I met a senior Secretary in the Government of India last year. Belonging to a middle-class family in Uttar Pradesh—his father was a school teacher in a small town and mother was a housewife—he was in a mood for introspection. He felt that while his schoolteacher father could built an independent house while educating him and his siblings—one of his brothers is an IAS officer, the other an IPS officer and his sisters are professional doctors—he finds it difficult to do so. “When I analyse, I feel I can’t have an independent house, being a Secretary in the Government, and can’t educate my sons the way I want,” he said, adding, “I can’t believe that in the past 30 years, decent education, healthcare and housing are out of reach for a middle-class man. Where is India heading, I don’t know?” The answer to this needs to be debated.
Every politician or official in India knows that 50 kilometres from any metro town, the situation is pathetic. Roads are marked with potholes, there are schools but no teachers and there are dispensaries but no doctors. Educated village youth have shifted to towns, leaving women and old people behind in dilapidated houses and filth-strewn villages. The land under cultivation is dependent on migrated labour, which commands its price. This is the real picture of India’s villages.
The small towns are spreading unplanned and the State governments seem to have no control. Private colonisers are ruling the roost. While it is true that hospitals, colleges and schools have mushroomed in these towns, the truth is that they are run by untrained doctors and teachers. Their raison d’etre is to earn from the uneducated village youth residing in the towns.
Bigger towns, on the other hand, have their own peculiar problems. Influx of people has resulted in crumbling infrastructure. Mafias are ruling the roost in the big cities, be it in education and health services, or real estate and parking. Bad roads and burgeoning traffic are making it difficult to travel from one point to another at any given time in the day.
The situation in various sectors of the economy is not rosy either. Agricultural production is not showing any signs of improvement, while industrial production is stagnant. The youth of the country is clamouring for employment. Everybody is worried as to how India will move ahead and do it fast. In such a scenario, it is worth remembering that governance does not mean ruling over our countrymen, but ameliorating the problems afflicting them and providing them quality life.
gfiles’ cover story on the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog is an endeavour to understand the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. How will Niti Aayog function and deliver is the question. Former Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar writes, “Niti Aayog has to identify the constraints on socio-economic development of the country in different sectors, for example, poverty, disparity, environment, energy, water, education, agriculture and so on. It should refrain from micro-managing the programmes and projects. Its organisational relevance would be assessed on the advice it provides to the Central and State governments.” MG Devasahayam says, “Niti is Modi’s ‘Team India’, which he promised during his fiery electoral campaign and is now in place. While the mandate eschews the word planning from its nomenclature, the objectives of Niti are unequivocal about ushering in village-level planning and aggregation of plans at progressively higher levels…Though there is no clarity on the fate of Five-Year Plans, it would be a fallacy to assume that Niti would completely jettison planning from its mandate.”
Transforming India is a challenging task before Modi. Modi and India have no option but to transform and make the country vibrant, contented and prosperous.