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10 April, 2016 00:00 00 AM

India is changing fast

The India story, with its twists and turns, is a complex one. But it is one with tremendous potential
Kumkum Chadha
India is changing fast

Nearly two decades ago, an international channel during its India launch had shown bullock carts on Indian roads. Some media persons had then staged a walk out. Their contention: Denigrating India while launching a channel on Indian soil was simply unacceptable. The channel tried to brush the issue under the carpet. Of course there was no apology forthcoming because those days one could get away with making fun of India and ridiculing it.  From there to having the Indian name of New Delhi and that too in Devanagari is a long awaited and welcome change. And more particularly because it is the handiwork of a global think tank to mark the launch of its regional office in India.
Earlier this week, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, during the high profile launch of its Indian arm Carnegie India, made it a point to add an Indian flavor. In the notepads for delegates was printed Nai Dilli: the Indian equivalent of New Delhi. Printed in Devnagari script, among the amalgam of English letters, Nai Dilli stood out like nothing else did. It was a subtle move but one that was noticed and mentioned by none other than telecom giant Sunil Mittal.
 For Carnegie Endowment for International Peace it may be a baby step: more a design element than any other but for those who had witnessed the bullock cart ignominy, it was a tribute from an international giant, who while wooing India publicly accords the respect it deserves. Therefore, it touched a chord.
 With a global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe and Middle East, the US based think tank has, now, set foot in India. While doing this it intends to focus on the political economy of reform in India, foreign and security policy and the role of innovation and technology in India’s internal transformation and international relations. It intends to do this, as is its mission, through direct engagement and collaboration with decision makers in government.
 With a pro-active government in the Centre headed by a Prime Minister who hinges development on innovation, Carnegie India has well timed its entry. There is enough fodder for it to chew from.
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often spoken of innovation and research. In the context of renewable energy for instance, his emphasis is to make solar and wind power affordable. Innovation, Modi has often said, will cut costs in this sector. There is also a proposal to set up solar and wind hybrid farms to reduce transmission costs, resulting in cheaper power.
 Modi, it is well known, has often spoken of a “quantum leap” in energy production and connectivity. In this context, he has underlined the need for innovation and research that would not only make renewable energy cheaper but also more reliable and easier to connect to transmission grids. Modi has also hammered the need for energy to reach the “last household of the country”.  
 Alongside Mission Innovation, Modi made a strong pitch for Make in India. Aimed at encouraging multi national and national companies to manufacture in India, Modi’s hope is to see India emerge as the top destination for foreign direct investment. The Modi government has, for starters, decided to focus on key sectors ranging from automobiles, chemicals, construction, electronics, oil, food-processing, pharmaceuticals and even wellness among others.
 Among the panelists who spoke at the Carnegie India launch there were apprehensions about lofty ideas that could hit a roadblock. Apart from a slew of issues including a multiple tax regime, they spoke of connectivity and the concept of public private partnership being somewhat skewed.  Another point made particularly in the Indian context was the need to overcome the fear of failure. Add to that the fact that even while India is seen as a lucrative destination, it is yet to emerge as one where doing business is easy. Red tape and multiple clearances remain a deterrent.  
 However, there was a consensus that India’s time has come as there was about the fact that the Indian Prime Minister exudes enviable energy.
 Even Modi’s bitterest critics would find it tough to refute this. Willy nilly they concede that Modi has helped India’s image abroad and made super powers sit up and take note
of it.
 Back home he may bear the brunt of criticism of failing to deliver on his achche din, good days, promise but globally he is seen as one who has what it takes to steer India and make it a decisive player at the international level.
 But governments are, in any nation’s history, always one part of the story.  It is not always about what they can or cannot do. Neither is it solely about their capacities to deliver. It is much more than that. It is about its partnership with its people: about how far are they willing to carry forward what Governments propose. In this context, India and Indians  have  much to learn. The country may be taking strides but its people have to understand that the Government can do only that much. They must accept, even if they have to grudgingly, that the government does not have a delivery mechanism to dramatically change fortunes.
 The India story, with its twists and turns, is a complex one. But it is one with tremendous potential given that its young population is dynamic and full of promise. It is also one that has a stake in its growth. Not only are they proud Indians but are willing to carry their Indian-ness on their sleeve. They dream big and hope high. Far from dithering, disowning and sometimes shunning whatever was Indian, today’s Indians are raring to go and take on the world. They want to be part of the script that is being written. This is the  potential Prime Minister Modi and his government intend to tap and cash in on. This, too, is what global players are eyeing.
 That India is fast changing is a given. Equally, Indian-ness is fast becoming an identity that its youth is happy flagging. Politically this would pay dividends to the BJP given that it is high on nationalism. Even when it was derided for forcing people to chant Bharat Mata ki jai, it sat smug. It was aware that any move to oppose the Hail Motherland slogan would unite them as nothing has in the past. It is against this backdrop that the Nai Dilli sentiment resonated. From being mocked at for our bullock carts India and Indians have come a long way.

The writer is a senior Indian
journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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