By: Sumith S. Rao
Mangaluru, Sep 18, 2020: It was in 1950 that India became a republic and during the same year, a future leader of the country was born. No one would have ever dreamt that this boy born to Damodardas and Hiraben would one day lead our country as its Prime Minister.
Born 70 winters ago, he has today definitely mesmerized the world. Ironically, what the British sought to promote for a century and a half was made world famous after this so called seller of tea became the 15th Prime Minister of India.
This is a piece written not as a Bhakth or an anti-Bhakth but by someone who believes in being practical in his praise or criticism of someone. Let me start off on a positive note by cheering Narendra Damodardas Modi, a fabulous 70th birthday with a cup of what else but tea. Here is a man who climbed the rungs of the RSS through the years from 1968 and then joined the Bharatiya Janata Party achieving great heights from scratch to reach the pinnacle of power. As he celebrates seven years as Prime Minister and 70 years in his life, he has got long miles to tread before he can put his foot up to relax if he has to keep his promise of making India a superpower. Of course, the present pandemic has put a brake across the world, but more steeply in India.
This man remains an enigma to most people. His educational background is not very great but he is now acknowledged with a BA from Delhi and MA from Gujarat University through open learning programs. But, maybe because of his nomadic existence he seems to have travelled across the length and breadth of the country acquiring street smart skills and a sharp sense of understanding and assimilating and reacting to situations in a very fast and sensible manner. Of course, there have been some apprehensions regarding his note ban which was termed by many as a fiasco, and the haste in which he brought in the GST which is now considered a game changer. But apart from these, his quick appraisal and bold decision making are a hallmark of his style of functioning.
I, for one, who still considers himself a strong critic of some of his actions, would give him a 21 gun salute for instilling pride in being an Indian. From zero pride, we have moved at least 60 to 70% ahead (of course, some of it overboard) in our belief that we as Indians deserve to be proud of our rich heritage. The other very small basic necessities in life - like the toilet - were literally brought out into the open, thus making us nearly a 100% non open defecating country. Of course, the plethora of yojanas, like many of his preceding governments, have evoked mixed feelings and mixed results.
At this point, I would also like to point a few things which could make our nation really proud of him. Let me illustrate this with a real life story of Kishore Mehbubani, a man of Sindhi origin in India. He says that in the year 1965 Singapore was one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita income of less than $500 a year which is equivalent of the per capita income of a third world country like Ghana. Today, due to some amazing and practical ingenuity this tiny country is a first world country. Singapore stands 4th in the world in per capita income whereas India still languishes at 122nd position in per capita income. Our GDP may be 5th in the world but that belies the truth. The GDP is the gross domestic product of 134 crore Indians and if we divide it by those 134 crore people it works out to an average of $7,100 whereas Singapore’s works out to nearly $90,000 dollars.
The story of Singapore can be best illustrated in Prof. Mehbubani’s words. In Singapore they used three words - ‘MPH’ - which stands for MERITOCRACY, PRAGMATISM and HONESTY.
MERITOCRACY is very simple. You choose the best person for the job. So the Finance Minister is he or she because he has the required knowledge to run the country not because he is a senior member of the party or happens to be your relative.
PRAGMATISM is to approach a problem with the best solution not the best ideology. He quotes China’s Deng Xiopeng who once said, “It does not matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.” The ideology is immaterial as long as the result is positive.
HONESTY is the million dollar question in India. If Modi can weed out corruption, India can only go one way ... and that is up. You will need a strong mind and ruthless action. You will need to start at the top. In Singapore, a minister was asked to resign because he went on a vacation with a businessman. This was considered a crime as obviously why would a businessman take a minister for a vacation. If you can be bold and take stringent action against corruption, half the battle is won in creating India as an economic superpower.
These were just a few random thoughts that crept to my mind when I decided that this would be your birthday gift to the nation on your 70th birthday Shri Narendra Modiji. Let me conclude, by saying whatever way people love you or hate you, you certainly have made a big difference in the way we hold ourselves in front of the world. Today, thanks to you we feel proud to call ourselves as Indians. We have been reinstalled into the values of family, though you have none. We have learnt to respect our armed forces and are proud of by them. We have been told to “Make in India” for which we need a lot more going from the government and it definitely can be done.
All in all, you have got the sparks flying but the finished product needs a lot more grinding work. Let God give you health and strong will to achieve a vibrant and great India which every Indian shall feel proud of and let not a single Indian go without a meal by the time your second term as Prime Minister is completed.