Before the newest Indian slogan Atma Nirbhar or Self Sufficiency is discussed, it would be interesting to review the history of slogans (Naare Bazi) and speeches (Bhashan Bazi) by Indian leaders. No other nations can beat Indians in coining slogans and delivering speeches. When Pandit Nehru visited the United States for the first time, he was delivering long speeches everywhere. There was a cartoon in a newspaper which depicted Niagara Falls on one side and Nehru on the other side. In the first set, water was coming down the Niagara Falls and words were coming down from Nehru’s mouth. In the second set, water stopped coming down from Niagara Falls and words were continuing to come down from Nehru’s mouth and the cartoon title was “Niagara became aghast in front of Nehru”. When he visited during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, his frequent advice to the USA and Kennedy compelled Mr. Kennedy to state, “Please, let us come to the issues of mutual interests.”
Pandit Nehru enthused the whole nation with his famous slogan “Panch Sheel” (Five Principles) of international cooperation and peace. When India was offered a permanent seat in the united Security Council, In his enthusiasm for his favorite Panch Sheel slogan, Mr. Nehru passed on the offer to China. In 1962, China attacked India and the Panch Sheel came tumbling down. After that no one mentioned “Panch Sheel”.
Following Nehru, most of the leaders talked loudly about India being a secular and socialist country even though these two words were not in the India’s Constitution. These two words were included in the Constitution by a Constitutional Amendment forced through the Parliament by Mrs. Indira Gandhi when she had locked most of the opposition Parliament Members during the emergency period of 1975-1977 and none of these jailed members were allowed to vote. As the Emergency was unconstitutional so was the inclusion of the two words secular and socialist in the constitution.
Mrs. Gandhi coined another slogan “Garibi Hatao” (Eradicate poverty) during one of the parliament elections. She won the ekections and Poors stayed poors and the politicians started minting money at unprecedented levels. Mrs. Gandhi was the first Prime Minister to take money from a well known Indian businessman in the PM House. Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri, known for his gentle manner, also floated a slogan Jai Kissan Jai Jawan. The lot of both did not improve.
The era of slogans and speeches was not only associated with the Congress leaders, it infected the Communists and BJP also. The Communists had a slogan “Sarmayedari Khatam Karo” (ban the capitalism). Now this slogan has become extinct and everyone is trying to become capitalists. Most of the politicians, including communists, have accumulated huge amounts of capital.
Once a close relative of Jyoti Basu, a well known CPM leader and Chief Minister of Bengal, happened to meet me in the USA. While we were discussing politics, he stated, “I have good contacts in Bengal, let us start a business together and make money.” As usual, my answer was, “I do not do business with politicians.” The Communist leaders used to get money from Russia and a lot more from China.
Pramod Mahajan, a famous BJP leader close to Ranjan Bhattacharya, Shri Vajpayee’s son in law, an ex-school teacher, became a multi-millionaire (in terms of dollars) floated a slogan, “Shining India” and convinced Vajpayee to call elections prior to the completion of the five-year term. The Shining India came tumbling down and BJP was out of power.
Modiji’s strength has been his hard work, honesty and oratory which includes highlighting the Indian tradition. He also floated a number of well- meant slogans. Before elections in 2014, BJP promised to bring back Swiss money and eliminate corruption. To date neither happened. Not even a single paisa of Swiss money was brought back. It is correct that the corruption at the Cabinet level has been reduced significantly and there has not been any major scandal at the top level, a great achievement since independence, however, the corruption at the lower level continues to be unabated. Bureaucrats at the center level have made and are making tons of money. None of the States care about corruption. Once Ms. Kiran Bedi told me that she would prefer to be Delhi’s LG and she would straighten the two most corrupt departments Police and Delhi Development Authority (“DDA”). It takes not years but decades for the files to move at DDA. Swatcha Bharat (“Clean India”) is a laudable goal and did achieve some unprecedented results, however, in almost all cities, piles of garbage are visible everywhere and now this slogan is becoming an endangered specie.
The newest slogan Atma Nirbhar (“Self Sufficiency”), is again a laudable objective, however, neither it is possible for any country nor is it desirable to be self-sufficient. Surprisingly, even in the USA a number of politicians have been talking about Self Sufficiency for a long time. To date no country has become totally self-sufficient nor would it happen. Today’s economy and technology are developed on a global basis. No country has all the natural resources and monopoly on technology. Each country can produce something more efficiently and economically than others and the world can obtain that product from the country where it is economically produced. Therefore, the goal of Self Sufficiency is as illusory as it could be and would never happen in any country unless a country completely isolates itself from the world.
It would be unfair not to acknowledge the unprecedented progress made in India on social, economic and business fronts. Many good schemes have been implemented by Modi’s government which have substantially helped poors, retirees, farmers, daily wagers, migrant workers and those living in the remote parts of India. We should concentrate on real and practical steps rather than coin slogans. Both the government and opposition should work on commonly agreed upon agenda and the opposition should not oppose everything the government proposes and does. I also urge all to slow down on Bhashan Bazi and Narre Bazi and focus more on real issues facing the country and the world.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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