Friday, 5 September 2014

Modi Sir Ki Paathshala

The afternoon of September 5, 2014 witnessed a landmark event: the Prime Minister's address to students across the country. The innovative experiment was largely seen as a success considering it was the first time a Prime Minister had taken a proactive step to engage with students and the masses through spontaneous speech which emphasised on the role and importance of teachers and their role in strengthening the nation as much as the exercise was aimed to engage with citizens to enroll themselves in the democratic discourse.

Children and youth are a valuable asset as the workforce is determined by the talent and knowledge pool of a country. In 1930, shortly after the celebrated Dandi March, Mahatma Gandhi had said that youth are leaders of tomorrow and it is the young who have to be the salt of the nation. If salt loses its flavour, where shall it be salted? An exercise like the Teachers' Day address will go a long way in making students an important part of the nation building process in a manner where the voters of tomorrow would be self-reliant and wise to map the future of the country. As residents of a mature an thinking democracy, an interaction like the Prime Minister's address to students builds a sense of respect and belonging to the nation, which is vital in a country like India.

India is a country where knowledge is worshipped due to its guru-sishya parampara. An attitude of gratitude raises one's altitude in life as rightly illustrated in the example of Totaka and Adi Sankara. Our teachers are known as gurus and we are taught to revere and treasure their immense contribution towards enriching our lives in our quest to be better individuals. Hence, the renaming of Teachers' Day to a more optimistic "Guru Utsav" brings back a sense of pride which effectively summarises India's guru-sishya parampara. 

The primary focus of the exercise was engagement as the Prime Minister also chose the event to effectively summarise the inclusive aspects of India's democratic culture. As the exercise was simultaneously broadcast in schools across the country, the Guru Utsav address is an effective way to begin with the "Digital India" project that the Prime Minister spoke about. In the first interaction by a Prime Minister, the address did emit positive signals which would allow children to think imaginatively in an environment where even a tea boy could reach the pinnacle of success by being the Prime Minister. The simplicity and honesty with which he answered the questions put to him is indeed commendable, thus proving once again that the moral rejuvenation of any society in any period of history only takes place because of the examples a leader of the nation sets.

The current year brings with it a fresh round of optimism with a government which seeks to engage with all sections promising empowered governance and development. It has been a positive start and would be commendable if such engagement is sought from across societies at regular intervals. Inspiring students to think keeping national interest and acting with a sense of pride and responsibility is a welcome step. As we debate the usefulness of the exercise, it is smaller steps which lead to a larger goal. Hence, beginning with a mission to restore balance in our textbooks and working towards reformation of the education system by making schooling more interactive would be ideal. Until then, we can only look ahead with the hope that the practice continues next year too. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Modi at 100: Not Out

The concept of "100 Days" was initiated in the United States of America when its President Delano Roosevelt borrowed the term "100 Days" from Napoleonic history to describe the workings of the 73rd US Congress which sat for 100 days from March 9, 1933 to June 17, 1933. Thus, the term came first to be used in a radio address on July 24 that same year. At this juncture, please note that 100 days does not refer to the then US President's tenure but the session of the Congress. 

Since then, 100 days has become an indicator of performance for all US Presidents and is now also being applied to an Indian Prime Minister. A period of 100 days in power is too short for anybody: more so, the Prime Minister of a country especially when Narendra Modi has sought five years to show some results in critical areas like power and the Ganga Clean Up project and ten years, in some areas like infrastructure. While I strongly believe that 100 days is too less a time for announcing major policy decisions or a complete overhaul a bureaucratic system, the least a 100 day stint could do is to set an agenda based on the immediate priorities a government would like to take. 

The country grappled with unprecedented levels of corruption, inflation and paralysis while people sought an escape route to break free from the shackles of the morass. It is, of course possible in the din and euphoria around the possibility of having a new government, we have tasted success in certain key areas. The return of nurses from Kerala who were stranded in Iraq, the refusal to engage with Pakistan for bilateral talks are some of the achievements under the reasonably new Modi Sarkaar. The Prime Minister in his Independence Day Speech also urged investors to make in India, a call which was enough to revive India's sagging GDP growth rate. After nearly 15 years of ruling Gujarat, a challenge set before him was to manage the reigns of a multicultural India and the challenge was to ensure that he delivers within the first 100 days. Now the occasion has past proving both his admirers as well as critics wrong and successfully building a consensus that the incumbent Prime Minister has transitioned from being a chief minister to the most important person in the country smoothly. 

There is no doubt that India five years from now will be a different country from India from what we see today. How and the degree to which the transformation takes place is debatable but there is no doubt that a strong foundation has been laid as the Prime Minister addressed issues of cleanliness, hygiene and women safety. Sure, we are witnessing a new round of nation-building which can be successful only if there is a sense of belonging and individual participation. Summing up, the first 100 days of the Modi Sarkaar have established that Sri. Narendra Modi's focus is more on clearing up the current bottlenecks and expediting decision making rather than interference in major policies. What he will ultimately deliver five years from now is open for debate, but success or failure, it is India that will benefit.