, clean water, modern hospitals and environmental preservation.

One of the reasons this column supported Modi was because he seemed to understand well the possibilities of creating millions of jobs through investment in tourism. Another reason was his promise to give us ‘maximum governance and minimum government’. How does deciding portions in restaurants amount to minimum government? Food wastage is a serious problem in India but should the Minister of Food not be concentrating his energies on facilities to store foodgrain and on cold storages that could prevent half our fruit and vegetables from rotting in the fields. On this front the ministry seems to have not moved at all. And the truth is that the Tourism Ministry has been as negligent when it comes to building the right infrastructure. So the end result is neither ‘parivartan’ nor ‘vikas’.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s comrades in Hindutva have been very, very busy. On the edges of Delhi we have in recent days seen Hindutva warriors enter people’s homes and drag lovers out of their bedrooms. Last week, a man got arrested in Meerut for dropping his fiancée home. And, we have seen restaurants and bars along major highways see sales drop by more than 80 per cent since the Supreme Court started imposing its own form of semi-prohibition.

It should not be the business of judges to make policy but they are busy doing this instead of concentrating on much needed improvements in the justice system. Is it not time that the Prime Minister spoke up against this judicial interference? Is it not time the Prime Minister told us what he thinks of the rise and rise of a version of Hindutva that threatens to change India for the worse?

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. N
    Apr 23, 2017 at 11:16 am
    It is said that there are none as blind as those who do not want to see. And there is also this term 'gatekeepers' of the Establishment. Both very apt for Ms. Tavleen Singh.
    1. G
      Apr 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm
      Funny - News Channels are using the gentle mammals for their ratings. Indian op-ed writers are milking them for pretty pennies even in n e w York times.
      1. D
        Apr 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm
        Wine-dine and mulling over the US bombing over Afghanistan.
        1. B
          Brajesh nath
          Apr 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm
          she is right. Guess its time she discovered the many virtues of previous regime and authoritarian shadows lurking in the shadows now. In our race to prove to the world that we are far superior country than our neighbors we have degenerated to such levels that its deplorable.And the fascist like fringe elements of hindutva are turning into an ogre. its time the people woke up and smelt the coffee.
          1. S
            Apr 18, 2017 at 12:34 pm
            Dear Tavleen, Such a small jolt & you are already coming to your senses, now bhagwat is being suggeted for president. All fuhrer ever cared about is creating & ruling bharat as per manu.
            1. L
              Apr 18, 2017 at 10:48 am
              Utter nonsense and biased
              1. R
                Rohit Sakhwalkar
                Apr 18, 2017 at 9:00 am
                Isn't the alcohol ban a supreme Court decision based on a PIL filed by a regular unknown citizen of India. Why is it that you are referring to it as an act of the GoI? Also should you not discuss the possibility of bootleggers and their business and the loss of taxes and lives which this spurious liquor will cause.
                1. J
                  Janakiraman Rajalakshmi
                  Apr 17, 2017 at 11:02 pm
                  The rss members are in love with this country. They do not know what LOVE is. They are killjoys. In Ramayanam itself Seetha is actually very smart . When Ram is asked to go on exile He requests Seetha to stay in the Palace & serve the others. She being in LOVE with Ram puts her foot down. Says categorically she can never bear separation from Him even for a minute. She does not say ' Ayodhya ka seva ' seva se badke koyi sukh nahi chahiye. RSS goons would have prevented Seetha from accompanying Ram threatening both.
                  1. J
                    Janakiraman Rajalakshmi
                    Apr 17, 2017 at 11:06 pm
                    Sorry not serve the others. Ram says life in exile in Forest would not be comfortable at all. To which she says " Nothing can be more painful than separation from you". When they are together in the Forest is their BEST time in entire Ramayanam. RSS members only scream 'jaishreeram' violently like a battle cry.
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