New Year is a time when we take many resolutions, only to forget them in a few days. I still have a collection of my old ‘New Year’ resolution and other than providing a rueful comic relief, they have not done any purpose in my life. New Year resolutions are like election manifestoes. In the initial years of our democracy, people were naïve to believe in it just like how many of us still believe in the New Year resolutions list.
Just as the failure of any political party to make good of their quixotic election promises have not prevented our country from making good progress in the last 70 years, many of our unfulfilled New Year resolutions didn’t prevent most of us from leading successful lives. A nation is nothing but a collection of people who have decided to live together, sharing a boundary agreed on. Like our individual lives, the nation also has succeeded spectacularly in a few things, failed miserably in many and has achieved moderate success in some fields. Why did some succeed and some fail? Analysing this will help us to understand why our New Year resolutions fail.
When we think about great success stories of Independent India, the first thing which comes to our mind is the Green Revolution. When we won independence, we were foodgrain-deficient. We were coming out of the devastating Bengal famine which had claimed 30 lakh lives. India, with a population that was one-fourth of what it is now, lived from aid ship to aid ship. In 1961, India was on the brink of mass famine and it paved for Green Revolution under M S Swaminathan.
In the 1960s, rice yields in India were about two tonnes per hectare; by the mid-1990s, they had risen to six tonnes per hectare. Now, with a 130-crore population to feed, we export rice and other grains.
The ‘white revolution’ led by Dr Verghese Kurian of Amul is another similar success story. In late 1960s, India, the land of the holy cow, had no milk for its children. In a phased manner, the operation flood ensured that India not only became self-sufficient in milk production, but also a net exporter of milk. That India became the world’s largest milk producer is a pleasant side-effect of this focussed programme.
ISRO is another example. So is the making of Delhi metro and Konkan Railways under the stewardship of E Sreedharan. One should not forget the stellar work Sardar Patel did to integrate 500-odd princely states in a limited time, at a time when the Partition wounds were raw. The way Nehru fostered democracy in a highly illiterate and diverse nation has no parallels in the world. He could easily have been a dictator like many of his contemporaries. The autocratic sins of his daughter should
not be retrospectively applied to him.
The 100 per cent literacy mission of Kerala in the 1990 and its continuing effect also is something the nation can emulate. The building of National Highways, first under the Vajpayee government and then by the first UPA government and now under Nitin Gadkari also has such a focused quality. Liberalisation and shift to market economy from a crony socialistic society in the early 90s under PV Narasimha Rao, the telecom revolution, etc, are also somethings to be proud of.
However, there are many that remained empty slogans. Poverty remains a chronic problem, four decades after Indra Gandhi’s slogan. Despite taking lead in establishing world class institutes like IITs, Indian contribution in the field of technology and research remains pathetic. One can compare the number of patents obtained by various institutes of China, let alone the US or Europe to see how far behind we are in the field of scientific research or cutting-edge technology. The last Indian to do research in Indian soil and win a Nobel prize was CV Raman.
Our cities remain filthy, polluted and congested. We can send a spaceship to Mars, but we can’t build an even pavement. We have no clue how to tackle the agrarian crisis. Are you seeing a pattern? Are you seeing a relationship with the things that worked and things that didn’t with that of our usual New Year resolutions that we laugh at after a few years? The things that worked are the ones which had a clear target and an action plan.
When Operation Flood started, Kurian had written down how many societies would be started and how many farmers would be there in each society. When Vajpayee started making world-class highways, there was clarity on how many kilometres would be built each day and how and when the golden quadrilateral would be completed. There was a date countdown for Delhi metro completion. Even the present government’s highly successful Ujjwala scheme which gives LPG access to the rural poor has a clear target and action plan.
Now compare this with the vacuous schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Making an arbitrary, subjective city ranking is no way to go about for such a scheme. To succeed, it needs measurable objective parameters like building these many kilometres of covered city drains, etc. Else it will remain as vague as a New Year resolution that says I will lose weight and look good or I will start some hobby or take a good vacation. It is as vague as achhe din as one cannot measure achhe din or as meaningless as the empty slogan—‘everything will be alright’—of Government of Kerala.
So, when you make this year’s New Year resolution, don’t make too many. Just make one resolution and have a measurable parameter and a target to achieve, broken down by month-wise sub-targets. I have only one resolution this year—to complete the Baahubali series. What is yours?
Author, columnist, speaker