Growing up, I vividly remember when my uncle, who had graduated from IIT Kanpur, used to come visit us all the way from America. With hefty luggage and stuff that contained exotic gifts. So I always used to look forward to his once in a year visits.
There was an unwritten rule in our house: Study hard, crack IIT and settle abroad if you wish to live like your uncle. Back then opportunities here were way less, so. However, in 1990s, India opened to the world under Manmohan Singh as finance minister and it changed everything.
India truly became global for the first time. MNCs were set up, new job openings, more savings and expenditure increased. Quick economic growth became possible and it gave everyone hope for a bright future.
When I got out of college, sectors like Radio were not under regulations yet. They were more liberalized, in a sense, and I became a radio jockey. I soon joined in as anchor on a popular news channel. For me, it was a dream come true.
No need to settle abroad, I thought to myself. I could live in my country and earn just as well. India will be a superpower one day, in my lifetime, I thought. That I will soon enjoy the same lifestyle as that of my uncle.
This was our 2000s sense of optimism when IITians were no longer leaving. They stayed and launched their own companies here. In fact, people were coming back!
Cut to Today, 1000s of High Net Worth Individuals are leaving India. As you know, our economy has taken a hit, the worst in 40 years. The olden problems have persisted and grown larger by the day: Wealth disparity and joblessness. Furthermore, the number of poor doubled within a year.
We were once a successful example of democracy. Nowadays, you may have heard terms such as ‘flawed democracy’, ‘partly free’, ‘electoral autocracy’ and so on. Just a few years ago we used to openly criticize and mock not only the government but also politicians as well. Not today. In fact, contempt charges are being put upon comedians and cartoonists.
How did we come to this? What changed?
In last 7 years how did we convert from a rising star to an international joke? Forget China, our per capita GDP is become less than that of Bangladesh. We call Bangladeshi immigrants ‘termites’ but there they are earning more than us?
Were we misguided? Or did we deliberately change course from the path of progress to the path of hatred?
Economic growth was slowing down since the onset of 2012. In the last three years of UPA, there were so many scams, remember? Policy paralysis strangled the then government. Media and opposition, on the other hand, grabbed the open opportunity: Women safety, petrol prices, joblessness, corruption, so many issues to pick up.
Public had made up in their minds the winner of 2014 elections. People liked the promises of Vikas and Acche din. However, their campaign for the election was played on two levels. Level 1 publicly: The agenda of development and good governance. Level 2 was a subtle, darker campaign for identity and for the revival of ancient pride.
Now, Poverty has doubled, economy is worst in 40 years and petrol prices are rising day by day. Yet nobody can see an alternative for 2024. Perhaps because the other kind of politics has been executed really very well?
For millions in India, hyper-nationalism, religious identity, minority hating is addictive. But don’t you think it’s a self-sabotaging process?
The government is taking on its own citizens: Farmers, students, journalists, NGOs, academia, social workers, lawyers, intellectuals. Meaning whosoever raises their voice, whosoever criticizes is being labeled. The biggest of all shocks, the second wave, which should have opened many eyes but hasn’t.
Here are 7 steps to bring India back on track:
- Admit the mistakes made.
- Ask questions.
- Let’s say no to hate and bigotry.
- Identify and bust fake news and propaganda.
- Issues raised by the people must be taken up first.
- Vote for MP not for PM.
- Less talk, more action.