While trying to locating a rendering of Carnatic music on the YOUTUBE, I stumbled upon Narendra Modi’s tele-link address to the Global Forum on ’ Evolving Markets’ held in Washington DC. Narendra Modi was yet the Chief Minister of Gujarat, though the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Gujarat (196,204 sq.km) is three times bigger than Sri Lanka (65,610 sq.km). It has a multi-religious population and had seen extremely violent communal strife preceding and following India’s independence. Mahatma Gandhi was born in this state. Under four successive terms of Narendra Modi’s Chief Ministership, the state has been a relative oasis of peace and is the fastest growing (10+% annually) within India. A people who have been renowned through the ages as excellent tradesmen. have become also leading entrepreneurs. A state with limited agricultural capabilities has been transformed into a leading agricultural producer. Exports of industrial goods are growing by leaps and bounds. Electricity and water are no longer the bug bears they were.
How was this possible? What was Narendra Modi’s catalytic role? After listening to his speech, I felt that this speech must be heard by many Sri Lankans and CT should be the media to carry it to them.
Modi emphasizes that participatory democracy is the key to his achievements and emphasizes that it should replace representative democracy in its evolutionary course. He defines democracy as an organic system and an interplay between the government and people. He says the government is not a provider and the people are not receivers, and the greater the mismatch between what is needed and what is given, the greater the problems. He says that democracy should permit local voices be heard and their needs being incorporated into the national agenda. He says that the people will swallow the bitter pill when the facts are made known to them. He correctly says that the collective voice of the people, is collectively the people’s wisdom. .He also says governments are guardians of the people’s interests and are trustees of the nation’s resources. However he emphatically states that the governments must earn the trust of the people and this happens when they are sure there is no ‘Foul Play’.
He emphasizes democracy has to evolve to;
1. Enhance harmony, which requires a change of heart
2. Ensure unanimity in elections at the local levels, where candidates are selected through discussions and consensus.
3. Enhancing citizen participation in policy making. The capacity to listen and discuss should be enhanced.
4. Enhancing the flow of information to and from the people and the age of communications we live in permits this.
5. Improving the institutional frame work. He says democracy stands on a frame work of institutions and these provide the required checks and balances.
He reiterates that transparency, accountability and responsiveness consolidate democracy and in the present age, knowledge and technology are the driving forces to achieve these.
What I liked most was his categorical statement that governance cannot be through ‘secret files’ meaning that facts should not be hidden from the people.
He places also considerable emphasis on skill development (training), speed (quick action) and scale (thinking big) as the tools to achieve fast and meaningful development.
My thoughts were why the Gujarat experiment cannot be replicated in Sri Lanka, even better? Why is there a reluctance to empower the people? Why is, what is in essence a trusteeship being transformed into a dictatorship under the façade of democracy?
I hope CT readers will listen to Modi’s speech and learn from it. Critical evaluation is a must, but it must be of a positive nature. Gujarat is a work in progress and is a validation of Modi’s ideas and vision.