The road to progress requires vision

The road to progress requires vision
There are many areas, from the mundane to the spiritual, where India risks long- term losses by opting for short-term gains It is true that there are still unforgivable gaps between the rich and the poor, that Dalits in some parts of India are still discriminated against (but mostly by other slightly ‘higher’ low castes)
Source New Indian Express (Sunday may 4th 2008)
By Francois Gautier

There is a very famous and wise guru who once said something like: “Whatever brings you short-terms gains, is not very good for you. Whatever brings you longterms gains will make you progress.”

It seems at the moment that there are many areas where India is opting for short-term gains, but might lose heavily in the long run. It goes from the mundane to the most spiritual.

Take hospitality for instance. In the last six months, five-star hotels in India have doubled – if not sometimes tripled – their prices. An ordinary room in Taj’s Fisherman’s Cove near Chennai costs Rs 12,000, a cottage Rs 20,000 (all these are rates with breakfast only). Now The Fisherman’s Cove is a 30-year-old hotel and the basic rooms have not changed much since then: there is no bathtub, which is a minimum requirement for this type of rate, and the air conditioning system is antiquated.

The Taj Malabar in Kochi, which is a slightly better hotel, charges Rs 16,000 (that’s the Indian price and not the rate for foreigners in dollars which is 30 per cent more) for a standard room and Rs 20,000 for a deluxe room. Taj’s Kumarakom resort goes a step further: It charges $900 (Rs 36,000) for a villa with a tiny ‘meandering’ pool. It is a beautiful hotel, but facilities are sparse, there is no beach, and nothing much to do apart from discovering the backwaters.

The short-term gains are that these hotels are full at the moment: There is a shortage of 5-star hotels in India – and Kerala or Tamil Nadu are beautiful places for a westerner. The long-term losses are that many travel agents now say that it is half cheaper to organise tours in Thailand or even in mysterious China and sooner or later India will see a drop in the arrival of foreign tourists, what with the molesting or even killing of white girls in Goa or elsewhere.

One should also mention airlines. A return business ticket by Jet Airways from Delhi to Chennai costs Rs 45,000; you can fly twice to New York from Paris in econ omy at that price. There is not a single aerobridge in Delhi, airports are antiquated and you have to circle sometimes for one hour above Mumbai or Delhi for lack of landing strips. The short-term gain is that the government compromised with the Left, which is against privatisation of airports and that they remained in power. The long-term loss is that it set back India’s infrastructure for at least five years and that business-class passengers, if they can avoid India, will do so.

Sports is also an area where the government goes for short-term gains and long-term losses. If you bank only on 12 players in a nation of a billion, players who are often spoilt brats, who lose, or draw four times out of five and hog on all the limelight, you gain short term: India feels rightly proud when they win, as they just did in Brisbane in the final against Australia. The government, sponsors, and TV channels, will now make crores of rupees on ads, rights and taxes (witness the unhealthy amount of money that people like Vijay Mallya or Shah Rukh Khan disbursed for nonexistent teams). However, in the long run, they will lose heavily. India is 256th in the world in basketball, 323rd in football, and much more worthy sportspersons, who train for hours, such as track-and-field athletes, get third-class facilities and no sponsorship.

In politics, the policy of reservations symbolises most the short-term gains and the long-term losses, not only for the government, which is in power now, but also for the whole of India. It is true that there are still unforgivable gaps between the rich and the poor, that Dalits in some parts of India are still discriminated against (but mostly by other slightly ‘higher’ low castes).

Is removing these gaps the aim of the present government when it does reservations? Probably not. In the short run, it might gain. It does get results by managing to get elected with the votes of Muslims – who remain the most backward community in India despite having brought umpteen Congress governments to power – and Dalits – who have had a fair share of the benefits with one becoming President. Mayawati has become adept at this mathematics: Mulsim + Dalit + some Brahmin votes = absolute majority .

However, in the long run, everyone can see that this is splitting India even more along caste and religion lines.

The Indian government is still holding Taslima Nasreen as a virtual prisoner despite finally having renewed her visa.

This may placate the Muslims and the communists, but in the long run it is sending the wrong kind of message.

When the Maharishi, who brought meditation to the West and made it a scientifically-accepted distressing technique, died the government pretended that he did not exist. This may please the secularists but just goes to show that there is a strong desire to turn one’s back on India’s ancient spiritual tradition.

In the matter of conversions, it is easy to say “what does it matter, anyone should be free to choose one’s religions as many of India’s intelligentsia and upper classes are saying now.

Christian missionaries are bringing in billions of dollars or euros donated by gullible westerners thinking that it will go in uplifting poor Indians. Instead, the money is used to convert poor innocent villagers and tribals. The short-term gain is that these converts get free medical help, scholarships for their children, and interest-free loans. The long-term loss is that they are taught to look down on their own culture, are told that it is sinful to enter a temple, bad to do a puja or even wear a bindi. In the end, it creates havoc in the Indian society, breaks the social harmony and makes large chunks of people root , less and ashamed of their own culture.

India, which is standing at the crossroads of its destiny, will have to choose very soon between short-term gains, which lead to catastrophe, and long-term progress, which requires vision, honesty and dedicated national spirit.

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