The following article has been written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
From the afternoon of May 16, there has been a continuous stream of articles telling us what Narendra Modi ‘must’ do. The barrage of articles continue till date, most of them telling us what Narendra Modi’s top most priority ‘should’ be. These ‘must’ and ‘should’ advice varied from withdrawing security cover to Robert Vadra to ushering in massive structural reforms in the governance system. I have no doubt in my mind that most of this advice is well-meaning. It also reflects the stringent and demanding nature of citizens and, in some cases, exposes the extremely low patience levels we possess.
I have been wondering though, what ‘should’ we, the citizens, do to contribute to this mission? What ‘must’ we do so that we get the sense of having contributed to the betterment of the country? A few points that Modi made in recent speeches provided an answer.
Towards a clean and healthy India
In his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s speech, Modi has given a hint for the same. He asked us why we can’t strive to make our country a cleaner place by 2019 as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. This is a subtle yet important mission.
For whatever reasons, hygiene awareness among us is very low. Most images of India, when shown on Western media, comprise of our dirty streets, garbage-strewn rivers etc. Worse, some of us even take pride in spitting on roads, littering footpaths (wherever they are available), relieving ourselves on walls etc. For the Government of India to realise its mission of a clean and healthy India, the simple thing we can do is to simply not do these things. We must strive to become examples to follow, by resisting any temptation to litter, spit and relieve ourselves in public. And then if time permits and you have the inclination, efforts must be made to spread awareness about the same (like organising health camps in slum/rural areas, chalking out innovative ‘walk to work’ programs to increase awareness etc). Hygiene in public places is a huge differentiator between developed and developing countries. If our surroundings are not inviting enough for tourists, there is no way we can aim to become a ‘developed’ country.
This is not to say the onus is entirely on us as individuals. The dream of a clean and healthy India cannot be achieved without people in rural areas realising the importance of healthy lifestyle. The onus of creating awareness and ensuring implementation in these areas lies largely on the State and Central Governments. Any added benefit that we individual can contribute is a bonus.
Discipline on the roads
Narendra Modi made one more point during the run-up to the election. Answering a question on how simple co-operation by citizens would increase efficiency in the Government system. Governments could use traffic policemen in a better manner if people follow traffic signals. How true! Why should two to four traffic policemen man junctions that have fully functional traffic lights? It is because of irresponsible behaviour of motorists and drivers that this situation has arisen. Why can’t we follow something as simple as a traffic light?
Most of us are educated enough to understand the difference between right and wrong. At the maximum, one needs to wait for 3-4 minutes at a traffic signal. Except under rare conditions, those willing to jump the signals have no pressing work that they can’t delay for 3-4 minutes. This rashness increases the responsibility on traffic police to ensure they man signals too — what a waste of precious human resource!
Contributing to informed discourse
As we have seen, informed discourse in our media is a rarity. Inane and irrelevant topics dominate the discourse on TV. Some of us fall prey to silly misinterpretations and arrive at quick conclusions. The onus is on us to improve this quality. Falling prey to the media discourse and wanting to follow their model will spell doom. It is our responsibility to contribute to a genuine fact-based debate — every issue need not be looked at from an emotional angle.
Narendra Modi was hugely successful in shaping the discourse before the elections. Social media played a pivotal role in shaping this discourse — we have seen the fruits of this effort. Now is the time to strengthen this performance. This can only be done if our focus remains on facts rather than rhetoric.
The purpose of this article is not to belittle the suggestions pouring in regarding what Modi must do. But I believe he cannot be successful without our help. I only intended to explore ways of helping him achieve a better India.