NO, THIS IS NOT A RECAP OF THE DARK EVENTS THAT ENGULFED India #40 years ago – when human rights were jettisoned and thousands incarcerated without valid reasons – of which much has been written in the past few days.  On the other hand, this is a reminder of the state we are still in, towards which, given our own selfishness and insularity, if I may borrow Mary Midgley’s phrase, we have all cultivated “an active disinclination to feel.”

IT WOULD BE WHOLLY WRONG IF WE DELUDE ourselves into believing that all is hunky-dory by merely having a look at the short blips of Sensex or Nifty and confuse the inflow of FII investment as a sure signal of improved conditions in India.  Radical surgery is long overdue and the only man who can still perform it today is none other than #Narendra Damodardas Modi.  He cannot afford to underestimate the faith that millions have reposed in him and the historic opportunity he still has to change the history of India, positively and forever.

SMART CITIES, BULLET TRAINS AND TECHNOPARKS are all fine and welcome but on most human development indices that measure the quality of life, India still ranks amongst the lowest in the world.  Virtually everything we eat or drink is still unwholesome.  As India Today aptly asked last fortnight  in its cover story :  is it still food on our plate ?  Access to reasonably priced medical/hospital services for a majority of Indians is still beyond reach; the education system is far from ideal; law enforcement and the delivery of justice is still a dream for India’s teeming millions notwithstanding the occasional spark of fairness and urgency that lace judicial verdicts.  Ecological issues also appear to be radically sidelined.

LEST IT BE MISUNDERSTOOD, THE ABOVE FACTS should not lead one to hastily conclude that India is irredeemable.  On the other hand, India, or more correctly, the Indian people have provided the current political leadership with the mandate to change the face of India that would be the envy of the world but time may be running out fast before everything slips at best into catastrophic gradualism and at worst into status quo.

WHILE IT APPEARS UNLIKELY THAT WE MAY HEAR THE MIDNIGHT KNOCK at our door as many unfortunate persons did when the #state of emergency was imposed #40 years ago, the growing intolerance of pluralism and intelligent dissent, particularly in academic institutions is  worrisome.  While keeping his counsel to himself, #Narendra Modi should also welcome constructive criticism as listening to “yes men” always may distance him from ground realities and this may prove to be too costly. His situation in this regard is not unlike that of #Arvind Kejriwal’s.

THE PRESENT STATE OF INDIA SHOULD “keep us awake at night” – something that #Amartya Sen pointed out in his address to the Indian Parliament when he delivered the first #Hiren Mukherjee Memorial Lecture on August 11, 2008*. WHAT INDIA LACKS IS A TERRIBLE SENSE OF URGENCY.  While still in the emergency ward, India may run out of oxygen and hence, as #Sadanand Dhume aptly suggested today in #The Times of India, it is time for #Narendra Modi to “trash caution and embrace courage” instead. He will not then be bereft of the overwhelming support of his countrymen  even if some vested interests desert him when the latter discover  to their surprise that he is not subservient to their own self-serving agenda.


* Originally published as “The Demands of Justice”. (Revised shorter version under the name “What should Keep Us Awake at Night.”

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