Anybody who has travelled from Nariman Point to Kandivali on a working day, especially when it is raining, will not agree with the commonly held perception that India is shining. I think “India Shining” as an adjective has been quoted out of proportion and the ground reality is something else; India is shining only for a few but for rest of the common Indians - India is sinking like never before.
If you look at the common man’s life, apart from consumer durables where we have seen benefits of intense competition in terms of prices coming down, every other aspect prices are only on their way up. I don’t know which basket of consumption the government assumes, but for the common man’s basket, the food prices have clearly gone up. I don’t know from where politicians get their pulses and vegetables. Perhaps, they have prospered so much that they are not even aware of what the costs are.
Infrastructure is crumbling everywhere and the saddest part is that the things have become so bad, so bad that people have learnt to live and accept their fate. We don’t even expect potholes to be repaired. Earlier, people use to have campaigns before the monsoon about repairing potholes but this time even the media is not bothered. People seem to choose some back strengthening exercises rather than trying to improve the situation. The latest India Today had an article about rising population of cars and the impact on infrastructure. The reason for so much traffic in rains is simply because mass transport systems are not up to the mark. Every time there is some attempt to improve infrastructure or mass transport, celebrities block proposals saying this is bad for my house. Remember, the Peddar Road flyover was blocked for ages because the Nightingale of India thinks her voice will be affected. We are in an illiterate society where nightingales are bothered about the sparrows & crows but not many could bother about how the common man is forced to struggle.
Now Mr. Bachchan, once the symbol of middle-class anger and anguish on screen is turning to be an angry old man. Angry may be a harsh word but he is clearly disappointed. Why? The new Mumbai Metro route near Juhu may well run on the lane next to his home ‘Prateeksha.’
All these “aam aadmi” statements are just made for effect whereas ground reality is completely shocking. City after city is seeing collapsing infrastructure as people choose not to use the public transport due to overcrowding or lack of frequencies and service. I was a big fan of using local trains for a very long time. I used to travel by train because that was the fastest means of travel. In recent past, I hardly take a train except if I am travelling in the opposite direction of the crowd. In peak hours, it’s a nightmare to get into the train; getting out you can be sure someone behind will push you out.
I’ve been staying in Mumbai for ~15 years and year after year the situation is only getting worse. Investments don’t seem to be coming in easily. So much of money is made on land deals; if only a part of that was used for widening roads or relocating some people.
A lot seems to be getting done in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. Besides money which has been diverted from other places. In fact there was uproar in Parliament too as initially it was thought that money had been diverted from SC/ST schemes for projects related to Commonwealth Games. For the record no money has been diverted from these schemes. But money continues to be diverted from Bombay. So effectively, Bombay pays most of the taxes and the infrastructure gets created in Delhi apart from exotic places like Switzerland.
It is time for us to wake up and see whether actually India is shining or we are missing a point completely. I think most people use the words ‘India is shinning’ depending upon the state of the capital markets. There have been lots of articles in the recent past highlighting India’s Jugaad as the source of success; in other words Indian people are so enterprising that they circumvent the system and then do all things innovatively to survive. I think Jugaad itself is a cause for concern. You go to a place like Delhi; people come and boast proudly that “mera Jugaad hai” roughly translated in English “I can manage .” So this Jugaad allows you to get VIP stickers, which in turn allows you to park the cars anywhere without being the official your car claims to be. Simple small time thrill you may imagine. But think again; if you remember the Parliament attack that happened years ago, terrorists made their entry around Parliament with a fully legitimate vehicle topped with a siren simply because the person who organized it had Jugaad; he would have bribed a small time official and taken all legitimate papers.
Recently, Swapan Dasgupta wrote an extremely nice article in TOI titled “Why praise Jugaad? It’s bleeding us”. In recent times, I have had lots of discussion with my friends and most of them tend to agree that Jugaad concept has been over hyped. What management thinkers wished to say is that we are tolerant and we find innovative solutions in terms of manufacturing by finding low cost options. However, that cannot be taken to the other extreme especially when Jugaad is put into a negative context as the famous Sanjeev Kumar dialogue in a movie “Main adjust kar lunga” (I will adjust). Effectively, it is a problem of taking shortcuts, which has put the entire country into a mess.
Every time you travel abroad you will see people who jump queues or try to “adjust” are mostly Indians. Indians get reprimanded at airports in Singapore and London for these otherwise petty things. A friend of mine who used to fly Singapore Airlines says that the service quality has fallen dramatically on India bound flights simply because of the attitude of Indians. They keep talking on their cellphone till the last minute and then the moment the plane lands, they stand up and