Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Do we have our basics right?

Everytime i am in India i get a feeling we have become too loud. Loud as in pompous. Yes we are growing at a rate higher than most countries, yes we have sparkling Malls and offices now to showpiece, yes we have a very energetic (often crass) gen-X that forms more than 60% of our population - yet for me there's something that is missing.

The word is Infrastructure. Any powerful country or a wannabe super power knows this or should know this. In my Impressions post i argued how the awesome road network of highways and express ways is the lifeline of American economy. It more than makes up for the lack of railways.

Recently France announced its new super duper fast AGV trains. This would reach 200+ mph at an average. Hypothetically if we were to do the same in India, Mumbai to Delhi would be in less than 4 hrs by trains. India has the basic infrastructure for railways in place. This was laid by the British almost 150 years ago. Yet have we grown on it? Have we "upgraded" it? There has been minimal progress in the way the trains run. Adding new "luxury trains" won't help much; except for flying in a few more tourists.

What is that we lack? I think the word again is "imagination". We have a choice in India to improve our infrastructure and invest in Roads, Railways and Ship yards. NDA government made great leaps in Roads part by laying out massive plans for Road development. Unfortunately it was booted out by media before it could go further on this. NDA was by far the best government as far as Infrastructure development and implementation was concerned.

Anyway UPA government should have carried on with the job half done by NDA. It chose politics over national interest. It chose appeasement over development.

Almost every impartial economic report on India that i have read in recent past has hammered on this "infrastructure" issue. WE NEED BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE. PERIOD.

In my recent trip to India i flew domestically a lot. Cochin-Mumbai-Nagpur -Delhi and so on. One thing that struck me was the increase in Air passenger traffic. There was "crowd" at the airport. There were constant announcements of flights. And definitely a greater choice. Yet i thought we needed to shake things up badly. There are more flights alright, but there is also more chaos. Flights are cheaper, but airports will be crumbling soon. We do not want to convert airports into ST stands.

Just by "privatizing" airports and airlines things won't change much. We need better railways. We need to invest heavily in Sea routes as well. Lot of traffic between Mumbai -Goa-South can be routed via Sea. We need better handling of passenger and cargo/freight traffic. Most of us know that Railway and Shipping industry work in tandem. Better railway network means faster input and output off dockyards.

We don't need more Nanos, we need more roads. We don't need more airlines, we need better airports, we don't need more Lalus, we need better and faster trains.

And yes we need more "Golden Quadrangles". Only two Chief Ministers have taken these steps as far as infrastructure development goes. Congress' s Sheila Dixit in New Delhi and BJP's Modi in Gujarat. We definitely need more Dixit's and Modi's and less and less of Sonia and Lalu please.

1 comment:

Rathchakra said...

SPOT ON! Its such a shame, that we don't see more leaders trying to work towards this. We need a Gadkari at the national level. Part of it the blame goes to the media as well, they should glamorize the inaugaration of an expressway with the equal measure of a car or a merger of airlines. Only then would the people realize that these things also make up for the overall growth.