indiatopia

On Celebrating Independence Day

A couple of days ago, India celebrated 69 years of Independence from the British. As usual, there were the many articles in print and online about what Independence really means. And, there were various articles on how best to celebrate such Independence.

The Prime Minister gave his 2nd Independence Day Red Fort speech in Delhi — less rousing than last year’s and mostly a litany of his government’s many goals, initiatives and aspirations. These days, when he deigns to speak to the public, he’s still in campaign mode. Someone needs to tactfully remind him that he needs to switch that off now, even if certain state elections are looming. The country is growing weary of the mountains of promises that are being built on air.

I have a very simple suggestion for the Prime Minister and his team. Why not pick ONE SPECIFIC THING that India needs to be rid of or gain freedom from and focus resources and propaganda on it for the rest of the year? So, for example, to free India from garbage and disease, it’s not enough to challenge a bunch of celebrities to undertake activities for “Swacchh Bharat Abhiyaan“. Beyond the initial hype and photo ops, there isn’t much happening, as everyone knows. So, why not ask each state to specifically identify key cities that must be sustainably clean in a year and provide them with measurable parameters for ongoing cleanliness? Then, focus significant resources and efforts on those cities and parameters instead of introducing a gazillion more “abhiyaans” with long, forgettable titles. And, at next year’s speech, give us an update on the one chosen initiative, along with tangible data and evidence to show real progress.

This is not to say that we don’t work on any other initiative. But, right now, the scattershot and chaotic approach of too many criss-crossing initiatives without any clear, practical, actionable and succinct guidelines (for example, this “Ease of Doing Business” assessment framework is anything but easy to implement) is likely hampering progress rather than helping. Back in my corporate years, if I’d submitted an annual plan with as many initiatives as this government has, my boss would definitely have fired me. Not to mention that I would have set myself up for failure by trying to do so much.

As appropriate and necessary as it to memorialize and celebrate the country’s freedom from colonialist rulers 69 years ago, let’s also focus properly on freeing the country from one major problem or concern each year and celebrate that as well. Otherwise, all we’re really doing is a lot of flag-waving and slogan-shouting…… year after blessed year.

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