Development – that was the keyword in the newly elected Indian government’s election agenda. And while we have heard what development means to the new government, what does it mean to the average Indian? More industries, more jobs, better roads, low prices, reduced inflation rates, better GDP (Gross Development Product), return of black money, reduction in corruption etc, etc.
Newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, won his election on the development agenda. But what does the word “development” truly mean.
Surely, when Indians voted for their new Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi they must have thought of what development means to each of them. But then the very idea of development is subjective isn’t it not. Surely, Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s idea of development is going to be different from that of his drivers. While development for one might mean tax-break to kick-start a new business, for another it might mean something as simple as being able to feed their family.
The idea of understanding the Indian concept or context of development, crossed my mind simply because it is the one word that I hear all around me, these days. At most Diwali parties that I attended this year, all I heard were praises of Mr. Modi and BJP led government’s development. Now since I belong to those group of people who are professional cynics or rather who you can say live to offer criticism – I often think that for most people, at least, those that I know of probably have caught on to the word development without really understanding what it means to them.
If you ask me what development entails – I would say of course it means affordable prices, better roads, industrial growth, etc, etc but above all it would mean just a better quality of life for all sections of the society and not just one section of the population. For instance, India recently rejoiced and celebrated Mangalyaan, yet it is a big achievement – and something that would fall under the umbrella of development.
But a few days after the above mega event signalling to the international world that India is no longer the land of snake charmers, one of our states (Haryana) elects a Chief Minister who famously said “If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way!” Don’t believe me, well just Google Manohar Lal Khattar. Mr. Khattar recently led BJP to a thumping victory in Haryana. When during his campaign the 60-year-old Khattar was asked whether young people should have freedom of choice, Khattar answered, “If you want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked? Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are western influences. Our country’s tradition asks girls to dress decently.” If truly we were developed wouldn’t we question the appointment of a person with such credentials and an ardent supporter of Khap Panchayat to lead a state that has one of the worst gender ratios in our country?
So what is this track of development? Yes, we need better roads, more jobs, etc, etc but don’t we also need to broaden our perspective and leave behind rudimentary ideas. A few months ago Barack Obama, espoused more funding for survivors of campus sexual abuse and in his speech he said that America had come a long way from victim blaming but there is a long way to go. And while not to say that everything is roses and rubies in America, at least there is a realization that we need to change. When will that happen in India. While we talk about development we still celebrate TV shows that degrade women, immigrants and minorities and it has seeped so deep into our system that it seems normal now.
Did our job finish when we elected a government, that promised us development? No, I don’t think so. We have a lot more to do. In fact, part of me thinks that our job is to develop our minds, to constantly question things. Question ideas, no matter how uncomfortable they are, because unless we develop our mindsets, we cannot truly achieve development. Yes, the better roads and the industries will bring in money and alleviate poverty but what about the human spirit? Would you call your country truly developed if you have good roads but women are scared to walk on those newly paved roads? Think about it…