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THE MOOD IS UPBEAT

It is heartening to sense the change of mood whenever the government takes a decision, moves on, and stands by what it believes in doing. During the debate in Parliament on the issue of foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, what came across the footlights was the ‘stuck-in-a-time-warp’ Opposition that appeared to be the single obstacle in any and every new, untested move. India must step out of the parameters of State control and the State, in turn, must pledge with all honesty to address the problems of poverty in health, education, social systems and more to deliver a better life to its people by providing, immediately, the basic infrastructure of civilized living to the poorest of the poor. Sadly, our leaders are inspired by the worst of consumerism and an unquenchable greed for conspicuous consumption of everything, from land acquisition to goods and services. To deny their constituents all that they crave is bad politics and untenable governance.

The infrastructure inputs, essential for foreign and other investment in retail, could help in filling up the lacuna in public services that has grown in India. The abject failure of the State in delivering the bare essentials through its large national network of administrative ‘services’ has maimed modern India. It has prevented vast numbers of entrepreneurial Indians from achieving their potentials, as a direct result of this inability to do what they were mandated to deliver. Our degraded reality is the result of an intellectually limited, weak and dysfunctional leadership which has merrily ‘governed’ by condoning the complete lack of accountability in administrators. This is true from top to bottom.

Changed perception

A committed and thinking leadership could alter the decline in all areas of governance if it cared to do so. The institutions are all there. They need to be restructured with a fresh set of norms and regulations, which free the stranglehold that comes with incompetence and corrupt practice. Because the government is seen to be in command these days, the mood is upbeat. A group of investors visiting India this last fortnight, had decided to come to this country with much trepidation, convinced that investment here would be tricky at this juncture. However, this last week has changed the feeling they came here with. The ‘money managers’ have gone home with a changed perception — it may well be worth taking the risk, is what they now feel. How different it would be to have every ministry at the Centre headed by new faces with a different mindset and the ideas and aspirations of a new generation. What joy if we were to see hope instead of stale tiredness in the faces of our political leaders.

At the age of 65, our political leaders and administrative babus should move on to become emeritus advisors if advice is required. They can either write their memoirs or return to the land that fed them, to ‘give back’ to the place from which they had taken. This should be the resolution of our ageing leadership.

We have some great young politicians, smart and innovative men and women in business and commerce, in new technologies and sciences, in the academics, in literature and the arts. We have a new generation of great reporters in the print media who have clear views and positions, who do not pussyfoot on all issues, who report the facts for what they are without feeling that they have to protect those they know. All these ‘young’ and middle-aged men and women must be handed the baton now if India is to come out of the mire. Can any national political party radically overhaul itself, discard its ambition for personal power, and hand over charge to the untested, anonymous young men and women in their midst, who belong to the future?