Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Do We Have Our Priorities Right?

Do We, As A People, Have Our Priorities Right?


This seems, at first glance, a strange - if not outright stupid - question to  ask. Especially considering that we together have just voted out a Government that hadn't covered itself in glory. With the way events are seemingly coming together into a whole, an undivided and clear whole with a clear direction, giving the nation renewed hope and vigour, and driving up sentiment in nearly every sector that we care to examine; any question of misplaced priorities seems far-fetched at best, and pessimistic thinking at worst. 

I do not deny that the steps taken by this Government have been, by and large, excellent and welcome, despite a few worries here and there. We seem to have in place a much better Government than the previous one, for which we should be thankful. Credit where credit is due. This article does not intend to cast any aspersions on the Government at the center. The point is not the Government; it is we, the people. 

How do we set our priorities? How do we collectively prioritise the importance of things on a national scale? Do we actually place the correct importance on the most vital aspects that need Governance? Or do we get distracted by the non-essential, or sub-optimal, or less vital matters? I wish I could state that we set our priorities in the right order. But that is a statement that I must deny in its totality, based on current and present evidence. 

Among the challenges facing the Indian Nation are Education, Health, Defense Preparedness, Economy and Governance. On each of these parameters, there is a clear absence of the proper perspective and priority, based on the national discourse in Media, Social Media, Newspapers and Discussions with the Person On The Street. To be frank, not one of these topics is on the discussion or even attention of the populace at large. The standard statement I run across is "Achhe Din Aayenge, Intezaar Karo". But very, very few people I have met have attempted to analyse how will these good days come about? And what needs to be done to realise them? And fewer still realise the power of a national discourse on these matters, and its ability to impact the national policy in these matters. 

We tend to eulogise and go gaga over some simple changes, and blow them out of all proportion. A case in point is a recent headline of how the Government staff is now coming in on time. This, a matter of basic discipline in offices, is touted as an achievement by the people and the Media; something NaMo, the Man Himself,  finds ludicrous. I understand the frustration and the sense of elation that is inevitable, that at last we have a leader who is now thinking of accountability among the Governmental staff. 

This, and other such cosmetic and minor changes, are hyped up; which is not bad - a nation that was used to uncaring public servants needed this elation and this sense of liberation. That is beyond  question. Positivity drives positivity. Similar are other streamlining measures that have been taken by this Government - each decision and step being in itself a generally highly laudable and praiseworthy step. Similar is the case in the economy, or most other sectors. At last, there is a sense of direction and a feeling of hope, which is frankly vital. 

The question is whether we should remain satisfied with such unimportant and cosmetic changes, and continue with our lives - or should we now set about raising the bar a notch {several notches, in fact}, and begin demanding what is ours by right : Education, Health, Defense etc? We have a Government that is set on proving its superiority over the previous one, and has taken some right steps. Rather than allow it to rest on its laurels, we should raise the level of our expectations, which does not seem to be happening. 

There have been no real reforms undertaken, or even indicated, by this Government as on date. If they are in the pipeline, I as a public member am not aware of them. Be it the Economy or the Education sector - nothing has been heard of real change. The major economic reforms are still stymied; in education, there is no hint of a focus on primary and secondary education. There is no hint of a war on corruption, with only the odd mention of an investigation or success in Swiss Banks or such like. Police and Administrative reforms are still not mentioned, while interestingly, the Government shows haste in Judicial Reforms. And we accept all this in silence. 

More worrying is the status of the Armed Forces. Report after Report has clearly pointed out the worrying state of the Arms and Ammunition of the Armed Forces of India. Several Armed Forces officers have spoken about it in no uncertain terms. We are short on Ammunitions,  Arms, Weapons Delivery Systems etc in a range of areas. This is public knowledge, well reported and covered. 

And yet, there is no hint of concern in the public, no hint of questioning the Government, or telling / informing our political leaders through various means available to us. There is no hint of any pressure on this Government, which has shown precious little signs of taking the much needed basic corrective measures, and seems to be by all reports on a fire-fighting mode, ignoring the structural corrections that need to be taken - like increasing GDP spend on Education and Health, Defense; Appointing the CDS, Reforming MoD, and many other basic structural corrections that are needed. 

I have heard conversations,  read WhatsApp messages, read social media updates and posts, read articles on mainstream media on any number of lesser important issues, but precisely nothing on these matters. I have read and felt the pride and joy of The Ganga Arti {Yes, I liked it, too}, I have felt the pride and joy of a Prime Minister kneeling on the steps of the Parliament, and touching his head to the ground; I have read  about how good days will come, I have read reels about the PMs  good deeds, and so on and so forth. I have read right-wing Hindu messages, which focus on the frankly peripheral matter of a Hindu revival; I have read pages upon pages of the discipline in public servants; I have read volumes on how Pakistan and USA have been put in their place. 

But I have heard nothing - repeat, nothing - on any of these vital parameters identified above, or indeed any number of other important matters that need national attention. Why dont we circulate messages, updates, write articles etc on what our nation really needs? Why are we as a people abdicating our responsibilities as responsible citizens? Why is being a Hindu PM deemed more important than being a performing PM? Why not circulate messages on these vital parameters, as we do other messages to "awaken" people, say, on WhatsApp, of the kind we normally send? If we can send messages on say, something offensive to our religion {which we do}, why cant we also send messages etc on these vital parameters? 

Our sad and unfortunate penchant of focusing on the unimportant and the peripheral over serious matters is a cause of worry. Do we prioritise, say,  protecting the tenets of our religion over that of the nation? Do we prioritise  simple basic discipline over hardcore reforms? Why doesnt the status of the Armed Forces create much passion in our minds and hearts as do other less important things, like religion, or an Arti, or tackling a foreign nation, or kneeling in front of parliament? Is this right? Do we have our priorities right? 

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