Let us hope that the parliamentary elections in 2019 throw up a result that is good for the country.
As the year ends, it is time to pause, to evaluate the past, and to hope for the future. The past cannot be resurrected, but it can leave behind lessons for the present, and the present can craft what may happen in the future. This is, then, the time for wishlists, for the articulation of hope, for optimism, because as the old verity goes, umeed pe sab zinda hain, we all live on the possibility of hope. What I am going to put down is a wishlist for our Republic for 2019. So here goes:
1. Let us do much more to tackle the crisis of pollution. Not ad hoc measures when the crisis is upon us, which only act like band aids on a broken bone. What is needed are strong institutional measures, implemented well in time, in a coordinated manner, through full cooperation between the Centre and the states. We are facing a systemic crisis, for which there is not just one cause, and, therefore, the response has to be both planned and enduring.
2. Let us do more for our farmers. Over 60 per cent of our population is dependent on agriculture. Farmers are under debt; they are not getting remunerative prices for their produce; they are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather, since only about one-third of our land is irrigated. And they need better inputs, seeds, fertilisers, extension services, cold storage facilities, transportation and marketing infrastructure. Mere loan waivers are not the answer. Let 2019 be the year when not a single farmer is driven to suicide. And let 2019 see a good monsoon.
3. Let us hope that the parliamentary elections in 2019 throw up a result that is good for the country. Let the government that emerges from it — be it a coalition or one of absolute majority — be stable and effective and able to devote its time to the overriding imperative of good governance.
4. Let the endangered virtue of civilised dialogue revive in the year ahead. We no longer talk to each other but only at each other. We believe that we are always right, and the other side is always wrong. In this brittle polarity the delicate shades of grey, the art of conversation, of listening, and imparting respect to one who is opposed to you, is dying. Our political landscape is littered with sterile, badly mouthed acrimonies. There is neither depth in argument, nor insight in argumentation. For a country with a great tradition of shastrarth, of civilised dialogue, this is nothing short of a tragedy.
5. Let us rid our country of the vice of communal hatred. Let us shun those who use religion to sow hatred and violence, and seek to benefit from the ensuing divisiveness. Our civilisation has been the cradle of four of the world’s great religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. We also have the world’s second largest number of Muslims. Let all faiths live in harmony and mutual respect, fostering peace and amity, and let the gau rakshak brigade be kept firmly in check.
6. Let us hope that the Ram Mandir dispute will be resolved peacefully and in accordance with the law. There is an attempt by some people to whip up hysteria on this question. They seem to be making the case that the temple should be built through any means possible. There is nothing wrong in a temple being built in Ayodha, the birthplace of Lord Shri Ram. But it would be a derogation of the label of Maryada Puroshattam — the epitome of rectitude — attached to Shri Ram, if the temple is built outside the framework of a verdict by the Supreme Court, or a mutually acceptable agreement between all relevant stakeholders.
7. Let us stop playing the ultra-nationalism card. Patriotism is a virtue, but it does not give a license to some people to sit in judgment over the patriotism of others. Certainly, it does not allow people to take the law into their own hands, to resort to violence, to browbeat others, and impose their formula of what constitutes the right level of nationalistic fervour.
8. Let our economy grow. In absolute terms, with sustained high-level GDP growth that takes us closer to becoming a $5 trillion economy, but also in terms of quality, so that the dividends of growth are distributed in an institutionalised manner to the millions who are mired in an endless cycle of poverty. Our motto must be growth with justice. Even as the stock markets boom, may our economic growth redeem from below the poverty line millions more in 2019
9. Let us, finally, craft in 2019 a strategic doctrine to guide our foreign policy and defence. India is situated in one of the most troubled regions in the world. We are an emerging superpower. For us to act in an ad hoc manner in the vital area of foreign policy is simply unacceptable. Our foreign policy thus far is more often than not reactive, not proactive. We respond to emerging events, but rarely initiate a strategic policy that has been formulated keeping both the short term and the medium term in mind. For a country where Chanakya was born, this is shameful. Let us have peace on our borders, a befitting riposte to terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, and the restoration of normality and peace in Kashmir.
10. Let us do well internationally in sports. But not only in cricket, which appears to be the only sport we concentrate on. We are a sports crazy nation. For a nation of over a billion people, we cannot be satisfied with a gold medal or two in the Olympics. Let us develop a holistic policy to systematically build up a sporting infrastructure, spot talent early, train it, and produce, commensurate with our size, many more global champions in a range of sports.
This is just a wishlist. Wishlists are by their very nature optimistic. They are also selective. Many more things can be added to this one, and many could substitute the ones I have listed. But as far as I am concerned, if even half of the above list is fulfilled, 2019 will be a great year. Happy New Year!