Times of India

Ten steps that can put the railways back on track

Once upon a time we used to proudly call Indian Railways the ‘nation’s lifeline’. Today, we are embarrassed by it. Every Indian had an impossibly romantic railway memory. Today these memories have faded as successive politicians have played havoc with a grand old institution. The root problem is that railways is a state monopoly, starved by politics of investment and technology, and prevented by a pernicious departmental structure from becoming a modern, vibrant enterprise.

Land agitators forget even a farmer’s son needs a job

India elected Narendra Modi to control inflation, restrain corruption and bring back jobs. Inflation has come under control; there has been no corruption scandal in the past ten months; but jobs are nowhere in sight. Modi is banking on his ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme to revive manufacturing and deliver a million new jobs that are needed each month. But the problem is that manufacturing is precisely the sector that has historically let India down. Since 1991, India’s growth has been driven largely by services.

AAP staged PM must heed a Mughal prince

On the fateful day that the Aam Aadmi Party won a stunning victory in Delhi’s state election, I was captivated by the tragedy of ‘Dara’, a superb play by Pakistani writer Shaheed Nadeem, which opened recently at the National Theatre in London. Schoolchildren across India know all about the murderous rivalry between Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh for the Mughal throne but this play is not only about a war of succession; it is about what India was, what it became, and what it might have been.

Dharma vs desire, therein hangs a morality tale

For the past few weeks Shashi Tharoor, the celebrated writer and politician, has been the victim of a phenomenon called trial by media. The me dia can be unkind when life takes a bad turn. It delights in raising celebrities to the sky on one day, and with equal glee brings them crashing down the next. If you live your life under the glare of publicity, you must be pre pared to be tried by the public.

Sanskrit, taught well, can be as rewarding as economics

There was a time when I used to believe like Diogenes the Cynic that I was a citizen of the world, and I used to strut about feeling that one blade of grass is much like another.

Now I feel that each blade has its unique spot on the earth from where it draws its life and strength. So is a man rooted to a land from where he derives his life and his faith. Discovering one’s past helps to nourish those roots, instilling a quiet self-confidence as one travels through life. Losing that memory risks losing a sense of the self.

Can our best salesman sell us the free market?

Too many Indians still believe that the market makes “the rich richer and the poor poorer” and leads to corruption and crony capitalism. This is false, of course. Despite the market having generated broad-spread prosperity over two decades — lifting 250 million poor above the poverty line — people still distrust the market and the nation continues to reform by stealth. The blame lies partly with our reformers who have not ‘sold’ the competitive market as Margaret Thatcher did in Britain.

An idiot-proof and swachh guide to nationalism

Civic virtue seldom comes naturally to human beings. It needs constant, relentless reminding and nowhere more than in India, which is still struggling to create citizens out of its people. The word ‘civic’ comes from ancient Greece and is related to ‘city’ and ‘civility’. A ‘citizen’ lived in a city and a ‘civilized’ person was expected to show concern for his fellow citizens. In this kindly act ‘civilization’ was born.

Cautious optimism is the verdict on Modi’s 100 days

Indians elected Narendra Modi to create masses of jobs, give good governance, and control inflation. It is too soon to tell if he will keep his three promises. The first hundred days indicate how he intends to pursue these three objectives. The verdict so far leaves us cautiously optimistic.

Two months on, mantra’s clear: Less talk, more action

It’s been a little over two months since the Modi sarkar came to power. Too soon, perhaps, for a definitive assessment, but there are signs of change; patterns are emerging; and even hints of a larger picture. Where we had expected discontinuity there is surprising continuity. This may say something about the evolution of authority, a maturing of the Indian state. Those who expected big bang reforms are disappointed and those who feared an intolerant autocracy are reassured. Modi himself has been remarkably silent.

After months of talk, it’s go time for new PM

John Ruskin, the 19th century British art critic, once re marked that the greatest contribution that an aristocratic duke could make to the modern world would be to take a job as a grocer. This apparently bizarre suggestion goes to the heart of middle-class dignity -an idea that I identified in my last column to explain the significance of Narendra Modi’s victory. In our unequal, hierarchical Indian society, we need to correct our misguided notion about what constitutes a dignified life.