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On China bhai-bhai day, Modi serves up 3S

New Delhi, June 8: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today stressed that if India were to compete with China, it would need to acquire and finesse the three S’s: skill, scale and speed.

Speaking a day before his meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, Modi said: “Spardha hai (competition exists), we have to recognise that. We need to have the skill, scale and speed to meet the spardha.”

He added: “When we think of trains, our mental canvas only extends to express trains but not to bullet trains. We need to think on a large scale; our thinking has to intellectually expand onto a huge canvas.”

Modi held his focus so tight on his version of development that he recast the original symbolism of the three colours on the Indian national flag, replacing abstract and timeless ideas with everyday material concerns.

So, the green that denotes prosperity signified to Modi the urgent need for a “second green revolution” that would stand for “enhanced agri-productivity, value multipliers, the use of more refined agro-technology and decentralisation of warehousing”.

The white, symbolising truth, peace and purity, turned into a call for another “white revolution” that would not only look at increasing milk production but on creating health systems for cattle. Under a programme Modi had introduced, Gujarat is replete with eye camps for cattle.

As for saffron — a colour that Modi said “kayeeyon ke kaan khada kar dega” (would get many to prick up their ears) because of its association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Bhagwa Dhwaj (saffron flag) — it has been deemed to stand for sacrifice and renunciation.

Modi interpreted it as the colour of “solar energy” or “Surya oorja”. He turned it into the context for a “saffron revolution” that would have renewable energy sources like solar power (again propagated and used in Gujarat) to meet India’s energy requirements.

The navy blue Ashok Chakra at the flag’s centre was, to India’s second President S. Radhakrishnan, the wheel of the “law of dharma (virtue)”. To Modi, it is the harbinger of a “blue revolution” signifying the commercial prospects of fisheries, including those breeding exotic species.

If the bullet trains that sprint across much of Southeast Asia were one prong of Modi’s prescription for getting India on a par with China, he bemoaned the absence of the concept of “speed” in India.

“What kind of fuel do we use that our vehicles run in reverse gear instead of speeding if that fuel is put inside?” he asked.

As for skill, he linked the idea to India’s “demographic dividend”.

“Imagine, 65 per cent of our population is below 35 and we have a youth power that contains the largest market for skill development and enhancement. This market is crying to be tapped. There are nurses, paramedics and, most importantly, teachers whose skills need to be refined,” he said.

“Can a country ever think of exporting teachers? Yes, it can, because a trader who travels abroad only brings back dollars and pounds. A teacher influences an entire generation of human beings.”

He added: “Our IIMs are focused on minting potential CEOs who can earn Rs 2 (crore) and (Rs) 3 crore packages. Yet ask these CEOs what they want for their children. In one voice, they will say, ‘The best education; the best teachers’.

“It is sad that teaching is regarded as a second or third career option. Someone who can’t make the grade as a doctor or an engineer says, ‘Okay, I’ll become a teacher’.

“That mindset has to change. From Class X or XII, students must start thinking, ‘Yes, I will go into teaching’.”

Modi said that high on his reforms agenda was a shift from building highways to building “i-ways” and optical fibre networks, and creating 100 “smart” cities that would open up windows for job creation and change.

“In the past, cities were built along riverbanks. They are now built along highways. In future, they will be built along a different pattern, based on the availability of optical fibre networks and next-generation infrastructure,” he said.

Modi’s speech came at the launch of Getting India Back on Track: An Action Agenda for Reform, a compendium of essays edited by Bibek Debroy, Ashley J. Tellis and Reece Trevor. It’s been published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, with a foreword by Ratan Tata.

Tellis is a senior associate and Trevor a research assistant at Carnegie. Debroy is an economist and a professor at Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.

Debroy was in the news in 2005 when he wrote a paper that marked Gujarat as the number one state in terms of economic laissez-faire, measured on variables such as governmental non-interference, favourable legal structures and the security of property rights.

Debroy was then a research director at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Research. The paper was put out by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is chaired by Sonia Gandhi and has Rahul and Priyanka on the board of trustees and the executive committee.

It was published at a time the Congress had stepped up its campaign against Modi and his development “claims” before the 2007 state elections.

There was a howl of protest from the Gujarat Congress and within the central party unit against the Foundation’s link to the “pro-Modi” document. Debroy, thought to be close to the Gandhis, quit his job.

He turned into a vocal proponent of Modi’s Gujarat template and became a regular at the state government’s events, notably the biennial “Vibrant Gujarat” industrial summit.

Modi’s official Twitter account commended the book because it “talks about getting India back on the path of good governance and development, subjects that are very close to the PM”.

Wang-Sushma talks

Wang and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj today discussed the “perennial” bilateral issues at a “cordial, useful, productive and substantive” meeting in New Delhi that lasted three hours, a PTI report said.

The agenda is believed to have included the boundary dispute, incursions, issuance of stapled visas by China to a certain category of Indians, Beijing’s construction of dams on the Brahmaputra and increased Chinese investments.

Wang praised the new government saying it had injected new vitality into an ancient civilisation.

The menu at the lunch hosted for Wang Yi by Sushma Swaraj at Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan, the foreign ministry office

  • Nadru Yakhani (made of lotus stem and yoghurt)
  • Machher Jhol (fish curry)
  • Sula Kabab (tandoori lamb strip)
  • Bhindi Kurkuri (fried okra)
  • Jhinga Samarkand (tandoori prawn)
  • Lauki Nazaqat (slices of stuffed gourd)
  • Kesar Kheer (rice cooked in milk with saffron).