I think most of us have this vision of the India we would like to see, the India that can be. The problem is that we are almost afraid to visualise it because it seems too utopian, the impossible dream.
As a hotelier, I had a dream — to build hotels and resorts that would be ranked among the best in the world. It took a team effort with others who shared that dream to achieve what was once considered impossible.
India has the potential to produce a new generation of people with vision, ambition, drive and, above all, national pride to take the country to levels we earlier never imagined possible.
Imagine the India that can be if an effective monitoring system were out in place to check wasteful expenditure and slippages in infrastructure development. Imagine the India that can be if we had efficiently-run, clean, modern airports and ports. Imagine an India with smooth durable roads and a well-run public transport system. These are not utopian ideals but achievable goals, if there is greater involvement by all the stakeholders in India’s progress — politicians, bureaucrats, corporates and ordinary citizens.
Imagine the India that can be if all the money spent on poverty eradication and rural employment schemes actually reached those it is meant for. Imagine an India where voters have the right to recall an MP who does not deliver. In fact, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee recently proposed this. If politicians can think this way, there is hope for the India that can be.
Like death and taxes, some things are inevitable: poverty, hunger, corruption, dubious politicians and political alliances. Imagine the India that can be if all political parties committed themselves to a common minimum programme of reforms in all areas.
Looking ahead at the India we all want, and can become, it would be wise to be realistic. We know the major problems that affect us as a society and a country. And in many areas, we are seeing changes for the better.
The media is highlighting corruption and a pro-active judiciary is cracking down on graft. There is greater accountability and transparency thanks to mechanisms like the Right to Information Act. Key infrastructure areas like power and roads are being given higher priority. The rapid, sustained economic progress indicates we are finally seeing less of red tapism in the system.
What gives me hope is that a majority of India’s current population is under 25 years of age. The energy and ambition of the young could be the drive to propel us in the right direction.
There is, as Pandit Nehru famously said, miles to go before we sleep. But the gap between the India that is and the India that can be is getting narrower. I may not live to see the India that can be, but I am more optimistic than ever before that my grandchildren might.
(PRS Oberoi is Chairman and CEO, East India Hotels Ltd.)