The Elections 2004

The best show in town is slowly winding down as I write this. Manmohan Singh gets ready to become the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, the BJP sulks in a corner licking its wounds and the ‘elite’ of the country scrambles trying to figure out what just happened.

The question uppermost in everybody’s mind now is, ‘What next?’

No matter what the predictions, the Congress would do well to look to the very people who voted them into power for the answers. More than voting out the BJP-led NDA or voting in the Congress, the people have voted for a change in priorities.

If the NDA were to be voted back into power they would have taken it as a mandate to pursue the same path that had brought the country to the stage it is at, which is not a bad thing in itself. However, the need for the next five years is not a fast track on industry but a consolidation of what has been achieved by the last government and the laying of a foundation from where this country can catapult itself to greater heights.

India is today a favored destination for companies from the developed quarter of the world; it is cheap, dependable and very welcoming. The next step in this journey is to ensure that the common man derives benefit from this position. The wealth needs to, has to, percolate down; wealth in terms of money, services, health, and security.

The new government needs to ensure that the companies that flock to India in order to fatten their bottom lines also contribute back, instead of sucking the country dry and moving on like a swarm of locusts.

The areas that require most urgent attention being education and health. Every government in my memory has promised these to the people, but both remain a distant dream for most common Indians.

Surprisingly both the above-mentioned careers are the ones that have always been revered. All through our history, the teacher and the doctor have been respected for their knowledge. These were callings more than careers. Today the scenario is far removed from this.

Education levels in government run schools are abysmally low. Teaching is no longer a first choice career for the young. The reasons for this need to be delved in to seriously. I firmly believe that it is not the money. If it were so then it would have been solved long ago. It has more to do with perception.

In the field of medical health, the quality of doctors is rapidly deteriorating. From a time when getting into a medical college was a badge in itself, today ‘management quotas’ mean that the only qualification required to get into a medical college is money. This was amply demonstrated when I visited a pharmacy with a prescription from a dentist. The pharmacist asked me if the dentist was young or old. Surprised by the question I asked him why he needed to know. His reply was enlightening.

“Sir, lots of people ask me to recommend doctors. Everybody is scared to go to just any doctor; everybody prefers the older ones as they are sure that he didn’t become a doctor by paying money.”

Over the last decade, various governments, either out of choice or through coercion, have pursued policies that have enabled this country to compete in the markets of the world. Many a fortune and career has been made due to these policies. The time now has come for all Indians to benefit from this success.

Being an Indian it becomes difficult to not read more into events than there is. Nevertheless, I cannot help but think that Mr. Manmohan Singh at the head of the government portends well. The last time he held office, he put us on the right path of development in his role as Finance Minister. Today he is the Prime Minister. I cannot help but hope that he will do for the country what he did for its economics over a decade ago.

All the best my PM!

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